Before going in the heart of the matter, ie. the release of Exo-K/M title track MAMA, I think it’s best I do a quick introduction of the guys. Exo is the new band fresh from SM Entertainment, probably the biggest record label in Korea and home of DBSK, Super-Junior and SNSD. Now the concept with Exo is that half the band - so 6 members, Exo-K, will debut in Korea while Exo-M will be marketed for a chinese audience. Well at least that’s what I understood from reading here and there.
I didn’t really care for Exo at the beginning. Most of the kpop debuts lately have been; for a lack of a better word, mediocre. Paired with the fact that most of the bands don’t reach the 2 years limit, I usually wait until a band mature before starting to listen/stan them.
However with the unending string of teasers and the hype it was creating around them, I just couldn’t avoid the Exo trend. And then they released their “prologue”: What is love, a r&b ballad. I fell in love with this song and even commented on one of my previous post, that if they could match up the quality and range of the vocals live, they could count me as one of their debut fan.
After What is Love came History. I didn’t really like History, in fact, I was really disappointed. After the r&b influenced What is Love, I had actually hoped that they would release something in the same range. But instead, I got a very basic/generic k-pop song with a video featuring the “dance-in-a-box” trademark that SM is infamously renowned for. In my eyes Exo image went from hot and exciting to common in only one release. Too bad for a boy band that might not even debut in 2012 due to its debut date being pushed further and further.
In spite of, or maybe due to this fact, the hype was just getting bigger and bigger. “When will Exo finally debut ?”, were complaining the fans. ” After all those teasers, they should have already debuted”, were even saying the haters. Finally we got a date as well as a debut showcase. I caught some glimpses of it, especially to listen to What is Love live, as it seems they wouldn’t be promoting it. I was blown away at that time ( seeing that now that I pay attention, it looks like they’re lip-syncing very badly or the audio is out of sync) . I even learned the names of those two singers because they’re the ones I wanted to pay attention to.
And now today, I can talk about MAMA. Released two days ago, with two versions as usual (korean and chinese), MAMA starts with a ridiculously long narrative introduction that is borderline flirting with occultism. After 1mn40s of this rambling we get into a song that many already before me compared to something DBSK would have released circa 2008. The song itself is nothing special, but whether you like it or not, after 3 videos released both in chinese and korean with the only variation being the actors taking part in it, plus the fact that in this video they get pitched one against another, the comparison and competition is born to happen.
I cannot really compare their vocals ability, as it seems both teams are on par with each other. However something that is very easy for me to pick up is the dancing skills level and the synchronicity of the choreography’s rendition. As k-pop rely heavily on visuals, I feel that for me, it is something that can make or break a band. After watching both videos once, I felt like Exo-M was better synchronized, with a more natural and fluid style; and gave a stronger image as a band. Maybe it’s due to Tao’s presence? I know Exo-K has Kai, and it seems that SM is relying on him to act as the visual member - based on the amount of teasers he had, but you just cannot ignore the mysterious Tao. Besides, how cool are those moves he’s executing in the video below?
This paired with Chen’s vocals during their debut showcase, made me swing in favor of Exo-M, even if I don’t really like chinese music. Yes, I wrote “swing in favor” and not ” definitely root for “, because until a few hours ago, I assumed that both versions of What is Love featured the same singers. In the other videos, I could see the difference, but here, even after finding out that the singers on the korean version are named D.O. and Baekhyun, I still had to compare both videos 5 times before realizing my mistake.
As a new fan, I’m off to a good start, don’t you think?
I immensely prefer the korean version of What is Love to the chinese’s one, first because I really love korean paired with ballads and urban melodies and second, because I don’t really dig chinese music in general. So now I am back to square one on my decision. Maybe, at the end, I should just simply root for both bands.