Kim Jongin, better known as Kai, is a member of the South Korean-Chinese boy group EXO and supergroup SuperM. His group – who made their debut in 2012 – are dubbed the ‘Kings of K-pop‘ and are widely revered for their pristine vocals and explosive performances, with each member of the group bringing something to the table. Kai, in particular, is widely believed to be one of the best dancers in not only K-Pop, but South Korea as a country, and is one of the top influential Korean fashion icons, garnering a close relationship with brands Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. In recent years, members of EXO have released solo projects to showcase their full ability as artists, with Chinese member Lay taking the lead and releasing the group’s first solo-member album, Lose Control, in 2016.
Within the 9-member group, Kai’s main focus is dance, his childhood history of ballet and jazz solidifying his position within the group. In 2020, many fans and casual listeners were elated with the news of his first eponymous mini album, titled ‘KAI‘, being in works. The mini album and its’ title track ‘Mmmh‘ was a hit and garnered wide attention from the global K-pop community for its addictive R&B/Hip hop genre and smooth vocals. After the international success of his first mini album, Kai released his second mini album a year later, titled ‘Peaches‘ in 2021. The title track, ‘Peaches‘ is a lofi hip-hop/dream pop beat with amazing visuals accompanying in the music video. Yet again, the mini album was a success and set the anticipation for his next release.
On March 13, Kai released his third mini album ‘Rover‘. Consisted of 6 tracks, the genre display is the most varied we’ve seen from Kai.
We begin the EP with the title track ‘Rover‘, a dancehall, hip-hop, and pop holy trinity. This track is actually a remake of the 2021 song ‘Mr. Rover‘ by Bulgarian artist DARA, following the previously laid out beat and catchy chorus, showcasing Kai’s ability to shape himself to successfully fit into whatever genre he pleases. The song talks about a mysterious man who roams the world without an identity, but now wanting to be called by the name ‘Mr.Rover‘ and live by his own rules, free from societal constrictions. Kai’s ability to switch from his natural low singing voice to higher tones is a force to be reckoned with and slots in perfectly within this song.
The title track is accompanied by a stunning music video, which embodies the lyrics and highlights Kai’s jaw-dropping dance skills and amazing outfits. Fans of Kai noticed in one of the scenes where he switches ID cards that the name on the card states ‘Billy Elliot’. This is not only a homage to the movie Billy Elliot but also a shoutout to Kai’s ballerino background, with ballerinas accompanying him as he wanders around the hotel building. The beautiful orange hues and stage spotlights paint an amazing visual that matches the song’s genre and overall feel to a T.
A song that embodies the classic hip-hop/trap beat, accompanied with catchy rhythms and a heavy 808-beat. Black Mirror taps into Kai’s vocal abilities as he plays around with the beat, switching effortlessly between rap and smooth vocals, even using falsetto voice in parts of the chorus. The lyrics talk about meeting someone, becoming infatuated and wanting to solidify that memory in a picture/video over and over again. Memorable lyrics include the repeated sentence ‘flash, click, play, switch‘ and ‘boomerang‘ – which implies Kai is constantly repeating these actions, reminiscing moments from an encounter. His impressive ability to contour himself to fit any genre is something to be applauded, and is a clever aspect that attracts listeners. Kai enjoys watching the British anthology series, also named Black Mirror, one could assume the title of the track is a shoutout to the series.
The song starts with a laid-back and groovy beat, accompanied with a sliding glissando in the instrumental in relation to the track title. The chorus is infectious and catchy, with his vocals effortlessly gliding over the rhythm, creating a mesmerising and addictive sound. One of the standout elements of ‘ Slidin’ ‘ is its sensuous and alluring atmosphere. The sultry lyrics and seductive delivery create a captivating aura that oozes with confidence and magnetism. The song talks about flirtation, intimacy, and desire, painting a vivid picture of a seductive encounter within the lyrics. His vocals are filled with emotion, adding depth and authenticity to the lyrics, making the song even more captivating and alluring.
The fourth track of the album, Bomba, features an addictive reggaeton dance beat and synth riffs. This is Kai’s first song of this genre. The song has a funky chorus and dance break, opening the floor to potential jaw-dropping choreography from the professional dancer. The song’s name ‘Bomba‘ – meaning bomb in Spanish – is highly fitting as the song is almost explosive in its’ energy. The Spanish language is not only found in the title but also in one of the lyrics of the chorus, ‘no matter, no es nada‘, Kai is urging the listener to let go, have fun and not be tied down by worries. The fun onomatopoeia ad-libs elevates the energy, making this song a must-listen for anyone wanting to have fun.
Say You Love Me
Say You Love Me is a trap genre with an eerie reversed melody in the background. The lyrics insinuate jealousy and obsession, but also about wanting to become more open-minded and expressive. In Say You Love Me, Kai’s silky vocals exude confidence and charisma in the rap sections of the song, but also indicate an eerie element with elongated falsettos and ghost-like vocal runs in the chorus. The clever collaboration between production and Kai elevate the song to another level, and is one of the tracks that exudes the star’s musicality.
A laid-back synth pop track accompanied with pianos and strings, Sinner contains the perfect combination to highlight Kai’s sultry singing voice perfectly, without the need of high notes or belts. His relaxed vocal tone throughout the song is a break from the high-energy songs and allows the listener to lay back and just focus on his voice. The subtle half-key change in the choruses gives the song a pleasing change up and displays Kai’s vocal range. The song talks about regret and asking for forgiveness, his soft tone unites with the lyrics and gives the song a sentimental and personal feel. The last chorus consists of a satisfying flourish of instruments and synth, satisfyingly tying the ends of the song and the album as a whole.
Film : Kai #Rover
To accompany the album, Kai released a short film – Film : Kai #Rover – with visuals for each track. This idea was last seen in his debut album, KAI, so fans were especially excited to see its’ return. The high-production film is respectively split into 6 parts to introduce the 6 tracks, each bringing a completely different feel from the last. The idea of releasing a visual film for each track has not been seen in K-Pop yet therefore many non-fans within the K-Pop community were intrigued about the contents. Kai’s sharp and precise dancing skills is given a platform to shine, going perfectly hand-in-hand with the rhythm of each track. In one scene, Kai is seen hanging his torso out of a moving car – the mise-en-scene filled with spotlights and exhaust smoke – many believe this to be paying homage to the all-famous scene in Beyonce’s Formation music video, where she is seen hanging out of a car window as her braids cascade to the floor.
In the track Say You Love Me‘s section of the film, Kai pays homage to old hotel slasher movies, eerie CCTV footage, stumbling around a hotel hallway covered in blood and carrying a suspicious black bag. Each section embodies the genre of the track it is named after, this entices both fans and non-fans and both applaud Kai’s musicality and artistry.
Rover dance challenge
On TikTok, many K-Pop groups create dance challenges for their releases as a way to garner attention and promote their songs, this was first popularised by soloist Zico for his 2020 track Any Song which went viral on the platform. After Rover’s release, Kai had half-jokingly stated on fan private-messaging service Bubble that he would do the ‘Rover challenge’ with anyone, and even asked some members who posted solo covers of Rover to do the challenge together. This prompted a wave of K-Pop idols – most who look up to Kai as their role model – to request to do the challenge with Kai – even taking time out of their schedules to meet him at award shows – and therefore go viral on TikTok. Collaborations included Twice’s Momo, ATEEZ’s San and Seonghwa and his fellow members Sehun and Baekhyun of EXO. Many on Twitter and other social media sites applauded Kai’s willingness to collaborate and promote smaller and lesser-known groups’ songs and participating in their dance challenges, showcasing his kindness and genuine personality.
this is legit the first time i’ve seen a big 3 idol do a tiktok challenge with a nugu or just a much less known group… we need more of this, it’s so rare https://t.co/HuZmLhQ5EP
— goeun lover 🝮 (@beaniegoeun) March 25, 2023
Since the album’s release, over 100 K-Pop idols have participated in the Rover dance challenge and the number continues to grow.
@weareone.exo_official 멋대로 걸어 내 뜻대로🌟🐻⛰️ #KAI #카이 #EXO #엑소 #weareoneEXO #Rover #KAI_Rover #RoverChallenge #SEONGHWA #성화 #SAN #산 #ATEEZ #에이티즈 ♬ 오리지널 사운드 – EXO
What to expect next?
Kai has since completed his promotions of the album and has now returned back to his group EXO, who have reunited as members Baekhyun, Chen, D.O and Chanyeol returned from their mandatory 2-year military service. The group have plans to release an album in the first half of the year, hinting at a June/July release. The supergroup are currently holding concerts in Seoul to celebrate their 11th anniversary since debut. Although the group have reunited as of recent, the two youngest members of the group, Kai and Sehun, have yet to complete their service, with many believing they will enlist this year, possibly after the group’s comeback.
There is a lot to come, both in Kai’s solo career and in his career within EXO, and fans anticipate the beloved star’s next move.