EXO’s EX’ACT Review, Part I: Let’s Talk About Leaks

Days before EXO‘s scheduled comeback, a dance practice video leaked, featuring the current nine-member EXO lineup in what appeared to be a brand new practice studio inside the SM Entertainment building. The track playing over the video was a demo of the rumored comeback track titled “Monster”.

Now I don’t know about some of these other fans but I stuck out my cup for that leak like a thirsty woman in the middle of a drought. I mean, I was parched for this. Naive fans still think leaks lessen the impact of a group’s comeback, that media released ahead of the comeback date “ruin all the hard work” the idols and their creative team put into the concept. I fail to see how, when the actual music video release for “Monster” shattered EXO’s previous records for number of views in 24 hours, and sales for the group’s third full length album EX’ACT are quickly approaching half a million units within this comeback week. If anything, leaks like the “Monster” dance practice video, and the demo track leak for “Wolf” in 2013 have helped heighten fan anticipation and amplify buzz for EXO, not extinguish it.

What got me hyped about seeing the leak was hearing the English lyrics for “Monster”, written by Kenzie and LDN Noize. Hearing lyrics like “body of a goddess”, “creepin’ in your heart” fired up my imagination. I wondered which of these lyrics would be sung by the boys in English and how the verses would sound like in Korean and Chinese.

As for the choreography, the poor video quality of the leak added to the overall mystery too. Because the boys were in generic black with their faces covered, it was thrilling trying to figure out member positions and line distribution, getting fired up seeing Suho dance lead at some point, freaking out over the X formation in the chorus and gushing over that little step where they turn around while sitting down, balanced on one hand.
Seeing the leak gave me goosebumps, as I’m sure it did to many EXO-L’s. I’m not even ashamed to say not only did I loop the dance practice video, I saved it to my hard drive just in case it would be removed from the internet, which of course it was, only for it to mushroom on various other sites moments after.

In this case, seeing the rough draft hardly diminished the impact of the finished product. Whoever released it (and my money is still on SMTown Global on this one, being the masters of marketing that they are) knew enough not to use the actual album track. By giving K-pop fans a taste of what the track might sound like, and what the choreography might look like (as opposed to what the actual track sounds like and the actual staging will look like as performed on a comeback stage or on the music video), the dance practice video leak became a two-pronged strategy whether SMTown Global was complicit in its release or not. The leak generated more buzz for EXO,  and gathered early feedback regarding elements of choreography and/or staging, the latter being the subject of much fan speculation.  This is no different from film producers inviting a test audience prior to the release of a film in order to get feedback on elements of the story, especially its ending.

Whether or not SMTown Global was behind the leak or not (credit to the discovery and upload went to the Chinese fans), the leak definitely helped oil an already well-maintained machine that was ready to go, feeding the curiosity of thousands of small monsters in preparation for the big one that was coming back.




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