Exo (Korean: 엑소; stylized as EXO) is a South Korean-Chinese boy group based in Seoul. Formed by S.M. Entertainment in 2011, the group debuted in 2012 with twelve members separated into two subgroups, EXO-K and EXO-M, performing music in Korean and Mandarin, respectively. EXO rose to fame with the release of their best-selling first album XOXO (2013), which contained the breakthrough hit "Growl". XOXO was a critical and commercial success, winning both Disk Daesang at the 28th Golden Disk Awards and Album of the Year at the 15th Mnet Asian Music Awards. It eventually went on to sell over one million copies, putting EXO as the best-selling Korean artist in twelve years. Their third EP Overdose (2014) made EXO the highest-charting Korean male act on the Billboard 200. EXO were later ranked the most influential celebrity by Forbes Korea for the year 2014. In 2015 EXO broke their previous Billboard record with the release of their second studio album EXODUS, which became the highest charting album for a male K-pop group on the Billboard 200 as well the K-pop album with the highest first week sales. EXODUS's title track "Call Me Baby" also earned the honor of becoming the first and only K-pop track to enter the Canadian HOT 100. EXODUS later went on to sell more than one million copies, earning EXO the title, "double million sellers." Their fourth EP Sing For You (2015) later broke EXODUS's first week sales record by selling 267,900 copies in its first week. In early 2016, EXO was revealed to have again ranked as the most powerful celebrity by Forbes Korea for the year 2015. In May 2014, Kris filed a lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment to be removed from the group. Luhan followed suit in October 2014. In April 2015, Tao suspended his activities and subsequently followed suit in August 2015. Following their departures, EXO carried on with nine members.
In May 2011, at a Hallyu business seminar held at Stanford University, Lee Soo-man spoke about a strategy of debuting a new boyband, in which they would be divided into 2 subgroups, promoting the same music simultaneously in South Korea and China by performing songs in both Korean and Mandarin. After several changes, in December 2011, the group finalized their name to EXO, taken from the word exoplanet. They are divided into two subgroups, EXO-K ('K' for Korean) for South Korea and EXO-M ('M' for Mandarin) for China. They debuted their first televised performance at SBS's annual Gayo Daejun event on December 29, 2011. EXO-K and EXO-M's prologue single "What Is Love" was released on January 30, 2012, in mainland China and South Korea. The single peaked at number 88 on South Korea's Gaon Single Chart. On March 9, the group released their second prologue single "History", which was written and produced by Thomas Troelsen and Remee. The single peaked at number 68 on the Gaon Single Chart and number six on China's Sina Music Chart. A concert for the group was held in Seoul's Olympic Stadium on March 31. Approximately 3,000 fans from 8,000 applicants were selected to attend. A second concert was held in the Great Hall of the Beijing University of International Business and Economics on April 1. EXO-K and EXO-M released their debut single, "Mama", on April 8 followed by an EP Mama, on April 9. The two sub-groups would be promoting the album separately in two countries. On April 8, EXO-K performed on South Korea's music program The Music Trend, while EXO-M made their debut in China's Top Chinese Music Awards on the same day. The mandarin version of Mama reached number two on China's Sina Album Chart, while the Korean album peaked at number one on the Gaon Album Chart and number eight on the Billboard World Albums Chart. The mandarin version of "Mama" music video reached number one on Chinese streaming websites, while the Korean version reached number seven on YouTube's Global Chart. In late April, EXO-M performed as a guest act for Super Junior's Super Show 4 concert tour in Jakarta, Indonesia. In November, EXO won Best New Asian Artist Group at the 2012 Mnet Asian Music Awards. EXO-K received three nominations at the 27th Golden Disk Awards, winning the Newcomer Award. EXO-M received the Most Popular Group Award at the 2013 Top Chinese Music Awards.
The group's first studio album, XOXO was released on June 2013 with two versions, a Korean-language "Kiss" edition and a Mandarin-language "Hug" edition. Unlike Mama era when EXO-K and EXO-M had separate promotions, XOXO was jointly promoted; mainly in South Korea. EXO recorded together for the album's lead single, "Wolf", but the rest of the album tracks were recorded separately. The two versions collectively peaked at number one on the Billboard World Album Chart a week after release. A repackaged version of XOXO, titled Growl, was released on August 5, 2013 with three additional tracks. The reissue's lead single, "Growl", was released on August 1, 2013. "Growl" achieved 10,554 points on The Music Trend charts, setting a new number one record on the show. "Growl" reached number one on all four of Korea's major music programs, winning a total of ten trophies in three consecutive weeks. The single peaked at number three on Billboard's Korea K-Pop Hot 100 and number two on the Gaon's Singles chart. As of December 2013, all versions of XOXO have collectively sold over 1,000,000 copies, making EXO the first Korean artist to sell over a million album copies in twelve years and breaking the record for being the fastest-selling K-pop act. XOXO was named Album of the Year at the 2013 Mnet Asian Music Awards, making EXO the youngest ever boy band to win the award. XOXO is the best selling album in South Korea of 2013, winning the Disk Daesang Award at various award ceremonies like the Golden Disk Awards and Seoul Music Awards. EXO's second EP Miracles in December was officially released December 9, 2013 as a special winter album through South Korean commercial outlets and online music stores. EXO jump-started album promotions through their reality show EXO's Showtime, which premiered on November 28, 2013 on the cable channel MBC Every 1. Baekhyun, Chen, and D.O. performed the EP's lead single, "Miracles in December", at M! Countdown on December 5. Luhan also joined the trio on stage for the lead single's promotions on other music broadcast programs. EXO ended 2013 with six albums in the Gaon's Yearly Top 10 Best-Selling Albums, including all their 2013 album releases in both the Korean and Chinese version as well as their debut EP Mama. EXO's third EP, Overdose, was released on May 7, 2014. Originally scheduled to be released on April 21, the album was delayed due to the Sewol Ferry Accident on April 16. Overdose was promoted similarly to Mama, with EXO-M promoting primarily in China and EXO-K in South Korea. The album reached 660,000+ preorders before its release, making it the most pre-ordered mini-album in history. The Korean edition also peaked at No. 2 on Billboard's World Albums Chart, and No. 129 on the "Billboard 200", making EXO the highest charting Korean male group act on the Billboard 200. Overdose became the best selling album in South Korea of 2014 and was the first mini album to top the yearly charts and win the Album of the Year Award at Mnet Asian Music Awards. By the end of the calendar year, EXO was Japan's biggest-selling K-pop artist of the year. On May 15, 2014, S.M. Entertainment confirmed that EXO-M's leader, Kris, had filed a lawsuit against the agency to terminate his contract, stating violation of human rights as the main reason. On October 10, EXO-M's Luhan also filed a lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment to nullify his contract, because of health issues and being treated differently than the Korean members, therefore having no promotions. S.M Entertainment announced that EXO would continue to promote with 10 members. The group held their first solo concert EXO From. EXOPLANET #1 - THE LOST PLANET starting May 24 at the Seoul Olympic Gymnasium. Tickets for the concert sold out in 1.47 seconds, breaking the record for the fastest selling out of a concert by a Korean artist.
EXO's second solo concert was announced in January 2015 entitled EXO From. EXOPLANET #2 - The EXO'luXion. Five concerts were held in Seoul at the Olympic Park Stadium starting March 7. 1.2 million fans had attempted to buy tickets online. On February 4, 2015, S.M Entertainment filed a counter-suit against Kris and Luhan for illegally continuing their promotions in China. The lawsuit was to stop their acting and advertisement under the use of the S.M trademark. EXO's second studio album, Exodus, was released on March 30, 2015 in both Korean and Mandarin versions. Domestic pre-sales for the album surpassed 500,000 within 24 hours, setting a new record for pre-sales. The title track "Call Me Baby" was released early on March 27, due to leaked versions of the song. The music videos were released 4 days later, with the Korean version later becoming the most wached K-pop music video in the first half of 2015. EXO also starred in their own mini drama series titled EXO Next Door, which became the most watched Korean web drama in 2015 until later being surpassed by member Xiumin's web drama, Falling for Challenge. "Call Me Baby" proved to be successful winning eighteen times on music shows, making it the second most awarded song of all times. The album's Korean version also broke records after staying at number one on the album chart for four consecutive weeks. Exodus eventually went on to sell over a million copies, and is the group's second album after XOXO to do so. It was named Album of the Year at the 2015 Mnet Asian Music Awards, making this the third consecutive win in this category for the group since 2013. On April 22, member Tao's father posted a letter through Weibo expressing his sentiments for his son to withdraw from the group and return to China; due to lack of support concerning individual career developments and health issues. Tao had previously sustained several injuries, including a torn tendon in his ankle, that had not been properly treated, further worsened, and caused him to be absent during promotions for the group's second studio album EXODUS. On April 23, S.M. Entertainment released an official statement saying that they would be "seeking a solution in a developmental direction" by negotiating with Tao and his father. Tao later confirmed that he had left SM Entertainment and after failed negotiations, Tao filed an official lawsuit against SM Entertainment on August 24 for the termination of his exclusive contract. On June 3, a re-release version for Exodus, titled Love Me Right, was released. The repackaged album contained the original tracks from Exodus and four new songs, including title track "Love Me Right". Due to Tao's absence, the group promoted the song as 9 members. After wrapping up promotions in Korea, EXO was reported to be planning their official Japanese debut. They would also be performing in the Tokyo Dome for three consecutive days as part of the EXO'luXion tour. EXO performed for 145,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome from November 6-8, breaking the record for the shortest amount of time since debut to hold a concert at this venue. On November 4, EXO released their debut Japanese single Love Me Right ~romantic universe~, which contains the Japanese version of their Korean title track "Love Me Right" as well as an original Japanese song "Drop That". On the day of its release, EXO sold a total of 147,000 copies, rising to the top of the Oricon Charts and becoming the Korean artist with the all-time best selling debut single in Japan. On November 9, Exo released a special single titled "Lightsaber" to promote the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead of its release in South Korea, as part of the collaboration between S.M. Entertainment and Walt Disney. On November 9, the single was released with a special film . On December 10, EXO released their 2nd winter special album Sing For You along with double title tracks "Sing For You" and "Unfair". Sing For You later broke the record for the highest first week sales for a Korean artist by selling 267,900 copies in its first week. The track "Unfair" also became the first K-pop track to be ranked in the "best of the week" playlist by Apple Music and EXO became the first Korean artist to be featured on the Apple Music homepage. Near the end of 2015, prominent entertainment industry leaders ranked EXO at number 7 in the list of the top ten pop culture leaders of 2015. In February 2016, EXO held the North American leg of the EXO'luXion in Dallas, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York. The same month, EXO were revealed to have again ranked as the most powerful celebrity by Forbes Korea for the year 2015. In June 2016, S.M. Entertainment announced that EXO would be releasing their third studio album, Ex'Act, and promoting two singles, "Monster" and "Lucky One" simultaneously. Early February 2013, EXO began promoting a South Korean clothing brand, Kolon Sport. The band shot a commercial ad for a new pair of sneakers named after them, MOVE-XO. The band has launched a clothing range called Boy Who Cried Wolf (BWCW), partnering up with various Korean street brands. The collaboration store is located at OUTLAB in Garosu-gil, Sinsa-dong. EXO also has a 2-year endorsement deal with cosmetics brand, Nature Republic. EXO are currently the endorsers for various other brands and companies such as SPAO, Baskin Robbins, IVY Club, Pepero, Lotte World, Lotte Duty Free, MCM, Kangshifu Ice Tea, Hats On, and Goobne Chicken. The members of EXO-K became goodwill ambassadors for South Korea's Red Cross Youth in December 2012. Members of EXO and Bae Doona are appointed as official ambassadors for Fashion-KODE 2014 which is host by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Korea and the Korea Active Content Agency Fashion Festival in July 2014. In July 2014, Samsung announced EXO as Samsung’s brand ambassador for 2014 Summer Youth Olympics. In 2015 EXO participated in "Smile for U", a joint SM Entertainment and UNICEF project that aids music educational charitable work for children in Asia. Part of the proceeds of their winter album "Sing for You" were donated to the campaign. Members Kai and Sehun also participated in photo-shoots for the campaign.