It’s been a relatively quiet year for K-pop boy band EXO release-wise, but the popular act is finally back with their fifth album, Don’t Mess Up My Tempo. Released Friday (Nov. 2), the group’s fifth Korean LP is fronted by eclectic lead single “Tempo.”
The song, ironically enough, is a tempo-shifting dance track that blends funky rap with a capella and groovy, occasionally bed-squeaking synths. A vibrant soundscape full of contradictions, it simultaneously emphasizes EXO’s powerful vocals through graceful harmonizing and a rhythmic hook, while also distorting them intensely with heavy-handed Auto-Tune bridges.
The song was originally teased with biker gang-inspired imagery, but the music video for “Tempo” takes the nine members of EXO into a dramatic, glitchy set of scenes where they interact with luxury and cubic objects, as a helmeted figure roams the area. The group’s choreography is playful and full of energy, with punching, dabbing and flexing playing a role.
“Tempo” was released in both Korean and Chinese versions and marks the return of Chinese member Lay after over a year without him being part of EXO’s group releases. This week saw him become the highest-ranked Mandopop star to ever appear on the Billboard 200 when his NAMANANA solo album went to No. 21.
Don’t Mess Up My Tempo is EXO’s first Korean release as a full group since last December’s Universe and follows January’s Japanese Electric Kiss album. Overall, the new album continues EXO’s tradition of smooth dance tracks that blend powerful electronica and R&B elements, while picking up where past albums left off, such as by “Gravity” opening with groovy synths reminiscent of last year’s “Power” and album-closer “Oasis” featuring a tantalizing beat similar to that of Exodus’ “El Dorado.” Chanyeol is credited as a co-writer on the disco and funk-fueled “Gravity” and the gentle “With You.” Bazzi, LDN Noise and The Underdogs’ Harvey Mason Jr. also have writing credits on the album.
The new release saw over 1.1 million pre-sales in Korea, and EXO’s official Twitter account shared on Oct. 31 that it marks the group as a “quintuple million seller” of albums, an astronomical feat in this day and age where streaming is king.
Watch the music video for EXO’s new single “Tempo” here: