Song Review: EXO – Cream Soda

EXO will always be a favorite of mine. When they first came out eleven years ago, they were one of my entry points into K-pop. The group hasn’t made its yearly reappearance in the last few years due to member enlistments and other difficulties. Instead, it has been nearly four years since their previous full album and two years since their most recent mini album.

I am sorry, but the hook essentially makes it impossible for me to like this song. I physically cringe with every repeat of ‘cream soda’. Also, I am mad that it was in falsetto, because EXO sound their best when they belt their souls out. That is where the sheer strength of their vocals lie. Obviously they still sound good, but it is a missed opportunity. This is especially because this is for their 15th anniversary album right? So they should release something that reminds fans of their best qualities, what makes them so different from every boy group out there.

It is not to say that they didn’t deliver. But it is simply far and away what I know EXO can do.

The saddest part is that at this point, I like Let Me In and Hear Me Out a lot more as I can see myself wanting to go back to it in the future. However, there isn’t really anything here that would make me want to go back, or something that I can’t already find in their rich 15 year discography.

I have been a vocal advocate of songs needing to be 3 minutes again but if it means stretching out reject interludes like this I might have to reconsider that stance.

Too much falsetto and it feels like they’re trying to catch up to the beat for most of the song? Also, cream soda isn’t alcoholic and whatever sexual metaphor it is meant to mean falls flat for me.

Consider this song has given songs like Call Me Baby, Growl & Obsession this one feels like a pretender and a complete CHOP for me.

EXO is back!! Overall I like it. It’s not up there with their best tracks, but it’s def not their worst (sorry Lotto 💀).

The weakest aspect for me is the generic boygroup horn+clap beat+rap sections in the verses. Otherwise it’s smooth, sexy, and frothy.

Given their teaser pictures, a huge part of me is relieved that they did not descend into NCT-fied swagger-shout-sing. But for the rest . . . I think this is their weakest title track; it’s too high and too thin for my liking, and that hook is grating. I also think they have given some of the higher lines to members who can’t carry them well. I’m just a little sad – I don’t think they’ve had a song that screams ‘EXO’ to me since the The War, and I was hoping they’d come back with a bang. Maybe next time.

I’ve had to listen to it three times to decide if I like it, and I think for now I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s fine. It’s really smooth, and I enjoy that aspect of it. I like the way it opens. I’m sold on the sung parts of the verses and the bridge. The falsetto chorus? Ehhhh. Jury’s still out. They sound freaking fantastic (a given), but falsetto when used in excess in songs tends to get on my nerves most times. There are notable exceptions (Onew’s latest album being the best example I can think of).

SNSD came first, but EXO was my true gateway drug into k-pop. Once I started listening to them, the floodgates opened. I wondered when DFTF dropped (my first comeback with them) if I’m just hopelessly biased. If I’ll like every single new track they release just because I love them so darn much. I proved to myself that’s not the case with this album though, because not counting the two pre-releases, there’s not a song I liked well enough to add to a playlist on a first listen. I like, even LOVE, pieces of all of them, but never the whole song. They all feel…patchy, to me. Closest I got for the new tracks was No Makeup. I think with another listen, that’ll probably make it onto a playlist. Maybe Cinderella and Love Fool. Maybe.

That’s the thing with me and EXO though. A lot of their music I don’t necessarily click with on a first listen. It can take a good long while. Let Me In took me nearly a month, for example. I’d listened to it maybe three times since it released and it clicked with me after not listening to it for several weeks randomly in the middle of last week. We’ll see how this album ages for me, but it’s currently sitting as my least favorite one as a whole. It sure is nice to have EXO back though, and I’ll take any opportunity I get to listen to their voices together.

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