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Playlist: A look back at EXO’s solo and subunit tracks

By Yim Hyun-su

  • Published : Jul 23, 2019 - 10:12
  • Updated : Jul 23, 2019 - 10:12

In celebration of Sehun and Chanyeol’s ‘What a life’ release this week, we look on some of the best solo & unit tracks from EXO members

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EXO has always been multi-faceted, what with the number of units and solo projects. Dating all the way back to its creation -- EXO-K and EXO-M, singing in Korean and Mandarin, respectively -- the group has also had sub-units EXO-CBX and EXO-SC.

Each member has released a solo track or taken part in another artist’s work while three members, Lay, Chen and Baekhyun, have released their own albums.

Here are some of best of EXO’s unit and solo work.

1. “What a life” -- Sehun & Chanyeol (EXO-SC)



“What a life,” one of the lead tracks from the duo’s first album, marks the beginning of Sehun and Chanyeol as EXO-SC which was formed in #EXOMonth.

Chanyeol says the song is about themselves. “It’s about us. Lyrically, it projects our own thoughts, daily lives and ideal lifestyle, as we always try to work hard and play hard,” he said.

Sehun said, “Lee Soo-man -- Chairman of SM -- actually invited us to a meeting for our album and told us that he loved ‘What a Life,’ saying that it really befits our personality is so funny and interesting.” Laden with playful beats, the Lee Soo-man-approved rhythmic dance tune is a fun take on life.

2. “UN Village” -- Baekhyun



Baekhyun is the latest member to release solo work. The lead track “UN Village” is an R&B tune based on the posh neighborhood of the same name in central Seoul, one of the most popular dating spots in the city.

During the showcase for his debut EP “City Lights” earlier this month, the singer shared how much he wanted to release solo music.
“I’ve been asking my company about my solo debut since the end of last year. It took me longer than I’d thought as I couldn’t decide on a lead track,” he said.

3. “That’s okay” -- D.O.



D.O., went for the acoustic sound with his solo track “That’s okay.” The single was released on the same day as he joined the military, leaving fans with something to remember him by during his service.

Written by D.O. himself in part, the string-tinged laid-back song looks back on life with raw yet encouraging lyrics. An Instagram post on EXO’s account featuring all the nine bandmates together before seeing off D.O was an emotional moment for many fans, racking up more than 1.6 million likes.

4. “Beautiful Goodbye” -- Chen



The lead single off Chen’s first mini album “April, and a flower” is a calming ballad number laden with sentimental piano riffs. Chen’s skillfully controlled voice breathes life into the lyrics about a breakup.

Though his solo stint was a success, topping local streaming charts, Chen was not overtly confident about it at first.

“I needed a lot of courage to release my solo EP, as I wanted it to be perfect and I knew that I wasn’t good enough. There were so many other talented musicians, and I wanted my first solo EP to be perfect,” He said during the showcase for the album.

5. “NAMANANA” -- Lay



Lay went fully tropical with “Namanana,” a dance pop tune packed with popping moombahton beats and brass riffs. The 2018 single was the lead track from Lay’s third solo effort, as well as on his US debut album of the same title, which was released as a double record.

Lay took part in the making of the song alongside a team of songwriters Andrew Bazzi, Mike Woods, Kevin White and MZMC. The accompanying video featuring his powerful dance moves against various setting including a pink sand beach is a must watch.

6. “Hey Mama” -- Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin (EXO-CBX)



“Hey Mama” was the first release by EXO-CBX, a trio consisting of Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin that was EXO’s very first sub-unit. Their first album of the same title went on to sell over 260,000 copies in Korea, becoming one of the bestselling records of 2016.

The song written by a team of writers including Hyuk Shin, who also produced alongside MRey features Baekhyun’s rap.
Other tracks in their debut EP also went on to perform well on the streaming and download charts.

7. “Dinner” -- Suho, Jane Jang



Suho teamed up with singer-songwriter Jane Jang for “Dinner.” The psychedelic R&B duet was released as the 48th SM STATION track with the lyrics written by themselves.

The music video sees the two sitting at a dinner table in a dimly lit room, creating an honest visual interpretation of the song. The two also released another single together “Do you have a moment” in 2018.

8. “SSFW” -- Chanyeol



Chanyeol sings about romance through four seasons in SSFW, which stands for spring, summer, fall and winter.

One lyric goes, “Come find me like the four seasons,” as the upbeat ballad number builds up before the chorus comes with his husky yet smooth voice. The single, which sees the rapper and singer focus on straight singing, was released alongside Chinese and Japanese versions in April 2019.

9. “Pretty Boy” -- Taemin featuring Kai



Though not an EXO release, Kai was featured in Taemin’s 2014 song “Pretty Boy” from his first mini album “ACE.”
The song was produced by Caesar & Loui while the lyrics were written by Jonghyun from SHINee. Kai’ rap throws in a layer of sass to the upbeat dance tune.

The song talks about the facade of a pretty boy who might not be as innocent and naive as he might look on the outside with a few surprising secrets up his sleeves.

10. “You” -- Xiumin



Released as part of “SM Station 3,” a digital music channel that releases new tracks from S.M. artists on a regular basis, the melodic tune was written and arranged by songwriter MonoTree.

Complementing Xiumin’s smooth yet powerful singing voice, the string-heavy love ballad conjures up images of romance with its heartwarming melodies.

The song was released just days after he enlisted in the military, prompting fans to leave comments on streaming sites that they would wait for him.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)