13 April 2016 @ 11:49 pm
EXO PLANET #2: The EXO'luXion in New York (Fan Account -- Setlist Analysis)  






LAMEASS PRE-GAME      ►     CONCERT      ►     SETLIST ANALYSIS     ►     SAPPY THOUGHTS






SETLIST ANALYSIS


I have always been thoroughly impressed by SM's production values for EXO's activities, whether it be through music videos, promotional photoshoots, or group styling. They don't recycle classically K-pop boyband concepts, but instead, push the envelope and set trends. And the result is always well thought-out and produced. I can always count on a level of sophistication and quality.

I had high expectations going into the concert, but I was completely blown away by how well-made it was. It was very skillfully planned out with both a tremendous amount of artistic and entertainment value. The concert felt alive--not just because of the fans and members present, but because of the masterful way the songs were laid out. The setlist wasn't just a showcase of songs arranged in a mechanical to-do list. The entire three-hour performance was treated as a cohesive piece of work. The concert was pulsing and carried the audience along a journey.



If I were part of the concert directing crew that constructed this list, this entry would be my thought process. (And yes, I already know I'm reading too deeply into this, like wracking your brain for enough bs to pad a 10-page English paper on a four-line poem.)

I've attempted to gauge how they planned the concert to play out in terms of playing with the audience emotions and energy level to create dynamism. My blueprint below is undulating as the concert unfolds. The constant buildup and release keeps the audience going in suspense. Generally, speaking there is always one hit song anchoring each cycle. It is a small treat for the concertgoers' patience, baiting them to repeat the behavior again for the next set of songs. It's really the anticipation that generates the energy that EXO and fans feed off of to create the unforgettable atmosphere.


prj



The concert was a large, overarching musical piece made up of smaller ones in diverse mediums (videos, speaking, and singing/dancing). I view the setlist in a very crude sonata form with an (introduction (Opening),) exposition (Section 1), development (Sections 2-8), recapitulation (Sections 7), and coda (Section 8). It teases you in with the familiar, keeps you there to settle down and appreciate the depth, rewards you with the powerhouse, and sends you off with the new.


blocks

Section 1: The concert kicks off with the recognizable, grungy, aggressive, dissonant music and heavy beat that is typical of so many boy bands' repertoire. It's smart that they started with Overdose since it was the next heavily promoted song following Growl, which shot them to fame. I bet most people in the audience started following EXO after Growl, so this song would have been the first one where the fans were there to experience the entire comeback promotions period. The other two songs not only also fit the theme, but also help to remind us of where they've come from.There's not much playing with emotions at this point because they can count on building off the initial tension from the opening and their spectacular reveal.


Section 2: After giving us a taste of the expected, the type of music that every boy band is capable of, they invite us to sample something different and we dive into something softer but there are still some traces of angst that carry through. The tempo slows down through this set and the following, to help us catch our breath and create contrast for the exciting Set 4. Don't Go is an unexpected and interesting choice for a transition song from Set 1 in that it is in a major key compared to the previous minor ones, but I think it's more effective when considering it's off the back of Ment #1. After seeing the boys for the first time, we want to followup with something pretty and harmonious, right? Starting with Playboy, we start going into a deeper, darker mood. And to prevent this entire section from slowing to a halt, I figure My Answer is used as the peak of this set, to relieve some of the accumulated energy.

Honestly, this section's was a bit confusing for me in terms of logical ordering because it felt like a mismash of various types of songs. I could argue that the latter two are individual performances from Kai/Sehun and Baekhyun/DO/Suho, but I'm not sure about the first two--just very handsy dancing?


Section 3: This gets to the darkest section of the concert, not only in the music and choreography, but in the stage set-up with the metal platforms and their black and crimson suits. The concert enters a phase of almost-sexy, but not quite there. You feel it, but there's nothing you can point to exactly to say it's a blatant device used to create that effect. Everything there exudes it, hints at it, and I think it is so much sexier this way.

Because there's no "hit" song within the three, I'm still trying to decide if it's more of a continuation of Section 2 or a lead up to Section 4. It is related to Section 2 musically, but it can also be used to set that contrasting mood for Section 4 to hit with greatest impact. Maybe it's both.


Section 4: Following the near-hibernation state of the previous songs, the upbeat songs in this section were much welcomed and released all the energy mounting since the end of Section 1. The audience is rejuvenated by the tempo and the boys' jumping and smiling faces and throws themselves into playing along with them, creating a carefree, joyous mood. This is a warm-up for what is to come later. For me personally, it is yet another reminder of an era long ago, when they were still babies.

In terms of the sonata form, though still in the development part, there are small rifts of the main "theme" (EXO's trademark songs aka starting with Growl and the ones following), to give a taste of what's to come and help create cohesion when the concert circles back to it again. It doesn't exactly mirror any of those mainstream songs, but contains the same in-containable energy that propels Call Me Baby and Love Me Right. They were also all released in the same album as Growl.


Section 5: People are not Energizer bunnies, so this set of songs allows us to calm down and rest a bit. They want to ensure we are fully recovered so we can let it all out for Section 6. The first two songs are even more draggy than in Section 3, where at least sex was driving some of the energy. Miracles in December swoops in to save the day for this section because otherwise the momentum might have dropped to zero. The audience is also getting bored after two songs of the same slow tempo, so MiD is greeted with especially loud cheers, as it's finally a song that everyone is familiar with and can sing along to. It probably wouldn't have been received as warmly if it had been placed alongside other more upbeat songs, so this slow burn and sudden release was very effective for the piece.


Section 6: The calm, leisurely mood of previous songs collects the energy of the audience and yearning for release and ensures that they are willing to embrace the next set of party songs. All the songs in this series, with the exception of Machine (still questioning the placement of this song...feels like it should've been in Section 3), had been remixed to share and build off of common elements. This helped create and elevate tension and and made the final climax in Run especially effective since there was a familiar pattern everyone could anchor themselves to.

The rap in Full Moon helps set the hip hop, clubby tone of the section and gently eases everyone into the more lively mood. (Skipping Machine, which feels like a buffer to me.) Next, building off the more upbeat tone, Drop That introduces the all-important underlying dubstep bass notes and also incorporates pieces of rap. The tension mounts as the song is performed because the fans recognize the rap from before and know/feel pieces of the two songs accumulating. Let Out the Beast, completely exploits their energy from before by maxing out the dubstep and transforming it into a rave with laser lights that sends everyone to euphoria. However, the songs itself is club music that no one can sing to, so the audience can only perform two basic functions--scream and jump, which are not dependent on this being an EXO song. So as the last step, Run, puts all that together the pieces--the beat and energy first set from rap, the doozy dubstep bass notes, and finally a song that people can sing to. This way, the same kind of energy from before can be projected onto music that is related to EXO so the fans feel a more meaningful connection with the band at the final climax.

In my opinion, this section was most cleverly put together. It was logical and beautifully executed, each one transforming and growing from the previous song.


Section 7: Building off the incredible hype from before, these pieces push the audience one notch higher by finally giving them what they've been waiting for this entire time--their three hit songs. At this point, people are running on highs and it ensures that the songs are received at a booming, otherworldly level. There is no need for a climax to direct and concentrate energy because everyone (including the boys!) is going all out on their own like a racecar without brakes. And through the process, everyone slowly starts to come together as a group of united fans, after having experienced such a beautiful high and release together.

This is the recapitulation, the highlight of the larger concert composition, which are EXO's most famous songs. It's what the entire set list has been leading up to. It's the main event.


Section 8: This is the last section of the concert, the wind-down and send-off. The VCR plays to buy people time to recollect and actually breathe. But the content, centers the fans and reminds them of their bond with EXO. It teases out their emotions and reminds them of their love, which plays perfectly into Sing For You. Now with hearts opened, everyone naturally sings together and the venue comes together as one with EXO. This builds into a cohesive audience now receiving the boys for their final lengthy ment, and it's overflowing with love and support at a level never felt before. The concert ends with a calmer but still upbeat song to help unravel the energy. EXO bids farewell to the fans and brings them down to earth with two of their most recent songs to remind them how their music has evolved and connect them back to present day.




I really appreciated how nicely and evenly spaced out the Ments and VCRs were. Clearly the organizers sat through and reviewed the set list multiple times to decide on the optimal break points, to build up exactly enough energy to work off of. Not too often which would disrupt the flow but not too sparse where the energy would frustrate and dissipate. Overall, they were very clever in toying with our emotions and teasing us with suspense. Apart from the excitement created by the setlist alone, the sets and props were also very effective (ex: paper panel stripping is a no-brainer hit). I especially enjoyed the arrangements in the Opening and Party section. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about production values for the concert!





And just for kicks, since this is an account of MY experience, you can see how far I was from a normal person's experience, measured against this scientific "projected energy level" benchmark that I very arbitrarily made up.

prj vs. exp






LAMEASS PRE-GAME      ►     CONCERT      ►     SETLIST ANALYSIS     ►     SAPPY THOUGHTS




webstatistics
 
 
( Post a new comment )
[identity profile] xiuxiux.livejournal.com on April 17th, 2016 07:54 pm (UTC)
section 5:
ah okay. i know people who vilify this bit, where poor valiant suho has to address the awkward obvious that EXO sang about christmas from spring 2015 well into spring 2016, through tropical humidity to punishing desert aridity in open-air stadiums. i appreciate how this part gives me a break because i'm usually exhausted even with what's coming. but it does remind me of something a friend said. she's not an EXO fan, so she asked me how on earth EXO has managed 2 solo concert tours when they have "no discography". that was hyperbole of course, but i do agree that EXO got started on the solo concert trajectory early, relative to their body of work. hell, they even started touring with new songs before they could officially drop an album. many artists go through entire careers without ever doing large chunks of their discography in concert. so perhaps christmas had to be in there or too big a proportion of EXO's music would be missing? i've also wondered if shim jaewon just likes christmas day SOOOO MUCH that it engendered the entire anachronistic theme. first snow and miracles in december, to me, could be repurposed separately into non-christmas settings. as much as i like MID, i don't think it really justifies enforcing year-round christmas for a build-up. in fact, i think they were going for a big drop in energy before unleashing the fire that's in the next section.

section 6:
to me, this whole section is just one big shim jaewon remixing masterpiece. as a huge fan of his mixcloud account (psa: mixcloud.com/realperformer) and remixes in general, i ADORE ADORE ADORE what he did. the lost planet spaced out the rearrangements: mama, black pearl, love love love whereas exoluxion just packed everything into a continuous raaaaaaave. there are soooo many little tricks and easter eggs and eargasmic cuts and segues...i think the transition from lotb into run is my favorite. followed by the one into machine. where he slowly cranks up the bpm with the 꼭 알아내겠어 ostinato and it kinda starts with a bass-drum breakdown version of machine and he added these new high rock synth sounds that prep you for the power riffing in drop that. UNGH SO GOOD. i took too long writing this paragraph because i had to go listen to it again.

section 7:
off the chain. just that i'm a huge fan of wolf so i will always bemoan that they took it out towards the end of the tour.

section 8:
so the "sending us off with the new" really only started in 2016. sing for you and unfair were added post the christmas album release. majority of the tour, the set list ended with promise and angel, which is DECIDEDLY more heartwrenching and nostalgic and shoots the energy way up into openly-sobbing-in-public territory where you're utterly spent and dangerously dehydrated after. but it's pretty clear the boys were pretty thirsty for a change after overdoing this whole set and i liked that. i'm not the biggest fan of doing the whole weepy promise sh-bang over and over. because SAY NO TO BAEKTEARS. but imagine it for a moment - the high off sections 6 and 7 into the emotional vomitus of 약속...고마워 미안해 사랑해. infinite ㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠ

your last chart is AMAZEBALLS. baby i only do that shit for my earnings estimates!!!

love you.
[identity profile] bhaniere.livejournal.com on April 29th, 2016 04:24 am (UTC)
Section 5:
EXO got started on the solo concert trajectory early, relative to their body of work. hell, they even started touring with new songs before they could officially drop an album.

This is such an amazing insight…and I completely agree. MY criticism of the concert is that they’ve been touring for far too long. The boys are in a band to produce new music, and when they’re on the road for such a long time, it detracts from their time to rehearse and contribute to the album and their personal development in a healthy way. But then again, the ones behind EXO are running this show like a well-oiled machine and they boys are only there as pretty faces who can execute.

Since they’re supposedly members of a musical group, I would like for them to be actually have some kind of influence on what gets incorporated into an album. You know, do things that you would think musicians would do—compose, scribe lyrics, arrange, design album/campaign concept, and even choreograph. Because after all, whatever is produced will be the music that represents EXO’s legacy and it would wonderful for the boys to have some say in what that would be. I know some of them are so musically talented and the band is already so successful, so I really don’t think it would hurt too much to incorporate one or two songs from the members. It can be scrappy compared to the other synth-ed and percussive music, but I want to see their vision. I want their individuality to be expressed. Because fuck, they’re musicians and the only thing I’ve heard is from Lay but he has the China card which is a different story.


Apart from the concert just sapping up their time and energy (and health), it’s becoming more and more obvious that this is just a very, very, very expensive marketing campaign. Especially, when they perform at a city for multiple days with the same music, as if waiting for giving every last person a chance to come, even the average fan or the curious civilian who’s heard literally everyone talk about this EXO band so maybe they’ll go check what the fuss is all about. Most surprising is holding multiple days in cities with a relatively small population. (Or maybe EXO really is that saturated in Asia and I just don’t know.) They’re touring as if they want everyone in the fucking world to see them. It’s not the music that’s selling tickets. It’s the EXO brand name.

I’d like to think that concerts are a way for artists to give back to the fans for their love and support but I can’t help but see just this concert as a major footprint expansion strategy. Even if there are empty seats in the arena, even if they are egregiously overestimating demand, even if some concerts are held at a loss, they still happen. If this all fits into SM's larger plan, then who am I to say no?


as much as i like MID, i don't think it really justifies enforcing year-round christmas for a build-up. in fact, i think they were going for a big drop in energy before unleashing the fire that's in the next section.
I completely agree. Frankly, apart from MiD, I don't really the other songs and MiD could very easily slot into a slower section with a mix of other songs like What If and Sing for You. What If was totally shafted from this concert because can you imagine them performing that in the dark vampy mood of Section 3? FUCKKKK (Okay, now I want to write up my hypothetical EXO set-list, but ugh so much planning and writing...fuckkkkk STOP ME PLEASE).


Section 6:
I absolutely love that you noticed all the musical details as well, and you've definitely caught more details than I have! It's so nice reading your words and reminding me of all those beautiful transitions. After reading your comments, I, too, went back and rewatched it, but I closed it out each time as soon as it reached Run because of all the memories from the confetti explosion, which would make me cry again. I would absolutely love more remix pieces in the concert or as a song in a full or mini-album. When they work, they're absolutely eargasmic. And it so so soooo worked in this section.
[identity profile] bhaniere.livejournal.com on April 29th, 2016 04:24 am (UTC)
Section 7:
CHOGIWAAAAAA

Yes, I missed Wolf. I thought if they weren't going to perform it in the opening setlist, it'd be in this one. The song is so dissonant and weird as fuck but it's totally EXO's weird as fuck thing, and I neeeeed to see all those crazy anthropomorphism live. Also that crazy beautiful tree that sways with the beat. They should do more choreography that plays with formation shadows and shapes. They make an amazing entrance!


Section 8:
I am so disappointed that they didn't perform Angel in New York. It's my favorite song from EXO and it's so different and ethereal and hearing Baek sing it live is at the very, very top of my EXO bucket list (yes, even higher than hearing his high notes in El Dorado) because this is what Baek feels like to me. Just something so precious and fragile and otherworldy, you just stop and stare and forget to breathe. His voice, too, brings to a song to another, more more interesting level.

I can't imagine what it would have felt like with the original lineup of Promise and Angel, but I do know that I would have been a sobbing mess. It would have been amazing to have a good communal cathartic cry in front of EXO, regardless of the pain hitting us. I experienced so many feelings during the concert, but I didn't cry, and am pretty sure those last two songs would have been the final kick to boot me over the edge. The concert brought me through a whole range of emotions, but adding crying in there would have completed the entire spectrum from the highest highs to the lowest lows and what a beautiful accomplishment that would have been to experience all at my virgin EXO concert.

I swear someone from the team must have been an avid EXO fan to know exactly what heartstrings to pull when as to leave us most vulnerable and unsuspecting to deliver the swift punch to the gut. This manipulation of emotions and expectations not only worked great in this section, but also for the entire concert.



Finally, I can't thank you enough for actually reading through all my so-called analysis because I am so beginner at this (after all, I've just been inaugurated aka attended a concert), and I'm assuming that if I think long and hard enough about things, there will be an epiphany and I will know everything philosophically about EXO. But you are at yoda-level and it feels like you already know all-things-EXO, and I'm trying to tell an encyclopedia about an entry in itself.

But you still write all those thoughtful comments---agreeing, disagreeing, and questioning everything I write. It really makes writing up this tome so completely worth it, and I learned so much about not only EXO but also you from your embedded insights and perspectives.

And lastly and most importantly,










I love you.

Edited 2016-04-30 11:36 am (UTC)