April 8, 2012 is a special date that many of us will never forget. It was a momentous occasion where 12 guys from different backgrounds came together to form one of the most iconic boy groups in KPOP history. Today marks 8 years since EXO debuted with their title track ‘MAMA,’ and needless to say, a lot has changed since then. It’s been one endless rollercoaster after another, filled with member lineup changes, moments of uncertainty, laughter, tears, wins, and losses, military enlistments, all the works. At times, it feels like the years went by in the blink of an eye, and other days, it feels like the months between comebacks drag on forever. The group and the fandom have gone through so many experiences together, and even though there were a lot of struggles, we all came out on top stronger than ever.
What once started off as a band of young rookies has now grown into an accomplished group of seasoned professionals. Looking back now at EXO’s early music stages and their bright and cheerful eyes full of wonder and innocence, it’s almost hard to believe just how far they’ve come since their trainee days in their 8 years. They’ve achieved 7 full-length albums, are quintuple million sellers, have won numerous awards, and have represented their country at different international events.
From the beginning to the present EXO have truly made a name for themselves, so here is a recap of some of our favorite EXO moments in the 8 years since their career first started to celebrate their anniversary:
Debut with ‘MAMA’
Let’s throw it back to the song that started it all, the iconic ‘MAMA.’ EXO stunned the entire world with their debut single as the latest rookies to step foot in the KPOP scene. The ritualistic eerie chanting of “Careless, careless, shoot anonymous, anonymous, heartless, mindless, no one who care about me” gives off major cult vibes and really proved to the world that EXO were distinct from any other group we’ve ever seen before. D.O.’s powerful vocals starting off the song in the EXO-K version is enough to send shivers down your spine, as his voice displays an astounding confidence, ferocity, and range you wouldn’t expect from a brand-new artist. The booming rock elements that are scattered and consistently echo throughout the song make the track stand out among other songs released during that time.
The most important part of ‘MAMA’ however isn’t just the song, lyrics, or vocals themselves, nor is it the rapping and choreography. The highlight most definitely has to be the music video, where EXO’s origin story as aliens from EXOplanet is first introduced. The narration describes how the 12 legends (representing the 12 members) split into 2 groups (EXO-M and EXO-K) in order to protect the heart of the tree of life from an evil red force. Throughout the music video, fans discover that each member has a unique supernatural power. EXO-M: Xiumin: Cyrokinesis, Kris: flying, Luhan: Telekinesis, Lay: healing, Chen: lightning, Tao: time control. EXO-K: Chanyeol: Pyrokinesis, D.O.: strength and ground manipulation, Kai: teleportation, Suho: water, Baekhyun: light, and Sehun: wind.
First Music Show Win
If you want to get deep in your feels, the best way to do it is to rewatch EXO’s reaction to getting their first-ever music show win on KBS Music Bank with ‘Wolf’. There’s nothing more emotional than watching Suho try to give a speech through his tears, Luhan and Chen comforting Yixing as he cries, and Tao’s complete and utter excitement at all of the group’s hard work paying off.
Burj Khalifa Light Show
China Baidu EXO Bar organized to display EXO’s faces on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world. This made them the first non-royal members to achieve this feat. We can only imagine how amazing it must have been to be able to witness all of the members’ beautiful faces magnified.
Olympics Closing Ceremony
EXO had the immense honor to represent their country during the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics. They performed their mega hit ‘Growl’ and ‘Power’. We’ll never forget the pride we felt while witnessing EXO make history on international television.
Once again, EXO made South Korea proud when they were invited to attend a reception at the Blue House, right before an important meeting between President Moon Jae In and the president of the United States took place.
Power Dubai fountain show
‘Power’ became the first K-POP song to be played at the Dubai Fountain, a choreographed fountain system. The joy on the members’ faces when they heard their song reverberating through the air for all of the public to hear is one of the sweetest sights you could ever see!
Revived Physical Album Sales
EXO broke a 12-year drought in the physical album market. They were the first Korean artists to have an album sell one million copies since 2001 with their album XOXO. EXO were also the first KPOP group to be awarded commemorative medals from KMSCO for their international accomplishments. The group was acknowledged for spreading Korean culture through their album sales of more than one million albums for their four full length albums. As of now, after working in the industry for 8 years, they are quintuple million sellers.
Five-Time Album of the Year Winners
EXO won Album of the Year 5 times in a row, for their albums XOXO, Overdose, Exodus, Ex’Act, and The War at the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA). Their first win was after the release of the group’s first full-length album when they were still considered rookies, which is an incredible achievement to accomplish so early in their career. This win was achieved when there were still 12 members in the group, so this is extremely meaningful to fans and to EXO as well.
Solos and Subunits
Lay’s debut mini-album Lose Control became the highest-selling album by a solo artist in Gaon chart history in 2016. Baekhyun became the artist best-selling solo album of the decade in 2019 with his album City Lights. Chen released two albums in one year, with April, and a Flower being nominated for album of the year at the 11th Melon Music Awards.
Acoustic Medley at EXO’rdium in Japan
One of the our favorite OT9 moments is when Yixing and Chanyeol sat on stage with the other EXO members and played an acoustic set of their songs. Seeing the members all together, with nothing but their beautiful voices and simple guitars allowed for a more intimate setting with the fans. There were no distractions with flashy outfits or intense choreography. Being able to fully appreciate the group’s heavenly vocals is an experience that we wish we could all experience over and over again.
Animal Onesies at the EXO’luxion Dot
There’s nothing cuter than seeing EXO dressed up in animal onesies. We got to see all of the members singing and dancing, and just being playful and messing around. D.O. was extremely adorable and Lay even did some dance moves from his song ‘MYM’ (Miss You Much) and was hilariously cut short by his members Chen, Suho, and Chanyeol censoring his 19+ dance moves. These are the sweet OT9 moments that we can’t wait to get more of in the future.
EXO’luXion in Macau
Just for fun we decided to throw in the ‘Lucky’ curtain accident. Major props to Baekhyun, the biggest clown we know, for breaking some serious dance moves to distract the fans when the curtain tore so the members could finish changing outfits.
Even though EXO have been a group for 8 years, the amount of reality shows that they went on were few and far in between, but we can guarantee that the ones they did attend were pure comedy gold. From “Chicken is not my style” to “inside the panties” so many hilarious moments were born from the likes of EXO Showtime, EXOmentary and EXO’s Ladder. Some of the greatest moments were when EXO went to a haunted house, sang karaoke together, and cooked for each other. Most important of all, who could forget when Kris saw the look on Suho’s face and volunteered to run into the water on the beach with all of his clothes on?
The fans got to see EXO’s true personalities shine every time the members played games together. From the Whisper Challenge, to mafia, the frying game and more, every moment spent with EXO is sure to have you rolling on the ground and laughing like Chanyeol and Sehun. One thing’s for sure, it’s never a boring time with these guys around.
It’s been a while since all 9 EXO members have been together, but they never fail to remind EXO-L’s that they will always be one in our hearts. In recent years, despite Lay’s busy schedule working on his solo career in China, the group has never missed an opportunity to show that their relationship is still closer than ever. Lay is so supportive of the group’s activities, as are the members with his solo music. They still wish each other happy birthday through video calls or check in on the phone, and it shows that their bond is truly unbreakable, and distance really does make the heart grow fonder.
Songs for the Fans and Members
Music is what connects EXO to their fans, so what better way to strengthen that bond than with self-written meaningful songs? ‘Hand’ is a song that Chanyeol wrote and performed in honor of his members. He raps about how they have been his family for 8 years, and how when he feels down or weak, he has 8 sets of hands to hold onto him and help him when he struggles. Similarly, ‘Promise’ is a song written by Chanyeol, Lay, and Chen, and is a vow to the fans that EXO will always love them and be with them.
Chanyeol’s video for the members
Chanyeol surprised his members on the last day of their EXplOration Tour with a special video full of the memories they created together. He thanked them for all of the precious moments they spent together, and by the end of the VCR, there was not a single dry eye in the house. It was really nostalgic to take a look back at how the members changed over these past 8 years, but we are so proud of the people that EXO are today.
The dreaded E-word is probably one of the most sensitive topics for any KPOP fan. Mandatory military enlistment is just a concept that you have to get used to if you’re a fan of any Korean male artist. However, the transition from getting constant updates from idols to barely getting any was made easier for EXO-L’s, thanks to the constant support that they receive from the group. Xiumin and D.O.’s enlistment were bittersweet, but the sadness was overwhelmingly counteracted with some memories we’ll always cherish.
The EXO members surprising Xiumin at his last fan meeting before his enlistment and their phone call to Lay was the most recent interaction we got with all 9 members.
Even better was when Lay took time out of his busy schedule preparing for his Grandline concert to fly to South Korea and see D.O. off.
The most recent favorite memory we have of our two military men is when Xiumin and D.O. attended the EXplOration tour and sat in the crowd, waving their eribongs and supporting their members from the crowd. No matter where the members are or how much time passes, nothing can destroy their bond.
The relationship between the EXO members within their group and their bond with eris is so intimate and distinct. Even when things felt like they were falling apart, loyal fans continued to stay to support the group. EXO-L’s and EXO are each other’s rock. We’ve shared so many special occasions together over these past 8 years, from rejoicing over Chen’s marriage and his fiancé’s pregnancy announcement, to crying over OT9 crumbs. The level of trust built between the artists and fans has been developing for so long, and that faith will never be broken.
No matter what year it is, 2020, 2050, 3000, the legacy of EXO will continue to live on. Whether there are 12, 11,10, or 9 members, EXO will always be one. EXO exists as long as their fans do too, and we aren’t going anywhere. It’s been 8 years so far, so here’s to many more. Happy anniversary EXO, saranghaja!
What was your favorite moment with EXO since their debut? Let us know down in the comments below or tweet us at @TheHoneyPop!
Featured image source: SM Entertainment