Chapter ③: The Opening is Enlightening
Chinese Members, Military Style of Management, SM Family Concert
The Four Sharp Weapons to Penetrate into China’s Market
Do you still remember the three Chinese young boys that was mentioned in the first chapter? Two years ago, these three young boys at the old SM building successfully joined forces, becoming part of the unbeatable celestial legions (group of Chinese trainees), which at that time did not only consist the three of them. In actuality, the number of Chinese trainees in SM have always been rising.
The boy from Beijing was endowed with a warm and hopeful name by his parents – “the fawn (Xiǎolù) at dawn” (the implied meaning in Luhan). This fawn stayed in South Korea for exactly two years, before the clouds were finally cleared, getting the permission to enter his long-cherished SM company. At SM, he was able to often see his long-time favorite idols TVXQ in the corridors. The very tall Canadian-Chinese who was called Kevin by his peers in Canada, while abroad, seemed very ordinary, for that on the streets there were many Kevin’s. His beautiful and elegant mother privately revealed that “I gave him the name Wu Yi Fan, in hopes that he will be an average person, live an ordinary life, have a ordinary job, and finally getting married and establishing a family… …” Changsha boy Zhang Yixing is known for being a performing arts perfectionist. After arriving at South Korea, it was obvious that compared to being a child star in Changsha than being a trainee in SM that it was much more restrained, and in the middle of it all many rumors surfaced, but none was the truth. In the year they were soon debuting, a young boy who knows martial arts and is from QingDao was added into the celestial legions (group of Chinese trainees). In the eyes of many Koreans, Chinese people who know martial arts are exceptionally amazing, such that all Korean celebrities believe that Jackie Chan is China’s most stunning celebrity.
Presumably, these boys has a similar quality: handsome. Before entering SM, they never had the opportunity to sharpen their talents and let their talents shine but after some careful polishing, they then gradually began to shine.
After the 100 days of countdown, a group of 12 boys whose average age is about 20 years old and born in the 90s debuted under the name of EXO, dividing into two subgroups EXO-M & EXO-K, with M and K mainly establishing themselves in the China’s and South Korea’s markets, respectively. As for the four Chinese boys mentioned above, they are the four sharp weapons that will help EXO penetrate into China’s market.
“With a brand name like SM, there is a definite mass Korean fan base; having Chinese characteristics, is very important. Why did they include four Chinese members, why publish Chinese albums, the answer is obvious which is to readily attract Chinese fans. This way has virtually shortened the distance (between the fans and idols). Before you would have to shout fan chants that you did not understand, sing along to songs that you did not understand. But now if you go to your favorite idols’ events, you can completely use your own mother-tongue, such that this kind of closeness was never there before. The biggest reason for their success in the mainland is because of the increase of Chinese members.” When reporter Xiaohan summarized the reasons for EXO’s successful debut, he emphasized on the addition of Chinese members as the primary reason (for their success). What this reporter claimed and the feedback from the interviews done with EXO fans to write this article is very much the same. Within the fans’ feedback, there was quite a lot of people who before EXO’s debut did not like K-POP, but because of their like towards any one of the Chinese members, they became a member of EXO’s large fan army with great honor, and to an extent, some fans became one of EXO’s warriors.
Trans cr: Icingonyou © 2014
EXO-K @ Perfomance Stage
Say a Couple of Wrong Things Will be Blamed
“What is EXO?” “Who is EXO?” At the time of the 2012 April Beijing Debut Showcase, when the 12 of them arrived at the Beijing International Airport, there was a lot of fans were awaiting for their arrival, terrifying a lot of passengers; the scene at the SHOWCASE was even more overcrowded to the extent that, the reporters who were at the scene were not comprehending the situation. Sina Entertainment reporters can still recall that day’s interview as if it was yesterday, “Didn’t they just debut?” “My God, this group has so many members, I cannot tell the difference who is who! There were so many fans in the stadium, consistently screaming, that even when I came out I was still experiencing tinnitus, buzzing and ringing in my ears.”
Just like the previous day’s Korean SHOWCASE, EXO with exceptional looks appeared on Beijing’s Performance Stage, showcasing the same songs and dances, but that this time it is in Chinese. It is not very difficult to tell that, they are properly trained. Every song and dance was all carefully designed and a result of hard work and constant practice, such that from the perspective of rookies, there was basically nothing wrong in EXO’s performances. Xiaohan who have been responsible for the Korean Entertainment section for a long time said, “There was a sense of reverse in their characters, such that this group of young man changed back into young boys. Kai (in charge of dance) who was previously dancing with such strong presence and charisma, was so shy during his self-introduction; Luhan when he speaks it was obvious he was from Beijing, at the showcase he pointed at Xiumin and used a very authentic Beijing accent said, his nickname is BaoZi!”
Hereafter, because EXO-M which is made up of four Chinese members and two Korean members spent majority of their time promoting in China, they launched a carpet style promotion in the country. And the various types of problems that happened to them began to show more and more. “The first time they came to the recording of the Sina interview, it was very obvious that they were just woke up from sleep not too long ago, all were very clueless. It can be seen that they were rookies with zero experience, such that the recording was very long, they were very choppy, a couple of times said the wrong things, such as calling the members by the wrong name, and there were times when they were supposed to answer did not, but they were taking the interview very seriously. As a result by the time the recording was done, they were yelled at by their manager on the spot, because the manager thought that they were not performing their best.” Besides looking different, their personalities are also very different, such that when the camera is facing them, some had severe stage fright and others were seemingly calm. As Koreans, Chen and Xiumin at times had stress, they could not understand nor speak Chinese (even though they have been learning); for the Chinese members even if their Korean was not good they could at the very least maintain a basic conversation, and in China, for the Chinese members it was even more comfortable.
“Seeing them in person gives me the feeling that they are much more thinner and more delicate than seeing them on TV. The difference between them and mainland idols is that they are much more cautious and careful.” At the time still director at 《Happy Camp》Yuan Qi (has since moved onto《Day Day Up》briefly talked about the situation when EXO-M first went to《Happy Camp》for their prerecording, at that time, they debuted for not even a month and for the history of 《Happy Camp》this was very rare.
“I observed them for a bit and noticed that, no matter if they were seeing the directors, the behind the scenes’ staff or others, they were always bowing deeply and politely, such that they were very well-trained. But do not think for one moment that because they are very tall and serious-looking, they are always like that, in actuality behind the cameras they are very much like kids. At that time there was a segment that required of them to taste ChenDu delicacy, and the prerequisite is to answer the questions right, and afterwards those who did not answer the questions correctly was looking at me in a delicate and charming way, quietly asking me, GeGe can we eat? I said of course. Then they took a look at their manager, and when their manager had no reaction, they immediately scoffed down the food!” Ma Song (host and program producer) talked a lot about the details of EXO-M’s behind the scenes of the prerecording, frankly talking about the areas that the audiences could not see, saying that EXO-M are like kids who lives in an ivory tower, to some extent even though is seamlessly, but in fact is protected very tightly. “Off stage I started a conversation with them, and I could sense that they wanted to talk with me, but did not dare to, were afraid to say the wrong things. This made people feel a bit distant.”
Up until July, EXO-M’s promotion in China was coming to a close, and at the same time, promoting mainly in South Korea’s EXO-K was also making appearances on various music shows, variety shows and radio shows.
Trans cr: Icingonyou © 2014
Name: Zhang Yixing
Date of Birth: October 07, 1991
Height: 178 cm
Weight: 60 kg
Role in the group: Lead dancer, sub-vocals, instruments, healer
Personality: loyal, dedication, lively, warm, gentle and considerate, usually close to people
Talents: dance, piano, guitar, lyrics, composure, art
Those Who Go Up On Stage, Needs To Be Obedient
In China, the thing that makes various big name talent search and music companies be criticized is that, even though they might pick out a “idol” style personal, but he/she is not willing to spent more effort in training. “Becoming famous overnight” and “fast food” is the two main features of the culture of the Chinese Entertainment Industry.
In the first year of debut, the opportunities for EXO-M and EXO-K to collaborate for the most part is only in SMTOWN concerts, rather important award ceremonies, and other variety shows. As EXO, these 12 boys were brought to various countries in the world and participated in SMTOWN’s concerts. Besides performing title songs like 《MAMA》and《HISTORY》, they were also required to participate in special stage performances, and collaborate with the company’s other artists on joint performances. It can be said that, in training, SM did not go easy on EXO, nor was generous. For groups who have debuted for a short time to participate in grand performances and events, is still a rare sight to view, let alone these events and performances are in international contexts, and for EXO who were rookies to receive such valuable experiences, is truly remarkable. They are growing very fast, and this is very much a result of those performances opportunities.
In the same year, EXO unsurprisingly received various rookie awards. September 17th, EXO-M in a Chinese music award ceremony received the first rookie award, of the four Chinese members three of them shed tears on stage, and two of which were pouring down the tears, without care to their image. Some of the insiders of the industry could not understand, believing these awards are not much better than giving everyone an award, why did these young men react with such intensity? Afterwards we asked their representative in private, “They said that there was times when it was very difficult in South Korea, so to win this kind of award, for them is an affirmative response towards everything they gave since debut, to recall the past, is truly not easy, but these pains and stress were all worth it.”
Other people cannot empathize these kind of feelings and experiences, speaking of hardships, to become an artist who is not tired and stressed? Speaking of torment, to become an artist who has not felt depressed for a couple of days? But they are more like moths to a flame, before debut, it was difficult to predict the future for it can change into ashes (a flop) or heaven (success). There was a time when Kris (Wu Yi Fan)’s mom came to visit her son, only watching from the corner of the editor’s room of them prerecording the show, with eyes filled with tears. At backstage she made some remarks, and Ma Song who heard these words were having mixed emotions, and the moment that particularly left a deep impression was, “Every time I call him, he will always say everything is fine, say Mom I am all good. But I know that it is not so. He went to Korea alone, could not communicate through the language, he had to learn a lot of things from anew, and he is not well at expressing, so he will keep everything to himself. He was training in SM for especially a long time, there were a couple of times he was about to debut, but the opportunity was lost; about the debut, and was restrained… …This continuously gave hope and disappointment… …But every time he called me, he will always say, recently I am doing good, we will be debuting soon, Mom we will be debuting soon.”
Even though they have already debuted, they are still managed military-style, everything is adhered to the company’s and manager’s plans, and the staffs are responsible for maintaining and organizing their daily lives. Everyday there is a set amount of training that needs to be completed, going out has time restrictions, and they are not allowed to meet their parents based on their will. Even when EXO-M after debut was stationed in Beijing, even when Luhan’s home is in Beijing, he could not just return home as he wanted. Even if they were in the same city, they could not see their parents. In these boys’ lives the people around them, is about only the other members, manager, and staff members. Everyday the thing that they are in contact with, is a rather sealed and simple environment.
Trans cr: Icingonyou © 2014