Today we’ll be finishing up our week of K-pop with another classic song. This one, like Psy’s “Gangnam Style” came out in 2012.
Just to recap, so far we’ve covered an all-female group (BLACKPINK), a fictional group inspired by the world of e-sports (K/DA), and a solo artist (Psy). I think it’s only fair that we round out the week with one of K-pop’s most popular boy bands, EXO.
After doing some digging, I learned that EXO is a twelve member K-pop band, with six members from China (dubbed EXO-M), and six from Korea (EXO-K). Originally, they debuted as two separate groups in their native lands. But with the release of their first single, “MAMA”, EXO brought the two together.
EXO made an explosive entrance with the release of “MAMA”. In the six-minute music video above, an extensive narration serves as a prologue to the song. It sets the context for the group’s band concept, using the metaphor of a tree of life that was split into two parts, with legends telling that they would one day come together.
EXO’s creative band concept is that they are aliens possessing super powers, and (I’m guessing) have arrived to save the world. Out of all the K-pop groups we’ve covered, I’m glad that one of them actually made an effort to build their own mythology. I can’t help but wonder if Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust played a hand in inspiring EXO’s concept.
In an article that breaks down “MAMA”, the author explains that MAMA actually means “your majesty”, in reference to a queen. So the meaning behind the title is actually, your majesty. It’s not a song about a group of twelve boys crying out to their mothers.
The music behind EXO’s “MAMA” is widely varied. They draw from Gregorian chants, punk rock, and electronic music. There’s also a certain, epic quality to it. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this song playing on a Final Fantasy soundtrack mix. While it seems to take itself a bit too seriously for my own personal tastes, I appreciate the all-in commitment.
To be completely honest, I didn’t really care for this song overall. Especially the half-screaming punk section. What I liked most was that EXO wasn’t afraid to do something different. They built a mythology around their band, and brought an epic quality to their identity that lends itself to a twelve-member group.
I would definitely binge-watch a show following the story of EXO-M and EXO-K. But when it comes down to just listening to their music, I’m not sold that it’s worth it for me.
That about wraps up our week of K-pop songs, and I have to say, it’s been fun digging into a genre I’m totally unfamiliar with. That being said, I’m also ready for some comfort food. So excuse me while I now go listen to some Zeppelin.