If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know how much I love EXO. They weren’t the ones who got me into K-pop, but they were the second group I discovered and they quickly became one of my favorites. They’ve consistently remained in my Top 5 groups throughout the years, and seeing them in Seoul in 2019 was hands down one of my best K-pop concert experiences. Since EXO is currently in the middle of their military service period, full-group comebacks are sadly few and far in between. But before Baekhyun and Chanyeol enlisted (cry), they and the other available members were able to gift us with a special album – and it’s everything we were hoping for.
“Don’t Fight the Feeling” is nothing but happy and bright, delivering feel-good vibes and uplifting lyrics that inspire listeners with self-confidence. It actually reminds me a lot of “Power,” another upbeat EXO bop from 2017. (Those two songs and music videos seem to be thematically connected in several ways, which I also enjoy.) Normally, EXO is known for being a highly experimental group – they’ve covered all sorts of genres, and their songs often have unique arrangements and structures. Some of their biggest hits are often intensely sexy like “Love Shot,” or dark and wild like “Obsession” and (my personal favorite) “Monster.” While I generally prefer EXO’s more dramatic side, there’s something so fun and wholesome about “Don’t Fight the Feeling” that I find it irresistible.
Perhaps it’s because EXO is missing two key vocalists, but the melody for “Don’t Fight the Feeling” is much more straightforward than normal. There’s not as much emoting or power belting, just some earnest and heartwarming vocals – and it’s all very clean and classic. We all know how talented Baekhyun and D.O are as singers (gosh I missed D.O), but using a melody that’s easy for most of the members to sing also gives sub-vocalists like Xiumin and Kai more of a chance to shine. Chanyeol even acts as a vocalist this time, giving fans the rare opportunity to hear his singing voice. I’m lowkey salty that Sehun seems to have been sent back to the land of few lines, because I know he’s fully capable of singing too. So I’m not happy that he doesn’t show up until halfway through the song, but at least he gets a nice rap break and the ending center part. (Much like Monsta X and Hyungwon, I spend a lot of my time as an EXO fan being protective of Sehun.)
I can’t comment much on the choreography this time because there’s no separate performance video right now, but I will say that I enjoy the parts I can see. It seems fun and playful, and a it expresses the song’s joyful nature nicely. It’s a little weird to see EXO using so many backup dancers when they normally carry the stage on their own, but it’s a smart idea when they’re missing a couple of members. I also really like the music video – the production design isn’t as flashy as some of their other ones, but I love the aircraft carrier setting and how the whole story seems to be about them preparing to go to space.
Also, let’s talk about Lay’s appearance!!! Truly, what an unexpected and delightful surprise. Personally, I consider him a part of EXO and I always will unless he says otherwise – but at the same time, I’ve generally given up hope of seeing him really be in an EXO comeback like the old days. Between “Lotto” and now, the most we’d gotten was a brief shot of him in the “Tempo” music video (and his voice in the Chinese version). It makes sense given that he has his own successful career in China, but it’s still sad. So seeing him singing in “Don’t Fight the Feeling” and appearing in the music video with the members through AR made me all kinds of emotional. It makes me hopeful that one day he really will be able to perform with them all again.
MY OVERALL INTEREST LEVEL
(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)
(*There’s no official dance video, so I’m just going off what I see in the music video.)
Needless to say, EXO’s military service period has been HARD for me. I’ve enjoyed all the solo and EXO-SC releases, but the lack of a full-group comeback last year left me very sad. Thankfully, EXO has given us this wonderful special album to get us through these trying times. I’m sad they don’t seem to be promoting it on music or variety shows, but it’s understandable given that there are just four members. (My best friend and I have been wondering what a Xiumin/D.O/Kai/Sehun unit would even look like, and I’m still lowkey curious about it.) So I’m not super invested in “Don’ Fight the Feeling” like I’d normally be for an EXO comeback – simply because there’s not much content for me to consume – but I’ll treasure their new music and listen to it plenty in the months to come.
(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)
SOURCES: Music video and featured image belong to SM Entertainment.