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Exile are a popular and long-lasting J-Pop group who mix boy-band dynamics with R&B music and stylized and synchronized dancing. Though the lineup has changed over the years, the majority of the group have always been dancers, including the group's informal leader, Hiro (Higarashi Hiroyuki). Hiro was a member of a band called Zoo before forming his own group in 1999, initially called J Soul Brothers. That group included vocalist Sasa and four dancers, Makidai (Maki Daisuke), Matsu (Matsumoto Toshio), Usa (Usami Yoshihiroe) and Hiro. In 2001 Sasa left to focus on his own songwriting and two new vocalists were brought in, Atsushi (Satou Atsushi) and Shun (Kiyokiba Shunsuke). At this point they changed their name to Exile and released their first singles with the Avex Trax label's Rhythm Zone subsidiary. A year later their first album, Our Style, came out.
In 2003 Exile had a single reach number two on the charts: "Choo Choo Train", from their second album Styles of Beyond. The song, which meshed Japanese and nonsense-English lyrics like "Fun fun, we hit the step step" was actually a reworked version of one of Zoo's old songs. Exile's first number one, "Real World", came in 2004 along with the successful albums Heart of Gold and Exiles. The latter album collected several of their songs alongside solo material by Kiyokiba Shunsuke and songs from their side projects like Rather Unique, which was Usa and Makidai's hip-hop group. They also worked with J-Rock band Glay on a single called "Scream", which was another number one hit.
On the same day that their 2006 album Asia was released, Shun left the group to pursue his solo career further. Akira (Kurosawa Ryouhei), a member of Rather Unique, joined as a new dancer and a series of public auditions were announced to find a new singer. The winner of the final, called "Exile Vocal Battle Audition 2006 Asian Dream," was Takahiro Tasaki, a member of another Exile side group called Color.
Another two albums were released in 2007, Exile Evolution and Exile Love. The band also planned a year-long assault called "Exile Perfect Year 2008" which would see them launch their own monthly magazine and three themed best-of compilations: Exile Catchy Best, Exile Extreme Best and Exile Ballad Best. ~ Jody Macgregor