Review: EXO’s ‘Miracles in December’

Posted on December 8, 2013

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LUHAN’S HEAVENLY VOICEEEEE!!! /UGLY SOBBING/

Oh my body’s ready to rant and rave but I think I won’t be coherent for a while. Too many damn feels plus it’s been a while since I last wrote properly. (I kinda got sucked into Tumblr and had too much fun there. Kinda embarrassing to admit but yeahh I finally did cave in.)

A little update: I’m not gonna lie that I felt serious pangs of withdrawal after the cacophony that was this summer came to and end. I mean, it was a high-octane comeback season with EXO releasing two albums and BAP promoting three title tracks back to back for the entire four months from June to September. I had a blast and as a fan of both groups I couldn’t have asked for a better summer. Soon after they concluded their last promotions (EXO with ‘Growl‘ and BAP with ‘Badman‘) in late September, I felt like life was all of a sudden missing something and I fell a bit into a funk. (Yes, it horrifyingly got to that extent. Wtf had they done to me.) Good news is that juggling multiple rl jobs actually kept me occupied and it was actually nice to have some break (bc fangirling can get exhausting too at times).

Come to think of it, EXO didn’t actually completely go MIA during the downtime. There were lots of bits here and there to tide me over, thankfully, like their appearances on Immortal Song, their Chuseok special stage, Kray’s guesting on MBC Chinese Radio, MMA and MAMA 2013 attendance, and OT12 on Running Man  (all of which I wanted to talk about badly but I could not muster enough will to write) while BAP was away doing God-knows-what in Japan. I did not expect EXO in particular to make a return so soon seeing how they still had various random events to attend to on a daily basis, so the news that they were going to release a Christmas mini came out of left field to me. (How the hell did they find the time to learn the songs and record them, though? Did they not sleep? Don’t tell me they got it all done before ‘Wolf‘ just like they did with ‘Growl‘.) Tbh upon hearing this I felt a bit conflicted because while I was thirsty to have my babies back with new songs, rl rn is being a bitch that I didn’t think now would be the best time to fully enjoy a comeback. Twenty four hrs a day is barely even enough for me to keep up with currently demanding work, let alone  squeeze EXO in my hectic schedule. (God, I did not sign up for a part time job that’s gonna suck the life out of me, please don’t tempt me to volunteer.)

Yes, I was feeling a little unnerved – a mix of excitement and fear (for my own sanity) – prior to the introduction of  the title track, but it quickly escalated into something else when they announced that only 3/4 of the main vocals (Baek-Chen-Soo) were going to perform it on music shows since those three were the ones in the K version. I literally went “WTF SM! So Lu Han got shafted again? I thought you touted him  as one of the main vocal line along with the other three?” Yes, Lu Han sang the M version because he’s part of EXO-M, I geddit, and of course only the K version would get promoted in Korea. That makes sense. But then why did Chen (and Baek) get the preferential treatment to be in both versions, but not everyone else? I get that Chen is undoubtedly the most gifted vocalist in EXO, but K would fly just fine without him since they got Baek who can belt high notes just as well. (He’s definitely a close second to Chen in terms of range.)

What got me so miffed was not the fact that Chen got to sing in K, but more that one of the so-called main vocals (my baby deer Lu) was excluded in the promotion and did not get to properly showcase his talent/ability – if this title track was really about EXO’s main vocals. It was just unfair to him because I knew the probability of EXO promoting the M version would be like close to zero and thus having Lu Han perform it live was just a pipe dream. Ugh my poor biased heart can’t take this! I was about to throw a hissy fit, but then lots of fellow fans reminded us pressed Lulu stans to at least be grateful that he got to sing in it . at all. (I was like, yeah I feel you too, fans of the remaining eight members! cuz my other favorite Unicorn Xing was also one of those forsaken kids, though I could argue that it was for the better that the non-vocals did not get their feet wet in ballads.)

Don’t get me wrong though, I love BaekChenSoo so much. (Baek’s vocals were what got me into EXO and he’s still in my top three tbh, after Xing and Lu.) And yes, objectively speaking they’re all the better vocalists of EXO, or simply the most skilled. (I consider those three as naturals. It occurs to me that they were born with their vocal talent while Lu Han acquired his singing skills through training, the way I see it.) But that does not make Lu any less than a great vocalist. Lu’s  singing in the M version of ‘Miracles of December‘ has once again proved that he’s got certain qualities to his vocals that the other three don’t have. I’d argue that his voice is actually the most distinctive out of the four. Baek Hyun and Kyung Soo’s low registers can sound so similar at times (I used to confuse them with one another when listening to their non-title tracks, but now I’m getting better at telling their voices apart) and Baek has a closer range to Chen’s than any of the rest (both being the high note belters.)  That leaves Lu as the odd one out – in a good way, because he provides that contrasting element that enriches the color of their collective sound. (I did actually review the quartet here and surely will talk about them more. It’s just impossible not to incessantly ramble about them because that’s just how magical these four are when they sing together. Each of them is awesome in their own ways, but together, they are infinitely more impressive.)

In that regard, what would be ideal for me is to have all four of them sing both versions – not just for the sake of giving everyone their fair share of spotlight, but to bring about that rich flavor that I know they can produce as OT4. Alternatively, they could just have separate K and M members do their respective versions by adding the subvocals to the equation. Baek-Soo-Ho for K and Chen-Lu-Xing for M would be a nice balanced distribution. (For M I’d take Yi Xing over Xiu Min for the obvious reason that is the language. Granted, I am Xing-biased, but partiality aside, one seriously would not pick a Korean over a Chinese member to sing a Chinese song, no? Well, Chen’s clearly an exception bc they need his vocals, lbr. Besides, I’ve noticed that Xiu Min’s Chinese is more accented than some of the other Korean members. Man, Idek anymore. I feel bad for Umin cuz I know he can actually sing and dance well. I can’t help to think that he’d be better off if he was in K. His recent popularity in Korea is irrefutable proof. In M he’s just easily overshadowed by the other members.)

Anyhow, now that I’ve let out my rants, I’ve got only good things left to say about this new release. Things did take a turn for the better. My initial rage was suddenly mitigated and I was quickly appeased when I finally saw the MV teasers of ‘Miracles in December‘ . Lu Han’s voice in the M teaser saved me. It saved the whole fandom from civil war, truthfully speaking. It seemed that peeps who got up in arms earlier forgot their anger upon hearing his voice. He just sounded so heartbreakingly beautiful when he sang that “我望眼欲穿/看我看不到的你/我侧耳倾听/听我听不到的你“ verse. I was drowning in immense feels and my heart was aching. The emotion in his vocals was really palpable you have no idea how much it pained me as I had no idea he would just slay me right there. I creyed at the poignancy. Bless him.

When I listened to the full audio, that verse indeed turned out to be my favorite part of the whole song. It was lovely how the song began and ended with Lu singing that verse. He so totally nailed it because his voice is just perfectly suited for those lines. It’s evident that ballads are what he does best in general (whereas RnB is Kyung Soo’s forte and Baek/Chen could easily excel in slow rock/pop rock with their powerhouse vocals, imo). Well, Baek and Chen did amazing in the track as expected (to this day I still haven’t recovered from the shivers I got from their duet on Immortal Song), but Lu Han totally stole the spotlight and made his own mark this time. Everything about him in this song was flawless: his delicate timbre, his soothing tone, his emoting thru his voice, and his absolutely perfect Putonghua. If there’s something about Lu Han that I find sexy, it’s gotta be the combo of his voice and his Putonghua, not his pretty pixie face (which I adore, tbh).

Then when he got to the part where he sang “好像你瞬间就在眼前/好像让你回到我身边/这无力的超能力/也没有办法挽回你,“ I died a little inside. I have no words to describe the overwhelming feels that twitched my heart. He couldn’t have sung it more gracefully. The best part of the song, though, took place when the three of them came together to harmonize during “把时间冻结(Oh我还想)/回到你身边(回到你身边)/那回忆的书(Oh那回忆)/充满悲伤的语言.” Now that was the wonder that I anticipated from dem main vocal line. If only Kyung Soo was also in it, it would be perfection.

Song-wise, I am not usually into sappy ballads, and this song was certainly one of them, but OT4’s voices made up for it. I impulsively raped the replay button just to listen to their amazing voices over and over (esp Lu Han’s that I just can’t get enough of). Frankly speaking, I don’t know if I would  love the song this much it if it was sung by different singers, though the song per se was nevertheless a beautiful ballad with a nice piano accompaniment. (Btw, did Baek Hyun play the piano for real in the MV? If so then let me love you even more, bb!) Also, thank you SM for not ruining the lyrics by inserting random English words into the song. I found the Chinese version to be more heartrending than the Korean one, but that could be bc I’m severely biased towards the language and Lu Han’s voice (or Lu’s everything in general).

Speaking of language, people have been arguing whose Chinese was better between Baek and Chen in the M version, but let me say that Baek and Chen both did a great job on their Chinese. (Chinese is my third language  and I’m still not very fluent when it comes to speaking it, so I’ve got no say in this matter lol. Then again, even native speakers have different POVs regarding who did better.) Ofc the their Korean accent was still slightly there. (Well hello, they’re non-native speakers and Baek, I believe, did not specifically learn the language.) I noticed that Baek mispronounced a few of the words (very few really, more like sloppy enunciation than anything) and Chen struggled a little with the z/zh/j sounds but overall their Chinese sounded pretty good imo. Kudos to them for giving their best. (Again, this is coming from a non-native speaker.)

The last (best) thing that can’t be missed about this comeback, is definitely the MV. Well, it’s not an EXO review if it’s missing the glorious visual aspect. Everyone looked gorgeous and impeccably styled in their snuggly warm winter outfits. Lu Han looked ethereal in the M version and I can’t stress enough how much I love his hair pushed back. His emotive sparkly eyes were just mesmerizing I could not look away. Also, for once he looked his age. Kai and the pup were adorable as shit, I ship them. Then there were Sehun and flowers, Yi Xing and Kyung Soo with their flawless faces, and everyone else looking dazzling and radiant with their wistful eyes, which were just too much deal with. Ugh no. The beauty overload was hurting my eyes. I snickered at Kris crying and painting on an easel tho. Gotta appreciate that SM let the boys out of their boring dungeon, I mean box sets, for the MV. It was a lovely, sentimental and very Christmassy video despite the tragic narrative. The only thing that ruined this otherwise perfect MV was the shameless Nature Republic product placement. 

Well, there goes my long-winded and incoherent thoughts on ‘Miracles in December‘. In the end, I was pleased to have this comeback as an early Christmas present. I hope that they’ll promote the other tracks during this festive season. I’ve listened to the highlight medley and I think I’m gonna love all the songs on the mini album. Below is the K version of ‘Miracles of December‘, for those who crave Kyung Soo’s voice.

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Posted in: EXO, K-Pop