Exo (Korean: 엑소; stylized as EXO) is a Chinese-South Korean boy band based in Seoul. Formed by S.M. Entertainment in 2011, the group consists of twelve members separated into two subgroups, EXO-K and EXO-M, performing music in Korean and Mandarin, respectively. EXO rose to fame with the release of their best-selling first album XOXO (2013), which contained the breakthrough hit "Growl". XOXO was a critical and commercial success, winning both Disk Daesang at the 28th Golden Disk Awards and Album of the Year at the 15th Mnet Asian Music Awards. It eventually went to sell over one million copies, putting EXO as the fastest-selling Korean artist in twelve years. Their third EP Overdose (2014) made EXO the highest-charting Korean male act on the Billboard 200.
In May 2014, Kris filed a lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment to be removed from the group. Luhan followed suit in October 2014. In April 2015, Tao suspended his activities and subsequently followed suit in August 2015. Following their departures, EXO carried on with nine members.
In May 2011, at a Hallyu business seminar held at Stanford University, Lee Soo-man spoke about a strategy of debuting a new boyband, in which they would be divided into 2 subgroups, promoting the same music simultaneously in South Korea and China by performing songs in both Korean and Mandarin. After several changes, in December 2011, the group finalized their name to EXO, taken from the word exoplanet. They are divided into two subgroups, EXO-K ('K' for Korean) for South Korea and EXO-M ('M' for Mandarin) for China. They debuted their first televised performance at SBS's annual Gayo Daejun event on December 29, 2011.
2012: Debut and Mama
EXO-K and EXO-M's prologue single "What Is Love" was released on January 30, 2012, in mainland China and South Korea. The single peaked at number 88 on South Korea's Gaon Single Chart. On March 9, the group released their second prologue single "History", which was written and produced by Thomas Troelsen and Remee. The single peaked at number 68 on the Gaon Single Chart and number six on China's Sina Music Chart.
A concert for the group was held in Seoul's Olympic Stadium on March 31. Approximately 3,000 fans from 8,000 applicants were selected to attend. A second concert was held in the Great Hall of the Beijing University of International Business and Economics on April 1.
EXO-K and EXO-M released their debut single, "Mama", on April 8 followed by an EP, Mama, on April 9. On April 8, Exo-K performed on South Korea's music program The Music Trend, while EXO-M made their debut in China's Top Chinese Music Awards on the same day. Exo-M's album reached number two on China's Sina Album Chart, number five on South Korea's Gaon Album Chart, and number twelve on the Billboard World Albums Chart. Exo-K's album peaked at number one on the Gaon Album Chart and at number eight on the Billboard World Albums Chart. Exo-M's "Mama" music video reached number one on Chinese streaming websites, while Exo-K's version reached to number seven on YouTube's Global Chart. In late April 2012, Exo-M performed as a guest act for Super Junior's Super Show 4 concert tour in Jakarta, Indonesia.
In November 2012, EXO won Best New Asian Artist Group at the 2012 Mnet Asian Music Awards. EXO-K received three nominations at the 27th Golden Disk Awards, winning the Newcomer Award. EXO-M received the Most Popular Group award at the 2013 Top Chinese Music Awards.
2013: XOXO, commercial success and Miracles in December
XOXO was released in June 2013 to two versions, a Korean-language "Kiss" edition and a Mandarin-language "Hug" edition. Unlike during the Mama era, when EXO-K and EXO-M had separate promotions, XOXO was jointly promoted, mainly in South Korea. The subgroups collaborated for the album's lead single, "Wolf", but the rest of the album was recorded separately. The two versions collectively peaked at number one on the Billboard World Album Chart a week after release. Lead single "Wolf" peaked at number one on three of South Korea's music programs, earning the name "triple win." "Wolf" also won a trophy on MBC Music's Show Champion.
A repackaged version of XOXO, titled Growl, was released on August 5, 2013 with three additional tracks. The reissue's lead single, "Growl", was released on August 1, 2013. "Growl" achieved 10,554 points on The Music Trend charts, setting a new number one record on the show. "Growl" reached number one on all four of Korea's major music programs, winning a total of ten trophies in three consecutive weeks. The single peaked at number three on Billboard's Korea K-Pop Hot 100 and number two on the Gaon's Singles chart. As of October 2013, all versions of XOXO have collectively sold over 910,000 copies, breaking the record for being fastest-selling K-pop artist in twelve years. XOXO was named Album of the Year at the 2013 Mnet Asian Music Awards, making EXO the youngest ever boy band to win the award. XOXO is the best selling album in South Korea of 2013.
EXO's second EP Miracles in December was officially released December 9, 2013 as a special winter album through South Korean commercial outlets and online music stores. EXO jump-started album promotions through their reality show EXO's Showtime, which premiered on November 28, 2013 on the cable channel MBC Every 1. Baekhyun, Chen, and D.O. performed the EP's lead single, "Miracles in December", at M! Countdown on December 5.
EXO ended 2013 with six albums in the Gaon's Yearly Top 10 Best-Selling Albums including all their 2013 album releases in both the Korean and Chinese version.
2014: Overdose, Kris' and Luhan's lawsuit
EXO's third EP, Overdose, was released on May 7, 2014. Originally scheduled to be released on April 21, due to the Sewol Ferry Accident on April 16, the album was delayed. Overdose was promoted similarly to "Mama" with EXO-M promoting in China while EXO-K promoted in South Korea. It reached 660,000+ preorders before its release, making it the most pre-ordered mini-album in history. The Korean edition also peaked at No. 2 on Billboard's World Albums Chart, and No. 129 on the "Billboard 200", making EXO the highest charting Korean male group act on the Billboard 200. Overdose was the best selling album in South Korea of 2014 and was the first EP to top the yearly charts. By the end of the calendar year, EXO was Japan's biggest-selling K-pop artist of the year.
On May 15, 2014, S.M. Entertainment confirmed that EXO-M's leader, Kris, had filed a lawsuit against the agency to terminate his contract for being treated like an object and violating basic human rights. leaving the band with 11 members. On October 10, EXO-M's Luhan filed a lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment to nullify his contract, because of health issues and being treated differently than it's Korean members having no promotions. EXO continues to promote with 10 members.
EXO held their first solo concert EXO From. EXOPLANET #1 - THE LOST PLANET starting May 24 at the Seoul Olympic Gymnasium. Tickets sold out in 1.47 seconds.
2015: Exodus and Tao's lawsuit
EXO's second solo concert was announced in January 2015 entitled EXO From. EXOPLANET #2 - The EXO'luXion. Five concerts were held in Seoul at the Olympic Park Stadium starting March 7. 1.2 million fans had attempted to buy tickets online. On February 4, 2015, S.M Entertainment filed a counter-suit against Kris and Luhan for illegally continuing their promotions in China. The lawsuit was to stop their acting and advertisement under the use of the S.M trademark.
EXO's second studio album, Exodus, was released on March 30, 2015 in both Korean and Mandarin versions. Domestic pre-sales for the album surpassed 500,000 within 24 hours, setting a new record for pre-sales. The group released an early release of their title track 'Call Me Baby' on March 27, due to leaked versions of the song. On March 29, EXO released their track "First Love," a special gift for EXO-Ls which was available for only 10 hours. On March 31, EXO released their music video for "Call Me Baby", the Korean version receiving 4,000,000+ views and the Mandarin version receiving 2,000,000+ views in less than 24 hours.
'Call Me Baby' proved to be successful winning eighteen times on music shows, making it the second most awarded song ever. Exodus (Korean Ver.) also broke records after staying number one on the album chart for four consecutive weeks. Baekhyun sang the OST "Beautiful", which was released on music sites on April 22.
On April 22, 2015, EXO member Tao's father posted a letter through Weibo expressing his sentiments for his son to withdraw from the group and return to China due to lack of support concerning individual career developments and health issues. Tao had previously sustained several injuries, including a torn tendon in his ankle, that had not been properly treated, further worsened, and caused him to be absent during promotions for the group's second studio album Exodus. On April 23, 2015, S.M. Entertainment released an official statement saying that they would be "seeking a solution in a developmental direction" by negotiating with Tao and his father.
On August 10, 2015, Tao confirmed that he had left SM Entertainment. On August 24, 2015, after failed negotiations, Tao filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment for the termination of his exclusive contract.
On June 3, Exodus's repackage album, titled Love Me Right, was released and was accompanied by a music video of the same name. The repackaged album contained the original tracks of Exodus and four new songs. Due to the absence of member Tao, the group promoted the song in music shows with 9 members.