Whether or not you agree with SM calling it the first Exo sub-unit (Exo-M and -K who now?), the creation of Exo-CBX is something that has piqued much interest among both the Exo-L fandom and K-pop fans at large. The trio of Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin were first introduced to through an Exo concert VCR, in which the ‘Reservoir Idols’ revel in slapstick humour (and harass Suho) to the tune of “The One,” which is available on the sub-unit’s mini album Hey Mama.
Needless to say, I adore that video for “The One,” and was hoping for more silliness from the trio’s official debut single, “Hey Mama.” While the MV isn’t focused on comedy, though, the fun spirit remains. Fitting in with the ’70s vibe of “Hey Mama,” the MV aesthetic is deliciously retro. This actually reminds me of “Lucky One” in the best way possible, both musically and visually; so if you liked “Lucky One,” then I think “Hey Mama” will be right up your alley.
Plot-wise, there isn’t as much to unpack as with previous Exo MVs, like the aforementioned “Lucky One,” “Lotto,” and “Monster.” Baekhyun is a revolutionary, researching and planning in the moonlight, while Chen and Xiumin are beareucrats slaving away underground in what looks like Hitler’s bunker. However, they soon join Baekhyun and other like-minded individuals to take over a TV station, successfully hijacking the broadcast to spread their own message.
We see each member deal with the same situation in different ways, before uniting: Baekhyun rejects the status quo outright; Chen deals by shutting down emotionally; and Xiumin expresses his frustration through the mild violence of throwing office supplies around, and pounding on his computer keyboard. It also should be noted that Xiumin is the aesthetic king of this MV, serving looks in every frame — but I digress.
An important aspect of the MV is the use of red and pink to signify the status quo and change, respectively. At the start of the MV, we see Chen and Xiumin working with sheets of red paper, and there was red liquid in the glasses of the people watching the TV. Meanwhile, Baekhyun is surrounded by pink roses, the petals of which he uses to get Chen and Xiumin’s attention. Xiumin’s desk drawer also contains pink roses, hinting at the possibility, even desire, for change held inside him. The burning of those roses during the second chorus could also signify how Chen’s inner passion has been burned up by his work.
Finally, the bottles the revolutionaries throw during their takeover are reminiscent of molotov cocktails; but they are actually vases holding the pink flowers and filled with pink paint. That’s what you see splattering the TV station’s world map as the vases are thrown and smashed against the wall, which is then followed by
an impromptu Holi celebration clouds of more colours erupting in the studio (this explains the trio’s appearance in the sub-unit announcement video).
When you think of guerilla tactics like what is presented in the MV, there is an undercurrent of violence, which is deemed necessary in order to fulfill the revolutionary’s ideals; however, “Hey Mama” turns that notion on its head. The aim of Baekhyun and company is in fact love and peace itself, which is denoted by the soft pink, as well as the rejection of the bold and violent red. It goes beyond the lyrics — which read like a booty call — to establish a message of making love instead of war. This message is further highlighted by justaposing the flowers with guns at Baekhyun’s hideout, and with the inclusion of a blossoming romance for Chen.
This positive vibe matches the song perfectly, with its groovy electric guitar riff, hyped-up breakdown, and the beautiful “woo-ooh”s that are going to be stuck in your head for days. It’s so great to hear Xiumin sing more, that I’m willing to overlook the second verse rap. And I am definitely looking forward to the live performances, mainly for the en masse dabbing and callback to “Wolf” choreography, as well as Chen’s high notes.
All in all, the fun-loving spirit of Exo-CBX is successfully conveyed though its fusion with a straightforward narrative and upbeat tune, making “Hey Mama” an enjoyable MV.
Readers, what are your thoughts on the Exo-CBX’s debut effort? Do you have any of your own theories on the MV? Let us know what you think in the comments below!