We Are One! Let’s Love!
Just as TVXQ taught me faith and passion…
Yes, I didn’t like EXO before. I even hated some of them.
Everything probably manifested from the fact that they were SME’s new boy group – released during the time the drama with my Cassiopeia family was so great that everything was negative. SME kept on cockblocking JYJ, worked TVXQ so hard that they basically did not get enough rest. Top that with the said entertainment company’s announcement that they will release the first member and teaser of their new project EXO on December 23rd – known as TVXQ Day. They even compared this first member to Junsu – you can’t blame me why I side-eyed everything so much. It felt like SME was telling Cassiopeia that “Hey, we can always create another group”. I wanted to puke.
So I didn’t pay attention. I knew it wasn’t these upcoming group’s fault so I just chose to ignore them rather than end up being a hater. The first teaser came, and articles spread on allkpop about this “Kai”. But I told myself, “Who cares?” The second teaser came, and again I ignored it. The third teaser actually made me curious because I had this fascination with martial arts and the said teaser happened to feature a member who was said to be a master of the craft. Tao was actually the first member I discovered (well, aside from Kai who you can’t help but know because of excessive promotions). I actually felt giddy after I watched Tao’s teaser. Back then, I didn’t know if I liked it because of his amazing stunts or because I was destined to fall in love with the group later on.
Again, teasers passed by and I still ignored them, until the month of January came, and everyone talked about the first prologue single of EXO. First Prologue Single, what the actual hell, SME? But aside from the rather “new” strategy of SME (having overload teasers that annoyed me back then and some “prologue” thingies), my Twitter timeline was bursting of rants from some Cassies that EXO’s song sounded so similar to TVXQ’s “Before U Go”. So screw shit, I needed to watch and bash the hell out of the one responsible. I actually DL-ed the MV and yes, alright – it sounded really similar. I was even able to sing B.U.G lyrics on top of that EXO song’s melody. But I also had to admit that the song was beautiful and it had great lyrics. That was the first time I also saw all the other members aside from Tao and Kai. And that was also the time when a member caught my attention. I didn’t know his name – all I could remember was that, he was wearing white clothes. January 30th, “What Is Love?”
Didn’t think that I’d be able to control the curiosity back then, to be quite honest. Since the release of “What Is Love?”, I have already memorized some members’ names – D.O. of course, who was one of the two members who sang “What Is Love?” (another of SME’s new strategy – the vocal line gets their own songs, while the rappers have one from themselves, too. So it’s only on the carrier tracks and dance tracks that they sing together), Kai, Tao and the mysterious guy in white which I could say, I liked. It was actually only after a month, when the second prologue single, “History” (a dance track, which eventually became my favourite) was released on March 9 that I figured out this member that caught my attention’s name – Kris. (blame the “No More Shakin’ Like That” part). The dance was so addictive and I really liked the song, so I said to myself, “Who am I to resist?”. Even so, I still couldn’t call myself a fan of theirs. Yes, they had good songs so far and good-looking members, but I figured that that was because they were under SM Entertainment – the idol-making factory. But I was determined to figure out more. I was curious, yeah. But also, I really liked Kris. Yes, I became a fan of Kris first before the whole team.
It wasn’t until April that I really got into them. I mean all of them. After all, it was on April 3rd that SME released through their Youtube Channel full, HD, English subbed videos of EXO’s pre-debut showcase. What’s the best way to see if a group has potential? Of course, to watch them perform live. After I watched everything – there was no denying it. I could say I like them. Not yet love back then, just “like”. Who knew what the future actually held?
So from then on, I decided to follow their activities. I watched everything – from their debut performances in both South Korea and China, interviews, guestings and even news clips for both EXO-K and EXO-M. Occassionally fangirling over EXO M’s leader Kris, learning to like other members, especially EXO K’s leader Suho. Throughout the process, I got to know them better, even learning to give some members I didn’t like before a chance – meaning Kai. I really didn’t like the boy before and don’t ask me why anymore, I’m sure everyone knows. But following EXO as they revealed their true selves, I learned to love and appreciate Kai – not the overrated teaser boy, but the mature and ironically shy maknae line member. When before, I was one of those who didn’t like Kai and always saw only the negative things about him, now, I’d defend him any day and side-eye people who dare bash him. There was so much to love about EXO – There’s Kris who puts on a strict and disciplined air but smiles like a prince and is actually warm-hearted and deeply concerned towards everyone, the guardian Suho who promises to protect and unite his members but is incredibly a shy boy, Baekhyun who goes adorably around saying he looks like everyone but can swoon you with his voice any moment and his variety skills, Chanyeol whose deep voice does not suit his dorky appearance who spread ‘happy virus’ to everyone, Lu Han and his perfect singing and dancing, matched with his youthful appearance which can deceive you to believe he’s a maknae but in reality he’s one of the hyungs, Lay with his poker face that does not suit his personality at all because he spills everyone’s secrets which can bring out laughs, D.O. and his wide eyes that make you wanna pinch his cheeks but when he sings you get to see a glimpse of heaven, Kai the dancing machine who is in-charge of being sexy but is actually very shy and one of the youngest and can be very funny even without trying, Tao who looks really fierce but deep inside, very sensitive and soft-hearted who loves his hyungs very much, Xiumin and his steamed bun face that like Lu Han, deceive you to believe he’s one of the maknaes but yes, he’s the eldest, Chen whose singing can blow you away but then you’ll raise your eyebrow at him later on because he’s such a troll in a cute way and Sehun whose gorgeous looks lead you to believe he’s actually a prince but has a lot of aegyo.
It broke my heart to see them with sad expressions when they talked about being separated into two units when all of them were actually trained to become promote together. Learning their mottos like, “We Are One” and “Let’s Love”. I watched how they celebrated their birthdays together, shed tears of happiness, played like children around each other and encouraged each other despite the distance. Seeing through the image of “super rookies” SME gave them, I saw shy and pressured boys who only wanted to chase after their dreams; hard work despite injuries.
Top that with seeing how Yunho cared so much for them, calling from overseas to give them constructive criticisms and advice for them to improve their performances and even reading from one interview about how the TVXQ leader said that “EXO reminded him of their old selves”. Yunho was even caught taking care of the EXO boys backstage during one SM Town 2012 stop and they listened diligently with glints on their eyes. The relationship was so sweet that I had to shed a tear or two. It was then I could say, I didn’t just like them anymore. I started to love them. And that love was about to be tested when the first wave of fandom dramas hit my way.
Controversies about fandom colors circulated when SME gave EXO fans Pearl Terracotta cheering balloons. This color was very similar to Cassiopeia’s Pearl Red and hell broke loose. I was squeezed between my second family and my love for EXO. Of course I was also one of those who cursed SME for trying to copy Cassiopeia’s color. I love EXO, yes. But I’m a Cassiopeia first. But I started to get really hurt when people started bashing EXO who had nothing to do with deciding the colors. It was too much for me and I decided to shut up about the issue. Eventually it died down when silver balloons came out. (Though right now, they’re using Lime Green). Then the issue with the lipsyncing and inability to sing live and spot the cameras during live performances. Yes, it hurt me to see people call them without talents, though I was not in denial – they really did lack, but not without talent because that’s too much. I am a fan EXO, but I accepted their flaws. It was after all what these boys taught me – to give others a chance. Silently on my own corner, I prayed for their improvements, which eventually came slowly. No matter how small, I was proud. Deep in my heart, I always believed in them, and I didn’t care what others say. And yes, I would defend them any day from people who hate them, because I know, even in just a span of three months, I knew them better than people who judged them. I knew their pains, their stories. I’d gladly tell anyone, any day.
EXO may not be the best, very much different from TVXQ5 who were flawless from the very start. It was different for me; it was my first time dealing with criticisms regarding performances of a group I like. But it was a new feeling – which I enjoyed. It was nice seeing them grow bit by bit. I was also proud to have been there for them since the very beginning – something I never had the chance to be in the case of TVXQ5. I made a promise to myself that I would look after these boys. Not because of their relationship to Yunho or Changmin, but because of their own unique colors. Colors that not everyone can see, but us fans, can clearly do.
Before I was hesitant to give them that ‘chance’ for the reasons I mentioned before, but now, that ‘chance’ became a very amazing decision. I can say it was the second best decision I made, next to getting to know TVXQ5.
The things they taught me did not only concern them, because I started listening to other groups I also did not pay attention to before, for example, SNSD. It started with TaeTiSeo because “Twinkle” MV featured EXO and of course, I DL-ed the video. Also because of their collaboration stages during SM Town stops. I started listening to Super Junior songs again, too, because they took care of EXO very much and I appreciated it. I also started opening up myself to non-TVXQ fans, too (those of course, who are EXO fans) and I saw that there are hidden wonders outside too. You see, that’s what giving chances and second chances are.
EXO taught me how to do that. I hope they will be able to teach that to others too. Let’s Love, Forever!