'Brand New' review: Xiumin of Exo’s first solo album is a retro delight


Xiumin’s new album is a loving ode to the ’90s, full of nostalgic delight and paying tribute to one of the richest chapters in musical history. – Photos: SM Entertainment

xiumin coverxiumin coverXiumin
Brand New
SM Entertainment

One thing K-pop fans, or listeners who love Korean music in general, haven’t heard much of and enjoyed in the past few years is retro K-pop. Younger music aficionados may not know much about this genre, but songs from those earlier times had catchy melodies that were easy on the ears and simply fun to listen to on repeat.

That’s what Xiumin of boy band Exo hopes to do with his first-ever solo musical project, Brand New, which was released on Monday evening.

As a singer who grew up listening to retro music, Xiumin’s new album is a loving ode to the ’90s, full of nostalgic delight and paying tribute to one of the richest chapters in musical history.

The opener of the album is the titular Brand New, which has an old-school vibe with an addictive hook that goes: “Let it loose, let it loose.” The catchy hook rings throughout the three-minute track.

xiumin3xiumin3As the title suggests, Xiumin hoped to show a “new” side of himself with his first official musical project, which is clearly different from Xiumin of Exo. The song lyrics show his determination to reveal a new side of himself to his beloved fans, Exo-L.

Brand New is carried by his smooth vocal timbre, which makes listeners glide on the nostalgic ’90s melodies. Xiumin deserves a nod for branching out to a different side of himself.

If Exo’s music was mostly based on frenzied beats that matched well with powerful choreography, Xiumin’s title track had a soft touch, with a pinch of brass melodies.

Xiumin has recreated the rhythm and blues of the ’90s with Feedback, the second track on the EP. The singer-turned-soloist swerved from the band’s distinctive musical style and instead chose to pepper the song with groovy elegance using retro synth sounds.

With lyrics that declare that he wants to “dance all night,” he reminds listeners of small joys from the past. It seems like he knew the cheat code for polishing and crafting old-school pop music to an impeccable sheen.

Then comes How We Do, which features a special guest. Mark of NCT lent his voice for the track’s rap verse, teaming up with Xiumin for the first time in five years since Young & Free. The third track carries the most modern melody compared to the first two songs on the album.

xiumin1xiumin1The vocal and rap parts in tandem showcase the singers’ refreshing and energetic voices. Xiumin can hit the high notes, while Mark’s blaze-fast raps blend well with the mellow notes. Also, the catchy chorus which goes “la la la” is an addictive melody that plays on loop in the listener’s head.

The last track Serenity demonstrates Xiumin’s soft and captivating voice. The song itself is like getting a warm hug, sending listeners into a state of tranquility.

When he said he wanted to show that he could fill the stage by himself, it wasn’t pure bluffing. In fact, his falsetto notes in the chorus seemed perfectly natural and well-versed.

Overall, the five-song package is as delectable as melted cheese. Each rhythmic melody and word Xiumin sings is like nostalgic ’90s sonic euphoria to listeners. – Review by Park Jun-hee/The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

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