Kris Wu Talks About His K-pop Days: “I Had No Freedom”

In 2014, Kris Wu (吴亦凡) left his K-pop band EXO to pursue a solo career in his home country, China. Despite his controversial leave, Kris went on to become one of the highest-paid singers in the country, finding success in both the Chinese music and film industries.

Last year, the Canadian Chinese singer-actor released his first English single “JULY” as a test run, and this year, Kris worked with American rapper and singer Pharrell Williams for the new single “Double 11 Day”. Soon after, Kris released his solo English singles “Deserve” and “B.M.”, the latter reaching number two on United States’ iTunes Chart.

In an interview on an American radio show, Kris shared his reason for leaving his agency S.M. Entertainment and subsequently EXO, saying, “First of all, I’m not Korean. I’m Chinese. Korea’s not really home for me, not my base. Working there is a little stressful for me. And second of all, the way how K-pop works is that you gotta kinda do the stuff that the company tells you to do.”

The DJ, Gabby Diaz, then said she heard about how K-pop companies tend to discard groups that fail to do what the company wanted them to do, to which Kris immediately said, “Exactly. That’s exactly what it is. Everyone had no freedom, and for me, it was super stressful. I wanted to do my own stuff. I wanted to make hip hop music. I wanted to make sure that the stuff that I sing would represent me as an artist, but I couldn’t do any of that when I was in Korea. That’s one of the reasons why I left.”

On the difference of being solo and being part of a K-pop group, Kris said he is now able to do the things he wanted to do. “I can express myself freely for sure. I can actually make the stuff that I love. In China, I have my own company, and I kinda run everything myself. I can do whatever I want to do, and that works for me.”

EXO in 2013

Asking Kris if he was still in contact with EXO, or if they are now off to their separate ways, Kris said, “Yeah.”

After passing K-pop auditions in Canada, Kris moved to South Korea in 2008 to train as an artist under S.M. Entertainment. In 2012, he debuted as a member of EXO, and was the leader of EXO-M, the Mandarin-singing subgroup of EXO. When EXO regrouped in 2013, they broke sales records, becoming the first K-pop artist to sell over a million albums in twelve years. In May 2014, Kris filed a lawsuit against S.M. Entertainment to terminate his contract, subsequently leaving the group. Fellow member Lu Han (鹿晗) filed the same lawsuit later that year. Both lawsuits were settled in 2016.


This article is written by Addy for

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  1. I hate moaners. No one put a knife in your neck to sign a contract with them. They trained you very well and provide you with a platform to start. You used them as they used you. Dont complain after eating the rice they serve.

    1. @hohliu


      While undoubtedly all those expectations weren’t WHAT he envisioned perhaps (he sounds like he wasn’t ready to be a GROUP member since he wants to do so much of his own thing. But the dude wasn’t signed as a ‘solo artiste’).

      YES he wouldn’t be what he is, without being intensely Ktrained from raw material, and also getting a lot of individual exposure because of the lawsuit publicity.

      (i live in Canada, but grew up in Asia, and visit every year including yearly trips to Seoul). Perhaps it’s also because he’s Cdn … if used to the NAmerican ways here and the laidback, almost lazy whatever (deadlines can s’times be changed) way they do things … Compared to the way the expectations run in Korea, or how strict-tight the ship is run there, he would find it stifling.

      SM Entertainment is also a little known among the agencies … it’s sometimes jokingly called SadoMasochism (after BDSM).

      Kris Wu gives off Edison vibes, in movies I have seen him in.

  2. Asking Kris if he was still in contact with EXO, or if they are now off to their separate ways, Kris said, “Yeah.”

    uh what…?

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