Current K-pop #6: Exo M vs. Exo K

There’s finally enough material to warrant a “M vs. K” debate. What is Love was nice and all, but K-pop is moot without seeing idols in action, aka DANCE.

Now there’s a more holistic picture of the groups with History since the music video is a little more linear and less like a random sci-fi montage of clips. There’s still some grey area ambiguity with who’s doing what, and whether or not that translates live, which I don’t think we’ll be able to judge with Exo-M since China/Taiwan/HK are going to be their stomping grounds and good luck finding live anythings, but I digress.

I also have to get this off my chest: That desert storm set is SO ugly. The color palette, the way the clothes blend in with the ugly rocks in the back. Everything is SO ugly.

History as a song is a shrug kinda song — nothing that we haven’t heard from SM before, and not without the synth-y aesthetic of SHINee and Super Junior, combined with the grasp-your-future idealism of young DBSK and H.O.T. It’s not bad, and it grows on you, but it’s nothing impressive, which I was hoping for Exo to debut with, but that’s hard to expect since SM isn’t really reworking the wheel here.

Taking everything into consideration I think K is the stronger group. As far as I can hear, they have the better singers, and their dancing as a group is much tighter than M’s. K seems to overall have a group of better dancers, and Kai leads them well. Their singing seems fuller, but I also cannot tell if this is due to Yoo Young-jin bleeding so much into the Korean vocal track.

YYJ’s producer and composer stamps have been so pervasive lately that it’s borderline intrusive and takes attention away from the artists who are singing his songs. It reads like he’s not comfortable enough with the groups that he’s working with that he feels the need to interfere, and it also reads like he’s so controlling that he won’t let go of his own work for others to interpret. JYP is notorious for stamping his work, but YYJ’s stamp is becoming downright annoying. He’s obviously a great singer and has a great ear and has put out some great songs, but dude, it’s time to let go of the harness or put out your own album if you’re so damn desperate.

So then in comparison, without YYJ, M’s vocals sound thinner. It also doesn’t help that Chen seems to be the only capable singer, with Lu Han helping here and there. The rest of the group are dead weights as far as singing is concerned. Dancing-wise, Lay is criminally underused in his own group as lead dancer. The kid is phenomenal and is barely getting enough screen time front and center to lead the pack, and this pack needs some leading. Lay’s moves are tight and sharp, and the difference between him and the other members in his group is noticeable. Chen has a great intensity that I’m digging, and Tao, useless as he is, is fascinating to look at. He’s so into projecting badassery that it makes the group look less sterile and more aggressive than they are, which helps with the “I’m making history and doing it my way” image.

I find K to be way more nondescript than M in terms of image. K is your typical SM boy band with no intensity or “It” factor outside of — ding ding ding! — Kai. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Kai is now so far elevated above everyone else in prestige and popularity that it’s hard to bridge that gap and they haven’t even debuted. He leads every dance, he starts the song, he gets ridiculous screen time. I don’t mind him, but I literally do not know a single name to a face of anybody else in that group and I’ve got M down pat.

M is the weaker group skills-wise, but is more interesting to look at. That and they’re probably going to be underdogs. That always helps with the acquiring fans thing.

  • chunface1

    I haven’t taken a close look at M and K separately so I can’t really say anything about them as separate groups. But I just want to say, that the desert storm set is just so ugly, it looks so freaking fake. The colors just doesn’t match and screams ‘I am fake!!’. They could’ve done better than that. Ok, I’m fine now haha.

  • falsteph

    You know what would be great?  If someone would make profiles for everyone so I know who the hell everyone is.

    I’m assuming you’ve seen the practice vids of the two groups dancing to History Only? It’s funny how they’ve arranged the two units’ choreography.  M gives off a street crew vibe, while K does a very characteristic SMP.  I’m looking forward to the intra-group rivalry.

    (Also, what happened to Jino?!)

  • Smile Bigger

    Imo, I think Exo-K’s voices are just more attractive because they’re deep. The actual singing talent seems equal (to me).

    • brittany

      However, SM always lipsynch anyway so it doesn’t matter if they sing or not. KRIS language skills is important and he has a husky voice like YUNHO so I don’t know why you also dissing Yunho by dissing KRIS. TAO does wushu. TAO had been doing all the flips onstage while the rest of exo members just danced. LAY dances are emotionally beautiful while KAI focuses on being perfect and powerful..perfection is boring.

      That’s why so many complained that EXO stages are boring and BAP are better at dancing…In fact I think EXO-M is better in having emotion for their dances.

  • Nicole Ahn

    The only songs I prefer in Korean are “Two Moons” because Chanyeol is a pretty decent rapper while Kris and Tao are just . . . no. I also prefer the korean version of “What is Love” because of D.O. Aside from that EXO-M are better in every other way. They have a more commanding stage presence and their personalities are more endearing. Not to mention they are older and fine as hell. EXO-K are too vanilla and boring. You can’t tell me that Baekhyun, Suho, and Sehun aren’t the same person. They look like triplets. Luhan looks like them too but at least he’s the only one who has that face in M.

    • wonni96

      Your argument is that EXO-M has a bigger stage presence because of their looks and personalities…?

    • brittay

      ALL EXO-M MEMBERS ARE GREAT. KRIS AND TAO are chinese obviously they aren’t good at korean…LISTEN TO EXO-M’s chinese mv. It is so much better than the korean one. Except for HISTORY….

      Please like EXO-M they’ve been working hard. They’ve been dubbed as the left over group like SUPERJUNIOR in the past but like super junior they had worked so hard to make their presence known

  • brittanycutiepiefairygirl

    Guys, have you all noticed how GREAT EXO-M had improved???!!! Right now, I think EXO-M fare better than EXO-M overall. They have better fashion sense. KRIS speaks four languages and his voice is now really husky and he’s great at rapping in English and chinese also. Tao is really great at WUSHU always doing his complicated flips. Chen voice is so much emotional are you kidding me? EXO-M is aimed towards the Chinese market. THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO SING THINLY AND SWEETLY IN ORDER FOR THEM TO WIN THE POPULAR GROUP AWARD IN THE CHINESE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY (which they themselves made it and won several awards on different shows!) CHINA isn’t like korea. Korea incorporates American style music so the powerful the song or vocal, the more EXO-K will be successful.

    From what I know, starting with EXO mama song I started liking the Chinese version by EXO-M. I can surely tell you that SM treated their foreign trainees not up to par than their korean trainees. I bet you EXO-K members and Kai were treated like they are KINGS like DBSK(when they were 5). While EXO-M were told that they were the leftovers just like Super Junior.

    KRIS worked hard to sing well. His voice is deep and husky like DBSK Yunho and none of the other EXO-K members has his voice. His 4 language skills help promote popularity for EXO when they were doing Wolf as well as helping out SJ in their concerts and SM concerts as well. CHEN voice is amazing..ARE YOU KIDDING ME? KAI was first to debut, then it was LUHAN, and then it was TAO, and then it was CHEN. Looking at this list, most of the EXO-M members passed and were chosen first because they worked really hard.

    SM likes to trip out the leaders and watch them closely to determine if they have chosen the right ones so I can totally see why they chose KRIS and SUHO towards the end.

    CHEN voice is really high and amazing. He beats out baekyun and D.O to sing the highest part. During the EXO weekly idol episode, XIUMIN was the one with the hidden talent in which he beats even CHEN. That’s how much EXO-M members worked. LAY practiced till morning or late at night on his dancing, composing, and singing. He stated that he works on the music while Kris worked on the lyrics. LUHAN is really a good singer. Have you even listened to his parts in the CHINESE VERSIONS?!!! It’s sweet and beautiful while EXO-K only focused on being high and powerful. EXO-K totally only cares about getting it perfect and they lack expressing emotion in it. TAO is really good at variety shows if you watch them on HAPPY CAMP he’s really good at acting out SUHO part. He should be an actor!



    It is like when someone tells you that you’re only left overs and you’re to promote EXO’s name in CHINA and then EXO-K will come and claim the fame with their presence by being there. It is really an underhand method. Since CHINESE fans thinks that EXO-M and EXO-K are in the same group: EXO…that they should support EXO-K.

    Let me just mentioned that SM threw EXO-M aside and told them that they are mere trash and leftovers. They are only there to promote EXO-K members.


    EXO-M tries so hard that they even get KRIS to help them shop for clothes since they want to be fashionable for fans at airport fashion. I always think EXO-M has better fashion than EXO-K.

    EXO-M IS WORKING HARD LIKE SUPER JUNIOR IN ORDER TO MAKE THEMSELVES STAND OUT. Even the super junior members even states that they like EXO-M better.

    • happy

      I agree! Even though M may appear weaker initially, their hard-work, individual presence and team spirit made them much more likeable (and hopefully popular :D) I feel that K is more obviously ‘packaged’, and not very banded together. On the other hand, M just works so well as a group! I think the fact that most of them are underdogs and chinese-abroad made them more united, and of course the fans will pick up on things like that :D

    • chao

      i don’t really care which unit works harder and has a tighter bond as long as their music sounds good. so for that reason, exo k > exo m for me mainly cause most of the songs they sing sound better in korean than chinese.