Review: Exo – “Call Me Baby”

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I didn’t think I’d be writing about Exo again on this blog, but here we are. Exo returns, a year later and two members fewer, with “Call Me Baby” off their second full album, “Exodus.” SM, you wrong (but so right) for that title.

2014 was a rough year for Exo fen who aren’t assholes. We were off to a wanktacular start with Kris abruptly bouncing on the eve of the tour, earning him much ire from the fans. I stood by my man, despite the shady circumstances of his departure, but at least he was wise enough to lie low until the dust had mostly settled (contrast with former One Direction member Zayn Malik, who seems to be writing the guide to “How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot After Leaving a Group”). Luhan’s later departure was met with a more subdued reaction, possibly because he finished the tour, and because of his visibly and rapidly declining health. In the midst of all this, the fandom was also hit with dating scandals, first a confirmed relationship between Baekhyun and SNSD’s Taeyeon, and a rumored one between D.O. And Girl’s Day’s Sojin (this one was largely debunked and Sojin is totally boning VIXX’s N). Still, the departure of two members created a rift in the fandom, and skirmishes still flare up like a particularly virulent and recurring fandom STD.

Footage of a typical Exo-L discussion forum

Footage of a typical Exo-L discussion post

It is this fandom environment which quickly led to my general weariness of anything Exo over the past year. It had nothing to do with the members themselves; I hold no ill will toward any of them, including Kris and Luhan. Still, as long as one attempts to keep up-to-date on K-pop goings-on, it’s next to impossible to avoid hearing about the latest shenanigans Exo-L have pulled. Their incessant wankery gave me major Exo fatigue for a while. When “Call Me Baby” came out I was expecting to ignore it, but these assholes lured me back in with their ‘90s boyband trash siren song.

“Call Me Baby” hearkens to the 90s boyband fan in all of us, except for Exo-L who were too young to experience such enlightenment, but hey, at least Exo is bringing it to a new generation. The song’s sound and visuals are pure 90s BSB/NSYNC. Some Exo-L have been complaining that the MV was “cheap looking” (I guess Ferraris are mid-priced grocery getters) and wasn’t full of epicness as hinted at in the teasers (which launched more fan theories than an episode of Lost). But like… are you people really expecting a 90s-esque bop adapted from a demo called “Call Me Daddy” to have some sweeping epic “Mama”-esque music video? It’s like expecting Rob Schneider to star in an Oscar-baiting fantasy epic.

“Call Me Baby” has exactly the kind of music video it should have, and I’ma dissect this glorious tackiness for y’all. I’m using the M version of the MV, for no better reason than I’m lazy and only want to recap one version, and I am also M-biased.

We open with Tao driving a red Ferrari and then lounging on the hood as if to say “open for business.”

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Insert innuendo about popping his hood here.

 

He sings for a while and treats us to some lovely flexing and ‘pit shots. Is this a music video or some fetish porn? I’m confused.

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We pan up to the backseat of the car and suddenly a bunch of greasy whack-a-moles in leather pop up.

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Again, are we sure this isn’t fetish porn?

I’m mildly disappointed Xiumin didn’t slither over the windshield and crawl across the hood of the car while eye-fucking the camera. It just seemed like the natural thing to do.

More auto porn (is this recap going to set a record for most uses of the word “porn?”) and Chen shows us some leg. Kai also appears to have submerged his head in a can of Crisco prior to filming this music video while Chen is rocking that ’80s-style home perm action. Coordis, you got the wrong decade.

shit, I wish the waiting room was filled with these guys last time I was getting my car fixed

shit, I wish the waiting room was filled with these guys last time I was getting my car fixed

I just thought this was a funny cap

I just thought this was a funny cap

The following dance sequence makes copious use of the 360° camera work because SM, like fandom, are masters at the fine art of running things into the ground. There are already murmurs in Exo fandom of “Growl” being Exo’s “Sorry Sorry” (in the sense that all their songs will be “Growl” knockoffs for the next few years), but while the filming technique of this MV is similar, this song’s sound is very different.

I’m enjoying the choreography of “Call Me Baby” a lot, and it’s definitely more similar to “Growl” than their other title tracks. Frankly, I grow weary of Tony Testa’s choreo (he did “Wolf” and “Overdose”) as I’m starting to find it too theatrical and literal. That sort of thing would be great for performance art or some other Cirque Du Soleil realness, but it’s not very practical for K-pop acts. Sure, the “Wolf” tree looked really cool and… OK, the Overdose cheerleader formation was just goofy, but still needlessly complex and hazardous. These sorts of stunts are better left to professional dancers than K-pop idols, who are also tasked with singing live (cue irony of me mentioning this in an Exo post) and who should preferably remain uninjured while navigating jam-packed schedules (the Exo fandom has most definitely been there, wanked that when it comes to the group’s schedule and their injuries). I can’t be certain if the strenuous choreography is the only reason Exo rarely sings live, but it sure doesn’t help their cause.

Anyway, the “Call Me Baby” choreo is classic boy band fare, playful and fun, cool-looking but not overly extreme. Not that this guarantees they’ll actually sing live for once, but it remains to be seen, and a girl can dream.

I can hear the fangirl screams already

I can hear the fangirl screams already

I just like this because it reminds me of girl group choreo

I just like this because it reminds me of girl group choreo

Can I take this moment to talk about how Suho is reminding me more and more of someone’s middle-aged Dad trying to relive his youth by cosplaying Fonzie?

"Duuude, has your Dad been hitting the Jaeger while watching Nick at Nite again?"

“Duuude, has your Dad been hitting the Jaeger while watching Nick at Nite again?”

Also, gotta love how Kai commits to those hip thrusts.

Oh, no, the box returns!
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Suho, please stop.
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There’s some weird disembodied female voice saying “baby” during the rap that is kind of disconcerting, but the rest is k-pop rap break fun (Tao and Xiumin, you’re so hardcore). The final dance sequence introduces us to some truly… interesting outfits and styling.

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Then everything inexplicably goes black and white, possibly out of mercy on our eyes over those outfits.

Overall, it’s a fun video, beautifully tacky and ridiculous, a.k.a. everything I love about K-pop. My only real gripe (aside from Suho embarrassing himself, but even that is entertaining to me) is that in video so heavily featuring fancy cars, we didn’t get a car-washing scene like the one in Girl’s Day’s “Darling” music video. I mean, what a golden opportunity! The creative team could’ve ditched the box scenes and shown the Exo members spraying each other with water as cameras panned slowly over their legs/butts and lingered on wet t-shirts clinging to pecs and abs. Clearly, I need to be directing these videos.

exodarling

We could’ve had it allllllllll

 

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