Singer-Songwriter Impressions On D.O.’s Debut Solo Album, ‘Empathy’

A good friend of mine describes being an k-pop idol as “the life of a dog.” I can only think about this when it comes to idols getting trapped in images related to their group that the label has come up with for profit sake. It’s hard to tell what is true: what is the artist in question and what is the marketing ploy?

I say all this to say that the incredibly talented D.O. of EXO has veered far off the path set before his image as main vocalist in the R&B/Pop heavy group into territory the average k-pop fan may not recognize.

As a young emo kid, my entry into the world of singer/songwriter folk songs is largely credited to Dallas Green (Alexisonfire) and his transition into the genre with the project City and Colour. D.O.’s song, ‘Dad,’ reminds me of Green’s work on the album “Little Hell”, and not just because of the subject-matter related to fathers. In a different universe where Do Kyungsoo became a singer-songwriter, I can picture his albums fitting right in next to the likes of Green, Cary Brothers, Jason Mraz, and Justin Nozuka.

Otherwise, “Empathy” does have a few R&B/Pop impressions, such as the excellent I’m Gonna Love You and My Love. D.O.’s vocal power however is best displayed on the ‘It’s Love’ and the Spanish track version, ‘Si Fueras Mia.’ These songs are representative of the vocal flare that once stole EXO-Ls hearts in the early days when he performed ‘What Is Love’ as a solo stage.

The cleanliness of D.O.’s voice cannot be praised enough in an industry that frequently relies on autotune manipulation for stylistic choice (and to hide pitfalls in vocal training). His ability to evoke emotional response through his vocal choices are why you want to listen to this album even if you’re not a fan of the kind of folky/alt singer-songwriter feeling that D.O. likely intended for this album.

If there is nothing for you on these kinds of songs, ‘I’m Fine,’ is the song that cannot be ignored. If you close your eyes, you could easily imagine D.O. crooning along to it as a solo during an EXO concert. It would fit right in next to the gorgeous ‘Wait’ from the group’s fifth album.

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