Despite having numerous friends who are die–hard lovers of K–pop, I was only a casual fan in 7th and 8th grade. While I had been impressed with the wide–ranging talents of K–pop idols and their respect for their audiences, the language barrier and the fact that I didn’t listen to music much prevented me from really getting into the fandom.

It’s been a couple of years now, and I still don't really listen to K–pop. But when I heard about EXO's new album, I wanted to give it another shot. EXO, one of the most popular K–pop groups world–wide under SM Entertainment, has just released their 5th studio album. This album is their first to include all nine members since 2016. 

Don’t Mess Up My Tempo features 11 songs, one of which is the Chinese version of the cover song “Tempo.” In just two weeks, the album has sold over 1 million copies and is ranked #23 on Billboard 200, and “Tempo” has garnered over 46 million views on Youtube.

“Tempo” is a paragon of what makes K–pop so addicting: powerful, soaring vocals coupled with smooth rap and flawlessly–executed choreography all packaged by seamless transitions of backgrounds. 

I really like the song—it’s catchy with some beautiful harmonizations—and I found certain parts cinematically cool, like when a scene shift would be accompanied by an emphasized move in the choreography. The music video itself is complex, a storyline told by song and symbolism that provides much material for fans to analyze. And of course, the chorus is catchy and prompts the question “who would dare to mess up their tempo?”

The rest of the album showcases how versatile EXO can be.

“Sign” opens with an “electropop” beat that tells the overall tone of the song: catchy with a hard beat that might have a place at an EDM nightclub. “Ooh La La La” is described as “Latin pop” and features a more simple musical accompaniment to winding vocals. “Gravity,” which is one of two songs that has member involvement with the lyric writing, has a strong beat and is described as “funky.” 

The album then slows down a little; “With You” may have a fast beat, but is softer and more “R&B and pop” with some parts that tug at your heartstrings. “24/7” opens with an almost whimsical combination of snaps and some sort of synth beat that’s almost reminiscent of a whistle and puts the vocals at the forefront. “Bad Dream” is more “upbeat R&B” and has a great balance of harmonizations and solos. “Damage” is definitely the most hip–hop song of the album and can be a great song to dance to. “Smile On My Face” takes the opposite direction with its simpler beat and softer ballad sound. “Oasis” is described as “an elliptical pop song” and has some mesmerizing harmonizations and vocals.

I admit that I don’t know much about music or EXO, so much of the nuances and artful subtleties probably flew a mile over my head, but I truly enjoyed listening to this album. Each song was extremely catchy and underlined how amazing each member is and how cohesive the group is. Although I can’t understand the lyrics, I can appreciate how much effort EXO has put in their singing and rapping and I feel like this also allows me to focus more on the musicality of the songs. Overall, EXO’s Don’t Mess Up My Tempo did not disappoint.