As promised-ish on Formspring: random, incoherent thoughts on Exo, continuing on in the Exo Notes series.
This is going to be less on performance observations and more on personality ones, for self-explanatory reasons (*coughMamaDIAFcough*).
- I doubt I’m the only one who’s insanely curious about their comeback. Is it going to continue the Exo Planet theme or are we reverting back to real life? It would be, on the one hand, too expensive a decision to drop the theme they’ve invested so much in — think of all those custom rings, jackets, pants! — but on the other hand, is a concept that’s easy to tire of. Foreign creatures from an Exo Planet with super powers…I felt embarrassed just typing that.
And then on a third hand, there’s so much cool, unfinished stuff we only got a minor taste of in their predebut teasers. Who were Kai and Xiumin running from? What did Chanyeol discover? Where were Sehun and Luhan driving to? There was a lot of filler material in the teasers that is self-contained and can exist unexplored as one-off snapshots, but also so much remaining that SM can work with. The concept of the planet was a good start, they bothered with a back story, and Exo even got a well-thought out logo, so there was some structure given to this concept. This looks like the most expensive debut SM’s ever invested in and it would be a huge waste to let it all go half-formed, but the longer they hold back on that comeback, the thinner the momentum is going to wear.
I guess these are all pointless worries to have because SM never does anything I telepathically will it to do, but for once I’m excited about the art direction they chose to go in with a group, so I’d hate to see it go unfinished.
- I appear to other people to always be ragging on Suho, and some of you guys have read this like I have a personal vendetta against him, but Suho’s not an idol I dislike. I dislike CL, I dislike Heechul, I dislike Kwanghee, but I don’t dislike Suho. I wouldn’t spend so much time grieving over the lame state of his career so far if I didn’t like him. Suho’s passive and passive aggressive, probably due to lack of confidence. It’s maddening to watch this unfold because he’s a handsome boy, he’s very book smart, he can sing well enough, and he can move okay too. That’s more than you even need to have the ego the size of Kanye West in K-pop.
And yet, whenever he’s called upon to showcase himself, he chokes with self-doubt and then whines, twitches, and kills all inertia in that moment. He makes spotlights feel awkward, and then everyone else is burdened to void the awkwardness. MCs and/or other members have to laugh it off and move on to the next thing and Suho just wasted a perfectly good spotlight. What the fuck, Kim Joonmyun.
- Now, in contrast, is Tao. Tao is a hustler. I’m generally not a huge fan of Tao’s, um, more romantic sentiments of the world, but as someone who’s been marketed as the freaking martial arts member, he’s done a lot to impress me. I’ve mentioned how I think he’s a much better dancer than he’s billed for and while he’s musically useless, he’s got chutzpah as an idol and performer. Exo’s career is going to be a pretty global one, so seeing how members interact with language is a pretty revealing experience. We know language is not Kung Fu Panda’s forte, but Tao handles lack of language finesse like a total pro. He doesn’t fold up into a ball of awkward; he powers through, which is awesome.
- Baekhyun. I think I’ve reverted back to being reserved about Baekhyun. This will probably be the case until we get new material and I can observe him in a new setting, but for the time being, my original reservations stand. He has an insanely good grasp on what fans want — and being able to deliver it perfectly — and it’s kinda sad that he’s able to game the system so well so fast. Sehun and I shower together? Don’t take that the wrong way. My best facial feature? My hips, motherfucker. Promote in China? Sing Wang Lee Hom. But then again, you don’t get to debut within a year of being a trainee without having a whip smart grasp on how to fast track the shit out of the idol lane.
I still love watching him perform though. He’s been phoning in their performances from the last few months, but he is still great and maybe Exo’s best all-arounder right now.
- Ship wars drive me crazy and whenever I encounter intense spats (on Tumblr, mostly), I’m reminded of how young the core K-pop demographic is. It’s fans who have less experience with the world who think that there is only *one* way to be really good friends with people. If Luhan is great friends with Minseok and he acts like X, he cannot possibly also that good a friend to Sehun or to Lay if he acts like Y with them. It just doesn’t work like that, dudes. But this is just a fandom woe.
- Kris. I think Kris is one of those people who tries really hard to not look uncool, but doesn’t realize that looking uncool is totally a part of a person’s charm. Annnnd he’s uncool for a good deal of his existence anyway, might as well roll with it. He’s a good mix of unintentionally cool and naturally uncool…that’s why I like him so much.
- Regarding M’s performances: they’ve far exceeded my expectations. I’m not sure why my expectations were so low; it’s not like the M members trained less because they knew they were going to lip-synch a ton. I think I just had a weird fear that they were going to be extremely lacking as a result of promoting in a market that encourages lip-synching, but they’re not lacking. Lay’s stamina and breathing techniques are nutso; Luhan is the M counterpart to Kyungsoo’s supporting role in K lives; Chen is a little shaky sometimes, but overall is not bad. (Like I guessed, Chen does do the Mama opening better live than Kyungsoo does. It’s more within his vocal range, but he still looks like he’s dying when he does it, so lesson of the day: stop inserting nonsensically difficult vocal statement points into your songs, YYJ.)
- This brings me to another point: I think it’s imperative that they come back now if not for the sole reason that K needs to start performing live again. I think they’ve essentially stopped doing live performances of their songs since the Mama promotion cycle ended in late May. K really needs the practice. They’ve done History live once and it was far from desirable. The impression non-fans got from Exo was that they were shitty and overhyped, and it was essentially because of that first History performance. They’ve still never even done Angel live and I doubt we’ll be getting that live of What is Love.
Of the three groups SM’s debuted in the last four years, Exo are the weakest performers, and I’m going to go as far as to say that K is weaker than M right now. They need back to back promotions so that they can get stage experience, but instead, K’s performing at a bajillion useless and random events where they keep lip-synching Mama. They’re settling into this comfortable groove where they have enough bravado to smack each other’s asses on stage when they lip-synch, but start peeing their pants once they have to sing live.
- In July, I had planned on talking about ships in my next Notes post (so, this one), before I got buried under them on Formspring. I would pull them up for you as reference in this post, but all of my answers have been eaten by the Formspring monster so I cannot :( I think I answered those questions in August and I definitely have updated thoughts on everything (…including my sad decline in love for Krisyeol. Poor Krisyeol). Too lazy to re-tackle everything so…drop a note in ask if you’re just burning with curiosity on any one ship, heh.
- Let’s end this post on one photo and two videos: photo, video, video. ♡♡♡
Until next time…