[Review] EXO-CBX find success with familiar but buoyant “Blooming Day”

The sub-unit of EXO-CBX is one of the most exciting EXO-related developments of the past few years. The group as a whole has often drawn from funk influences, but EXO-CBX offers an outlet to fully explore this side of the EXO sound. Their debut mini album was one of 2016’s best, filled to the brim with buoyant pop melodies and driving beats. New single “Blooming Day” continues this successful aesthetic, even if some of its production choices feel a bit overused.

The song carries the same uptempo charm of EXO-CBX’s past material, but smooths things out for an exercise in relaxed disco-funk. Its verses are incredibly lithe, skirting the equally nimble instrumental that pulses with jolts of bass and deep house electronics. These addictive segments meld effortlessly into the chorus, free from the awkward tonal shifts that have become synonymous with 2018’s K-pop. It’s a refreshingly straightforward arrangement that allows the trio’s vocals to shine — even if they never build to the kind of explosive refrains that marked 2016’s Hey Mama. The layered bridge almost gets there, but even Chen’s big closing note comes and goes without much fanfare.

In this way, “Blooming Day” (and TVXQ’s The Chance Of Love before it) is representative of a recent SM Entertainment trend. I’m worried that the agency’s modern material is beginning to feel too cool for school, where a diverse musical palette and in-your-face, bombastic melodies are seen as immature or passé. In their place, we have a constant influx of smooth, deep house influenced grooves. As charming as this sound has been, it’s beginning to wear thin and threatens to render their magnificent roster of artists interchangeable. “Blooming Day” proves that there’s still gold to be mined from this approach, but it would be nice to hear some new influences make their way into the SME repertoire.

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