An Intro to K-pop Boy Group EXO

Valerie here. Yes, I’m back. Today, I bring to you an introduction to the best k-pop boy group ever, EXO. If you’ve been listening to the podcast, you’ll have probably noticed that I’m an EXO-L (EXO’s official fandom name). If not, you’ll at least have heard us (me in particular) make references to EXO. You might have caught them, or they might have gone over your noggin because you don’t know EXO. Well, I’m here to introduce you to them so you may know what in the world an EXO is.

Beginning and Albums

EXO debuted under SM Entertainment (unfortunately) on April 8th, 2012 as a 12 member group split into two sub-groups, EXO-K (Korean) and EXO-M (Mandarin). Yes, strange isn’t it, but you see, SM’s plan was to have EXO-K promote in Korea while EXO-M promoted the same songs in Mandarin in China. They wished to win over the Chinese market this way. And it worked. EXO has the largest Chinese fanbase of any K-pop boy group, but we’ll get into that later.

EXO-K consisted of members Suho, Baekhyun, Chanyeol, D.O. (Check out our other blog where we talk about D.O.’s acting!), Kai, and Sehun. EXO-M consisted of the members Xiumin, Luhan, Kris, Lay, Chen, and Tao. Xiumin and Chen were the only Korean members in EXO-M. 

XOXO album cover

So EXO debuted with the single “MAMA“, which wasn’t really a public-friendly song. This meant it didn’t do too well, and after that, they released no new music until a year later, something quite risky for new groups. For their comeback, they joined together as one single EXO, and they released their first full album, XOXO, with the title track “Wolf“, which is a great song. The only problem is, it’s one of them mushroom songs, meaning that it takes some time to grow on you. That’s what happened to me anyway and a lot of EXO-Ls I’m sure. The song was not received well in Korea though. People made fun of EXO, they said their song was trash, thought it was unbelievable when EXO got their first win with “Wolf”, and it was just not good times (so I hear…I wasn’t in the fandom yet). But man did these people get a surprise when EXO released the repackage of XOXO.

The title track “Growl” became a hit across Korea to the point where it is still talked about today, a whole seven years later. EXO’s popularity shot up as well, making them the hottest group. It must’ve been wonderful and I laugh in the faces of those butts saying things about EXO before “Growl”! But continuing on…not only did “Growl” become a hit but the XOXO album along with the repackage sold over one million physical copies, making them the first million-seller in twelve years. They released multiple albums after this, including five more Korean studio albums, one Japanese Studio album, five EP’s, and five live albums, all of which have had strong sales, with all but one of their Korean studio albums selling more than one million copies, making them quintuple million sellers.

Members Leaving

Left to right: Luhan, Kris, Tao

As I mentioned before, EXO debuted as two sub-groups, EXO-M and EXO-K. So why are they known as only EXO now? Well, let’s get into that. On May 15th, 2014, Kris filed a lawsuit against SM to terminate his contract. He alleged that SM: disregarded his health; maintained unfair profit distributions; restricted his freedom; and treated him like a product rather than a person.

That same year, on October 10th, Luhan also filed a lawsuit to terminate his contract. He cited health problems and alleged he was treated differently than the band’s Korean members. When this happened, it was a great shock. EXO was only two years old at the time, and people believed that this, along with a dating scandal between Baekhyun and SNSD member Taeyeon, would lead to EXO’s popularity falling and possibly disbanding. LOL NOOBS. They didn’t know the power of EXO. They came back better than ever the next year as a ten-member group. Unfortunately, on August 24th, 2015, after being absent from promotions for some time due to injuries, Tao became the third member to file a lawsuit against SM to terminate his contract. And thus, EXO became the nine membered group we know today.

Concerts, Solos, and Units

EXO has had five concert tours since its first one EXO Planet #1: The Lost Planet in 2014. They’ve performed over 100 concerts across these five tours.

EXO-CBX Announces First Korean Fan Meeting | Soompi
EXO-CBX

Apart from being successful as a group, the members of EXO have been successful individually as well. In October 2016, members Xiumin, Baekhyun, and Chen debuted in the sub-unit EXO-CBX. Since their debut, they have released three EPs and one Japanese studio album. They also held their own Special Edition Concerts of their Japanese tour in April of 2019. In July 2019, EXO’s second sub-unit, EXO-SC debuted, composed of members Sehun and Chanyeol. They released their first EP, What a Life, on July 22nd, 2019, and are set to release their first studio album, 1 Billion Views on July 13th of this year. I’M SO EXCITED!!!!

EXO-SC

In October 2016, Lay became the first member to debut as a soloist with the EP Lose Control. He has since released three studio albums, one EP, and multiple singles, and even had a solo concert tour in 2019. Chen became the second member to debut as a soloist on April 1st, 2019. He has released two EPs, and even before debuting as a soloist, he released solo songs as OSTs, stations, or collabs. That same year on July 10th, Baekhyun debuted as the third EXO soloist, with the EP City Lights. This year, he released his second EP Delight on May 25th. Like Chen, Baekhyun had various solo songs before his debut as a soloist. The fourth member to debut as a soloist was Suho. His debut EP, Self-Portrait, was released on March 30th, 2020. Kai is confirmed to release a solo album later this year, which will make him the fifth member to debut as a soloist.

Military Enlistment

*Cries in advance* The members of EXO began enlisting for their mandatory military service in 2019. Xiumin, being the eldest member, was the first to enlist as an active-duty soldier on May 7th, 2019. He was followed by D.O., who enlisted July 1st, of the same year. Suho enlisted on May 14th, 2020 as a public service officer. The remaining members–Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol, Kai, Sehun–will be enlisting in the coming years, sometime before they turn 30. Since Lay is Chinese, he does not have to enlist. Unfortunately, Lay has been unable to promote or be a part of the albums since 2016 due to some issues between China and Korea. He does make an appearance in the 2018 album Don’t Mess Up My Tempo, although only in the photobook images and briefly in the song “Tempo

Awards and Achievements

When I first started stanning EXO, I was not too big on social media. I got my news about k-pop from googling, or from Allkpop (I know it’s embarrassing!! It’s all good though I’ve learned). For some reason, I didn’t look up anything about EXO, just stuff about the members and I watched some variety shows they guested on, and of course I listened to their music. I knew nothing about the legends they were. I thought they were just an average k-pop boy group and it took me about six months to realize I stanned the Kings of Kpop. I only found out when award show season came around and I learned that they had won the Daesang (Grand Prize) at the Mnet Asian Music Awards (those stupid awards yes) for the 3rd year in a row. Because EXO has done many great things, I shall only be listing a few of them here. This also does not include any solo or sub-unit achievements.

As mentioned before, EXO became quintuple million sellers due to five of their studio albums selling a million copies. With the release of their 5th Album, Don’t Mess Up My Tempo, EXO became the first artist to surpass 10 million total album sales in South Korea.

EXO have greatly contributed to SM’s financial success. SM recorded the largest ever quarterly profit for any South Korean entertainment company in the fourth quarter of 2018, with a total of $13.4 million. EXO was the artist that generated the highest revenue, at 31% of the total $188 million fourth quarter revenue. In other words, SM better treat them right unless they want to fall into ruins when EXO’s contracts are over and they don’t renew *silently prays that this happens*.

Power” became the first k-pop song to play at the Dubai Fountain at Burj Khalifa Lake, Dubai on January 19th, 2018. Seven of the members traveled to Dubai to view the first showing. The initial running was from January to March, but due to its popularity, it was brought back from September to November.

On February 25th, 2018, EXO performed at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, serving as representatives of K-pop along with CL. The performance drew widespread global media attention and praise. It was truly an amazing moment *proud smile*.

In April of 2018, the Korean Mint Corporation released official commemorative medals for EXO, honoring their contribution for the global spread of Korean Culture. There are nine medals, one for each member. They were unveiled at a ceremony in Seoul.

Because of their success, EXO has won a large variety of awards. Too many to list here, so I shall only list a few. EXO has received 23 Daesang awards from various year-end award shows. The Daesang is the “grand prize” of award ceremonies. EXO was the youngest group to receive a Daesang in 2013 with their first album XOXO. They continued to receive them until 2017, setting records for the most consecutively won Daesangs, as well as the most Daesangs won. Six of these awards came from the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), which was recorded in the 2018 Guinness World Records book as the “Most Daesang” awards won at the MAMA.

EXO received a Prime Minister Commendation at the Korean Popular Culture and Art Awards on November 3rd, 2017. This honor is bestowed in recognition of public service and/or excellence in a given field.

With all these achievements, it’s no wonder they’re called the Nation’s Pick and K-pop Kings.

There it be! Some basic info on the best k-pop boy group EXO so you know at least a bit more about them. I wanted to provide a bit of info about each member, but that would be a lot, so that will be coming in a separate post in the future. This was a lot harder to do than I thought it would be, only because there was so much I wanted to include, so I had to force myself to leave some things out. Hopefully, you know more about EXO now. If you’ve read this and aren’t a fan I’m assuming you should have learned something… and if you decide to join the fandom, welcome! You won’t regret it.

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