One of the things I really like about the SM Station project is the collaborations that are borne from it. We get to hear unique collaborations, such as BoA and Beenzino from season 1, and Onew and Rocoberry from this season. This time around, we get to hear the collaboration between EXO’s vocal talent, Xiumin and NCT’s hardest working rapper, Mark.
Young and Free
The song begins with a rather upbeat tone, which makes sense, given it’s summer release. The punchy piano sound helps give it a depth that, if it was without, would leave the song severely lacking. The piano remains a staple throughout the song, and the music has a slightly vintage vibe to it overall. The music itself in this is simple. It’s the same repeated pattern over and over again; a feature that the chorus showcases (to my disappointment). There isn’t anything interesting here. Nothing that will grab my attention. When I first heard this song, I honestly thought I’d heard it before.
The lyrics are no better. They focus on being able to do what you want. It doesn’t matter who is in charge, or what is expected of you, you should do what makes you happy, even if it’s to the detriment of others. The chorus is my least favourite part of the song. Between the same music and repeated lyrics, it just strikes me as being lazy. Both of the artists involved in this release are incredibly talented, and for Xiumin’s talent to be wasted on this is just a shame. Mark, whilst not having a lot of experience rapping, does his absolute best, and is one of the best nugu rap idols. This song did not work for him. He is left rapping very quickly in parts, and this doesn’t gel with the rest of the laidback nature of the song. This song is another example of how every song doesn’t need a rap break, and in my opinion, this song hurts for it.
The video for this song manages to suit the music and style of song very well, even if the video has nothing to do with the lyrics. The video has a very cute vibe to it, in that we see Xiumin and Mark goofing around the set with each other. Between the choreography practices and the various object interactions (I’m looking at you, weird ladder section), the guys complete the dance routine, which is fine, if a little bland.
The other thing of note in this strange, half finished set, is the styling. Xiumin looks great, and is appropriately styled for his age. However, Mark is styled in a way that makes him look a lot younger than his 18 years. I’m not sure if this was done intentionally or if it’s more pronounced because of Xiumin’s clothing choices, but it does give a juxtaposition that is a little jarring at first. Especially, when the guys interact in a way that makes Mark seem younger again, for instance, when Xiumin gives him his backpack.
Finally, the oddest thing of all about this video is the end. After the song ends, there is a sold thirty seconds of screentime left, wherein the guys go behind a curtain and come out into a wood. There has been no hint of this the entire video, and it makes it seem like the set up for another upcoming music video, which is something that hasn’t been done in the SM Station series to date.
Nothing jumped out at me for this song. It’s bland in every aspect. From the music to the lyrics, to the video itself, there is nothing necessarily bad, but certainly not anything that hooked me enough for me to come back and listen again and again. I can imagine I will have completely forgotten about this song’s existence in about six months time.
If you want to hear more EXO, I would recommend “Artificial Love”, “KoKoBop” and “Love me Right”.
For more NCT, I would recommend “7th Sense” and “Limitless”.