Exo (Korean: 엑소; stylized as EXO) is a South Korean-Chinese boy group based in Seoul. Formed by S.M. Entertainment in 2011, the group debuted in 2012 and has nine members: Suho, Baekhyun, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai, Sehun, Xiumin, Lay and Chen. Their wide variety of musical styles, which have been praised for their diversity, include traditional genres such as pop, hip hop and R&B along with EDM genres including house, trap and synth-pop among others. They release and perform music in Korean, Mandarin and Japanese. They were ranked as one of the top five most influential celebrities on the Forbes Korea Power Celebrity list from 2014 to 2018 and have been named "the biggest boyband in the world" and the "Kings of K-pop" by media outlets.
The group initially debuted with twelve members separated into two subgroups, Exo-K (Suho, Baekhyun, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai, and Sehun) and Exo-M (Xiumin, Lay, Chen and former members Kris, Luhan and Tao[fn 1]), performing music in Korean and Mandarin respectively. However, the last time Exo separated into subgroups to release music was in 2014. They have been active as a single group since then while continuing to release and perform music in multiple languages. The group became nine after the departures of Kris, Luhan and Tao amid legal battles in 2014 and 2015. Since 2016, three members, Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin, have also been active as a subunit named Exo-CBX, incorporating the initials of each member's stage names. All members also maintain solo careers across music, film and television.
Exo's first album XOXO (2013), which contained the breakthrough hit "Growl", was a critical and commercial success, winning both Disc Daesang at the 28th Golden Disc Awards and Album of the Year at the 15th Mnet Asian Music Awards. It sold over one million copies, making Exo the best-selling Korean artist in twelve years. Subsequent albums and EPs continued with strong sales. Their second album EXODUS (2015) and third album Ex'Act (2016) both sold over one million copies each as well. These albums along with Exo's third EP Overdose (2014) won Exo multiple awards including Disc Daesang at the 29th, 30th and 31st Golden Disc Awards, Album of the Year at the 16th, 17th and 18th Mnet Asian Music Awards and the Daesang award at the 24th, 25th and 26th Seoul Music Awards. Their fourth album The War (2017) became their best-selling album to date, selling over 1.6 million copies in South Korea and winning the group a second consecutive Artist of the Year award at the 9th Melon Music Awards and record fifth consecutive Album of the Year award at the 19th Mnet Asian Music Awards. The War also became their highest charting album on the Billboard 200.
Since beginning with their first headlining tour in 2014, Exo from Exoplanet #1 – The Lost Planet, Exo have performed over 100 concerts spanning four tours in addition to participating in multiple joint tours. Exo are also known for their work outside of music, including endorsement deals with brands such as Nature Republic and Samsung and philanthropic efforts such as "Smile for U", a joint S.M. Entertainment and UNICEF project that began in 2015, which Exo continues to participate in.
|Origin||Seoul, South Korea|
Exo-K's leader, Suho, was the first member to join S.M. Entertainment after a successful audition through its casting system in 2006. A year later, Kai with the encouragement from his father, auditioned at the S.M. Youth Best Contest, ultimately won and received a contract. Chanyeol who took second place in Smart Model Contest, and Sehun who went through four auditions in two years, were the next members to become a trainee in 2008. In 2010, Exo-K's D.O. sang for his audition and was eventually offered a contract. The last member of Exo-K to become a trainee was Baekhyun who joined in 2011 through S.M. Casting System, and trained for approximately one year before debut. For Exo-M, Kris auditioned at Canada's Global Audition in 2008, before moving to South Korea for training. That same year, Lay auditioned at Changsha and subsequently moved to South Korea, while Xiumin went for the audition with his friend and won second place. In 2010, Luhan was scouted by a company's representative in Myeong-dong and passed the audition, while Tao was scouted at a talent show. The last member to join Exo-M was Chen who took part in the Casting System in 2011 at the age of 16.
In May 2011, at a Hallyu business seminar held at Stanford University, Lee Soo-man spoke about a strategy of debuting a new boyband, in which they would be divided into two subgroups, promoting the same music simultaneously in South Korea and China by performing songs in both Korean and Mandarin. After several member changes, in December 2011, the group finalized their name to Exo, taken from the word exoplanet. They are divided into two subgroups, Exo-K ('K' for Korean) for South Korea and Exo-M ('M' for Mandarin) for China. They debuted their first televised performance at SBS's annual Gayo Daejun event on December 29, 2011.
Exo-K and Exo-M made their debut with the single, "Mama", on April 8 followed by an EP Mama, on April 9. The two sub-groups promoted the album separately in two countries; Exo-K performed on South Korea's music program The Music Trend, while Exo-M made their debut in China's Top Chinese Music Awards on the same day. The Korean album peaked at number one on the Gaon Album Chart and number eight on the Billboard World Albums Chart. The mandarin version of Mama reached number two on China's Sina Album Chart, and number one on Chinese streaming websites. Prior to their debut, Exo released two prologue singles, titled, "What Is Love" and "History". The former peaked at number 88 on South Korea's Gaon Single Chart, while the latter peaked at number 68 on the Gaon Single Chart and number six on China's Sina Music Chart. Exo was awarded Best New Asian Group at the 2012 Mnet Asian Music Awards, and the Newcomer Award at the Golden Disc Awards. In addition, Exo-M received the Most Popular Group Award at the 2013 Top Chinese Music Awards.
The group's first studio album, XOXO was released on June 3, 2013 with two versions, a Korean-language and a Mandarin-language edition. Unlike the EP Mama when Exo-K and Exo-M had separate promotions, XOXO was jointly promoted mainly in South Korea. Exo recorded the album's lead single "Wolf" together, but the rest of the album tracks were recorded separately. A repackaged version of XOXO, titled Growl, was released on August 5, 2013 with three additional tracks. "Growl" peaked at number three on Billboard's Korea K-Pop Hot 100 and number two on the Gaon Singles chart. All versions of XOXO have collectively sold over one million copies, which made Exo the first Korean artist to sell over a million copies of one album in twelve years, and breaking the record for being the fastest-selling K-pop act. XOXO is the best selling album in South Korea of 2013, winning Disc Daesang at the Golden Disc Awards, and Album of the Year at the 2013 Mnet Asian Music Awards. In December, Exo released the second EP Miracles in December as a special winter album through South Korean commercial outlets and online music stores. Prior to the release, the group promoted the album through their first reality show Exo's Showtime, which premiered on November 28, 2013 on the cable channel MBC Every 1.
Exo's third EP, Overdose, was released on May 7, 2014. Originally scheduled to be released on April 21, the album was delayed due to the Sewol Ferry Accident on April 16. Overdose was promoted similarly to Mama, with Exo-K in South Korea and Exo-M promoting primarily in China. The album had over 660,000 preorders before its release, making it the most pre-ordered Korean mini-album in history. The Korean edition also peaked at number two on Billboard's World Albums Chart, and number 129 on the Billboard 200, making Exo the highest charting Korean male group act on the Billboard 200 at that time. Overdose became the best selling album in South Korea of 2014 and was the first mini album to top the yearly charts and win the Album of the Year Award at Mnet Asian Music Awards. By the end of 2014, Exo was Japan's best-selling K-pop artist of the year.
On May 15, 2014, S.M. Entertainment confirmed that Exo-M's leader, Kris, had filed a lawsuit against the agency to terminate his contract, stating violation of human rights as the main reason. On October 10, Exo-M's Luhan also filed a lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment to nullify his contract, because of health issues and being treated differently than the Korean members, therefore having no promotions. S.M. Entertainment announced that Exo would continue to promote with 10 members. The group held their first solo concert "Exo from Exoplanet 1 – The Lost Planet" starting May 24 at the Seoul Olympic Gymnasium. Tickets for the concert sold out in 1.47 seconds, breaking the record for the fastest sold out concert by a Korean artist.
Exo released their second studio album, Exodus on March 30, 2015 in both Korean and Mandarin versions. Domestic pre-sales for the album surpassed 500,000 copies within 24 hours, setting a new record for pre-sales. The title track, "Call Me Baby", was released early on March 27, due to leaked versions of the song. The music videos were released four days later, with the Korean version later becoming the most watched K-pop music video in the first half of 2015. The album's Korean version also broke records after staying at number one on the Gaon Album Chart for four consecutive weeks. Exodus eventually went on to sell over a million copies, and is the group's second album after XOXO to do so. It was named Album of the Year at the 2015 Mnet Asian Music Awards, making this the third consecutive win in this category for the group since 2013. In May, Exo broke the record on Billboard as the highest ranking Korean artist, topping at 90th place. Exo also entered the Canadian Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 98, making them the first K-pop group and second Korean artist to enter the Canadian chart.
On April 22, member Tao's father posted a letter through Weibo expressing his sentiments for his son to withdraw from the group and return to China; due to lack of support concerning individual career developments and health issues. Tao had previously sustained several injuries which had not been properly treated that worsened, and caused him to be absent during promotions for the group's second studio album Exodus. On April 23, S.M. Entertainment released an official statement saying that they would be "seeking a solution in a developmental direction" by negotiating with Tao and his father. Tao later confirmed that he had left S.M. Entertainment and after failed negotiations, he filed an official lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment on August 24 for the termination of his exclusive contract. During this time, Exo released the repackaged version of Exodus, titled Love Me Right, on June 3. This edition contains the original tracks from Exodus and four new songs, including the title track "Love Me Right". Due to Tao's absence, the group promoted the song as nine members. The group became the first artist to hold a dome concert in South Korea with "Exo - Love Concert in Dome" at the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul to promote the lead single. A separate tour titled, "Exo Planet 2 – The Exo'luxion" was also held with the remaining nine members.
On November 4, Exo released their debut Japanese single "Love Me Right ~romantic universe~", which contains the Japanese version of "Love Me Right" and an original Japanese song titled "Drop That". On the day of its release, the single sold a total of 147,000 copies and reached the top of the Oricon chart, becoming the best selling debut single in Japan by a Korean artist of all time. Five days later, Exo released a special single titled "Lightsaber" to promote the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead of its release in South Korea, as part of the collaboration between S.M. Entertainment and Walt Disney. On December 10, Exo released their second winter special album and fourth extended play Sing for You along with double title tracks "Sing for You" and "Unfair". The album broke the record for the highest first week sales for a Korean artist by selling 267,900 copies in its first week. "Unfair" also became the first K-pop song to be featured in the "best of the week" playlist by Apple Music, while Exo became the first Korean artist to appear on the Apple Music homepage. Part of the profits from the album was reportedly donated to UNICEF's "Smile For U" campaign to support the musical education of children in Asia. Near the end of 2015, prominent South Korean entertainment industry leaders ranked Exo at number seven, the highest of any K-pop artist, in the top ten pop culture leaders of 2015.
Exo's third studio album, Ex'Act, along with its singles "Lucky One" and "Monster", were released on June 9, 2016 in both Korean and Mandarin versions. Domestic pre-orders for the album surpassed 660,000, making it the most pre-ordered K-pop album ever at that time. The album later broke the record for the highest first week sales of a Korean album, breaking their previous record set by Sing For You, by selling 522,372 copies in one week. "Monster" became Exo's first number one on the Billboard World Digital Songs chart, while "Lucky One" debuted at number three. On August 18, a repackaged edition for Ex'Act, titled Lotto, was released. It contained the original tracks from Ex'Act along with four new songs including the single of the same name. "Lotto" became Exo's second number one on the Billboard World Digital Songs Chart and peaked at number two on Gaon's Digital Chart. Lotto's Korean and Chinese versions reached number one and two respectively on Gaon's Album Chart. Within two months of its original release, Ex'Act sold over 1.17 million copies, honoring Exo with the title of "Triple Million Sellers".
On July 21, Kris and Luhan officially parted ways with Exo as their contractual disputes with S.M. Entertainment drew to a close. On July 22, Exo embarked on their third solo concert tour, "Exo Planet 3 – The Exo'rdium". Exo established a record as the first artist to hold as many as six consecutive concerts at the Olympic Gymnastics Arena. On May 27 and 28, 2017, Exo concluded the Exo'rdium tour with two concerts at the Seoul Olympic Stadium. They were the fifth and youngest K-Pop act to hold a concert in the 72,000 seat stadium, following JYJ, H.O.T., g.o.d and YG Entertainment. Tickets for the first date went on-sale on April 12 and were sold out within 20 minutes. In June, Lay announced he would not take part in their next album to focus on his acting career. As of then, he has been absent from Exo as a whole. On December 7, Exo's second Japanese single "Coming Over", containing three original tracks, was released. It reached number two on the weekly Oricon Chart, selling over 158,000 copies and became their second Japanese single album to receive a Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of Japan. Their third winter album and fifth extended play For Life was released on December 19. They did not engage in promotions for the album or its single "For Life", and as of 2017, it had sold over 442,000 copies.
Exo's fourth studio album The War was released on July 18, 2017. The album had received 807,235 pre-orders, surpassing their own record of 660,000 for Ex'Act. "Ko Ko Bop" debuted at number one on the Melon Digital Chart, making Exo the first K-pop group to enter at number one after chart changes were implemented on February 27, 2017. Upon release, the album recorded the highest first week sales of any K-pop album previously, with 602,094 copies sold. It debuted at number 87 on the Billboard 200 chart and number one on the Billboard World Albums Chart. On August 29, the 2018 edition of the Guinness World Records book was released, naming Exo as having the "Most Daesang" ("Grand Prize") awards won at the Mnet Asian Music Awards" in history. On September 5, a repackaged edition for The War, titled The War: The Power of Music, was released. It contains the original tracks from The War along with three new songs, including the single "Power". On September 14, "Power" recorded the highest score of all time on M Countdown with 11,000 points, making Exo the first artist to achieve a perfect score after the system changes were implemented in June 2015. The win also marked their 100th win on music shows. On October 19, Exo announced their third world tour, "Exo Planet #4 – The EℓyXiOn", starting with three concerts in Seoul's Gocheok Sky Dome on November 24–26, 2017.
It was announced on November 4, via Exo's Japanese website, that Exo would release their first full length Japanese album titled Countdown on January 24, 2018. A short version of the music video for the lead single "Electric Kiss" was released on December 6. It was also revealed that Countdown would feature a total of 10 songs including previously released and new songs. As of November 30, Korean sales of Exo's fourth studio album The War reportedly reached 1,592,792, making it Exo's best selling album to date and earning them the title of "quadruple million seller". In early December, Exo announced their fourth winter album and sixth extended play, titled Universe. It was originally due to release on December 21, but was delayed to December 26 due to the death of labelmate, Jonghyun.
On January 16, "Power" became the first K-pop song to play at The Dubai Fountain, the world's largest choreographed fountain system, which is located on Burj Khalifa Lake in Dubai. Seven members of the group (excluding D.O and Lay) traveled to Dubai to view the first showing. "Power" was initially scheduled to play until the end of January. However, its run was extended until March 31 with a total of five shows per week. On January 31, Exo released their first full-length Japanese album Countdown. It was originally planned for released on January 24 but was delayed a week. It debuted at number one on the weekly Oricon chart, selling approximately 89,000 copies. This made EXO the first foreign group whose debut single and complete album both reached first place on the weekly Oricon chart. 10 days after release, on February 9, Countdown was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of Japan.
In early February, it was announced that Exo would perform at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on February 25 as representatives of K-pop, along with CL. This came after Baekhyun sang the national anthem at the opening ceremony of the International Olympic Committee general assembly on February 5 and Exo performed at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics D-100 Concert, a special concert held on November 1, 2017 marking 100 days until the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In March, the Korean Mint Corporation announced that they would create official commemorative medals for Exo, honoring them for their contribution to the global spread of Korean culture as representatives of K-pop. The nine medals, one for each member, were unveiled on April 18 at a ceremony in Seoul.
On October 5, 2016, S.M. Entertainment announced the first subunit of Exo, consisting of three members: Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin, who had previously released an original soundtrack titled "For You" for the SBS television series Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. On October 24, the subunit was announced to be named Exo-CBX, "CBX" being the initials of the members' stage names (Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin, short for ChenBaekXi). Exo-CBX released their debut extended play Hey Mama! and the music video for the single of the same name on October 31. The album was a success, garnering the most sales for a subunit in 2016 with 275,191 copies sold. They subsequently made their debut in Japan on May 24, 2017 with the extended play, Girls. Prior to their Japanese debut, a short version of the music video for the lead single "Ka-CHING!" was released on May 1, 2017. The album has sold over 70,000 copies in Japan after its release.
Prior to Lay's solo debut, he had participated in SM Station in May, 2016 with "Monodrama", a self-written and self-composed ballad. The song was a success in China, ranking number one on Billboard China's V Chart for five consecutive weeks. In October 2016, Lay became the first member to make his solo debut in both Korea and China simultaneously. He participated in the composition, arrangement, and writing the lyrics for all of the songs for the extended play Lose Control. It was a commercial success, breaking several Guinness World Records, and debuted atop on the South Korean Gaon Album Chart. In October 2017, Lay released his second solo album, Sheep. The album saw great success, with over 810,000 copies sold.
Exo debuted with a unique concept first revealed with the release of their debut single "Mama". It involved each of the twelve members possessing an individual elemental superpower ranging from fire, water and wind to time-control and teleportation. The music video for "Mama" also became famous for an extensive narration explaining the concept using metaphors based around the "tree of life" with Exo-K and Exo-M being two sides of the same coin.
The group's debut concept has been referenced in several music videos years after their debut. The members' superpowers were seen in their music video for "Lucky One" released in 2016, showing the members using their powers to break out of a laboratory where they were being experimented on. They were seen again in 2017 in the music video for their "super-hero inspired" single "Power", featuring a video game-style battle with the members using their elemental powers to defeat a giant robot.
Exo has faced criticism in the past due to their lack of involvement in the creative process in writing and producing their songs. Around the same time in 2015, their first song to credit lyrics to one of group's members was released on the repacked version of their second album, Love Me Right. The song "Promise (EXO 2014)", written by members Chanyeol, Chen and Lay, was a "special gift" to the fans with lyrics giving thanks and showing appreciation for their support. In the years following, Exo have released multiple songs with lyrics by members of the group, including "Heaven" and "She's Dreaming" off of their third album Ex'Act and its repackaged version Lotto, their special promotional single "Lightsaber" and most notably, their award-winning single "Ko Ko Bop" along with "Touch It", "Chill" and "Sweet Lies" released in 2017 on their fourth album The War and its repackaged version Power. "Ko Ko Bop" invites audiences to simply enjoy dancing to the music and "Touch it" talks about a man nervously pursuing the object of his affections.
In early February 2013, Exo began promoting a South Korean clothing brand, Kolon Sport. The band shot a commercial ad for a new pair of sneakers named after them, MOVE-XO.
The band has launched a clothing range called Boy Who Cried Wolf (BWCW), partnering up with various Korean street brands. The collaboration store is located at OUTLAB in Garosu-gil, Sinsa-dong. Exo also has a two-year endorsement deal with cosmetics brand, Nature Republic.
Exo are currently the endorsers for various other brands and companies such as Samsung, SPAO, Baskin-Robbins, IVY Club, MCM Worldwide, Pepero, Lotte World, Lotte Duty Free, MCM, Kangshifu Ice Tea, Hats On, Goobne Chicken, Skechers, and MLB.
The members of Exo-K became goodwill ambassadors for South Korea's Red Cross Youth in December 2012. Members of Exo and Bae Doona are appointed as official ambassadors for Fashion-KODE 2014 which is host by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Korea and the Korea Active Content Agency Fashion Festival in July 2014. In July 2014, Samsung announced Exo as Samsung's brand ambassador for 2014 Summer Youth Olympics.
Since their debut, Exo members have also been heavily involved in charitable work ranging from volunteering to making personal donations to organisations such as childcare centers, the Korea Childhood Leukemia Foundation, Siheung Women’s Resources Development Center and China's Hunan province medical services.
In 2015, Exo began participating in "Smile for U", a joint S.M. Entertainment and UNICEF project that aids music educational through charitable work for children in Asia. Part of the proceeds of their second winter album, Sing for You, and subsequent albums including their third and fourth studio albums, EX'ACT and The War respectively, were donated to the campaign. Members Kai and Sehun also participated in photo-shoots for the campaign.
Exo have been recipients of numerous awards from South Korea and mainland China. On June 14, 2013, over a year after their official debut, the band received their first win on the South Korean music program Music Bank with their single "Wolf." Exo also holds the record for the most number of wins for a single song with 18 music show wins for "Call Me Baby", released in 2015. Since then, Exo has gone on to win over 100 music program awards, only the second artist to do so, after Girls' Generation.
Exo have also received 23 Daesang awards, also known as grand prize awards, from various award shows. These most notably include six daesang awards from the Mnet Asian Music Awards, which was recorded in the 2018 Guinness World Records book as the "Most Daesang" ("Grand Prize") awards won at the Mnet Asian Music Awards". Daesang awards are the most significant awards given in the Korean music industry.
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On May 15, 2014, S.M. Entertainment confirmed that Exo-M's leader, Kris, had filed a lawsuit against the agency to terminate his contract for violation of basic human rights by treating him like a product rather than a person, disregard for his health, unfair profit distribution and restricting his freedom. The same law firm that represented Han Geng of Super Junior in his lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment also represented Kris.
On October 10, 2014, Luhan filed a lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment to nullify his contract, mainly because of health issues and for being treated differently than its Korean members. The same law firm that represented Han Geng and Kris in their lawsuits against S.M. Entertainment also represented Luhan.
On August 24, 2015, Tao filed a lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment for termination of his contract and is being represented by the same legal team as Kris and Luhan. S.M. Entertainment responded to his legal actions by stating, "Our company plans to use everything in our power including both Korean and Chinese legal professionals and partners to respond legally both in Korea and China in a multi-faceted manner. We also plan to take legal steps to respond to Tao's illegal promotions and actions."
On 5 January 2016, S.M. Entertainment won one of their counter-lawsuits against Tao following the ruling of the Intermediate People's Court in the Qingdao, Shandong, in China. The agency sued Tao over his failure to repay the company after his departure. They released an official statement saying "SM has ongoing lawsuits against Exo members Wu Yifan (Kris), Luhan, and Tao for violating their exclusive contracts and partaking in illegal promotions in China. Among these lawsuits, SM filed a lawsuit against Tao for failing to repay SM on October 13, 2015. An intermediate court in Qingdao, China made the verdict that Tao is to repay S.M. Entertainment as well as interest for the delayed payment."
In July 2016, it was announced that the lawsuit between Luhan, Kris, and S.M. Entertainment had been settled. The two sides settled during their third court-mandated arbitration, the previous two being in September 2015 and June 2016, with the court "sett[ling] the case with recommendation for reconciliation." The two idols will maintain their contract with SM until 2022. S.M. Entertainment will contract out their work outside of Korea and Japan i.e. Kris and Luhan's Chinese agencies will "share related revenues" with S.M. Entertainment for activities anywhere but Korea and Japan (where S.M. Entertainment has exclusive rights per their contract) because S.M. Entertainment is technically "contract[ing] out management" for their non-Korean/Japanese activities until 2022, when their contracts with S.M. Entertainment expire.
For EXO, it was their first time uniting all the members from EXO-K and EXO-M as they have been separated in two unit group and worked separately as well.