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ALBUM REVIEW: EXO’s Kyungsoo offers a hypnotizing, multi-faceted perspective on love with ‘Empathy’

By Hannah Mallorca Published Aug 01, 2021 6:22 pm

I’ve been a huge fan of Do Kyungsoo, or D.O., since 2013. He was originally my bias wrecker in the South Korean-Chinese boy group EXO, but he shot up to my bias list when the music video for Call Me Baby was released in 2015. 

So, I was overjoyed when he revealed in a surprise VLive back in January that he was working on a solo album. Since his debut as the group’s main vocalist in 2012, the album feels like a well-deserved gift for EXO-Ls and Dandanies.

Many fans expected Kyungsoo to focus on R&B for his first solo music project since he’s known for his eargasmic vocal runs. To their surprise, however, he decided to go on an acoustic route. The singer revealed though, in an interview, that it’s the music he always “wanted to do.”

But if you’ve been closely monitoring Kyungsoo’s solo works and interviews, it’s something you’ll expect from him. He has always been laidback with his work, focusing on his vocal tone and stories he likes to share.

‘Empathy’ tells stories of love

“Empathy” tells the story of love in various ways—from courtship, parental love, self-love, to unrequited love. It’s a peek into Kyungsoo’s thoughts about love that are weaved into a seamless listening experience. The album features eight tracks, including two bonus songs in English and Spanish.

The acoustic album starts off with the Rose, a bright track perfect to start the day on a brighter note. Listening to this track feels like you’re being serenaded by Kyungsoo as he’s trying to win your heart. And it certainly does, since the lyrics are penned by the singer himself.

The album also comes with an English version of Rose which is a testament to Kyungsoo’s linguistic ability. There’s something about the lines “If you need a lover, let me know” that makes you want to accept his confession in a heartbeat. 

The second song I’m Gonna Love You is an R&B-inspired song that follows the rhythmic melody of an acoustic guitar. It’s a collaboration with South Korean rapper Wonstein which is done tastefully as they effortlessly switch lines with one another. If you listen closely, you can hear a glimpse of Kyungsoo’s rapping abilities as well. 

The third track My Love is the perfect song to listen to when you’re going on a drive or you’re struggling to sleep. It feels like a callback to Ed Sheeran’s earlier songs with its comforting melody and heartfelt lyrics. 

The lines “We walk together through this night air, the temperature and weather suits you: the night sky, starlight, your eyes. Everything I see with my eyes, that’s just my love” lovingly describes a significant other. Personally, this is my favorite from the album.

Kyungsoo shows off his ability to capture emotions with the heart-wrenching It’s Love. With Latin-tinged acoustics as the central melody, the track is about a persona’s quiet longing to love and be loved in return. 

Prepare your tissues as Kyungsoo talks about his love for his father with the confessional ballad Dad. The track is a glimpse into the singer’s relationship with his dad as he yearns to “learn life” from him. Listening to this track is an emotional experience, especially if you have a complicated relationship with your parents.

The sixth track I’m Fine is Kyungsoo’s take on self-love as he admits “gradually losing” his way in life. It’s a listening experience that feels like a warm hug from the singer where he expresses a desire to sincerely say “I’m fine.”

This “healing” track feels like a hopeful message for those who are going through tough times.

But the surprising track in Kyungsoo’s album is Si Fueras Mia, a Spanish version of It’s Love. Aside from the shock of the singer singing in Spanish, it feels like a far contrast from its Korean counterpart. The lyrics talk about the singer’s despair of falling in love with someone you can’t have. Yet despite this, he’ll continue loving that person anyway. 

The lines “I would give you the entire world in a second if only you were mine” feel like his passionate daydream where you can almost feel his pain. It’s the perfect way to close the album.

In all, “Empathy” is a hypnotizing album that allows the listener to discover the multiple sides of love. It’s a testament to Kyungsoo’s ability as a vocalist and I hope that this is the start of his musical journey as a soloist. 

After nine long years, it’s worth the wait. 

Banner and thumbnail photos from @weareoneEXO on Twitter