(First published July 2017)
EXO was not my very first K-pop group. GOT7 is responsible for getting me to put my toe in the water. However, EXO is responsible for me diving in. When I was checking out GOT7, I told myself that this was as far as I’d go. I could already tell being a K-pop fan was a commitment in time and energy. But when I saw Yugyeom dancing to “Growl” on Weekly Idol, I liked the song and pulled up the music video. I’m not going to lie: my first reaction was “Holy sh** TWELVE PEOPLE?!?! Who can remember that???” But as I dug deeper, I found that their music was actually my style (EXO Show Time reference) and that Sehun was “That’s right, my type” (“Monster” reference). And through them, I discovered all of the SM Entertainment groups – which pretty much opened the doors to everyone else. And although I constantly change my biases, I always name EXO as my #1. So obviously, I don’t regret my decision.
First member I recognized: D.O. His look doesn’t change that much throughout the years, so he was easy for me to recognize when I was a K-pop newbie.
First bias: Sehun. I grew up as an anime fan, and when I first got into K-pop I thought the intense dramatic styling made some idols look like anime characters come to life. When I first saw Sehun in “Growl,” he had silver hair. It reminded me of Toshiro Hitsugaya from Bleach, who has been one of my favorite anime characters since I was about eleven years old.
Current bias and why: Still Sehun. As I said before, he’s physically my type. He is super good looking, and now that he’s approaching his twenties I think he’s starting to look very sexy. But there are a lot of other things I like about him. He really is a great dancer, and he’s naturally good at it. I really don’t have any patience for people who say he isn’t (this is both the fangirl and the dancer in me talking). And although he’s definitely a idol rapper, I do like his tone and his flow. I’m not an expert, but I don’t think he’s as bad as some people say he is.
In terms of his personality, I must confess I love his sassiness. Based on what I saw on EXO Show Time, we were both very similar people at eighteen. But he’s also done a lot of maturing since then, and it’s nice to see that growth. He definitely has a softer side, and you can tell how devoted he is to EXO. I’m pretty sure one of the members even said he’s like the glue that holds them together. So although he doesn’t always contribute to the group artistically, he definitely is a huge part of their morale and their bond. Basically, anyone that thinks he’s useless can fight me.
Bias wrecker: I wouldn’t say he’s really a bias wrecker because I’m firmly Team Sehun, but I do like D.O. He’s not as goofy as the others, and for some reason I find that really funny. Especially since he’s low key savage most of the time. I just never expect it coming from him, and I always end up laughing when I do.
Favorite song: “Ko Ko Bop.” I hesitated about this because I know this could easily change. The song’s only been out for a week. But the more I think about it, the more I believe it’s a great song. Melody, instrumentals, structure, effects – it’s all pretty much spot on. It’s so cool and low-key, and I really enjoy listening to it.
Favorite MV: “Monster.” I was so into this music video. I literally couldn’t get enough of dark!EXO. Everyone looked so good, especially Chen with his mysterious face mask and Baekhyun with that crazy lip chain. They focused on aesthetics more that story, but I just wanted to figure out the whole plot so badly. Who were they supposed to be? (The mafia? A gang? Criminals?) Why were they raging against all of these soldiers? What was Baekhyun’s role? And why was there that creepy blood covered snake? One year later, I still want to know everything.
Favorite era: “Call Me Baby.” It’s EXO at their most pop-esque, and I love it. In general, the members closer to my age than most other groups I follow. And in this comeback, they were a making a statement that they were officially entering adulthood. So in a way, I appreciate it because it just feels very age-appropriate to me. When it comes to sexy concepts, I usually feel more awkward than anything else. But this apparently is my kind of sexy, because my heart melts whenever I watch that video.
Favorite choreography: “Growl.” That dance is just iconic.
Who I think is the best looking: Sehun. He’s so handsome, I can’t even deal. He’s like model status. But if I had to pick someone other than my bias, I’d pick Suho. I’ve heard people say he’s even more handsome in person, and I always think “How is that even possible? He’s already pretty handsome!” But to be honest, all of them are very attractive looking men.
Who I think is the cutest: Xiumin. He definitely has less of a baby face these days, but he still looks younger than he really is. Sometimes I can’t believe he’s actually older than me (by like a month).
Favorite singer: D.O. Chen’s high notes are insane, and Baekhyun’s voice is very well-suited to their music style. But I like D.O.’s deeper and richer tone. It’s very different from all of the other vocals in the group.
Favorite rapper: Chanyeol. Again, his voice is deeper than Sehun or Kai’s and it adds a little more dimension to their music.
Favorite dancer: Sehun. In terms of technique, Kai is better. (Lay probably is as well, but their styles are so different I think it’s more a matter of preference) But Sehun has this kind of low-key swagger style that is super attractive. The choreographies for “Lotto” and “Ko Ko Bop” suit him really well, because they have that aura. He can also make choreography look like freestyle, which is actually a pretty rare skill. Plus I think super tall guys that know how to dance are insanely hot.
An unpopular opinion about the group or a member: This is probably wildly unpopular, but I’m actually pretty neutral about whether Lay stays or leaves. This does not mean that I dislike him or want him out of the group. I actually like him a lot, and I was disappointed when I found out he wouldn’t be participating in “Ko Ko Bop.” If there’s a way for him to stay with EXO and be fully involved like he was last year, I wholeheartedly embrace that. However, EXO is clearly used to performing as eight. Many groups that are down a member can’t really hide it when they promote. When Kai was injured and couldn’t be in “Lotto,” it made a difference in the choreography. But if you look at “Ko Ko Bop” purely technically – song, dance, part distribution, etc. – it doesn’t feel like there’s a member missing. We miss him, but it’s in a more sentimental way. If he stayed to the end, I’d be happy like everyone else. But if he does end up leaving in the next year or two, it wouldn’t surprise me or hit me hard.
I think this is because I came into K-pop last year – after the departure of Kris, Luhan, and Tao. I certainly understand what a rough time EXO and the fandom went through back then. I’ve seen all of their shows, so I know they had a bond as a group of twelve. However, I think EXO in 2013 and EXO now are very different groups. The people involved have matured and the bond has changed. Since I wasn’t around in the past, I can’t be heartbroken over something I never experienced. So I think it’s easier for me to separate the two versions of the group than someone who was there from the beginning.