CHEN’s Debut Album Supplies Poetic Ballads for a Melancholic Spring
The arrival of springtime is synonymous with rebirth and a cleansed soul. While many look forward to the refreshing beauty of the new season, for some, it arrives after an unfortunate heartbreak. For those somber souls, EXO’s Chen gifts six ballads centering on this painful transition on his debut album, April, and a flower, released April 1.
Chen is known as the powerful vocalist in the SM Entertainment boy group, but the stylistic route he took with his debut album showcases the versatility of his vocal range, delivering poignant but delicate ballads that can touch the souls of anyone with a pulse. The lead single, “Beautiful Goodbye (사월이 지나면 우리 헤어져요),” captures an ironic moment in time—a pending breakup aligned with the transition from winter to spring. In order to refrain from disrupting the beauty of the coming spring, he suggests the couple waits until the end of April in order to part peacefully. We can’t understand the girl’s feelings, but it’s clear that he’s reached acceptance; rather than attempting to win her back, he realizes the love he has for her can no longer be romantic, and sincerely wishes her the best. It is far from a vengeful message, which makes the bittersweet track all the more heartbreaking.
There’s no doubt Chen’s vocals lend to the fervent emotion behind the lyrics. “Beautiful Goodbye” exemplifies the way he understands how to punch a lyric’s meaning with his vocal intonation. He easily flows into his falsetto, adding a tender touch. And the music video’s visuals create a stirringly beautiful image to complement the ballad. The naked tree in the middle of a withering field indicates that spring has not arrived yet, like their last goodbye. Underneath the tree sits Chen and a veiled pianist, who are then surrounded by more veiled dancers. Their movements flow with the crisp wind, their heads crowned with naked branches. The pale pink dresses create a muted pastel color palette that introduces color into the picture, like spring peaking into winter.
The tear-jerking tunes continue into the rest of the album, each track touching on a different stage of heartbreak. “Flower” lyrically outdoes “Beautiful Goodbye” and arguably every other song on the tracklist, and it’s only the first one. It mirrors the tempo and melody of the aforementioned lead single, which is understandable when looking at the lyrical content. “Flowers bloom, holding the soft spring showers, and the petals drink in the tears that I thought were nothing but pain and bloom” is only a snippet of this lyrical goodness (cred: https://lyricskpop.net). But “Flower” is a more hopeful ballad as Chen awaits the arrival of spring, using the hardships he endured during winter to fuel his optimism. After the lead single comes “Sorry not sorry,” where we see his heightened eagerness to sever ties with his partner. It’s clear there is still a bitterness present, but he expresses his desire to try to live without her. The orchestra on this track is particularly moving; they come in at the right moment to move the song forward and intensify the melody.
His more commanding vocals on “Love Words” communicates the desperation of trying to save a relationship. This ballad introduces upbeat percussion into the album, and we witness the largest bridge thus far. Unfortunately, Chen doesn’t hit the high note we know he could, but this track houses the most colorful melody and adds the momentum needed to keep the album moving forward. “I’ll be there” is a more loving acceptance of a faded relationship. This one is bound to reach fans’ hearts the most. While he’s apologetic that he now can only exist as a memory, he hopes she’ll envision him by her side at their happiest memories when she’s feeling sad. The slide to the high note in the bridge that explodes into the last chorus checks off the boxes of a great Korean ballad. April, and a flower concludes with “Portrait of you.” Harboring a frail, fragile heart, he attempts to draw a portrait of her with every little detail of her that he can’t seem to forget. The ballad feels like a movie set to classical music—as if we’re watching Chen himself paint in a bare apartment overlooking Paris. One can hardly complain of the visual he’s drawn to conclude the album.
April, and a flower’s performance on Korean and international charts proves the power of a moving ballad. The impeccable timing of the album’s release contributes to its ability to touch listeners, who are leaving bittersweet memories behind in hopes of a brighter spring. Chen’s debut is nothing short of a quality body of work that will resonate with anyone patching up a broken heart.