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.