EXID—”I Love You”

EXID—”I Love You”
Non-album single
3:14
November 21st, 2018
Banana Culture
Written by LE and Shinsadong Tiger
Produced by Shinsadong Tiger
Stream: Spotify

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EXID leader Solji returns after a health-related hiatus for the group’s newest single, “I Love You.” With her presence comes a reminder that the five-piece has employed the same song structure since their lineup was cemented with 2012’s “I Feel Good” and “Every Night.” Centered around their members’ strengths, EXID songs have long featured choruses anchored by Solji’s power vocals and verses that provide a contrasting snark via LE’s rapping. The strength of this dynamic has been the lodestar of Shinsadong Tiger and LE’s approach to songwriting, allowing for the seamless genre-blending that characterizes much of EXID’s work. While this was most clearly presented on 2015’s “Ah Yeah,” it was the relatively straightforward “Night Rather Than Day” and “Lady” — songs without Solji — that cemented how every EXID single is built on thoughtful consideration for their (available) vocalists’ utility.

“I Love You” consequently finds EXID in a familiar mode, but the handling of its elements are sharper than ever. During the first verse, Shinsadong Tiger overlays a beat that’s reminiscent of ‘80s electro rap with a looping vocal sample. ”I love you like la la la la,” goes the latter, weaving in and out of Hani, Jeonghwa, and LE’s singing to project their deep infatuation for someone. If this verse portrays incessant desire with an understated cool, the chorus reveals the underlying ache for reciprocation. When Hyelin sings that seeing this person look at them is “dangerous, dangerous,” her soft vocal melody spirals upwards to display palpable vulnerability. As expected, Solji pushes her voice to the point where it sounds strained, but her dramatic reading of the titular line, and the crystalline ‘80s synth stabs that trace it, round out this portrait of intense longing.

While the song returns to its electro beat multiple times, the second verse makes a detour into ‘90s house. Frothy synth melodies spiral around the listener as hi-hats cut through the mix. Hani takes on the role of moody house diva as her hushed vocalizing captures the spirit of hazy, ecstatic nights spent dancing at clubs. “Wanna hold you, wanna wanna hold you,” she sings, transfixed by this potential love. When LE follows, her rap eases listeners out of this trance-like state before they’re flung back into the original beat. This moment reveals one reason that “I Love You” is successful: the unique timbre of LE’s voice isn’t prioritized to the point of being off-putting. In some EXID songs, she sounds so distinct that she detracts from everyone else in the group. Here, everyone has equal stake in the song’s efficacy.

The Tiger Cave-directed music video for “I Love You” offers a deepening of the song’s lyrical conceit. Stacks of VHS tapes labeled with the five girls’ names, birth dates, and the words “last night” lay on and around a CRT television. The girls edit clips from them to ensure only their flawless selves are available for viewing. Similarly, hearing the electro beat and vocal sample open and close the song leaves the impression that EXID are nothing but confident. Even the choreography, created by previous collaborators Bart and YURI, invokes Brown Eyed Girls’s “Abracadabra” for a deathly serious hip swivel during the electro sections. While the rest of the choreography is just as simplistic, it’s considerably less impactful, with the hand heart point dance being especially reductive and juvenile. Still, it’s these poised electro moments that matter most — where the girls’ images are meant to be public-facing. The coordination of colorfully patterned and solid red power suits drives home their polished elegance.

2018 has been a rather odd year for EXID’s musical output. While the release of “Lady” was a solid bit of post-”Finesse” New Jack Swing pastiche that didn’t feel redundant after South Korea’s other recent efforts, the five-part Re:flower project was a superfluous attempt at reissuing B-sides that paled in comparison to the group’s singles. With “I Love You,” listeners are reminded of EXID’s novelty within the K-pop landscape and why their music drew in so many fans years ago. Sadly, “I Love You” is the group’s lowest-charting music video-accompanied single to date, and current trends on various streaming services indicate that it won’t be climbing higher. If ever there was a moment to respond to EXID’s cries of “I Love You,” it’s now.

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