Korean boy band EXO returned on Tuesday (Dec. 26) with the release of their fourth winter-themed EP, Universe.
The new album was released the day after Christmas, and contains three variations of the title song, including a Chinese-language rendition and an alternate CD version of “Universe” that features slightly altered lyrics from that of the single. Along with “Universe,” the boy band’s latest also features five other songs, including “Lights Out” with lyrics penned by Chen.
The single is a soft pop-rock tune propelled by a gentle piano melody and dramatic electric strings. With soaring, emotive vocals courtesy of the EXO members “Universe” is a power ballad that showcases the group’s strengths as they sing about the feelings that have them searching the universe for a former lover.
“Universe” was released alongside a coffee-themed music video that featured the members of EXO melancholically reflecting on the caffeinated beverage and performing different activities that serve as metaphors for the tightly-wound, messy emotions described in the lyrics. Decked out in winter-oriented, primarily brown and beige-hued, outfits — with an occasional ugly Christmas sweater thrown in for good measure — the video is a simple but refined visual accompaniment to the song.
Other tracks on the album maintain the mellow vibes while staying true to EXO’s typical K-pop ingenuity, as seen through the slowburn dance sound of “Been Through” and the rhythmic R&B tone of “Fall,” which is reminiscent of classic Justin Timberlake. Overall, the band’s fourth winter album is an impressive, laid-back follow up to this year’s The War.
The ninth member of EXO, Lay did not participate in Universe due to his Chinese activities.
Universe was initially set to come out last week, but due to the sudden passing of EXO’s lablemate Jonghyun of SHINee, the album’s release date was pushed back out of respect to mourner’s and the singer’s memory. It is the latest in a variety of seasonal releases from SM Entertainment artists, following Taeyeon’s recent Christmas album, This Christmas — Winter Is Coming, NCT Dream’s carol, “Joy” and Lay’s Winter Special Gift album.
Listen to Universe below.