KAI's 'Rover': An Entrancing Record That Embraces Multiple Genres & Identities

Multi-talented pop star KAI returns with his third and most complex album yet.
Kai for "Rover". All photos: SM Entertainment.
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KAI's 'Rover': An Entrancing Record That Embraces Multiple Genres & Identities

If there's one thing that Kim Jongin, AKA KAI knows how to do, it's make ass-shaking music. Despite a year and four month period where the kpop veteran hadn’t released new music; KAI is back with a certified banger title track Rover and a no-skip 6 track mini album. The sixteen months between preceding album Peaches, and Rover were anything but quiet for KAI, as he took the year to focus on promotion for Peaches as well as having taken the opportunity to see his fans (EXO-L) internationally via festivals that he had participated in as a soloist.

Outside of his ten – nearing eleven – years with EXO, KAI is coming up to his third year of being a soloist. With his third mini-album, he's expressed how he wanted to showcase a free and rebellious concept. Compared to his previous two records, this one feels strong and impactful with harder beats and an interesting combination of genres within tracks. The listener can really feel Rover resound in their chests with strong bass throughout and with an effortless album flow from beginning to end.

What sets his record apart from prevision records would be how he further experiments with different types of genres within the album itself. Starting off with the title track and first track "Rover" - a remake of Bulgarian pop singer Dara’s 2022 song “Mr. Rover” - it infuses the song's original Baltic dancehall base with a reggaeton Afro-Latin beat that makes the song an easy earworm that doesn't tire the listener quickly. The way that the two genres are melded together, alongside KAI’s sultry vocals, brings the concept behind "Rover" to life. With the word “rover” literally meaning a person that spends time wandering, both the song and concept brings to life the identity that KAI has built across his entire career.

In the music video, KAI swaps identities, as indicated by different ID cards, whilst he teleports from place to place, notable because eleportation was the power he had been assigned when debuting with EXO. Not only that, the music video also gives a nod to KAI’s beginnings with an identification card having the name “Mr. Elliott Billy” in  reference to the play Billy Elliott in which had an impact on how KAI initially wanted to pursue ballet prior to debut. 

Similar to how "Rover" uses Afro-Latin beats, the same could be said for track "Bomba". Much to the theme of the album of being free, this song rides on the high tension of the reggaeton beat that would make anyone want to get up and dance. Whereas "Slidin'" and "Say You Love Me" creates a vibe for comfort and familiarity for the listener, through both songs being very lush and sensual. Another shoutout for good album pacing is warranted here; where the songs are placed within the album (third and fifth respectively) provides respite and thus helps to pace the record well.

"Black Mirror" and "Sinner" provide a push-pull element in the record; "Black Mirror" rides a trap beat with heavy 808s that’s reminiscent of the song "Domino" in Peaches while "Sinner" is a slower, ballad-like track that feels like a strong bookend to the album, and leaves a listener wanting more. Some listeners will find fascinating how "Black Mirror" utilises the onomatopoeia words associated with cameras and photography (flash, click, play, switch) its listener to truly absorb the listener in the world and message it wishes to create.

The album itself is more than strong enough to stand on its own. Yet, the further promotions that KAI and his team have done to show off his intentions behind this body work have been really fun to watch for both the hardcore fan and casual listener alike. From the "Rover" dance challenges that KAI has done with idols from different generations, to the variety content he has been a part of; it has showcased how KAI embraces his Mr.Rover identity, transcending multiple genres and adapting quickly. As of this being published, "Rover" has received two well-deserved music show award wins and it is exciting to wonder where KAI's artistry willtake him next.

Rover is out now. Kai can be found on Instagram and all major streaming platforms.
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