EXO-K reveal their tactics for surviving the SM training system
It’s well known to everyone that debuting, let alone being chosen as a trainee, under SM Entertainment is a difficult process. It takes up to seven years of preparation just for your debut, and it’s only after you’ve endured the strenuous training process and harsh competition that you can make it out.
As such, there’s a reason why every new rookie the company debuts is put under such spotlight, which goes the same for their latest, EXO. MK News sat down with the six members of EXO-K to hear firsthand what it was like to survive the competition admist their fellow trainees and finally get a taste of the spotlight.
Leader Suho was able to make his debut after training seven years as a trainee. He’s even had to see his juniors debut before him. He expressed, “I wanted to give up often, but I still worked hard. I think more than anything, keeping my mindset positive helped the most. For seven years, I believed that I could achieve what I worked for, which has led me to where I’m standing today. I was also aided by seniors who’ve debuted before me.”
Chanyeol was cast in his freshman year of high school and trained for four years before his debut. While training, he focused his efforts on making his talents shine. “I knew that I would debut under a team so I tried to show what I was best at. Because I played the drums when I was younger, I felt that I was more rhythmic than my peers. Rapping is also one of my talents, and I was highly confident in my abilities, which I showed. As long as I was better at something than someone, I knew that I could grab that part.”
Sehun‘s tactics were similar to Chanyeol’s, as he was cast in elementary school, went through two years of auditions, and finally started training in his second year of junior high. He went through four final years of training before his debut.
Sehun expressed, “When I was younger, I liked dancing. I believed in myself to do it better than everyone else. Dance, however, isn’t characterized by just copying moves. I realized early on that I had to study world famous choreographers and continue coming up with my own moves to be better than others.”
As for Baekhyun, luck was on his side. He trained for a year before his debut, which makes him the member with the shortest training process. “I was definitely lucky (laughter). When I first came in as a trainee, I felt that there was a huge wall between my skills and the skills of others. There were so many trainees that were handsome, danced well, and sang well. I actually think it was because of that wall that I was able to debut in EXO-K because it instilled a sense of determination in me to jump over that wall and overcome it. I was in a position where I had to work harder than others no matter what.”
Kai‘s been an avid dancer since elementary school, having taken lessons in ballet and jazz before joining SM as a trainee in his second year of junior high school and completing five years of training. “The only thing I had going for me at the time was dancing. Dance was something I enjoyed, not worked hard at. It was fun learning something new besides ballet and it was fun feeling my body learn and adjust to it. I think one of the main reasons I was able to debut in EXO-K was because I thoroughly enjoy what I do as opposed to just work hard at it.”
The group’s vocalist, D.O., also used his singing talent as his strength. D.O. competed in various singing competitions before being cast and undergoing two years of training.
“I felt that I needed to show a unique vocal color of my own. Honestly, there are a lot of people who sing well. Singing a traditional ballad perfectly is basic, so I focused on listening to R&B soul music and adding my own feel to my singing. I wanted my tone to stand out from everyone else.”
Regardless of their survival tactics, all six had to exceed the expectations asked of them by at least 120%, and that’s now an important foundation in shaping their strength as a group.