Man, I rephrased this so many times. I am pretty sure it is still going to sound all wrong.

NOTE: This post is KPOP related. Also, I have mentioned BTS for comparison purposes, but that is not meant to encourage the whole stupid EXO vs BTS thing, or to throw shade at BTS. BTS just happens to be the only other very popular group that is active right now. This is not about comparing who is more well known or whose music is better. Both the groups are great in their own right & have very different sounds that honestly cannot be compared. There’s nothing wrong with liking either of them, both of them, or heck, neither of them. It’s all personal taste. This is more about perception & the power of marketing than anything else.

It’s official. I really really love EXO’s songs. I actually started giving their music a chance only very recently, & I am mad that I didn’t do it earlier. If I had gotten into their music earlier, then I could have spent that much more time enjoying their music. However, this post is not a gush post about them. It’s more about the way that, when I first thought of making a post with the above statement, my knee-jerk reaction was to start it by insinuating that I am “not an Exo-L” & that I was not influenced by their looks in any way, so that my opinion would be seen as more objective & valid, rather than getting it dismissed as delusional rants of a fangirl. This got me thinking about the way that I have seen EXO being perceived by people in general. They are seen as these brainless pretty boys who are popular because of being popular, & of course, because of their looks (which, how does that even happen. As someone famously put it – “yeah, I buy their albums to listen to their face”), which also extends to the views people have about the ones who say that they like them. Heck, I was the same. I knew & liked some of them because of their variety show appearances or drama appearances, but that was pretty much it. I was always meh about giving their music a chance. It wasn’t until recently that one thing led to another & I finally sat down to actually give their entire discography a listen. I didn’t try to just find whatever songs I liked the most, & delete the rest. I listened to all of their albums as a whole, treating each one as a whole entity, instead of a collection of songs to pick & choose from. And I was really surprised to realize that they were not what I thought they would be. Their albums are actually fucking solid. Even the songs that I previously hadn’t liked, made sense to me this way. They fit perfectly into the narrative of the particular album & they sounded so good now! Even the full ballads that I have never been a fan of, regardless of who releases it! And they had been releasing such solid albums for years, especially after the K & M nonsense was done away with & the group finally came together as a whole, also thankfully reuniting their absolutely amazing trio of vocalists – Chen, Baekhyun & D.O (whose voices, together, is eargasm honestly. I lose my breath when they start singing). They participate in their albums as much as they can, construct their albums themselves (famously after the way that their super-hit Growl was not going to happen but, against their companies wishes, the group insisted on it. The rest is history of course), have developed their own distinctive sound which is a rarity in this super-produced saturated industry, have vocalists that can only be matched by other singers under SME itself, & a harmony that can currently not be outdone by any other idol group. They are also not scared of pushing the envelope & being experimental, the latest example being that of Tempo, which had me going WTF on first listen, but after coming back to it a few hours later, I saw it for the absolutely amazing & daring act that it was. EXO is known for their signature harmony, created not only by the three strong vocalists, but also by the other members who, while not anything special as singers, still somehow come together & manage to support the three very well, helping the whole thing go up a notch, instead of destroying it. And Tempo plays right into this. Its a ballsy song with no recent precedent & could have, honestly, only been pulled off by EXO. Its actually nice to see a group trust their strengths & use their popularity to constantly try & go out of their boundaries, evolving, instead staying within the lines for fear of messing something up. SO. Back to my point. Its interesting that even though EXO has all of this to back themselves up, the strong discography, the vocalists, the performance, they are still not taken seriously as musicians. They are seen as a passing fad of pin-up boys, instead of a group with a solid musical presence. It tells a lot about perception, how it can be manipulated & just how big its effect is. For example, BTS. EXO & BTS have almost the same level of credited participation in their albums producing-wise (a perusal of the song credit list on wiki or their physical albums will show you that). However, while BTS are hailed as genius songwriters & given praise for their involvement, with people seeing their popularity as, henceforth, being justified, EXO are not. To put it even more into perspective, right now neither of the two groups can hold a candle to musical acts like BIGBANG, iKon, IU, & Sunmi in the producing department, because they almost always work alone or with only one or two other people, & even then, their names are mostly credited first or second. It shows just how much of the final product is their original material because the larger of a crew you work with, & the lower you are on the credit list, the less is your participation. Of course, this shouldn’t dictate who you decide to listen to, because music has always been a collaborative effort. Yes, some people have a talent for songwriting as well, but that does not mean that the ones who are not as brilliant in it are any less deserving of standing on the stage & having their voices heard. After all, letters scribbled on paper would just be poetry without a good singer or rapper to give voice to it, without a performer to present it, & without instrumentalists to round out the song. But I digress. My point was that this shows a lot about the power of marketing & its a little sad to see how reliant an artist’s worth is on it. The reason why I used BTS as an example is because their popularity is on the same level. It would be understandable if there was huge difference between them that way. Some groups hit it big, some don’t. There’s nothing that can be done about it. But seeing such a big difference in the perception of two groups who are on the same level, is interesting.

Also, I have said this before & I will say it again, Bighit is doing GREAT at marketing, & SM & JYP really need to take lessons from them on that. The two companies have great acts under their belts that are going to waste because of how much they suck at that one thing.

P.S. I am really not hating on BTS. Nowhere have I said that BTS are any less than EXO or undeserving of their success. It’s only about what people think. I do have some songs I like from them. And this post happening so soon after their comeback news is completely coincidental. I could wait & post this later so as not to put a damper on anyone’s excitement, but I really don’t have the patience for that 😂

P.P.S. I have also now lost the ability to just pick one song from their discography, depending on my mood, & play it. I can now only listen to an entire album at a time.

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    I LOVE THIS. YES TO EVERYTHING YOU’VE SAID!
    EXO’s discography is one of my favourites in kpop. <3 And I'm almost always listening to EXO if I'm playing music. That's just how it is. Their B-sides are like title tracks for me tbh

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      That’s why they are so good at selling physical album than the digital. From the MAMA era until they hit the peak at Growl, and now, they still hold the King of million seller in SK. Their live performance, specially at live concert. always playing nice that can’t be compare with any Idol. They have solid fanbase that growing up along with them. And it’s so nice to see that in Kpop world.

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        Their live albums are AMAZING. I didn’t even know why I needed two versions of the same song till EXO came along. And everything you’ve said is absolutely correct.
        Watching EXO grow in this industry has made me so happy. EXO’s only comparison is EXO. <3

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