20140219_seoulbeats_2ne1_snsdLast year, we witnessed a battle of the girl groups when 2NE1 and SNSD both made much anticipated comebacks. This year, we face a similar battle as Big Bang and Exo both begin promotions.

There are many factors playing into this situation: who’s been on hiatus longer, who’s had more scandals, who’s fanbase is more fanatic. We also have to take into account the other groups promoting, such as Shinee, that may skew the results.

Our question this week is: What do you expect Exo and Big Bang to bring to this versus battle? Which side are you rooting for? Predictions?

Lo: Alright, I’m actually going to jump in on this. Normally, I tune out X vs Y — I prefer the clarity of hindsight, and I suck at them — but not this time. Exo is going down hard, and I shall be waiting with popcorn.

Exo’s biggest problem is that, more and more, they make materials for Exo-L’s only. Exo Next Door, the Pathcode teasers, and Love Me Right are all targeted specifically at their existing fanbase. That’s not an issue by itself, but when most of your output is aimed at existing fans, how do you expect to attract new ones?

Big Bang, on the other hand, are lords of casual fans. They have their fanbase — VIP right here, hi –, but their music is appealing to fans and non-fans alike, due to quality and variety. “Loser” has the punk-in-pain-vibe, “Bae Bae” is the sex jam, “Bang Bang Bang” will heat up any dance floor, and “We Like 2 Party” is a laid-back song about chilling with friends and getting while the getting’s good. Everyone will like at least one of these songs, regardless of who they stan.

TL;DR: Big Bang shall win, and I shall laugh victoriously.

Andy: I’m with Lo: Big Bang shall win. The only reasons we’re having this conservation is because: 1. Exo and Big Bang are from a Big 3. 2. Media instigation. 3. Some Exo-L and VIPs are crazy. Did we have this type of speculative discussion with Shinee and Big Bang promoting simultaneously? Not really, for whatever reason that may be.

Exo is trending at the moment, so people are paying them more attention than needed. In my opinion, the only way their competing in sales is because SME insists on releasing multiple copies of an album. Meanwhile, Big Bang is just releasing singles, and like Lo stated, they appeal to a wider range of audience, which is why they destroy the charts every time. Neither Exo nor Big Bang released a fantastic song, anyway, so…this is all about the dramatic meltdowns by either side that may follow. There’s such incessant furor surrounding Exo, that I want them to come in second just to quiet it down. I don’t care if it’s Big Bang or Shinee doing the winning, either.

Laverne: What do we even define as winning? Music show wins, chart topping and sales? I’m sure Big Bang will dominate the charts but Exo has sold a million albums in two months. Granted, that’s combined sales of Exodus and Love Me Right but their selling power can’t be denied even if it is due to repackages.

Personally, I’ve been disappointed with Big Bang lately. Their songs have been mediocre to me while Exo’s music has started to draw me in. As a fan of both but a stan of neither, I think Big Bang is succeeding partially due to their status in the K-pop world while Exo is succeeding because of Exo-L. In the end, I’m sure Big Bang will “win” but Exo has begun climbing the chart of my heart so really, who’s the real winner here?

Gaya: It’s interesting that Yang Goon used the showdown method to hype 2NE1’s comeback last year though he hasn’t mentioned any other groups when talking about Big Bang. Just goes to show how much more confident his is in Big Bang’s success than 2NE1’s, which sucks because 2NE1’s Crush had way better music than whatever Big Bang is putting out right now.

Regardless, I predict Big Bang cleaning up with the music show awards, though shows with a heavier weighting to physical sales may work in Exo’s favour. Either way, I think both group’s songs will work better live, so I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the performances. And Shinee infiltrating the ending stage, because I live for that shit.

Cjontai: The reason we’re not comparing Shinee to Big Bang is because of SM overlooking the marketing power of Shinee as well. In fact, it humors me to no end to witness this cat-and-mouse game between YG and SM. Both companies are doing things they normally wouldn’t do for their artists in order to prove their dominance in the field.

Take, for example, the recent Music Bank filming. Guess who decides now is a great time to arrive in a huge bus with the group’s face on it? As much as I snickered at the sight of this spectacle, a part of me also felt bad for Shinee and BoA because none of this marketing was put forth for either of them. It was one thing to overlap their promotions with this repackage, but to blatantly go this far for attention for their junior group is a slap in the face.

On the other hand, while people may not think they need help, YG is showing signs of insecurity too. We’re seeing Big Bang on more variety shows, and they had a live streaming countdown event for this latest release. Usually, YG keeps a tighter hold on his artists than a dog guarding a bone. Now suddenly, we have T.O.P. actually being required to do more than imitate a buoy for choreography. Obviously, YG understood one of Exo’s strengths is their dancing and knew they had to boost that element for a shot at success because basic swagger only goes so far.

Between the desperate marketing tactics by both companies and the tensions in fandoms, it’s almost anyone’s game right now. We could see a repeat of the SNSD/2NE1 showdown in which both groups shared wins and losses. Unfortunately, it seems the biggest losers are not only the fans, since a lot feel disappointed by the songs, but also SM’s other artists because damn if it’s not crystal clear who the favorite child is now.

Chelsea: Honestly, I’m just frustrated by the competitive nature of the comebacks in general — not necessarily on the part of the companies, but more by the fans. To me, Big Bang and Exo are on such opposite ends of the spectrum that I don’t really see their comebacks as a battle of the material they put out, but rather how rabid their fanbase will be in ensuring its success. That being said, Lo is right in that Big Bang has more mass appeal and casual fans, and Andy is also correct that Exo is putting out material generally only for their fans. This round, my bet is with Big Bang. But, if the Made series falls flat, I wouldn’t be surprised if Exo overtakes them in the future.

I also question what “winning” means in this context. For me, it’s both fandoms enjoying the comebacks. Nothing more. Unfortunately, I feel like both fandoms think they have something to prove through music show wins and music chart rankings. I think Laverne said it best, if Big Bang wins it’s because of their status, and if Exo wins, it’s because of Exo-L. Personally, I enjoy “Love Me Right” more than “Bang Bang Bang,” but I’ll still stream the “We Like 2 Party” MV on mute twice a day because it makes me smile. So I guess I’m supporting everyone even though I’m technically Exo-L.

At the end of the day, I’m still bitter about Shinee’s comeback being cut short, and I’d like to see them pull and upset and take all the trophies.

Camiele: My response is a combination of a few of those here. Ultimately this isn’t a “battle of who’s best,” as it were. This is a battle of whose fandom has the most time on their hands, thus who’ll be at every platform they have to vote and do it nonstop. The only real “loser” (no pun intended) in this situation is Shinee. Let’s face it, Exo is SM’s favorite toy now. The release of Shinee’s album, as far as I can tell, was nothing more than another diversionary tactic to hold Exo’s naysayers and stand alike at bay until the boys released another song. Which is unfortunate considering the quality of the album and the anticipation of a Korean release from them after a year and a half. What we get is an actually brilliant K-pop album overshadowed by drama and hype: the fandoms providing the drama, while the music itself is hyped to death when they were really just typical at best.

Big Bang does have a wider draw, but that’s because of their input into their core sound — a sound that actually hasn’t changed much. Exo, or rather SM, is releasing music to please their fans and keep them pacified as more members decide to leave. So really this whole “battle of the combacks” is more or less a sham. Big Bang has released music after a long absence. Whether or not it’s what VIPs wanted, I can’t rightly say. Exo just released another typical single. There’s only a debate because of all the drama surrounding the group. In the end, the only comeback that really made an impact for me was Shinee’s. So this very debate is moot as far as I’m concerned because I really don’t see a real answer to this question.

Morgan: There have been so many clashes recently, like Shinee, and as much as they help the hype of the release, it ultimately takes the focus away from the music. As said, it really just turns into a fan war in the end. These sort of marketing ploys are one of the reasons I have been unable to get into Exo. Exo has always been to me what Super Junior was when I first got into K-pop: too many people in one band that are fighting to stand out. The number of members in a group just serves to increase the hype for a group. That said, the production of K-pop groups is just a marketing technique too, though the people in smaller groups are visible and have more of a chance to show their talent. Exo has always lacked visibility to me, despite the amount of teasers being thrust into our faces. With the exception of one glorious moment in “Call Me Baby” when Baekhyun kills it. I’m just not interested at the moment, but I sure they have the ability to change my mind.

Big Bang was the group that got me into K-pop. With the crazy stylings and, as Lo said, diverse sound, I was a goner. However, I have been quite disappointed with their releases lately. “Loser” was enough to make me continue to listen, but “Bae Bae” and “Bang Bang Bang” just don’t do it for me. However, I have no doubt that they will kill the charts; they have the fan base and the likability.

It is the hype that gets the attention not the song, as Camiele said.

Hania: Everything I wanted to say has been said, although I’ll add my two cents’ worth.

I guess it might not be possible to have a proper winner in this whole thing because of the amount of immaturity and hate that’s spewed out in the process. The recent drama with Mnet ‘sabotaging’ Exo has definitely brought out this ugly side of the fandom and escalated this whole thing into a ‘war’.

Additionally, the groups have different strengths and will excel in different areas when it comes to music shows and end-of-year award shows. In the eyes of critics, Big Bang will reign supreme due to the diverse range of music that they are coming out with, as well as the fact that they’re well-respected industry veterans. When looking at album sales and fan votes, however, Exo will come out on top with their rabid fandom and the bad-yet-useful publicity and hype around them. If I saw a little more risk-taking and innovation from Exo, then I’d root for them more whole-heartedly (although I still am, as I’m a biased Exo-L).

Gaya: But whatever our thoughts, I think I speak for everyone when I say that bomb and death threats are a no no.

Lo: Before K-pop, I always thought things like that were a given. Not anymore.

(Images via SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment. YouTube [1][2][3], Kpop Herald)