By: Zessa Ghaisani |

Chen, better known as the main vocalist of K-Pop super group EXO, is finally having his solo debut with the release of his “April, and a Flower (사월, 그리고 꽃)” mini album. He showcased his perfect vocal technique, accompanied by gloomy instrumentals in the background.

With over 900k+ unique listeners for his debut, Chen has established himself as a “ballad king”, as dubbed by the Korean general public on various platforms. Various support came for him, from his fellow EXO members (yes, we can see Chanyeol, Baekhyun, Lay posting about the album release on their respective SNS), singers, and everyone else for his debut.

The album itself is composed of minimalistic instruments, only a piano, some strings, and a slight bit of percussions, perfectly matching Chen’s emotional vocals. He had teased everyone in two parts of a live highlight medley on YouTube, an unconventional method for showing a highlight medley (other artists usually put some parts of their album tracks into a single video), and everyone had already imagined that the whole album will be very emotional.

Consisting of 6 tracks, the album opens with “Flower (꽃)”, a track that’s also penned by Chen. Starting off slow and soft, the track gets even more emotional nearing the end with the addition of strings and percussions. The lyrics are so beautiful, talking about how some moments in life are kept as a memory that will bloom like a flower, and Chen wrote (and of course, sings!) the lyrics beautifully.

Next is the title track, “Beautiful goodbye (사월 지나면 우리 헤어져요)”. The literal translation of the Korean title is “Let’s breakup when April ends”, and the way he delivers the lyrics is so heartwrenching that it makes you wonder what kind of person has hurt this man’s heart. If you watch the music video, you can feel beautiful yet sad vibes radiating heavily through it. The somber piano instrumental in the background matches his vocals perfectly.

“Sorry not sorry (하고 싶단 말)” literally translates to “The words I want to say”, yet another sad and gloomy track about a couple splitting up. You can even feel how “broken” he is when he sings, since the emotional delivery of the song is done perfectly.

“Love words (사랑의 말)” is a track that’s written and composed by Korean producer Kenzie, who had collaborated in various tracks with EXO before. Another track with a tragic love story behind it, about how the protagonist wants to tell his former lover that he’s sorry, and he will still love him despite of everything, yet that’s just too hard to say. This is the one track in the album with the most pop elements, starting off slow and soft, with Chen’s emotional delivery getting heavy in the first chorus and gradually climbing up until the end of the track – noting at 2:58, Chen’s high note really hits me hard (and maybe it will also hit you).

The album gets even more emotional when we reach “I’ll be there (먼저 가 있을게)”. I personally think this one is the most emotional track, compared to the others. With a lot of high notes and adlibs decorating the song, somber piano instrumentals, and also the beautifully written lyrics by Min Yeonjae, the sad story will easily hit the listener’s hearts by the first listen only. The protagonist states that it’s time to move on but he convinces himself that he’ll still be there even after they’ve separated their ways. Very sad, very tragic, very emotional.

Last track of the mini album is “Portrait of you (널 그리다)”. It starts off with something that somewhat sounds like upbeat piano sounds in the background, and when Chen’s vocals kick in, it swifts the mood easily and the song later turns to be another sad song. A song about how the protagonist remembers his former lover and he still keeps said lover on his mind, while he also realizes it’s time for him to forget about her and erase the beautiful memories he shared with her. The longing feelings that he has are transferred to our mind when we hear this song.

Overall, the album theme centres around a breakup and how the protagonist deals with it. And by hearing this album alone, we’ll know that Chen really is the final boss of ballads. We don’t even have to understand Korean to feel the emotions, he delivers it through his vocals and we’ll understand. When people say “music is a universal language”, this album proves it.

I’m not even a big fan of ballads, since I personally think this genre is a difficult one to tackle and people can’t easily sing ballads nicely, but that’s an exception for Chen, since he can sing ballads perfectly—no wonder since he is the king and final boss of ballads. Even though the album theme is breakup, it’s made clear that he wants to break his relationship with his ex (if there’s any) but he doesn’t want us to breakup with him—as in his music.

Keywords: somber, breakup, piano

Overall ratings: 9.5 out of 10 (yes, it is that high)

Favorite tracks: every track off the album is equally good but if I had to pick one, it’s “Flower (꽃)”

Listen to the album here:

https://open.spotify.com/album/71UeIIBgaKpW6ES0TnjbxY?si=WUauPznLQJutuk8zpMSeZA

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