[Review] EXO excel vocally on “Love Shot” but are let down by the production

When writing about EXO‘s excellent album track “Gravity, I mentioned that I never judge their albums before hearing the repackage. After all, some of the group’s most iconic singles (“Growl“, “Love Me Right“) were the products of repackages. Even last year’s high-energy “Power” improved ‘The War‘ album by giving it an extra shot of anthemic heft.

So as much as I enjoyed November’s “Tempo“, I was hoping it would eventually be paired with a more upbeat title track. Instead, “Love Shot” echoes much of what we’ve heard from SM artists this year. It’s solid, but lacks the kind of impact that groups like EXO used to deliver each and every time they made a comeback.

The biggest draw of “Love Shot” is its vocal arrangement. The guys sound fantastic, and the layering on the chorus is lush and exciting. But impressive vocals are par for the course when it comes to EXO. You could hand them any style of track and get a reliably polished performance. Taking this aspect out of the equation, I’m not sure there’s enough here to mark “Love Shot” as anything more than a solid b-side. Its instrumental holds a few effective tricks, like the dramatic percussion that punctuates the pre-chorus, but feels oddly subdued for a song that was described as a “dance track.”

Ironically, my biggest gripe with “Love Shot” is also its strongest moment. Its chanted, chorus-esque hook is another example of underdeveloped melody taking the place of what should have been a robust refrain. This segment feels more like a pre-chorus, promising a secondary hook to really sell the song. Instead, “Love Shot” kind of lurches from moment to moment, never really finding a climax.

The track was composed by much of the same team who wrote NCT Dream’s “We Go Up“, which suffered from a similar lack of melodic imagination. This pattern makes me hope SM Entertainment will throw their weight behind a new crop of composers next year. “Love Shot” is certainly no “Lotto“, but the group deserved a more memorable song for such a momentous, pre-military enlistment comeback.

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