Essay: The game-changers from a decade of K-Pop

Client: GQREAD IN FULL

Even K-pop’s hormonal rush – Vixx’s R-rated gothic, Miss A’s sensual “Hush”, Trouble Maker dry humping in the epic “Now” – couldn’t divert attention from SM Entertainment, which in 2013 released F(X)’s classic LP Pink Tape and dropped Girls’ Generation’s “I Got A Boy”, divisively referred to as the “Bohemian Rhapsody” of K-pop. However, SM struck pure gold with Exo’s “Growl”. The 12-member group, who debuted in 2012 with a sci-fi concept and flashy costumes, had done well but not soared. Here, Exo were stripped of the dramatics – instead, appearing in simple suiting in a one-take video – and their sound was pared back to a loop of synth, beatboxy clicks, sublime harmonies and a cantering chorus. Instantly addictive and ultimately timeless, it sold more than two million copies in South Korea and catapulted Exo into superstardom, a position they still hold today.

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