A Time to Reflect on EXO


EXO is back!

…with 9 members this time. Kris, Luhan, and more recently Tao are now missing from the group. Kris left last May when he filed a lawsuit against SM entertainment, Luhan left last October, but this time members were aware of what happened (my friend covered the issue here) and Tao was recently pulled away from EXO by his father, who was concerned about his physical wellbeing. Netizens and fans were curious if Tao was seriously away, and this comeback was confirmation. Now, EXO-M is pretty much dissolved, as Lay is the only Chinese member. SM didn’t give up on the Chinese market though, because EXO is still releasing Chinese versions of their material. Which, I suppose makes sense because there is a fanbase and it would be bad to leave them hanging, and yet…it still seems slightly selfish to me. And if anything, it points quite blatantly to the failure of EXO-M and SM’s management of their artists.

With all this in mind, I wasn’t expecting much from this comeback. Tao was gone and undoubtedly the members would be rustled (even if they didn’t show it) by his sudden absence. Choreography would have to be rearranged, parts redistributed, and the Chinese learned to cover for Tao’s parts. Could they pull it off? And even with their ridiculous football concept?-



So, did EXO pull it off, then?

…let’s just say that I’ve been looping the song ever since I listened to it. It’s maybe my tenth time listening to it now? And it’s still as fresh as when I first heard it. Wow. Check it out for yourselves:

It’s fresh. I know that sounds kind of weird, but that’s the best way I can describe it. The song is clean and crisp with a nice rhythm made for dancing. It was well produced and flows really well, keeping our ears entertained from beginning to end. And it seems like the lines were evenly distributed between members. Good job, SM.

The music video, on the other hand, is a bit more confusing. I don’t know if there was supposed to be a plot or if it was just supposed to be purely for aesthetics. Thankfully, they didn’t overuse the football concept and only showed glimpses of the boys in the outfits. There’s some random scenes with chemicals and fumes (?) and the rest of the scenes are artsy shots of the boys running around or posing melodramatically. Though a plot was pretty much nonexistent, I didn’t mind because the music video was so well shot. I’m curious what EXO-L (the fandom) is going to make out of the music video, though. They’re famous for reading really deeply into material, so who knows, maybe they’ll come up with some story pulling from every scene symbolism. That’ll be entertaining to read for sure~

As I’m listening to the song yet again, I’ve been thinking a lot about EXO: their upbringing, their success, their downfalls.

EXO debuted in 2012. I wasn’t into K-pop by then and actually found out about BAP, another group that debuted the same year as EXO, first. I think my brother had ‘What is Love’ by EXO when it first came out, but besides that, EXO was a nonentity for me. All I knew about them was that my friend liked them because she put them as her cover photo on Facebook, ha. I was vaguely aware of when ‘Wolf’ came out, namely the weird ‘oolf’ pronunciation issue and bizarre outfit.

But then ‘Growl’ came out and EXO was everywhere. When ‘Growl’ came out, I was originally unimpressed. I didn’t like that the chorus followed the guitar line; it seemed a bit underpar to do, especially coming from a mammoth company like SM. But the producer knew exactly what he was doing, because soon after I had ‘Growl’ on loop and was singing along, just like everyone else. ‘Growl’ shot EXO into the spotlight and they burst out of seemingly nowhere.

The sudden popularity of EXO made many netizens question SM. They compared EXO to BAP and complained that EXO got more attention simply by being from SM. BAP had to promote twice as hard as EXO to keep up, simply because they were from a smaller company. This discussion then nosedived into who was more talented. Maybe EXO wasn’t as good as BAP or VIXX (another group that debuted the same time) and were just riding off of SM? Does that immediately mean then that BAP and VIXX are more talented, but just got unlucky with their company?

I don’t think so. I’m always hesitant to declare anything better than the other. By saying that one group is better than the other, that discounts all the hard work each member had to put into training and also puts one group down just to boost another. So no, I don’t think that one group is necessarily better than the other. Members from all three groups were chosen for a reason and all had to go through their difficult trainee period.

This isn’t to say, though, that the company is irrelevant to the success of a group. K-pop is different from western music in that usually the singers don’t participate in the composition, production, or concept of the music. So yes, we do have to take SM’s power into consideration when looking at EXO. After all, SM put the boys together and gave them this amazing music to perform. I can’t help but wonder, though, if say VIXX or BAP had access to SM’s wealth of producers, would the song do as well? Would that boost them into the spotlight?

Maybe, maybe not. After all, although SM does play a big role, so do the members themselves and their personalities and talents. The combination of the nine members adds the personal touch to the music, changing it from a demo track into something EXO, something unique. And with this comeback, I think I now understand EXO a bit more. ‘Love Me Right’ has for me solidified EXO’s sound for me; EXO is fresh. Their sound isn’t as distinctive as INFINITE’s, but there is still something different in EXO songs. It’s hard to exactly pinpoint what element of their music marks the EXO sound, but for me their songs have a crispness to them, something very polished. And it’s constructed from the producers, the composers, and the members.

This is EXO. Nothing will stop them, and this comeback has further established this fact. Even if members leave, they will continue to dance and sing for us. How long will this last? I’m not quite sure. What will happen when members have to enlist for the army? Will they still be interesting? Will they still keep that polished and fresh air we see here? Will they maybe lose Lay, their last Chinese member? (hopefully not…) Will the members eventually start composing and producing? Or will they stay content with just being idols rather than artists?

Either way, for the present this is EXO’s era. This is their time, even though it was filled with heartache for fans and members alike with Kris, Luhan, and Tao leaving. But with SM backing them and their ever fervent fans, EXO has made their stamp on K-pop and shown us that they’re here to stay.


1 thought on “A Time to Reflect on EXO”

  1. I didn’t how to think of EXO coming back as only 9 members but I was impressed. The song was really well done. I’m excited to see them going head to head with Big Bang and all the other June comebacks.

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