K-pop Overdose Dubai headliners Exo and DJ Raiden reveal plans for 2024

The National speaks exclusively to South Korean performers about their careers and what music means to them

Exo headlines the UAE's first K-pop event of the year

Exo headlines the UAE's first K-pop event of the year
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The first K-pop event of the year in the UAE – K-pop Overdose – thrilled fans from the region and around the world with a diverse set of performances, showcasing much of what the scene has to offer.

Taking place on Sunday at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena and supported by Speed Entertainment, the concert's line-up featured Exo's Chanyeol, Chen and Xiumin, as well as fellow South Korean talent DJ Raiden and Emirati Dubai Bling cast member DJ Bliss, who opened the show.

While only three of the members of Exo, a popular boy band that made its debut in South Korea in 2012, were able to make it to the UAE, the thousands-strong audience were nonetheless captivated by the performance.

Delivering chart-topping songs with vocals echoed by a passionate fan base who knew every word, the members triggered questions of whether this could be the start of a new subunit within the group.

Exo headlines the UAE's first K-pop event of the year

Exo headlines the UAE's first K-pop event of the year

Chanyeol, in conversation with The National, reminisced about his warm memories of the UAE, recalling in 2018 when Exo’s song Power played at the Dubai Fountain in front of the Burj Khalifa.

Recalling his 2023 solo visit, he told The National: “My first time coming here alone, when I played my song Tomorrow, and the Dubai fans turned on their flashlights, it was really beautiful.

“The flashlights look like Dubai’s sky.”

Chanyeol is one of the group's most versatile members, with a successful acting career on top of his rapping and singing in Exo, its subgroup Exo-K and subunit Exo-SC, not to mention his solo work.

In Dubai, he leaned into his solo catalogue, performing singles Tomorrow and Rodeo Station – the latter originally sang with band member Sehun. He also performed a new track with DJ Raiden, tentatively titled 24, as well as their 2020 hit collaboration Yours.

DJ Raiden reflected on his career, saying his K-pop band The Boyz and collaboration with esports company T1 – for which he wrote The Last Man Standing for the League of Legends World Championship – remain fond memories.

Looking ahead to 2024, he expressed interest in collaborating with artists from the Mena region.

“As much as I would love collaborating with artists from SM, I want to work with artists from the hip-hop and RnB genres,” said Raiden.

Chen, meanwhile, continued to serenade the crowd as the night unfolded, delivering a stirring performance. Pulling from Exo's contributions to K-drama original soundtracks such as Descendants Of The Sun, he also included solo songs from his latest album Last Scene.

“I am deeply passionate about conveying messages of healing through my music, aiming for it to serve as a source of solace for listeners,” said Chen.

“Music holds a profound healing power for me, and I aspire for my audience to connect with my messages while immersing themselves in the experience of my music.

“Additionally, I am excited about exploring diverse genres, envisioning a future album that encompasses musical versatility.”

Exo member Xiumin, meanwhile, shared a heartfelt thank you to his fans – nicknamed ExoLs – from the region: “Happy New Year to our beloved Arab ExoLs, wishing you a healthful year full of happiness ahead. I hope you’ll keep loving and supporting not only me but all the members of Exo.”

“Our Arab fans can expect an upcoming album, and also dramas that I will be starring in. And, for our fans, I established a YouTube Channel that we hope you’ll love and keep an eye out for.”

Chanyeol also teased his next project: “I will come back with a new album along with my Exo members, I promise.”

Fans in the region react to K-pop Overdose

As the night came to an end in Dubai, the excitement was palpable among fans in attendance.

“We are thrilled to have the Exo members back in Dubai for a concert again. This was an event we were gearing up for for months and it’s amazing to finally see it happen,” said UAE Exo fan base manager Salha M, 23.

“We are expecting a lot of solo projects from the members this year including new albums, Chanyeol’s solo debut and solo concerts and fan meet and greets from Baekhyun, Chen, and Kyungsoo.

“There are some group projects such as an Exo-CBX comeback, the Exo anniversary fan meeting and many more to come hopefully. We are looking forward to their activities and hope to be a part of it again soon,” she said.

Sarah M, 28, an engineer from Ajman, who has been an ExoL since 2013, echoes the sentiment by saying: “I am really happy to see them do well as soloists.”

But not everyone was satisfied with only three of the band members making it to the UAE for the show.

“I wish for all Exo members to come,” said Choi Minme, 24, a teacher from Dubai.

Updated: January 15, 2024, 1:38 PM