Its summertime in Korea, and that means that everyone is putting forth their entry for official “song of the summer.” Tropical House is currently the world wide trend, and making full use of that sound is Korea’s nine member boy band super group, EXO. Their latest release, Ko Ko Bop, makes use of reggae and tropical sounds infused into their usual brand of electro-hip-pop.
Ko Ko Bop‘s title is a reference to Nelly’s hip-hop classic, Country Grammar. Its a reference that plays out through out the song with call outs like “We going down down, baby” and “Shimmy shimmy Ko ko bop.” Its a sample that’s probably lost on most listeners. Most Korean fans won’t be familiar with early 2000’s American hip-hop, and many of today’s Western fans are too young to remember Country Grammar being a chart topper. Stylistically, nothing about Ko Ko Bop is in any way similar to Nelly’s Southern Rap hit, so the whole connection feels superficial at best.
The title isn’t the only thing about this song that feels disconnected. Ko Ko Bop uses a subdued island groove that creates a unique and summery sound that oozes with swag. Its chilled out edge is really unique, and allows the members’ voices to really shine. The chorus turns up the energy a bit with more amped up vocals and a catchy hook. Unfortunately, the song mixes a dance break that’s bull of electronic dubs and wobbles that sounds really jarring compared to the rest of the song. EXO’s always been about their dance breaks, but Ko Ko Bop’s just don’t work with the rest of the song.
Ko Ko Bop just feels like the group is trying to do too much, but that’s always been one of EXO’s problems. They don’t know if they want to give us a laid back summer jam, or an intense dance track. Sandwiching the two together just doesn’t work, which is unfortunate, because the song had potential.
Final Score: C+