EXO is somehow hopelessly mediocre. They have three notable power singers, big budgets, their label is a force of nature in creating legitimately iconic acts (usually), and yet EXO are just so generic. Who knew that “MAMA” and “Wolf” would be the only times they even tried to venture outside of the box. “Wolf” is not particularly catchy, while “MAMA” just makes me want TVXQ. Still, both songs standout because of their ambition in terms of production and performance. Oddly, EXO are often more memorable (to me) when there are fewer of them on my screen. As a super group, their stages get a bit messy and a few great singers can’t really prop up a group with so many members.
But EXO are the biggest idol group. They sell millions. But that’s not surprising, because they play it very safe with their hip-hop pop tracks and electro power pop anthems. Nowadays, it seems putting 9+ people in a group and having them sing the latest trend is a sure fire way to publicity and success. This only makes Sistar’s success and Stellar’s existence more notable. But even the girl groups are getting in more and more on the super group formula.
EXO are like Marvel films, they are so huge that you watch and discuss even if you don’t want to. They are a cultural phenomenon. They are the one thing within their respective genres that you can talk about and know that everyone has seen and heard the same thing.
“Lucky One” started off very promising. The guitars had the potential to elevate this track to a greatness in the league of Stellar. The vocals are seriously in the pocket, and the first verse is unusually interesting. Unfortunately, the song insists on building and building until the electro elements and nondescript unison chorus vocals smother out any chance of true identity this song had. So close but still the catchiest song EXO has ever promoted. The guitar work is nimble and funky and truly a stand out. Korea excels at dancey, disco guitars.
Still, for a master class, stick to Stellar and the gorgeous harmonies. If EXO layered their voices more instead of trying to blow everyone away with a wall of vocal sound, their results would be better I think. Stellar infuses their unison vocals with a cute and quirky character and then introduce lush harmonies later on. EXO sings everything too “straight.” The creativity of Stellar’s vocals, themes, videos, and overall creative direction are at another level of art.
“Monster” is the direct followup to “Overdose.” EXO likes choruses with long lines. “Overdose” works better because of the restraint: the chorus is slick and suave and EXO excel better in this mode. But it’s still a really typical hip-hop pop track so it can only do so much. “Monster” is an inferior clone notable for a sharp decrease in budget and production values while actually producing one of the more cleaner and memorable choreography moments. “Call Me Baby” was clean too, but the choreography was often stilted and the booty tooch move was funny in the wrong way.
And for a master class on political videos for angsty hip hop songs. See B.A.P.
Can you tell how excited I am about all of this? *Yawn*
I’ve decided to not do a half-year retrospective. Too much work, too many great moments even if most of them were not particularly earth shattering in ubiquitousness.