Not sure if you’ve heard of them, but EXILE is the new cool group I recently discovered.

It all started with Great Teacher Onizuka (the 2013 remake). My mother was quite fascinated by it, so when I saw that GTO Season 2 (2014) is coming out soon, I told her immediately. She was also quite fascinated by the actor of the male lead, who turned out to be Akira from EXILE (in the remake, that is; the original GTO had a totally different actor). Now I’ve heard of EXILE — seen them on Oricon charts and winning awards and such, but I never bothered to find out what they were. I mean, it sounds like the name of some cheesy boy band, maybe visual kei, doesn’t it? But since my mother swore the actor of Onizuka was pretty good, so I must see his singing prowess as well. So I checked out some videos of EXILE.

Akira doesn’t sing.

Oh well, he must be a bassist then, right? Onizuka was such a rugged character, and rugged people tend to be the bassists.

Well no, he doesn’t play an instrument either.

So what does he do in this frigging band? Well, I never said EXILE was a band.

EXILE is a dance group. I believe some of you may have heard of Flower, the many-women girl group who sang Forget-Me-Not ~Wasurenagusa~, the ending song of Gundam Age. If you haven’t heard of them, please go check them out because that song is great. More importantly, these women dance in the video. Now many women dancing would probably remind you of K-pop, and I wouldn’t blame you for that. EXILE is literally the male version of Flower (though EXILE came first, so it’s the other way around), but you would be really wrong to think they even remotely resemble male K-pop groups in any way.

First of all, EXILE is made up of 14 members. 2 of them sing exclusively, and the other 12 dance exclusively. So it’s not the case of K-pop where somehow the people can sing and dance at the same time (or should we say the autotuned recording is the one doing the singing? Heh). And the people in there are not artificially-beautified pretty boys, making gestures resembling some kind of exercise workout either. These guys in EXILE are pros. It’s like watching Step Up, without all the cheesy adolescence. You know these guys dance for a living.

That, and the men are relievingly not-pretty. They don’t look alike, for one. In fact, all of them look possibly middle-aged, so you would be inclined to call them “men” rather than “boys”. There’re the slightly thinner, younger ones, and the older, gruffer-looking ones. The leader of the group is quite evident — he takes centre stage during the dancing, and thankfully is pretty recognisable, looking rather like a silent gangster who stands up for the weak, that kind of image.

Aside from the mind-blowing dancing, the singing’s pretty good. I have a soft spot for 1 of the singers, who looks kinda young-ish (but not Mao kind of young, still) and has dimples. Awww. And the other guy follows Kohshi’s style (Kohshi from Flow, meaning sunglasses). Not only is the singing good, but EXILE’s videos have big budgets. They have wonderfully impressive backdrops to dance in, and their costumes are tastefully designed. Basically EXILE videos are a visual spectacle.

EXILE is not the kind of group whose songs you would put in your MP3, unless you want to dance to them. You would always want video accompaniment. Also, probably due to the dancing, their songs tend to be on the long side (5-6 minutes). But yes, I’m happy for them that they’ve shown that not being pretty boys doesn’t mean they can’t become famous, through hard work and talent.

Curious now as to what they’re like? I’ve thoughtfully provided a list of videos you should catch!

1. http://www.jpopasia.com/group/exile/videos/exile-pride-konna-sekai-wo-aisurutame::33056.html

This is my favourite video of the lot. It has everything I described above, and very well done.

2. http://www.jpopasia.com/group/exile/videos/no-limit::37472.html

This is a more generic video, but still has great effects.

3. http://www.jpopasia.com/group/exile/videos/flower-song::34914.html

Not much dancing at all. This song emphasises the singing, and lots of Manly Looks to be had.

4. http://www.jpopasia.com/group/exile/videos/performers-pride::38440.html

On the contrary, this video is all dancing. No singing at all, but this is American street dancing at its finest.



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