EXO - An overview of the history of the boy band

by Helen Bosch
exo sing for you poster
exo sing for you poster

K-Pop Blog > Artists > EXO

Aliens from the exoplanet, equipped with individual superpowers, who have come to Earth. That's the concept of EXO, the nine-member boy group that debuted on April 8, 2012, then still with 12 members, with the album "Mama" and the single of the same name. The term "exoplanet" is short for "extrasolar planet" and refers to celestial bodies that do not belong to the solar system, but to other planetary systems, as they move outside the gravitational influence of the sun, under the influence of another star. The first tour of the boy group in 2014 was even titled "EXO from Exoplanet #1 - The Lost Planet". Whether there is also this one among the currently almost 4700 exoplanets remains a secret, but the members of EXO don't need any superpowers anyway to inspire their fans again and again.

If you want to know who has which superpower, you can have it explained here by the members of EXO themselves:

The concept of superpowers keeps popping up in the music videos - for example, "Mama" and "Power" - and fans keep discussing how the story of the music videos might be related.

12 exo members wolf image teaser

EXO was divided into two subunits "EXO-M" and "EXO-K" for many years. The six members of EXO-M promoted their songs in China and the six others promoted as "EXO-K" in Korea. The songs were recorded in both Korean and Mandarin, fans could choose between the Korean and Chinese versions of each album, and even the music videos were released in two different versions. On April 8, 2011, EXO-K debuted the Korean version of "Mama" on the Korean music program Inkigayo, while EXO-M performed on a Chinese award show on the same day. EXO-K and EXO-M sometimes performed separately, but the songs that appeared on the albums were recorded in both languages by all members, and they were also all featured in the two versions of the music video. The songs and videos differed in that the vocal parts were distributed differently. For example, in the Korean video for "History," the six members of EXO-K are shown at the beginning, and in the Chinese video, the members of EXO-M are shown. In the Korean version, the first lines of the song are sung by Kai, in the Chinese version by Luhan.


The Members

Before we go any further, we'd like to give you a brief overview of EXO's members:

EXO-K

Stage NameReal NameBirthdayPositionSuperpower
KaiKim Jongin14.01.1994Main DancerTeleportation
D.O.Do Kyungsoo12.01.1993Main VocalWild Beast/ Earth
SehunOh Sehun12.04.1994MaknaeWind
SuhoKim Junmyeon22.05.1991LeaderWater
ChanyeolPark Chanyeol27.11.1992Main RapperFire
BaekhyunByun Baekhyun06.05.1992Main VocalLight


EXO-M

Stage NameReal NameBirthdayPositionSuperpower
LayZhang Yixing07.10.1991Main DancerHealing
ChenKim Jongdae21.09.1992Main VocalLightning
XiuminKim Minseok26.03.1990Vocal, RapperEis


Former Members (Former EXO-M)

Stage NameReal NameBirthdayPositionSuperpower
KrisWu Yi Fan06.11.1990Leader of EXO-MFlying
TaoHuang Zitao02.05.1993Main RapperTime
LuhanLu Han20.04.1990Vocal, DancerTelekinesis


Fans of EXO had to cope with one shock after another in 2014 and 2015, because in short succession the three Chinese members Kris, Tao and Luhan left the band. All three sued their agency SM Entertainment for various and partly unknown reasons. Among the known reasons is the former members' accusation that they were treated and paid poorly. All three were involved in legal negotiations with SM Entertainment for several years and came to an agreement that resulted in them having an exclusive contract with SM Entertainment to this day and having to cede part of their earnings to the agency.

All three debuted as solo artists in China and are active there as both singers and actors.

former exo luhan tao kris xoxo image teaser

From left to right: Luhan, Tao & Kris

Since three members of EXO-M left the group, the subunits have practically ceased to exist and Lay is the only remaining Chinese member of EXO. For a few years, the band released their albums and music videos in Korean and Chinese, but now their new music is mainly in Korean.

Achievements

exo exodus logo black background

EXO quickly established themselves in the music market after their debut and built up a large fan base. The fans, called "EXO-L`s", have helped their idols to some groundbreaking successes then and now. It would take way too long to list them all, but we would like to give you at least a little insight and present the most outstanding milestones here:

The first studio album "XOXO", which EXO released in 2013, was the first album since 2001 to sell over 1 million copies.

By now, EXO can proudly look back on six albums that sold more than one million copies; the best-selling one so far even almost two million.

TitleYearSold albums
Don`t Mess Up My Tempo2018over 1.9 million albums sold
The War2017over 1.7 million albums sold
XOXO2013over 1.3 million albums sold
Exodus2015over 1.3 million albums sold
Don`t Fight The Feeling2021over 1.2 million albums sold
Ex`Act2016over 1.2 million albums sold


For several years, from 2013 to 2016, they also topped the list of the best-selling album of the year. In 2017, they were overtaken by BTS, who regularly occupy the top position to this day.

In 2015, EXO released the single "Lightsaber" as a promotion for the movie "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" before it was released in South Korea. The song was created as part of a collaboration between SM Entertainment and Walt Disney. Later, EXO released the album "Sing For You" on which "Lightsaber" was included as a bonus track.

Three years later, in 2018, a K-pop song was played for the first time at the Dubai Fountain Water Games : "Power" by EXO from the album "The War". Not even a month passed and the band could celebrate another international success. EXO performed at the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and was even awarded commemorative medals to honor their contribution to the spread of Korean culture.

EXO performed at the Olympics with their hit "Growl" from 2013 and "Power" from 2017.


Solo and unit activities

exo cbx hey mama! album cover

EXO has been in business for more than 8 years now, so it's no wonder that some of the members have also built their own solo careers in the meantime.

In October 2016, the first subunit "EXO-CBX" debuted with the album "Hey Mama!". The name "CBX" is composed of the initials of the three members Chen, Baekhyun & Xiumin. The unit has released a total of four CDs together so far and has even recorded soundtracks for Korean series together, such as the single "For You" for "Moon Lovers," a historical fantasy drama in which Baekhyun himself played a recurring role.

For example, Baekhyun can be seen in the official music video from 1:45 to 1:50 or 2:37 to 2:42.

In the same month, "Lose Control," Lay's first solo album, was released entirely in Chinese. So far, six more albums, roles in Chinese movies and series, and other activities in China have followed. Fans were very happy to see Lay appear in the music video for "Don`t Fight The Feeling", as the member had hardly been active with the group in recent years due to many solo activities.


With the album "April, and a Flower" in 2019, Chen was the second member of EXO to debut solo. Chen released his second solo album "Dear My Dear" just months later and married his pregnant fiancée the following year. In April 2020, his daughter was born. Chen is thus the first married member of EXO and continues to be active as an idol despite criticism from many fans and their attempts to remove him from the group.

The year 2019 was exciting for all EXO-L`s, because after Chen, Baekhyun also made his solo debut with the album "City Lights". He released three more albums, two of which - "Delight" and "Bambi" - sold over a million copies. Also in 2019, the second subunit "EXO-SC" was formed. Again, the name is composed of the initials of the members, Sehun and Chanyeol. The two released two albums so far: "1 Billion Views" and "What a Life”.

March 2020 saw the release of "Self-Portrait", Suho's first and so far only solo album, and in November Kai followed with "KAI". Just recently, on July 27, also Main Vocal D.O., who until then was active solo mainly as an actor, finally released his first album "Empathy”.


Military Service

exo d.o. do kyungsoo wearing a military uniform


Military service is mandatory for all men in South Korea, as the country is technically still at war with North Korea. Fans therefore have to be strong for about 18 months when their favorite artist does his service.

D.O. and Xiumin have already completed their military service. Four members - Suho, Chen, Chanyeol & Baekhyun - are currently enlisted and with the exception of Baekhyun, who will not be released until 2023, all of them will be discharged in 2022. Suho in February, Chen in April, and Chanyeol in September. Sehun and Kai have not yet announced when they will do their military service. Lay is not affected by the draft because he is Chinese.

Thus, only five members of EXO are currently active: Xiumin, Lay, D.O., Kai and Sehun.

Are you looking forward to the day when EXO is complete again? Who is your bias in EXO? Let us know in the comments!

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