On K-pop idol Kai’s “Peaches,” marriage, and happiness

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A writer reviews Kai’s second solo album “Peaches” a few days after her wedding. Photo from SM ENTERTAINMENT/YOUTUBE

Three days after I married the love of my life, the other love of my life (TW: parasocial) released his second solo album on November 30, exactly one year after his first mini album.

Kim Jongin, Capricorn, Blood Type A, also known as Kai of K-pop boy group EXO, confirmed the existence of the second album on October 25. A few weeks later, EXO’s Twitter announced that the mini album would be called “Peaches,” much to the delight of his overreading (horny) fans like myself.

Amidst the flurry of pandemic wedding planning (which, by the way, is really just a lot of cramming), I dug up the remaining detritus of my 2013 fascination with all things Kim Kardashian and the peach emoji. A peach baseball cap, a peach-shaped eraser, and the peach glazed Kimoji sticker have been recycled as Kai Solo 2 paraphernalia.

In preparation for Kai's second solo album, the author repurposed former Kim Kardashian-peach era paraphernalia: A peach baseball cap, a peach-shaped eraser, and the peach glazed Kimoji sticker. Photo courtesy of the author

The days leading up to the album release, I’d wait up till 11:00 p.m. (12:00 a.m. KST) for the latest teasers and mood samplers of my bias — nay, my ult — and his latest undertaking. It was a way to decompress after a day of wedding mania. Head empty, only Kim Jongin with sweet and sticky red cake icing all over his large man palms.

While I have talked about K-pop at length in another article, my stan Twitter friends would know that the truth is I only ever talk about Kai. I just can’t get enough of him. Not since I watched this Kai fancam of EXO’s M Countdown performance of “The Eve,” which I cannot watch without squirming. It’s the highwaisted pants, the delts accentuated by the muscle tee, and his lithe yet precise movements. I know we can’t trust men, but whenever Kai winks I always feel like he’s doing it for me.

The author at a wall with handprints of EXO members in Seoul, South Korea.

But even with all my delusion, I didn’t have any expectations for Kai’s first mini album (called “KAI”) one year ago. Kai was hot, a commanding force onstage, and perhaps the best dancer in K-pop, but he was at times EXO’s weakest singer. I guess when you share a stage with power vocals like Chen, Kyungsoo, Baekhyun, and Suho, everyone else seems mortal in comparison. Moreover, the album also came out during a time that was difficult for me mentally and emotionally. A time when not even K-pop could reach the dark place I had settled into.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised (among other things) when I first watched the KAI film and the music video for “Mmmh,” a song where he practically grinds and moans his way to the final bridge while wearing a bejeweled durag and chaps. While I do enjoy K-pop boys bringing their best aegyo, wearing animal costumes and talking in baby voices, nothing arouses the soft animal of my body like a grown-ass man gyrating in black lace.

On the day of its release, “KAI” topped iTunes charts in over 50 countries. Hanteo reported that it sold over 250,000 physical copies of the album within its first week. It was nominated for a Golden Disc Award, one of the major music awards in South Korea. Recognition that, in my opinion, was well-deserved.

“Time flies, but I am still feeling a little nervous about my comeback,” said Kai in Korean, during a press conference about the new mini album. “As much as everyone loved 'Mmmh,' I worked hard to express my style and show you a new side (of myself).”

“Peaches” is a six-song album that is a lot more mellow than its predecessor. The album opens with the title track, a dreamy opening that falls on a steady mid-tempo beat. Kai calls “Vanilla” his indie pop track, while “Domino” is this album’s version of “Reason,” a hip-hop track with high energy choreography.

“Come In” is an electronic R&B track while “To Be Honest” is a song about yearning, set to Kai’s crooning. The whole album closes with “Blue,” a slow song featuring a lo-fi guitar and piano. A song that contends with the contradicting feelings of wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. “So far, I've mainly shown a heavy and strong concept, but this time, I'd say you'll be able to see a more sweet, friendly and cute side of me,'' said Kai during his presscon.

A photo of Kai taken at his press conference for "Peaches" last Nov. 30. Photo courtesy of SM ENTERTAINMENT

EXO has been performing for nine years, and I’ve casually identified as an EXO-L for four. In that time, they’ve transitioned out of their school boy concepts into more mature (read: sexy) and darker ones. It also means I’ve only been able to enjoy EXO as a full, nine-member group for about two years. Since 2019, the members have all started enlisting, one by one, for their mandatory military service.

It is pretty much certain at this point that Kai will be e-wording next, which will mark the start of my unfortunate military wife era. It also means that EXO will probably only ever be complete in 2024, a little over two years from today. I joked once that this month has been a little too good, that the hammer will surely fall any day now. My friend retaliated by saying, “Ang panget naman niyan. There’s nothing wrong with being happy.”

The past two years have obviously been the worst, but when I think about the period of time between November 30, 2020 and 2021, there have been considerably good things. In that time, I’ve written a few things for CNN Philippines Life and other online publications that I’m proud of. My boyfriend of seven years proposed to me on New Year’s eve in one of our favorite cities. A couple of months later we got married in the exact same spot in front of a few of our closest friends and family, many of whom we had not seen since pre-pandemic. During the reception, my husband danced to “Mmmh” and it was everything I ever dreamed about. Kai released two solo albums that I can objectively (debatable) say are great.

“Consider it a blessing that Kai didn’t release “Peaches” before your wedding,” joked one of my friends. “Imagine looping that the whole day.” “What a month it’s been for you,” said another, as we streamed the album the day it came out. Indeed, I said, allowing myself to enjoy the rest of my holiday — my first one as a married woman.