EXO has certainly exploded onto the Korean music scene with their summer comeback. They have dominated the music shows with their single “Wolf” only to return with a repackage version of their album “XOXO” with the catchy title song “Growl”. The album itself has sold more than 700000 album copies – an incredible amount.
EXO have won many first places on the major Korean music shows, even claiming a triple crown. The songs and band have captured the hearts of thousands of Korean girls. And thousands of international fans have emerged, one only had to log onto Tumblr or Instagram to see hundreds of fan based accounts. True we hear about their sasaeng fans but I refuse to let that put a damper on the achievements of this group. The new dance and song for the repackage album are quite brilliant, the choreography is undoubtedly one of the most creative ones in K-pop this year. The use of space and the splitting of the groups at the start makes for an effective display of talent and precision. And despite the music video for the song being in one set, the complicated shifts and one -shot style make it extremely hard to look away. The song itself isn’t exactly beautiful – though their album does have some very nice ballads (“Baby don’t cry”). It is very “SM” yet I’m glad that the chorus hasn’t got an odd English phrase.
However as much as I can prise EXO for their success at the moment, I cannot express it wholeheartedly. Reading Korean netizen comments on the news of their album sales reveal that the majority of older Koreans haven’t really listened to the album or even the title track. Many were critical of the “wolf” concept and were disappointed that such a song was reaching so high in the charts. I also have to admit that EXO would not have the popularity that they have without their giant company SM backing them. They certainly have pushed the band, with appearances on variety shows such as Beatles code, WGM and weekly idol. Without SM I really don’t think that this concept would have been such a big hit. But the truth is that “Growl” and “Wolf” are only big hits in the numbers. The reality is that in Korea they are not played as much as the real K-pop craze “Bar Bar Bar” (Crayon Pop). It is obvious that EXO’s fans are buying multiple albums and voting for them on the music shows. I’m not going to preach the unfairness of this, DB5K’s fans were similar, but I do feel that EXO is extremely lucky. Luck in the terms that they debuted with SM entertainment. Lucky in the way they are 12 very attractive looking boys that were put together and lucky that their target audience is hormonal teenage girls.
To be honest I did jump on the EXO band-wagon, even adding the album sales by purchasing the repackage. But I recognize that there are other far more talented and popular Korean singers, ones who I won’t lose my loyalty over to what is quite a mediocre song.