Happy #5YearsWithEXO! Wait, already?
Believe it or not but today-ish marks EXO‘s five year anniversary since they debuted in 2012. How time has passed. I’ve certainly felt it. At one moment I was head-desking waiting for them to debut (and I know a lot of you remember how excruciating that was) and the next I found myself at their EXO’luXion concert, cheering like a goddamn crazy person. It’s interesting to think about how much EXO has grown and all the shit they’ve been through to get to this point and that I’ve traced the whole thing. I’ve watched their careers unfold and for whatever reason, I’ve stayed a loyal fan.
So considering that I stuck it out through most of the group’s pre-debut activities, including the infamous stream of Kai/member teasers (remember those?), I think it’s only fitting that I show my boys some love on this momentous feat. And what better way to do that than with what I’m known for best: digging up hidden gems and glorifying the hell out of them.
Below are five of my favorite EXO b-sides of all time off five different albums that not only highlight the group’s greatness but easily prove that EXO has one of the best back catalogs ever in the history of history.
“Angel” – MAMA (2012)
“Angel” is one of the first EXO songs I fell deeply in love with. At first, I remember not really feeling EXO’s debut, mainly because I despised how compressed their music sounded, but over time everything ended up growing on me (obviously). But “Angel” was the exception. I recognized its beauty immediately and to this day it remains one of my go-to EXO ballads of all time. The interesting thing about it, though, is that I only ever listen to the Chinese version. If you’ve only listened to the Korean version (sung by Baekhyun, D.O., and Suho), I highly recommend crossing sub-unit lines to listen to the Chinese version (sung by Chen, Lay, Luhan, and Xiumin) because EXO-M’s interpretation is truly breathtaking and unmatched in comparison. It also features some of Chen’s best singing which may or may not have been the catalyst to my unwavering devotion for him.
“Black Pearl” – XOXO (2013)
If I look at the most played song off EXO’s XOXO album, this song is it. “Spellbinding” I called it in my album review years ago. This was still during K-Pop’s stubborn dubstep phase, which should have dated this song, but SM did such a nice job of fine-tuning the arrangement that it’s still pretty damn compelling even now. D.O. fans will agree that “Black Pearl” features some of his strongest singing ever and I don’t know if I would love this song as much if he didn’t bring his A-game on it.
“Moonlight” – Overdose (2014)
Speaking of D.O. killing it, “Moonlight” is another song that not just features his strong vocals but Baekhyun’s as well. It’s a ballad (I love those, okay) that channels EXO’s R&B side beautifully. SM has always done R&B music well, oftentimes bending it into surprising shapes and forms, but this one kept it pretty classic. One of my favorite parts in the song is when Baekhyun modulates at the middle eight. It damn near murders me every time. And I think it was around this era that I started to grow more and more fond of him, too, so it’s nice going back to this song and discovering what a gifted singer he has always been.
“El Dorado” – EXODUS (2015)
Should we just skip to the best part of the song? You know, the part when Baekhyun hits that epic high note near the end? Or in my case, it’s Chen because I think he performed that bit better (though I do think the rest of the song sounds better in Korean. UGH THE STRUGGLE OF HAVING TWO VERSIONS AMIRITE).
How SM finds such talent is beyond me, but all I know is that around this time was when EXO’s lead singers decided to pull out their mightiest vocals, giving birth to dynamic songs like this one.
“Artificial Love” – EX’ACT (2016)
And finally here’s one of my recent faves. I’ve already sung all of the praises to this song in last year’s Top Korean Songs of 2016, so please sit back and enjoy EXO thrusting all over the place in the concert version above. Long may they reign!