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Baekhyun, one of the leading voices in EXO’s music, blows listeners away with Delight.
Delight is his second mini-album effort after last year’s noir magnum opus (whether there is a new champion or not, you will know by the end of this review). Baekhyun channeled his classic and chic inner spirit with the more musically lowkey City Lights, painting a dark landscape with ambient lighting – musically as well as visually. Delight is a more playful venture into R&B as opposed to City Lights: featuring brighter synths, persistent percussion, faster tempo, and resounding bass. However, there are some tracks which are an ode to his previous work, managing to provide a fresher perspective and a more state-of-the-art approach to pop and R&B.
Delight is an aural delight that has ensnared my senses and brought tears of joy to me. Its impact is insurmountable with Baekhyun lighting the path for electro-R&B to enter into the K-Pop sphere. One usually hears these tracks in a musically cohesive K-R&B record that has a niche audience. However, with his power and influence, Baekhyun has managed to bewitch the masses with his musically excellent work. He has maintained his R&B flair while trying out new sounds and textures in flawlessly sung passages over airy, rather hipster instrumentals. This kind of R&B grew popular in the West several years ago, making Baekhyun the male frontrunner of the genre in K-Pop.
The title track ‘Candy’ is as irresistibly saccharine as it sounds.
There is a beeping quasi-ostinato (a repetitive rhythmic motif) that begins the track with Baekhyun starting off with his masculine voice; Baekhyun has a really outstanding tenor voice – it is high and resonant with a slight seemingly nasal tinge (it is not nasal at all in actuality). Baekhyun is an expert in changing his vocal textures with the track style, his semi-agile voice smoothly bounces from one note to another in a series of successive notes with ease which is an extremely satisfying touch. His little flirtatious vocal ministrations and the confidence in his voice, are enough to paint his listeners’ faces with the longest wavelength. This confidence and proficient control makes his voice the centerpiece in his music.
However, he doesn’t compromise on the instrumentals. His music is usually the perfect blend of stud-esque vocals, smooth R&B chords, and creative production. We see the same case in “Candy”. A more up-tempo and mischievous brethren of his previous album, the track is literal sweet shimmer with the R&B and synth-pop influences coalescing as if they were made for each other. The fluid instrumental coagulates with the addition of the thumping bass; the lighter end of the spectrum is composed of Baekhyun’s light harmonies and synths contrasting beautifully with the deep bass, making it ear candy serving us with fulfilling flavours. The ambient pre-chorus, with the sampled high synth, prepares us for the gorgeous full chorus which lands with utter perfection on a booming bass with crunchy, subtle trap percussion.
The track is evocative with a sense of nostalgia even though it sounds modern. There is some fluid vocalising in the interlude after the bridge which ends with him talking with a certain sassy tone which is very Baekhyun-esque, segwaying into the drug of a chorus. Each chorus provides new vocal lines, making maximum usage of Baekhyun’s competent vocal ability. His falsetto is soft with an effeminate edge and it glides with perfect pitch behind the last chorus.
The track ends with the introduction of a new melodic glittery synth liberating Baekhyun’s voice with his finishing words being, “Tell me what you’re waiting for”. In my opinion, the track is the most beautifully produced title track of 2020 so far and there has to be something of burgeoning extraordinary flavour to beat that. A perfect starter to the album and a wonderful flaunting of Baekhyun’s confidence.
02. “R U Ridin’?”
This is a track which breaches unknown chord territory for Baekhyun. The muffled starting instrumental is paired with Baekhyun singing in his lower register, moving into a mysterious-sounding dry instrumental with fast-paced percussion and Baekhyun’s suppressed singing.
New melodic material enters into the dryness like a little brooke manifesting and washing over parched land. Baekhyun explores his lower register in this track to the point it sounds like deep mumbling and venturing into non-melodic, almost rapping territory.
The chorus is a work of art, keeping your ears engaged (which is hard to keep with such a lowkey track) with the combination of the sing-talking, talking, soft synthesizer and another horn-like synth adding colour to the Prussian blue instrumental. The track ends with Baekhyun chuckling like a mischievous little boy – adding to the virile, yet young, nature of the track.
This is the first café, lounge track on the album so far. Baekhyun does R&B in a way that does not get blasé by using completely different chords and new instrumental material with each track; he also maintains a cohesive concept that doesn’t make his projects sound cluttered either.
It starts with a nostalgic melody and cloudy falsetto, concentrated with tone. The choruses of this album are so particularly satisfying to listen to. The vibraphone, the piano and synth samples dance around, yet sound like one whole with gorgeous pizzicato strings (a method of playing in which strings are plucked) coming just after, creating an aurally fulfilling chorus. The pizzicato is reminiscent of “UN Village”, giving the track a classical, mystical feeling.
Baekhyun makes use of silence with a monologue saying, “now sit tight, don’t say a word” – a hint to the lyrical content and the title of the track. Baekhyun reaches stratospheric highs, reaching notes in his mixed voice in the soprano range, showing off his famed vocal dexterity. The track is a perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea, makes for a memorable experience.
MinGtion strikes again with a flawlessly produced track. The entire track sounds like it is submerged in water hinting to the title with ambient metallic electro-R&B synths, excessive reverb (by Pop standards), ethereal siren-like coos acting as a motif. Baekhyun sings with utter ease over the dark and lush instrumental, singing in a comfortable range with little seductive “yeah’s” thrown in between, perfectly fitting the playboy image SM is trying to push.
The bridge is my favourite part with the ephemeral xylophone-esque synth adding even further to the beauty, and then a soulful harmony makes its way which leaves one speechless. The harmonies continue as ad libs into the final chorus and, dare I say, they are the most standout vocal ministrations in Baekhyun’s entire career.
And of course, as if the track couldn’t get any better, the previously soulful muffled coos come to the forefront as if Baekhyun finally lifted his head out of the water. It is a sleek and beautifully crafted piece with high replayability value. It manages to hit home with everything. My favourite on the album and my favourite K-Pop track this year so far.
The most playful and uplifting track on the album, it revels in its major chords and celebratory atmosphere, making it an ideal party banger. It is “Betcha’s” brother, having the same producer – The Stereotypes. The synths are bouncy and PC-sounding, ringing on top of Baekhyun’s clear, multi-textured voice. The chorus melds seamlessly with the rest of the track, with Baekhyun singing sweetly on top of the R&B/hip-hop instrumental.
It is a really eclectic, pop number with influences of genres like synth-pop. It makes you happy after the rather brooding, contemplative “Underwater”.
The most unexpected track on the album: this is another eclectic, pop song. Baekhyun makes use of voice motifs very often with a high, automated voice starting off the track and harmonising with Baekhyun. Then an electric guitar, an unexpected companion with lots of reverb, creates an ethereal atmosphere.
However, the chorus catches one off-guard the most with the same melody as the electric guitar playing in a heavy resonating synth, making the track seem like it is floating. Then harmonies come through with the electric guitar, making a return in the post-chorus; the track has a multitude of harmonies which makes it so interesting. The bridge has Baekhyun doing heartfelt falsetto lines, the highest reaching of the track in terms of pitch. This is an expertly crafted pop track.
07. “Love Again”
Usually, the last track in K-Pop albums ventures into the blandest territories with cloying soundscapes – the typical K-Pop ballad. They are usually filler tracks that fit the taste of the Korean general public. However, this track is interesting yet stripped down.
Colde’s production shines with the acoustic guitar leading into a softer chorus, giving it a laid-back theme, yet pulling at your heart strings. There is an instrument akin to a vibraphone or piano making the track fuller.
The second verse makes use of an organic acoustic guitar strumming. The track reaches a euphoric climax with another deeper voice doing notes in a lower register and Baekhyun’s heart-wrenching, repeating “Come back to me again” and bassy percussion bringing the section to completion. The track has to, of course, end with Baekhyun vocalising in his satin falsetto and then going lower and lower, bringing the album to its perfect end.
Delight is Baekhyun at his full musical potential. He delivered and showed his maturity as an idol and artist, perfecting every single element on this album. Personally speaking, this is the best K-Pop album of all time for me. Never have I seen such diversity, yet cohesiveness, so beautifully balanced in another K-Pop album before. For me, f(x)’s Pink Tape has found its long-awaited successor, and it is Baekhyun’s delightful honey-mint-cinnamon flavour of Delight.