The wait is over! Veteran group VIXX, from whom we haven’t heard since last spring’s “Shangri-La,” is finally back with a highly anticipated full album. Well, to say that they fell off the face of the planet for 11 months would be imprecise: main rapper Ravi released a mixtape a few months ago, and subunit LR (Leo and Ravi) was active at some point along the way. Still, there’s nothing quite like a full-group VIXX comeback. One of the few 2012 groups that have survived six years after their debut, VIXX have long been known as the “concept kings” of K-pop, and new title track “Scentist”—no, not “Scientist”; “Scentist,” as in, “perfume maker,” as in the album’s name, “Eau de VIXX”—delivers yet another vividly creative concept in VIXX’s legendary string of them. Musically, though, “Scentist” isn’t anything new for VIXX. It feels, in fact, as if VIXX have fully grown into the cool, spare sound of their last few comebacks, combining the slightly sinister allure that was present in all their iconic earlier singles with the mature aesthetic of their recent work. I’d even go as far as to say that “Scentist” is just “Shangri-La” but way better. The balance between concept and sound marks a definite turning point in the group’s long and ever-evolving career.
“Scentist” delivers a brand of cool electronica that is similar to what we’ve heard from VIXX lately, but it has this bubbly, stuttering consistency, giving the beat a distinctive texture. That inventive take on the classic EDM trend sets the song apart not only in VIXX’s discography, but from other K-pop songs that are attempting to do the same. That said, what “Scentist” does really well in comparison to other recent VIXX singles is hooks. 2016’s “The Closer,” for example, is a gorgeous song—oh, it’s so good—but I don’t know it could be called catchy. “Scentist,” on the other hand, shapes its vocal melodies around a blocky, almost robotic rhythm that becomes mesmerizing when it collides with VIXX’s trademark mysterious allure. Those vocal melodies are assembled into a varying double hook structure, leading with the simpler “neor, neor, neor, neor” and later reinforcing with a melody so quickly phrased it verges on rap. It’s a heady combination, but that’s exactly what we expect from VIXX.
As for the rest of the album, I’d recommend listening straight through at least once, but do yourself a favor and linger a bit on the eccentric “Odd Sense,” the slowly-blooming standout “Escape,” and the familiar but well-developed “Trigger.” The entirety of “Eau de VIXX” has a very judicious, almost prudent production style similar to the structure established in “Scentist.” While it doesn’t afford much variety from start to finish, there’s a definite strength in the album’s consistency, and consistency is key for senior groups. The wait for this album may have been long, but it was worth it.
SCENTIST: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Bop.
Take a look at VIXX’s “Scentist” MV below: