More so than not, it’s common for idols to make a “one-time solo” debut — meaning, they only have one chance to go solo, unless they leave their group. (Withstanding OST’s and collaborations, of course.) From a business perspective, it can be considered as “testing the waters” to see how the individual may fare with public appeal and fandom power. Consecutive solo projects, however, signal a green light for an agency being receptive to the singer’s potential. SM Entertainment in particular has had a productive history with solo activities: from Taeyeon to the late Jonghyun, Suho to D.O., Luna, and the list goes on. With so many factors hinged on a solo’s success, it’s challenging to keep the ball rolling.
Thus, it’s a good sign to see Exo’s Baekhyun returning almost a year after his debut with “UN Village.” Following his first mini-album City Lights, he has now released Delight — a sexy, groovy collection of late-night songs to dance or drink wine with, thinking of your muse. Each track is refined and classy, building off of his initial momentum of smooth R&B. While some people didn’t take his genre choice too well last summer, I believe that his choice to stick with this genre again is in part to stick to what he does best. Baekhyun’s voice is light, smooth, and lithe enough to flow from high to low, and R&B provides the right pace and flow for him to showcase his skills.
Baekhyun doesn’t fail to impress with his second album. He continues to experiment with genre, mood, and tempo in order to keep things interesting. Overall, he proves that he can take up challenges with style, keeping true to his voice in new and improved ways. It’s a pleasure seeing Baekhyun paint his own colors, particularly as he doesn’t include any outside featuring for this album either.
The title track, “Candy,” is a colorful refresher that starts the album with a bounce. “Candy” has a futuristic R&B vibe, along with light synths and a rhythmic melody that makes this song a catchy hit. Upon first listen, most will probably notice the contrast against “UN Village,” and take it in as a pleasant surprise. This track is summer-oriented and Baekhyun dances fluidly throughout the urban street settings of the MV. The concept behind “Candy” is also a game-changer in comparison to previous Exo concepts; perhaps the only concepts similar to this one is found in Exo’s “Kokobop” and Exo-SC’s “What a Life.”
Considering the track is called “Candy,” most can assume that the lyrics will include some comparison to the sweet confections. Indeed, the work is done through the lyrics’ creativity, which describes Baekhyun’s quirky colors and moods that he associates with his love interest. The lyrics ring smooth, as he sings in the chorus:
Girl I’m your candy
Mature cinnamon, dorky mint, what more do you want
Got me feeling like pop rocks, strawberry, bubble gum
When the pocket is full of scent
All I want is you my love, candy
You will feel better
Tell me what you’re waiting for
The lyrics are vibrant and induce plenty of imagination, through its clever comparisons to familiar flavors. Doing so has us utilize our senses to imagine what “feeling” matches the spice, refreshment, or sweetness associated with a treat. Diction is well-chosen here, describing the taste of aromatic cinnamon as “mature” and crisp mint as “dorky.” Comparing feelings of love into candies is a refreshing way to have us relate to and understand the song. The fun vibes included in the MV further enable us to enjoy this new interpretation of the butterflies that come with love.
Now, the following tracks in this mini-album will be bundled up based on similarities in the genre. The first track to start off the R&B + Pop bundle is “R U Ridin’,” a laid-back, night drive type of song that muses on whether his love interest will truly join him for the ride. Its transition from “Candy” is relatively smooth, due to the upbeat (yet more subdued) tempo. Although, if I had to choose, I would’ve considered the fifth track “Poppin’” to take second place.
“R U Ridin'” is groovy and easy-going, as opposed to dance or pop-oriented. Yet, it’s leisurely, as Baekhyun takes his time cruising along with the melody — as opposed to trying to be heard above it. Doing so further contributes to the chill vibes of the track, and better enables us to enjoy the mood that he evokes.
Next up is the aforementioned “Poppin,’” which has more of an EDM and pop instrumental. Personally, it’d be interesting to see Baekhyun expand more on this kind of track. Similar to “Candy,” it’s a classic summer track that dwells on all things dancing and loving. He pulls it off cleanly, and it doesn’t sound strained even with the energy projected through his voice. Perhaps the only objection I can have to the structure and style is that there isn’t much time for Baekhyun to catch his breath. Meaning, there aren’t many breaks until it gets to the bridge of the track — even if it would’ve been fine to slow down some transitions throughout the song. The transition from bridge to the last chorus is particularly fast and could’ve added an extra beat in between.
The last track for this bundle is “Ghost,” a dance track that pulls its goal off despite being on the slower-end with tempo. It’s chill but still makes you want to get up from your seat to enjoy the vibe. The greater irony, however, is present in the lyrics — which expand on a love interest that ghosts him and only deepens his love for her in return somehow. The upbeat vibes that contradict this somber topic make for a unique track that redefines how even “ghosting” can be interpreted. Granted, it won’t be this stylish of an encounter in real life, per se. But stylistically, it’s a refreshing take on yet another common trope.
Now is time for the R&B Groove bundle, starting with the golden “Bungee.” This track is reminiscent of the luxurious classiness that Baekhyun so easily glides through in “UN Village” — his voice effortlessly embraces a track filled with romantic lyrics and an elegant piano melody. The result is a mesmerizing masterpiece that provides both quality and ear candy. For this song, his vocals do most of the work as, once again, the instrumental takes a slight backseat to contribute to the mood. Another reason to appreciate this album comes from the spotlight that Baekhyun’s skills alone are given (based on what works best for the song), and “Bungee” is no exception.
Speaking of the lyrics, they too deserve another look for the beautiful poetry that’s included:
Every single night
The sapphire in your eyes appear
I’m a scuba diver who is swimming in the sea
Every time I dive
I leave my heart to you
If you want
You can take everything
The metaphor of an ocean and its color to sapphire are beautiful choices, linguistically and visually. The message is simple, but impactful in its depth. There’s a lot to unpack even in these few lines, from comparing a lover’s eyes to jewels, as well as the sea that — upon diving into — signals a yearning for commitment. A subtle mix of fantasy and surrealism is also present, particularly in the ending:
Tell me, in your sea
Is my island there?
I feel like I’m bursting
Spreading the blue on my whole body
If you want to
You can fall for me too
Combined with the rich ear candy that’s also present while hearing this love poem, the result is a heart melted like butter.
Following is “Underwater,” a subdued, sexy track that likens being underwater to the darkness that remains after a departure. Similarly to “Ghost,” the listener of this song can feel different emotions, based on whether they hear the melody and mood, or intently focus on the lyrics. This duality adds depth to the track, as fans can decipher it as another stylish song to hear at night or a dramatic poem of despair. The instrumental is slow-going, embedded with echoes as a subtle indication of feeling “submerged.”
One of his skills that shows up often is his ability to restrain or deliver stronger or softer vocals, based on the song’s intricate mood. His performance in “Poppin’,” for example, is completely different than this track in regards to the balance between his vocals and the instrumental. For “Underwater,” neither one outweighs the other, and actually work to create a subdued track altogether. Not only is versatility welcome anytime, but so is being in-sync.
Finally, this review wraps up with “Love Again,” a bittersweet track where Baekhyun’s vocals reach their stylish peak. Thanks to the instrumental being threadbare, his vocals have the widest stage to reach our ears. It’s notable that, despite the song’s sad undertones, it isn’t restricted to the usual musical and stylistic tropes of breakup ballads. While it is a gentler track, there’s room for sensual undertones that make it smooth as melted chocolate. The underlying acoustics hit the nail with creating a romantic mood, even as Baekhyun makes his somber request. This delicate duality isn’t easy to master, but Baekhyun pleasantly surprises with his versatility from start to finish.
Beyond quality and tracklist arrangement, it’s worth appreciating Baekhyun’s ability to make every song his own. The production behind each track is curated to have him stand out solely through his own vocal colors. As a result, both the singer and his tracks shine through this album. If anything, this is one of the key traits that enhanced this production. The versatility that was present made the album much more alive, brimming with color and sensuality.
Last but not least, Baekhyun’s album cover (specifically on Spotify) is worth a mention. For the majority, album covers are based on what the singer chooses to enhance the most: an artist’s name, design, the artist’s face, or a specific color theme to match their concept. What’s unique about Baekhyun’s album cover is that there is no album or artist name, but only a glimpse of his concept found in color and mood. The cover shows a partial close-up of Baekhyun’s face, with the rest of the dim, pink background in a blur. And while viewers’ interpretations may vary, it seems as if he is asking the viewer to directly look at him — if one would like to explore all things delight and love, that is. Some can perceive the cover as modern and minimal, while others can render it to be more classic. And still, others can view it as rather boring and lackluster. Personally, I think it’s a daring move done right. Rather than seeing details of the artist, their agency, or even the title, we are first led to see the mood he wants to evoke through the album — altogether calling for a newer focus.
What else is noteworthy is SM’s creativity in having three album cover versions ready: cinnamon, mint, and honey. True to form, each cover exhibits a completely new side of Baekhyun as compared to the other, although the selection is random upon order. Nonetheless, here’s hoping that the majority of fans will be able to receive their desired ear and eye candy.
To conclude, it’s been a pleasant journey listening to Baekhyun’s second mini-album, as there’s been clear development, experimentation, creativity, and depth. He’s steadily improved and found much of his own colors yet again, which makes me excited for a third round of productions in the near future. Altogether, I highly recommend giving Delight a listen if you haven’t already. And for those who did, please feel free to leave your thoughts down in the comments below!