“If my 20s were full of passion and energy, I’d like to focus on more relaxing and comforting music in my 30s,” EXO’s Baekhyun shared at the press conference for his third mini-album ‘Bambi’. The singer who turned 30 years old in the Korean Age system this year might not be too deep into his new decade but, with his latest release, he’s already fulfilling his goal.
A collection of love-themed songs, ‘Bambi’ is as smooth as projects come. Across six tracks, Baekhyun delves into different facets of R&B, gliding gently from one sultry spin on the genre to the next. The title track oozes sophistication, fragmented guitar melodies splitting under his velvety vocals, sounding like the perfect soundtrack for an elegant dance scene in a romantic movie. ‘All I Got’ is full of soulful falsetto, while ‘Cry For Love’ brings us to a more up-to-date incarnation, crunching beats softly landing under more vintage guitars.
If most of the record relies on six strings, then there are two spots where Baekhyun deviates from that formula. ‘Amusement Park’, which was initially released last year as a special gift for the singer’s fans, opens with a bright piano melody before returning back to ‘Bambi’’s more typical instrumentation. ‘Privacy’, meanwhile, keeps the keys running throughout, jazz piano not only colouring the track but leading it down a refreshing path.
Just as Baekhyun mines different sounds on ‘Bambi’, so he draws from different branches of his subject matter. This isn’t a record that only shows us one side of love, but instead takes us on a journey through various milestones of a relationship, be they positive or negative ones. No matter what stage of a romance you’re at, there’s a song to swoon, sigh or cry to here.
Opener ‘Love Scene’ describes a kind of love that’s highly coveted but rare to find – one that feels like it’s your destiny. “Your eyes and my eyes,” he sings softly. “The moment they bump into each other, time stops.” At the other end of the record, though, things aren’t going quite so well. Instead of hushed lines, Baekhyun’s voice is raised and rich, emotion coursing through it as he details the start and end of a painful love. “You made me feel so high, babe / Then crashed me to the ground, babe,” he sighs on ‘Cry For Me’, before a mournful addendum: “Every time that I cry / My tears don’t ever dry.”
The songwriting on ‘Bambi’ is often so vivid that even without Baekhyun’s colourful voice, each song paints striking images. On the title track, he deals in the vernacular of magical children’s stories, comparing time with a lover like being in a “Neverland where time has stopped”. He also cleverly switches between using the song’s title to refer to the famous Disney deer and the night rain, pronounced as “bam bi” in Korean. In ‘Privacy’, he drops more subtle, sharp lines, toying lightly with the concept of social media as he sings of wanting to show his secrets only to his partner. There are references to profiles and stories buried among his cute declarations likening himself to a puppy.
Most likely Baekhyun’s last release before he begins his mandatory military service in May 2020, ‘Bambi’ shows an artist confidently entering a new chapter in his career. At times, ‘Bambi’ could do with a little more adventurous variation – although there is plenty of different material here, it is very closely connected – but s a parting gift until we next meet, though, it’s just as Baekhyun wanted – relaxing, comforting and very, very good.
- Release date: March 30
- Record label: SM Entertainment