The Lore Behind K-Pop's Superheroes, EXO
If you were one of the millions of people around the world who tuned in to watch the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics come to a close, you saw a lot of truly spectacular things.
From 13-year-old Yang Tae Hwan shredding on his electric guitar with 80 geomungo players and rock band Jambinai in the background to the amazing show of technology in Beijing's part of the show, the entire celebration was truly a night to remember.
One group that caught a lot of viewers' eyes entered in probably one of the most strange and unique ways possible: Riding eight kitted-out UTVs into the arena.
That was EXO, arguably the most popular group in South Korea. Originally debuting as a 12-member group in 2012, EXO is known around the world. The eight members who are still active performed two of the mega-hit singles at the Closing Ceremonies, both slightly remixed from their original tracks. Growl was one of the group's first singles, being released in 2013 with the repackage of their first studio album.
It was the second song, however, that really seemed to catch viewers' attention.
Power is the group's latest release, coming as a part of their repackaged album title The War: The Power of Music. Because the performances weren't released on YouTube after the ceremonies finished, news outlets all around the world used the song's music video in their articles instead. (UPDATE: Their performance was finally added to YouTube.) While a great way to clue in people who might've missed the performance, it's easy to say that Power's music video might seem a little all over the place to someone who knows nothing about the group.
That's where I come in. I'm here to explain how all of the video's odd bits are actually references to the group's history, more specifically the group's unique lore, and why all eight members suddenly got superpowers at the end.
There's a lot to unpack in this video, and in the group's almost six-year history, but I'm gonna stick with the basics here.
Where It All Began
Both the epic monologue-style intro and the powers/orbs the boys save the day with both came from the group's debut music video. MAMA's music video is a lore lover's dream come true. It tells the fictional story of how the group of 12 "forces" which originated from the tree of life came into being. The 12 were split into two worlds, which was a fantasy way of representing the group's original subunits EXO-K (who sang in Korean) and EXO-M (who sang in Mandarin).
The whole intro story narration says:
When the skies and the grounds were one, the legends, through their twelve forces, nurtured the Tree of Life. An Eye of Red Force created the evil which coveted the heart of Tree of Life, and the heart slowly grew dry. To tend and embrace the heart of Tree of Life, the legends hereby divide the tree in half and hide each side. Hence, time is over-turned and space turns askew.
The twelve forces divide into two and create two suns that look alike into two worlds that seem alike. The legends travel apart. The legends shall now see the same sky but shall stand on different grounds, shall stand on the same ground but shall see different skies. The day the grounds be kept a single file before one sky in two worlds that seem alike, the legends will greet each other. The day the Red Force is purified and the twelve forces reunite into one perfect root, a new world shall open up.
Continuing the Story
EXO's one of the only groups I can think of that has such an interesting lore-based foundation. MAMA was their debut music video, and their agency, SM Entertainment, didn't let that ultra-rich fantasy background story go to waste.
A number of the group's videos since their debut fit into an ever-expanding timeline that pieces itself together bit-by-bit. The videos aren't released in chronological order either, making it all even more of an engaging and interactive experience for the fans.
For example, Overdose, which was released in May 2014, shows all of the members stuck in a huge maze that's in the same hexagonal shape as their logo. Then Lucky One, which was released over two years later, shows the members escaping from a sort of experimental hospital/lab and ending up in an extremely similar hexagonal-shaped maze.
Other videos more directly reference the group's power-centered story. Lucky One also shows the members utilizing some of their powers in their attempt to escape the hospital. Ko Ko Bop shows most of the members directly interacting with their powers in some way, like Suho jumping into the cup of water or Chen playing with the electricity between two wires. A series of short teasers called Pathcode were released in March 2015 that showcased each of the members' powers and further expanded on the group's lore.
Then there are those videos that are connected by plot points that seem to lead into the videos that are already clearly in the timeline. Music videos like Monster and Lotto clearly fit into the story somewhere along the line, it's just deciphering where and how they fit that isn't as obvious.
How This All Fits Into Power's MV
Power was always meant to be a fun, upbeat treat for the fans. The robot literally has a red eye, referencing the "Eye of Red Force" that the MAMA intro lore originally mentioned. It's not until the robot is destroyed that the members get their individual power orbs, which are activated by the white cat that Baekhyun has pressing a button and seemingly triggering an eclipse (another recurring symbol in EXO's lore-filled history).
Some fans think that Power is some sort of prequel to EXO's whole story, showing them as heroes on another planet before seeing Baekhyun fall to Earth where, supposedly, the rest followed. Putting the Pathcode teasers directly after Power would seem to fit, since all the members would probably land in different spots in the world.
Needless to say, Power is both a gift to fans and a mysterious puzzle piece in the group's story. EXO's rich, mysterious timeline is an ever-present challenge for those of us who love some good lore, but SM Entertainment always makes sure that the story elements don't overpower how enjoyable the video is on an individual level.
No matter which EXO video you watch, you'll always be given something memorable.
[Header Photo Credit: EXODICTED]