Knee Jerk Reaction: “Rose” by D.O

Now that I’ve wrapped up my K-Pop Starter Kit posts (for the time being), I can finally go back to writing reactions! I know it’s only been like two and a half weeks, but K-pop moves so fast that it feels a lot longer – and I have a whole list of artists I want to write about. First up is EXO member D.O. with his sweet summer song “Rose.” I’ve always had a soft spot for him, and I’ve been anticipating his solo debut for a LONG time. I was hoping it would happen once he finished his military service, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that it did.

Since EXO has been going in and out of the military over the past couple of years, most members have been taking the opportunity to launch their solo careers. So far, there’s been a nice amount of diversity in terms of music and style: Chen and Suho went the sentimental ballad route, while Baekhyun and Kai opted for variations of trendy pop and sexy R&B. (And of course, we had Chanyeol and Sehun’s duo unit with their chill summer grooves.) As the latest to go solo, D.O. has thrown a completely new sound into the mix. His debut single “Rose” is pure acoustic pop: calm, pleasant, and utterly charming.

Normally, I find mellower music nice but not my style. But I have to say, I’m really enjoying “Rose” so far! It actually reminds me of Jason Mraz (specifically “I’m Yours”), so it also has this nostalgia factor for me that takes me back to my high school days. And much like “I’m Yours,” the stripped down and minimalistic sound of “Rose” works in its favor. Based on the arrangement, you can hear three major elements at play: D.O.’s singing, the acoustic guitar, and the backing vocals. Because of that, his vocals and the melody really shine through – and to me, those are the most important parts. I’ve always thought D.O. has a lovely voice, and I could honestly listen to him sing forever. So combined with the nice melody, it’s all just highly satisfying.

The entertaining music video has also totally won me over. I like the cool visual effects, like the slight stop motion in some parts or the drawing and painting over certain images. But most of all, I enjoy the cute plot of D.O. narrowly dodging a bunch of unlucky events. Some of the near misses aren’t too bad, like when he avoids getting sprayed by a fire hydrant or hit by a soccer ball. And some of them are more serious, like when he’s sitting at a cafe and completely fails to notice a robbery right behind him. (Though his exclamation of “좋아요 (It’s good)!” about his coffee right at that moment is low-key hilarious.) But I think it’s great how he’s got these soundproof headphones on and he just goes about his day singing happily no matter what happens.

While the main idea seems to be that D.O. is pretty much oblivious to everything around him, there’s a slight narrative change toward the end (maybe). There’s a scene where some trash bags in a nearby garbage truck explode as he passes, and he stares in wonder as the shreds of plastic are raining down around him. The same thing happens as he bikes down a dark street and all of bulbs in the street lamps burst one after the other. So while the first half of the video implies that he’s too happy to notice the bad stuff, the second half suggests that maybe he’s also just seeing the good parts of everything. And someone who’s usually very “glass half-empty” – especially in the era of COVID-19 – I found this rather endearing.


(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.)

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Interestingly enough, “Rose” is exactly the kind of song I expected from D.O. I know he’s done R&B and ballads before – and he excels at so many genres – but somehow I just had a feeling he’d do something more laidback and down to earth. And though we’ll never know what celebrities are truly like, I really do feel that “Rose” is a great match for his personality and his brand as a singer. I personally like, but I also know that it’s not something I’ll constantly listen to. So I’ll save it for the times when I’m feeling down and need a pick-me-up, because it most definitely puts a smile on my face.

(“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: Featured image and music video belong to SM Entertainment.

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