EXO are at the top of their game
Three reasons for the K-pop boy band's EXOrdinary success
There is no better time to be an EXO fan than now.
The massively popular nine-piece K-pop boy band has always wowed audiences with killer dance moves, electrifying energy and wicked choreography, but their latest studio album EX'ACT looks set to finally allow them to dominate the industry.
Statistically, these boys are at the top of their game.
According to The Korea Herald, more than 660,000 copies of EX'ACT, released on June 9 and available on iTunes, were pre-ordered.
The album also chalked up an unprecedented sales figure of 450,000 copies within a mere three days of its release.
Furthermore, Monster, a dark, aggressive track and one of two lead singles EXO are promoting, achieved an impressive "all-kill" (an individual song topping all of South Korea's major music charts) almost immediately upon release, reported entertainment website allkpop.
Make no mistake, Kai, Xiumin, Suho, Lay, Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol, D.O. and Sehun are firing on all cylinders.
M tells you why at this juncture, EXO are turning into an omnipresent, unstoppable global force.
1 BIG IN AMERICA
Most A-list Korean acts are huge on their home turf, as well as in other Asian countries like Japan, China and Thailand, but not many have managed to crack the US market.
In February, EXO held their first North American concert tour and it was a resounding success.
Mind you, they weren't filling tiny venues but stadium-sized arenas.
Fuse TV reported that in New York, EXO "almost sold out" the 18,711-capacity Prudential Center, faring much better than four fellow Korean acts combined - Girls' Generation, VIXX, Teen Top and AOA. That was the line-up for last September's K-pop convention KCON 2015, held at the same place.
It hasn't made EXO complacent though.
At the 2016 Gaon Chart K-pop Awards in February, during the group's acceptance speech for the Fan Favourite Award, Suho said that after performing in US cities such as Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago, it hit him that "K-pop has garnered much love" outside of Korea.
"As artists who represent K-pop, we will continue to be hardworking," he said.
2 CRITICAL ACCLAIM
The powerful lead singles Monster and Lucky One from EX'ACT have shed some of EXO's idol baggage that comes with being pretty boys.
Lucky One, a groovy EDM number, especially, has been garnering solid reviews from renowned K-pop websites and vloggers.
YouTube vlogger MRJKPOP heaped praise on their "vocal execution", remarking that "EXO have never sounded better".
Billboard.com described Lucky One as "boasting a disco shimmer complete with funky guitar licks and an unexpected-but-much-welcomed flute inclusion", while allkpop gave the music videos of Monster and Lucky One high scores of 9 and 9.3 respectively out of 10.
Lay, the only remaining Chinese member after the departures of Kris, Luhan and Tao, told the Korean media at their album launch press conference in Seoul that he and his bandmates have matured over the past year.
"Through EX'ACT, we want to show our manly sides, because we've grown older," he said.
"This is our prime."
3 GETTING CLOSER TO FANS
Another winning aspect of EXO is their increasing desire to forge bonds with their diehard supporters.
At the press conference in Seoul, Chen said that as part of the promotion for EX'ACT, they are showcasing "real, everyday sides" of themselves through V Live (an app that allows fans to watch personal videos of celebrities on their phones), in a special segment called EXOmentary.
For example, D.O. showed off his flair for cooking, Suho his pastry-making skills and Sehun played with his puppy.
Baekhyun told reporters: "Honestly, in the past, we've displayed our on-stage image a little too much.
"I think many fans were curious to know what we are really like as regular guys in their mid-20s.
"So this is for them."
TIESTO (FEAT. JOHN LEGEND)
It might not be as memorable as that classic hit of the same name from 70s movie musical Grease, but this collaboration between the Dutch DJ and the US singer is just as groovy.
Against soothing, hypnotic electronic beats, Legend contributes his smooth vocals to the soft verses and an energetic chorus.
This is a track that demands to be on the playlist of any partygoer or DJ this summer.
USHER (FEAT. YOUNG THUG)
Usher sounds strangely calm and gentle while rapping and singing lyrics of this nature.
Joined by US rapper Young Thug in the verses, the US singer is unapologetically straightforward and occasionally vulgar as he goes on about attraction and life in the darker side of town.
The contrast with the more aggressive lyrics is refreshing, but the song loses its impact either way.
What would a love song for Tarzan and Jane sound like if it were less cheerful than Phil Collins' soundtrack for the 1999 Disney film?
Look no further than the Irish singer-songwriter's new track for the upcoming live action film The Legend Of Tarzan.
His deep voice is melancholic and almost primal, and we can easily hear the longing against the suggestively dark music.
One thing's for sure: Rough times await the latest incarnation of the storybook couple. - Deborah Wee