It’s been 4 months and I’m still not quite over EXO‘s “Obsession.” Despite my bias, Suho, trying to kill me and being three members down, it’s easily my favorite comeback from them. Weeks after, news broke about Chen‘s engagement and his fiancee’s pregnancy. I, like most EXO-Ls, flooded the internet with our well-wishes.
However, it didn’t stop some fans from protesting the group and demanding his removal. While SM Entertainment has announced he’s staying, it’s yet another case of fandom entitlement problems. Now, these weeks later, I hear something more from “Obsession”: a preemptive message to those fans. But I need to ask you something before we get there.
WHAT IS A FAN?
That sounds like a simple question, I know. But in these days of the internet and international media, it needs to be asked again. A fan is simply someone who likes a particular thing. A movie, a show, a song, etc. Granted, over the years, the word gives different images (often negative ones), but at its core, that’s what it is. No amount of gatekeeping idiots change that. Of course, fandom is hardly that simple sometimes.
Lately, we’ve discussed more openly the darker side of fandom, those “fans” who believe because they’ve dedicated so much of their time to an artist or thing, they’re entitled. After all, “fan” is short for “fanatic,” a word often used to describe dangerous and irrational people. They’re obsessed.
“I WANT YOU”
“Obsession” stands out to me. It’s one of EXO’s more aggressive songs. Usually, their songs about toxic relationships go more, “Woe is me! How did we get here?!” or “Hurts so good. Curse this toxic love!” The narrator of “Obsession,” however, is well over this “relationship” and just wants to be free. That’s if this was a reciprocal relationship, which it certainly doesn’t sound like.
Where their other songs sound energetic, sultry or mournful, this sounds frustrated and catastrophic. It even sounds darker, with its relentless booming bass and altered voices during the verses and chorus. The group also sings at a more aggressive and fast pace than their usual songs.
One of the things that sticks out to me is the vocalist saying “I want you.” That one sentence is looped and triplicated throughout the entire song. I originally thought it stopped during the chorus, but it’s still there, haunting and persistent. The “I want you” line is the first thing we hear when we listen to it. No one sings for 13 seconds. The only time it’s gone is the bridge. Incidentally, it’s when Suho, the leader, and Chen sing the lines
In light of certain fans clamoring for Chen’s removal, it’s hard not to listen to “Obsession” and hear a message from EXO members to fake fans: “Shut up and go away.”
Thinking in that light, the video becomes even more interesting. Over the years, many idols have talked about their stage personas. Those who are bold and fierce onstage are often shy or quiet. Some who seem proud can have the biggest hearts. That being said, this duality goes deeper.
As an artist, you choose what part of yourself to reveal to the public. You welcome strangers to look at you and your work, hoping they’ll accept you. When it works, you can have a group of supporters. When it fails, you can have hordes of people who feel entitled to your life and know no boundaries. Unfortunately, as a public figure, you often get both types of followers.
So how does one use their platform to speak out about this? How do you express the conflict between your public identity and your private life? Or perhaps what your company says on your behalf versus what you truly said? It can’t be an accident that this is the video where they fight alternate versions of themselves. EXO the artists vs EXO the people.
TO THE FAKE FANS
It’s unfair to put this solely on EXO-Ls. There are far too many instances where “fans” have crossed the line, invading an idol’s privacy, assaulting them and even demanding they leave the group. Chen and EXO are hardly the first this has happened to. Heck, they’re not even the first artists at SM this has happened to. But it’s nice that in this way, they can possibly speak up about these toxic people.
And yes, they are toxic. “Fans” who try to stifle an artist’s growth, both personally and professionally, and threaten to remove their support are gaslighting bullies. To the people who feel entitled to other people’s lives, to those who try to stop artists from living happy lives, do us all a favor. Shut up and go away.