The current leader, Hiro, was originally in the pop group Zoo before they split up in 1995. In 1999, he started a new group called J Soul Brothers
, which later changed its name to Exile in 2001. (But the name of J Soul Brothers was later revived by Hiro again in 2007 when he helped to form another 7-member group under the new J Soul Brothers moniker.)Atsushi and Shun became the lead vocalists of the group. Atsushi is a fan of American R&B group Boyz II Men. In November 2003, Exile remade Zoo's hit single "Choo Choo Train", which became a strong promotional single for their third studio album Exile Entertainment
. The album sold over a million copies. They took part in the NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen of the year, singing "Choo Choo Train". At first, their music style was influenced by R&B, but their style later became more pop-oriented form. Their 2004 single "Real World" became their first number-one single on Oricon weekly charts. They released the collaboration "Scream" with Japanese rock band Glay in July 2005, peaking at No. 1 and selling over 500,000 copies on Oricon charts.The group released "Tada...Aitakute" in December 2005 and "Yes!" in March 2006. Both singles topped the Oricon weekly charts. However, Shun left the group in March 2006 and became a solo singer. After the group sought a new vocalist from the public, Takahiro joined the group in September 2006. Takahiro originally tried to become a hairdresser in his school days, but eventually joined the group as a vocalist.On February 14, 2007, the group released the single "Michi", which became their first number-one single on the Oricon charts since Takahiro joined the group. Their 2007 studio album, Exile Love
, became the highest selling album of Japan in 2008, selling nearly 1.5 million copies on Oricon charts. Their compilation album Exile Ballad Best
sold nearly 1 million copies in its first week on Oricon charts, making it the highest first week sales for an album of Japan in 2008. The song, "Ti Amo", was certified Million by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for 1,000,000 full-track ringtone digital music downloads (Chaku Uta Full
). They also won the Grand Prix Award at the 50th edition of Japan Record Awards for "Ti Amo".In 2009, Exile's song "The Next Door" was featured as the theme of the Japanese edition of Street Fighter IV
. The song was released at the iTunes Store on February 22, 2009. The English version "The Next Door -Indestructible-" was used for the international edition of the game. The English version was released as the third track of their single "The Hurricane (Fireworks)" on July 22, 2009, featuring American rapper Flo Rida.On March 1, 2009, Exile and J Soul Brothers announced that they would merge to become a 14-member group. They released their first studio album with 14 members, Aisubeki Mirai e
, on December 2, 2009. They won the Grand Prix Award for the song, "Someday", at the 51st Japan Record Awards.On May 19, 2010, Avex released the CD maxi of the suite "Taiyo no Kuni" (????), or "The Country of the Sun," written by Yasushi Akimoto and sung by Exile, for the 20th anniversary of the accedence of the Emperor of Japan Akihito. However, the CD was not reflected on the Oricon charts. For the 52nd Japan Record Awards, the group earned their third consecutive win with the song "I Wish For You".