After almost ten years since his debut, EXO’s main vocalist, Chen, has proved to be one of the most powerful voices in K-pop. In honor of his 29th birthday, here are our EnVi’s top 10 moments in his career as a vocalist.
10. TV debut with SM Town Orchestra at SBS Gayo Daejun 2011
2011’s edition of the yearly music event Gayo Daejun featured some of the biggest acts from K-pop’s second generation, such as 2NE1, BEAST, Super Junior, f(x), and more. Among this legendary line-up, 19-year-old Chen had a brief solo, where he established himself as an outstanding vocalist even before his official debut. This first TV appearance was just a tiny peek at the performer he would become.
In 2019, Chen joined EXO’s V Live relay series “Heart 4 U,” in which he was able to explore his musical abilities alongside some of his favorite artists, like 10cm and Kwon Jungyeol. In addition, they organized a surprise busking tour for fans around various cities in South Korea like Busan and Gwanju, where the singers performed multiple tracks from Chen’s discography and even some self-written songs.
8. “Watch Out” solo performance at EXO-CBX Magical Circus Tour
During EXO-CBX’s tour in Japan, the trio had the opportunity to showcase their talents on solo stages. Chen chose to light Saitama’s Super Arena on fire with this vibrant performance of “Watch Out.” The throne, the crown, and the scepter that decorate his stage are very on-theme with his title of “king of vocals.”
In 2015, Chen participated in the popular singing contest “King of Masked Singer” as the mysterious “Guitar Man.” With this song by Kim Dongryul, he showed off a lower register that he doesn’t use very frequently, expanding his ability as a singer even more. Even though he didn’t win the challenge against the undefeated champion, “Your Way Hawaii,” he again proved he shines both in and out of EXO.
6. SM Station’s “Years” ft. Alesso
For SM Station 2017, Chen collaborated with globally known DJ Alesso in a new version of the latter’s song, “Years.” The upbeat melody is powered further by the singer’s energy, and together they can blow any roof. “Years” makes the perfect song for a concert–so it was included in the setlist of various events, like SMTOWN Live in Seoul and EXO’s ElyXiOn [dot].
With 163 million views on YouTube, this song is the second most-streamed drama OST of all time, only surpassed by his co-member Chanyeol’s “Stay With Me.” Chen is crowned the king of OST’s thanks to his extensive work with some of the most popular Korean dramas like Descendants of the Sun, Moonlovers, and 100 Days My Prince, just to name a few.
4. “Lights Out” solo at the EXplOration Tour
Chen’s talent goes beyond his remarkable vocals. “Lights Out” is only one among the many compositions he has made for the group. The comforting lyrics, his passionate voice, and a magical light show make this one of his most touching performances.
In 2013, EXO’s Baekhyun and Chen were fresh rookies when they performed this classic by Jo Kwan Woo. The added orchestra perfectly complements the duo’s powerful interpretation. With only one year from their debut, they became one of the most viewed clips of the show.
2. John Lennon’s “Imagine” cover with Steve Bakaratt for UNICEF’s “Imagine Project”
To start 2016, UNICEF organized the “Imagine Project,” a global campaign to create a peaceful world for children. Chen’s healing voice was chosen to perform a song known as the global anthem for peace, John Lennon’s “Imagine,” alongside world-renowned Canadian pianist Steve Barakatt.
Chen’s range as a vocalist goes way beyond ballads. In 2014, he demonstrated the versatility and strength of his voice with this heavy rock song at EXO’s first world tour, “The Lost Planet.” K-pop artists rarely explore this genre, but Chen’s 3-octave range allowed him to give a flawless performance.
Chen is currently completing his mandatory military service, but that hasn’t stopped fans from celebrating his birthday with the hashtag #HappySunshineDae. Check out his YouTube channel, where he uploads covers of his favorite songs, to keep enjoying his unique voice.
Keep the celebration going! Check out another piece in honor of Chen’s birthday here.
Thumbnail courtesy of SM Entertainment.