“We exist in every moment of yours,” EXO printed on their seventh studio album Exist as their gentle confession to the post-COVID world this summer. Long awaited by fans across the world for four years, the legendary K-pop boy band that once performed at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang finally returned on July 10th, 2023 with their new album. Actively promoting the title track “Cream Soda” with stage performances at various music shows like Inkigayo andM Countdown, EXO rejuvenated the spirits of millions through their refreshing musical ideas, captivating vocals, and flawless execution of the choreography.
As the title of “Cream Soda” suggested, the music, choreography, costumes, and stage design of this dance-pop tune thoroughly blended “creamy” and “sparkling” elements into the performance. The song best illustrated the central concept of the album through smooth yet drastic vocals and lively beats accompanied by vibrant brass, keyboard, and drum instrumentation. For the performance at the music show M Countdown, the distinctive texture, style, and pattern of each member’s costume together embodied the soft and vivid vibe. Here, Suho and Chanyeol wore silk shirts, Xiumin and Chen donned glittering suits, Baekhyun and Sehun respectively dressed up with a pink fuzzy jacket and a striped jacket, and D.O. sported a black suit that served as the basis of the overall layout. On the back of the stage stood a pale lavender palace with the label “EXO” and “Cream Soda,” immersing the audience in a soothing wonderland. The front of the palace was shrouded by shrubs, which decorated the dreamscape with refreshing elements of summer.
Composed of countless spectacular moments, the dance performance revealed the novelty of “Cream Soda” and the distinctiveness of EXO as performers. Baekhyun, one of the main vocalists, opened the performance with an upbeat melody, and then Suho, the lead vocalist, filled the first verse with his gentle voice, while the clap-based production resonated in the background with the rhythm. Transitioning to the second verse, D.O., another main vocalist, and Chanyeol, the main rapper, used their powerful vocals and tremorous dance movements to build a richer layer on the song with dynamite brass orchestration in the backing track. Shortly before the pre-chorus, Sehun, the lead rapper and lead dancer, and Xiumin, the sub vocalist and sub rapper, presented a passage of melody rap featuring bouncy flows and groovy hits.
Gently flowing in, Dionysiac undertones filled the pre-chorus. Chen, one of the main vocalists, fully spread his arms as if they were his wings and let his gorgeous voice soar over stage. With the marvelous and airy falsettos, he elucidated to the audience, “I need all ya, Cream Soda.” Now the song entered an entirely new realm—the chorus—where the group spread out in “V” shape on stage and Sehun stood in the front to lead the whole group. It is worth noting that the choreography at the chorus was particularly demanding; the dancers presented breakin’ and waves at the same under a fairly fast tempo and handled variant stage positioning. At the same time, the gorgeous voices of multiple vocalists were blended together, emphasizing the core message “I need all ya, Cream Soda.”
Photo Credit: SM Entertainment
The most well-designed part of the dance performance landed at the bridge before the last repeat of the chorus, where each member matched the movement of Suho, the group’s leader, for two beats while he was singing. Although Suho was the only one facing the audience and other members were all facing in different directions, this scene embodied the “telepathy” moment of EXO in which all members always understood each other’s thoughts and actions. It was associated in mind with their deep care for each other and contribution to the team in the past 11 years. Such an ingenious part of the choreography delicately inlaid the team spirit of EXO into their dance performance, and it deserves to be discovered by more viewers.
The dance performance of “Cream Soda” by EXO demonstrated an exceptional combination of two contrasting concepts through a comprehensive set of performing arts design and the astounding vocal and dance capabilities of EXO. The song featured sensual vocals and lyrics that drew a parallel between the sweet yet exhilarating experience of falling in love and the taste of cream soda. The music, choreography, costumes, and stage setup together concreted a dreamy summertime vibe that featured the coexistence of “creamy” and “sparkling” moments. What’s more mind-blowing was EXO’s exceptional ability to handle the demanding vocal part and choreography. Falsettos were spread throughout the three repeats of chorus and pre-chorus, and the highest note of melody even reached E5. However, all vocalists were able to hit this note effortlessly in the meantime of delivering quality dancing. Additionally, the choreography was extremely challenging due to the rapid change of movements under the fast tempo and constant switch between intense and smooth vibes. But EXO members were able to handle all the nuances and carry out the choreography in an extraordinarily uniform way. Through the ability to enhance their vocal and dancing skills even after 11 years of debut, EXO revealed to the world how they have maintained themselves as a top band in the history of K-pop.
Wendi Wang is a sophomore in the SFS studying International Economics and planning to minor in philosophy and music. She is Co-Reviews Section Editor for the INDY.