“Mandatory Military Service” are probably the three most despised words in a Kpop fan’s vocabulary. The very mention of the term, immediately invokes a cringe and causes fans to cry, wail, and panic. Why? As we all know, Kpop fans are one of the most dedicated and die-hard groups of fans in the world, so when their favorite artist has to serve his military service, naturally they become quite upset. Two years without new albums, tours, or seeing them perform on music shows can be quite traumatic for some fans. But still, the purpose of the conscription is important and meaningful to the Koreans; for the defense of the country and largely seems as a transition stage of manhood from a boy to a man.
As a Kpop artist embarks on his journey into the Korean military, fans go to every length and distance to show their support by starting support campaigns and even “Countdown Till Release” time clock sites. “Who’s in” and “who’s getting out soon” are very hot topics among the fan community, so we at hellokpop set out to compile a release-date list for our readers. Currently there are twenty-two Korean celebrities serving in the military who are set to be discharged within the 2013-2014 cycle.
Check out the following list to see if your favorite artist will be discharged, and when.
*Note: All dates are estimated based on enlistment date and branch of service enlistment time requirements. This list is categorized by month of enlistment date.
[January - April ]
Kim Jang Hyun (Sunny Hill)
- Enlistment date: January 31, 2012
- Estimated discharge date: February/March 2014
- Enlistment date: April 25, 2011
- Estimated release date: March 2013
[May - August ]
Kim Kyu Jong (SS501)
- Enlistment date: July 23, 2012
- Estimated release date: May 2014
[ September - December ]
Kim Jun (T-MAX)
- Enlistment date: September 29, 2011
- Estimated release date: July 2013
Jung Yunhak (Supernova)
- Enlistment date: October 25, 2011
– Estimated release date: June 25, 2013
Leetuk (Super Junior)
- Enlistment date: October 30, 2012
- Estimated release date: August 2014
- Enlistment date: December 5, 2012
– Estimated release date: October/November 2014
Did you see your favorite artist mentioned here? Who’s release are you looking forward to the most? Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments!
While the title may sound a little strange, we as Kpop fans each experience the Kpop life differently, and pull from our experiences different views of people and the world around us. When you think about the genre and everything that you’ve seen, heard, and learned since you became a fan, what sticks out in your mind the most? Did a situation or event with in the Kpop world ever affect you on a personal level? Did you learn something about yourself because of something that happened in Kpop?
If you are a relatively new fan to this industry you may remember things like the latest scandals involving Rain and his military service, the explosion of PSY‘s viral hit Gangnam Style, EXO‘s and Nu’est‘s debuts, or even Big Bang‘s Tonight album release in February 2011. If you are a seasoned fan you may remember scandals like MC Mong‘s draft dodging (2010) and G-Dragon‘s alleged plagiarism of Heartbreaker (2009), along with SHINee‘s debut in 2008, or DBSK‘s mega-hit release of Rising Sun in 2005. Veteran fans, those who have been fans of Kpop for ten years or more, can clearly remember events like the debuts of SHINHWA, G.O.D, or Fly To The Sky, along with the break-ups of H.O.T and S.E.S.
These events, each solidified in our various memories, have affected each fan differently and, in the end, we each take away from each of these situations a different life lesson learned.Taking the good with the bad, the fun with the boring, and the outrageous with the mundane, we live a life surrounded by our friends, family, artists, and Kpop. We rejoice in our artists’ successes, suffer through their failures and mistakes, and learn lessons together–as one big family. As I looked back on my life, I began to recollect the lessons that the genre and its artists have taught me, and I realized, even more deeply, that Kpop has influenced all of us, in one way or another.
Before we discuss this topic any further, my qualifications as a veteran fan should be addressed. I came into this genre on January 21, 2000 after I heard my very first Kpop song during a random misadventure and getting lost on a highway. Coming to a gas station, in the middle of nowhere, I met not only one of the kindest Korean grandmothers I have ever known, but also the person who set me on the path of my Kpop life. My first song, the one that started it all for me, was Day By Day by Fly To the Sky, which was playing on a little boombox behind the counter.
Brian Joo‘s and Hwanhee‘s smooth, soulful, and heartwarming voices, combined with a melancholic-yet-infectious beat and the random splattering of English lyrics, pulled me in instantly and prompted me to politely grill Grandma Kim on Korean music for over two hours (before I even asked how to get back to the highway). Had I not gotten lost that night and stumbled upon this little store and grandmother, I wouldn’t have had the joy that this genre has brought me for almost thirteen years. It is a moment that truly changed my life for the better.
When I think back over the years, I’m reminded of so many events that have shaped not only my opinions and feelings toward Kpop, but also of how Kpop has shaped my world. From heart touching songs, angelic voices, and phenomenal performances to heart breaking deaths, disappointing scandals, and embarrassing behaviors from artists and fans alike, I’ve experienced an emotional roller-coaster ride that I will be forever thankful for and from which I have learned so much. Kpop has not only brought me an unfathomable amount of joy, but also has tested my resolve as a fan and presented life lessons that I cannot nor will not soon forget.
The Test of Faith.
My first real Kpop scandal I faced as a newly inducted member of the Kpop life hit me where I lived (so to speak), as it involved the person that to this day is still my ultimate bias. In 2002, Brian Joo came under fire for a statement he made on the radio show 1010 Club, where he responded to a question posed by Hyun Jin-Young about the Yangju Highway Incident involving the deaths of two Korean teenage girls who were struck by a military vehicle on Highway 56. During a time of growing anti-American sentiments, his statement, made in non-fluent Korean, was misinterpreted, and he was vilified in the Korean Media. He quickly clarified his position on the situation and has sincerely apologized for his misspoken words, on and off camera. Still, even to this day, the scandal has left a minor stigma on the artist and his career with those who still remember and harbor some resentment against his words.
When I reflect on this scandal I, unlike many fans who would have taken the artist side in all things, truly acknowledge that his statement (as it was translated) did exude the feeling of anti-Korean, pro-American sentiment. So, I could honestly understand why the Korean public was in such an uproar. Even I, a completely biased fan, became extremely concerned by his statement and I worried (for a short time) if that was truly how he meant it. However, his apology clarified his original statement, and for me his true feelings on the matter were explained properly. My faith in Brian and all that I knew of him was being tested. Could I, as a fan, understand that he had made a mistake, or could I not? Could I ever forgive him?
Having faith in someone who will most likely never know your name may sound foolish to some, but as Kpop fans we all keep that faith as a way to support those artists we hold so dear. In the end, I could not dismiss his heartfelt apology nor his earnest remorse for his mistake and I held onto the belief that he had truly repented of his misdeed. We all make mistakes, and when we do, we must learn from them to grow as a person or, as in the case of Brian, as an artist as well.
With my forgiveness given, I realized that this incident presented the very first (of many) lessons I would learn on my journey through this Kpop life. What we say and what we mean are sometimes quite different. So, we must be careful in all that we say and all that we do. Hold on to the belief that with our sincere effort we can relay our actions as honorably as possible, and always have faith in those that you care for by bringing understanding, patience, and forgiveness to every situation.
The Test of Loyalty.
In the middle of 2003, rumors abounded about a new five-man group that would be debuting soon under SM Entertainment. Fans were in a frenzy as the first images of the group began to surface. In late December of that year, the group that literally changed the face of Kpop, debuted to ecstatic crowd during a BoA and Brittany Spears showcase and performed their debut single Hug. DBSK‘s entrance into the Kpop world, while demure by today’s standards, became a moment in time firmly fixed in the mind of this veteran fan.
In 2009 a scandal erupted when members Kim Jaejoong, Kim Junsu, and Park Yoochun–under the guise of mistreatment, non-payment, overly lengthy contract terms, and the lack of artistic freedom–filed a lawsuit to break their contract with SM Entertainment. The news of the lawsuit sent shockwaves through the Kpop fan community. Their fans’ loyalty was being tested. It became tested even further when Jaejoong, Junsu, and Yoochun chose to come back to the music industry as the trio JYJ. Fans found themselves torn between JYJ and the remaining members of DBSK, Shim Changmin and Jung Yunho.
With the fans divided, who should they support? The duo? The trio? All five? This division in the fanbase caused so much turmoil between individual fans that anyone who followed the whole situation truly felt like crying. Before the split, their die-hard and ever-loyal fans were the most impressively-close fan groups I had ever witnessed in my Kpop life. After the split, my heart broke to now see a once loving and ever-faithful fan family at each other throats. Clear divisions between fans of the duo and the trio were constantly battling each other, with the supporters of all five members (known as OT5‘s) doing all that they could to play the peacekeepers.
It clearly wasn’t about the music anymore and centered more around being loyal to one group or the other. Having a favorite member of DBSK made this situation extremely difficult for me personally. I felt very torn trying to make a choice between the two while trying to understand who was to blame for the whole situation. Ultimately, I placed the blame on the entertainment company instead. After all, at the heart of this great division was the lawsuit and how JYJ was being unfairly treated by SM. Through it all, I chose the life of an OT5. I could not turn my back on one side or the other for something as trivial (in my mind) as a contract dispute, simply because for me Kpop is about the music first.
In late 2012, when it was announced that the lawsuits had been dropped and that JYJ would now be completely free to do as they saw fit, fans sighed a reluctant sigh of relief with the hope that the worst part of this whole situation was finally behind them. Sentiment within the fan family instantly improved, and the brother-against-brother mentality that blatantly overtook the fan base began to slowly dissolve.
This situation reaffirmed a valuable life lesson from my childhood; Loyalty lies in the heart, be forever faithful to that which you love. No matter the divisions within the fan family, each fan kept this belief in their hearts and continued to support their affiliations through it all. Putting all the fan wars aside, the fans proved their loyalty through and through, and made me realize that holding onto the loyalty you feel for the ones you love is the greatest gift you can give.
The Test of Truth.
When you poll any Kpop fan in the world and ask them do they know who Big Bang is, you will almost-always get a resounding yes. Big Bang has become one of the hugest groups to come out of Korea since the first vibrations of the Hallyu Wave began to spread across the world. From their formation in 2006 to the present day, the group has swept charts, sold out huge venues worldwide, pulled down multimillion dollar contracts, and has single-handedly (by some accounts) solidified YG Entertainment‘s superiority in the industry. Their music and fashion styles, paired with their impressive vocals and stunning good looks, has placed Big Bang on the pedestal of the Kpop elite.
They say that when you reach the top the only direction you can go is down, and in the case of Big Bang sometimes it’s a slip rather than a fall. In May of 2011, the Kpop world was hit with a horrifying scandal when it was reported that member Kang Daesung was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of a motorcyclist. Reporting news agencies gave sporadic reports on the situation, with little to no facts to go on, leaving the fans of the artist shocked, terrified, and in disbelief.
With the lack of evidence to clarify the situation, fans went off the deep end. Many fans instantly condemned Daesung with outrageous slurs and accusations, while others stood firm in their belief and support of the artist. Those who stood beside the artist waited impatiently for clarification on the whole situation. The search for the truth became priority one for every fan of Big Bang and Daesung.
When all the details of the incident finally came to light and the truth was revealed, we found out that Daesung wasn’t emphatically responsible for the death of the motorcyclist. While fans were relieved that he was cleared of all charges, fans concerns then quickly turned to the mental and emotional stability of the artist himself. When he announced that he would be taking time off to reflect and recenter himself, the fans feared that this would be the end of Big Bang. We found ourselves truly frightened for the very first time.
I found myself, being a fan of Big Bang since their debut, on the concerned and supportive side of the whole situation. However, I could not deny my insatiable need to know the truth. My concern for Daesung and the future of Big Bang compelled me to find out all that I could about what really happened that night. Reading through hundreds of reports, in multiple languages, from credible and non-credible sources alike, I found myself trying to piece the situation together as best as I could–just like every other fan out there.
Why? Why was the search for truth so important to us? One of the reasons fans enjoy Kpop so much is because we feel a close connection to the artists with every glimpse we get of their personality or of their life. Along with the music, its that “perceived” close connection that makes fans so passionate about this genre. This passion then turned into a burning curiosity, that none of us could ignore, and prompted us to seek out the truth with such unrelenting conviction.
The saying, “The search for truth is an arduous journey, but when its fulfilled, it sets you free,” has never been more personified in my Kpop life than during the reports of Daesung’s accident. We, as fans, suffered the agony of the unknown and subsequently felt the joy of relief when the situation finally came to a close. The relief we felt as fans, although muted by the then uneasy future of Big Bang, taught us that while the truth is sometimes painful it must always be sought after, reminded us that falsehoods and deception not only hurt ourselves but everyone around us, and (on a personal level) reminded me of the greatest life lesson ever taught to me by my late grandmother: “Speak the truth in all things and be better for it.”
The Test of Patience.
Each Kpop fan has their own personal hopes for their favorite artists and the genre we love so much. While fans’ wishes, hopes, and dreams for Kpop are as various as the fans themselves, there is one resounding dream that they all truly share: Making Kpop a global household name. You may ask yourself, why are fans so dedicated to this dream? While the answers are never simple, you could say that it’s centered around not only selflessness but selfishness as well. After all, what fan hasn’t ever wished that their favorite artists would perform in their home country or make appearances on their local TV stations? What fan out there doesn’t want to be able to hear their favorite artists’ songs being played on their cities’ radio stations?
When the global phenomenon of PSY (Park Jae-sang) and his mega-hit Gangnam Style appeared on the Kpop scene in July of 2012, no one in the Kpop world could have ever imagined that it would receive such an unprecedented response from the global community. Considered to be one of the most entertaining, yet often times quite controversial performers in Korea, PSY has garnered the love of fans throughout his country for over a decade. Still, although he had amassed a large community of fans in Korea, PSY’s presence hadn’t been truly felt within the international mainstream Kpop scene, despite the fact that he had been making music since the early 2000′s.
So, for most Kpop fans, it was startling that this relatively obscure artist seemed to come out of left field to become the hottest Hallyu star of 2012. In six months following the release of Gangnam Style, PSY has been honored with praises from actors and artists like Tom Cruise and Katy Perry, has received acknowledgements from various organizations such as the United Nations–which dubbed the artist an “International Sensation.” PSY has received invitations to perform at events like the American Music Awards, with veteran rapper MC Hammer. He has even performed for President Obama. The global phenomenon of the song itself, paired with virility of the highly entertaining and addictive music video, quickly affixed the eyes of the world onto PSY and subsequently brought the genre of Kpop to the attention of the mainstream music scene.
Never before had we Kpop fans seen such a small ripple of the Hallyu Wave turn into a tsunami that would quickly consume the global community. PSY’s and Gangnam Style’s seemingly near-instant success was met by Kpop fans with a myriad of emotions varying from joy and excitement to apprehension and disappointment. Fans were ecstatic that their non-fan-friends were all of a sudden asking about PSY, but were disappointed to find that many of these new fans thought that the style of the song and video were “par-for-the-course” when it came to Kpop as a whole. In layman’s terms, many new listeners believed that all Kpop was like Gangnam Style and that all Kpop music videos were just as silly. This misunderstanding between non-fans and fans became a source of inner conflict for Kpop fans, because they felt disappointed that the genre was being so generalized–and so quickly.
While I am one of the many fans that dreamed of a day where I could turn on the radio in my car and hear artists like Super Junior, SHINee, and Big Bang singing their hearts out for everyone to hear, I honestly was part of the apprehensive fan mentality. While very proud of PSY for his amazing and surprising accomplishment, I worried that the instant success of Gangnam Style would end up being a detriment to the Hallyu Wave. Why?
After the music video’s YouTube views surpassed Justin Beiber‘s Baby, I was questioned by several of my non-fan-friends about the song and Kpop. While I took this as an opportunity to educate my friends about a genre of music that I’ve adored for so long, I immediately was faced with three very different reactions: generalization, indifference, and contempt.
While my experiences with the Gangnam Style phenomenon are uniquely my own, I found that many Kpop fans from around the world were experiencing the same reactions. Non-fans that had experienced Kpop for the very first time, because of Gangnam Style, were making judgements and assumptions about the music based solely on the song itself and were dismissing the entire genre simply because they felt that it wasn’t a respectable form of music.
These reactions, while not unexpected, did affect my perception on the current future of Kpop. I had hoped, along with all the other fans, that one day a song would come along that would turn the world’s attention towards the genre, and as the Gangnam Style phenomenon continued to build momentum, I thought that this was the beginning of a new era. Although it was quite an idealistic notion, the potential for the global mainstreaming of Kpop was (and is) still there.
The old saying, “Good things come to those who wait,” has never before been more real to me than when I think about Kpop and its potential. That longing feeling that every Kpop fan shares, while sometimes difficult to bear, has taught us that we shouldn’t rush headlong into the global mainstream market, but instead should continue to take baby steps to solidify the validity of our beloved genre. We must continue to be patient, understanding, and dedicated–because we will get there one day. As we continue to have patience in the present, our future looks even brighter.
The Test of Hope.
What are your hopes when it comes to Kpop? The global mainstreaming of the genre? Meeting your favorite artist in person? Seeing a Kpop concert? Traveling to Korea? We all have little hopes like these, but if you’re like me, you may also harbor a very important one: the reunification and comeback of SS501.
After their contract ended with DSP Entertainment in 2010, members of SS501 went their separate ways and signed with different labels. When details of the so-called split hit the Internet, fans were frantic. Could this be the end of SS501? Are they falling under the five-year curse? After the split, leader Kim Hyun Joong made an official statement that basically said that SS501 would never really split up. The members were just going to pursue their own individual activities. He guaranteed that SS501 would reunite someday and would continue to release its music. This small sliver of hope is something that SS501 fans still hold onto fervently even now.
SS501 solidified their place as my ultimate group bias many years ago and, to this day, no group has ever been able to replace them. Before SS501 debuted in 2005, I was on a Korean Indie group kick and had turned my focus away from mainstream Kpop, so-to-speak. I got the news that a new five-man group would be debuting under DSP Entertainment when a close friend from Japan sent me a few of the latest promotional shots of the group’s members. As I nonchalantly glanced through the six photos, I suddenly stopped when it came to one of the individual member shots. It wasn’t the subject’s stunning good looks or bright smile that caught my attention, it was his eyes.
They didn’t sparkle. They didn’t shine. They looked lost and sad. It was strange that a photo would look that way, isn’t it? It’s especially when you are talking about a group’s promotional shots that are supposed to grab the Kpop world’s attention. Perhaps it was just my imagination, or how I perceived the feel of the shot, but it struck a chord in me to the point that I followed SS501 activities from then on.
Looking back on how I found the group and how I felt about them before I ever once heard them sing, I tried to understand why I was so fascinated by them. Still to this day, I can’t really put my finger on the exact reason why this group spoke to me initially. When they finally debuted, in June of 2005, their first track, Warning, shattered my ideas of their vocal abilities and music style, and consequently, blew me away. After that, I found myself literally loving every song they released–which is rare since I’m normally overly-critical when it comes to music styles, lyrics, and arrangements. Perhaps it was their vocals that really spoke to me, or perhaps it all boils down to that one photo. I may never really know.
Since the split, members Heo Young Saeng, Kim Hyung Joon, Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Kyu Jong, and Park Jung Min, have continued to produce music as solo artists, and up until the middle of last year, fans were still adamantly looking forward to the promised comeback. Then, in July 2012, it was announced that member Kim Kyu Jong would begin his military service. This surprised the fans simply because, up until the announcement, it was common knowledge that he had been exempt from service because of a medical condition. The corresponding policy that exempted him from service had been revamped, and his exemption had been lifted. The whole situation felt like a train derailment to all of the group’s fans. Their hopes were quickly dashed with this one event, and the reunification of SS501 looked even more unlikely.
However, even through everything the fans have endured since the split in 2010, leader Kim Hyun Joong has still been quite adamant that there will be a reunification and a comeback of SS501. Even though the comeback will have to be delayed for two years due to Kyu Jong’s enlistment, the possibility of a comeback is still obtainable.
The plight of SS501 reminds fans that there are no true ‘definites’ in this world. Where there is a will, there is a way. Hope is as precious as it is fragile, and still we cling to it with all our might. While our hope of SS501′s reunification maybe hindered by the realities of this world, having hope brings us almost the same amount of joy as the actual fulfillment of it. This life lesson is the most loved lesson I’ve learned during my Kpop life. We hang our many hopes on our beloved artist and genre and make the choice to do all that we can to see them realized.
Admittedly, Kpop has put me through many tests as a fan and has also taught me so much more than the life lessons mentioned within this editorial. However, it’s the fans of the genre that have taught me infinitely more. While I spent the majority of my beginning of this Kpop life feeling like I was the only Kpop fan in my area, I soon realized how extremely popular the genre is all across the world, and I begin to find new friends through Kpop. Getting involved in fan groups and fan clubs gave me an opportunity to find like-minded individuals and to learn more about not only my favorite artists but more about the fans themselves. Subsequently, the ability to find other Kpop fans from around the world has also been a great blessing to me. In my search for other Kpop fans, I have not only found some of the closest friends I will ever know, but I also have been able to meet and work with some amazing artists through the job I ultimately found because of them.
2013 marks my thirteenth anniversary as a Kpop fan. To me that signifies so much more than just my being a fan. I could never repay the universe for the joy Kpop has given me, nor can I ever fully express my gratitude to those fans and artists that have touched my life in so many special ways. This journey began with one song, one voice, and I will forever hold in my heart a debt of gratitude to Brian Joo and Grandma Kim for putting me on the path of my Kpop life.
I hope that through this editorial you will each look back on your Kpop life and decipher your own individual life lessons you have picked up along the way, and that by doing so you begin to understand that it really isn’t always about the music. Now that you’re thinking about it, what lessons have you learned during your Kpop life? Tell us about them!
[Main Photo collage created by Author]
On 11th of October, the anticipated event ‘Brian Joo Up-Close and Personal Concert, Singapore’ started at 8pm, at The Butter Factory with a few group of dancers performing the various K-pop hits which includes BIGBANG’s Bad Boy and PSY’s Gangnam Style.
The long-awaited moment finally arrived when fans started to scream wildly to bring Brian Joo up on the stage made for him. The atmosphere went high and crazy at the instance when Brian Joo came up to greet everyone warmly.
Brian kick-started the concert by singing some of his beautiful ballad songs, 가지마 (Don’t Go) & 하지 말라고 ,warming the crowd up.
It is not just any simple Q & A session when it is Brian’s. Fans requested for his hugs and so he sang his past favorite, Missing You – a duet by Fly to the Sky, before he followed up with it, having his cheek get kissed while giving a big, big hug to one of his lucky fans.
A lot of unexpected moments happened, bringing shocked faces and laughter throughout the whole event. Upon a fan request, Brian sportingly sang an A Capella version of Day By Day. Brian may have one of his most embarrassing moments when upon fans’ request, he danced to PSY’s global hit Gangnam Style. Indeed, many wishes were fulfilled by the man of that eventful night!
Jokingly, Brian claimed that he was already an “Ahjussi” and took this opportunity to thank his local fans or rather, Brian’s Friends & Family (BFFs), for supporting and caring him throughout all these years since he was in Fly to the Sky, with Hwanhee. Brian also mentioned that he was quite disappointed that his first meal in Singapore was not a local cuisine but a Korean cuisine. Brian said that it was not that he disliked Korean cuisine, but he hope to try every different local cuisine in every country he visit.
MC: “This is your first concert here and also your first trip to Singapore. So, What’s your impression of Singapore so far?”
“The scenery is beautiful. I’m a person who’s clean and neat and Singapore is my place to be for that.”
MC: “We’ve seen what Brian Joo is like on TV, tell us what the REAL Brian Joo is like.”
“The real Brian? I’m really boring, simple, and clean type of guy. I watch movies, tv shows, go to nice restaurants and eat, and that’s it.”
MC: “What are the upcoming Brian Joo projects that we can expect?”
“Soon I’ll be doing a musical, “Loving the Silent Tears”, which is going to be in La/Hollywood, starring Jodey Watley, John Secada, and many others. Then after that, I’m going to Japan again for a fanclub Meet & Greet session. Then Thailand, Malaysia, and Shanghai. That’s all I have right now.”
Before continuing his performance, he ended off his short Q & A by gratefully declaring:
“Thank you for all the support you have shown me throughout all the years. I really appreciate it. Everybody here are my BFF’s tonight and we’re going to have a good time.”
Continuing his song performance, he sang Tears Run Dry (English Version), I’ll be There (3rd Wave Ministries Collaboration Track), Love is Over Now 사랑하다 끝났어(Korean Version) and Sea Of Love (Original Fly to the Sky track). It doesn’t just end there, with fans screaming for encore, he returned up to stage with two final songs, In my head (English Version) and ending off his performance with Let this die (English Version – Feat. Flowsik of Aziatix).
It was a night full of Brian’s goodness, with everyone leaving the place with a smile and feeling satisfied that it was indeed a up close and personal time with Brian. No doubt, everyone and BFFs will be looking forward to his next visit to Singapore, soon hopefully.
Special thanks to Jig Asia Entertainment Pte Ltd for giving us the opportunity to cover Brian Joo Up Close & Personal Concert, 2012.
Event covered by Kenny@hellokpop & YunTing@hellokpop
Photos taken by Kenny@hellokpop
Brian Joo’s Up-Close & Personal Concert Press Conference in Singapore, 11th of October, 2012
Brian’s thoughts on Singapore
Q: This is the first time that you’ve been to Singapore. How do you feel so far?
I feel great so far. [Everything’s great] except for the weather-the weather’s kind of gloomy. I had a warm welcome at the airport last night and it was mind-blowing, unexpected, so I’m really looking forward to tonight.
Q: You received quite a number of gifts last night.
I have a lot of flowers and a lot of junk food so last night, I was eating cupcakes and chips in the hotel.
Q: This is the first ever concert you are holding in Singapore. Just give us a little clue of things to come-what can fans expect at your concert tonight?
I’m pretty much like every other performer I guess-I want people to know my music out here in Singapore. I know I do have a few followers out here and fans. I felt bad in the past because even when I was a part of Fly to the Sky, I wanted to come and perform for you guys. However, we always ended up going to Japan, Thailand and China. This is my first time in Singapore so I just hope everyone appreciates my music and also most importantly, to have a good time with me. That is what I’m here for, and that is why it is called Up Close and Personal, because I want to know you guys, and you guys get to know me as well.
Q: How do you find Singapore?
I like it a lot, it is beautiful. Fans who know me know that I’m very OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I like everything clean and organized. Coming to a country where everything is so clean, it’s like God is telling me “You Belong Here”. I think it’s amazing, I went to the hotel, looked around and it’s beautiful. Last night around midnight, I walked out to get a bottle of water, and walked around, and everywhere is really clean. I think that’s amazing, and countries can learn from this, from what you guys are doing here.
Q: Have you tried our chili crab?
I haven’t had the chili crab yet. I got off the airplane, got back to the hotel, and the first thing we ate was KOREAN food. I want to state this so everyone knows, I don’t hate Korean food, but when I travel I like to try the foods in that country-different cultural food from all over the world. If I go to Thailand, I’m not going to look for Chinese food. If I go to Russia, I’m not going to try French food. I want to try the foods that have from that country. So, if you guys (the organizers) are listening, I would like to try some Singaporean food! (Declares this earnestly)
(Interjections from the organizers who quickly promise Brian that he will get a taste of Singaporean food after the concert “tonight, tonight!”)
And the funny thing is, I’m probably the only K-pop person who does that. Most of the other K-pop guys want Korean food but I’m not like that. I’m totally different. I’m a little weirdo. (Laughs, and draws laughter from the crowd.)
Brian’s reflections on his music, musical journey and upcoming activities
Q: Can we expect a gospel album from you?
Actually, the day before I came here, I was supposed to record a single for a new gospel album with a bunch of other kpop singers. They have not yet decided on the name of the group combination yet, but there will be many artistes involved. We’re going to do an actual Christian album to help children around the world and donate proceeds from the album.
Q: Will we be able to purchase it internationally?
We’re still talking about that right now, as most of the album is going to be sung in Korean. I’m going to have an English solo, and that’s the only thing I know right now. [Whether it will be available internationally is not yet decided].
Q: Would you like to share with us more about your upcoming musical Loving the Silent Tears and your role in the cast?
I’m basically going to be one of the ensembles. I’ll sing the main Korean song with Heather Park in the form of a duet- she’ll sing her lines in English and mine will be in Korean. It’s a fantasy musical where two or three main characters travel the world-a fantasy world-and they go on a train and go to all these countries. Korea is one of the sixteen countries selected for this musical, so Heather Park and I are the representative vocalists for Korea. I don’t know the exact story line cause I have only read the lyrics of the song, and not the whole script. Right after [the concert in] Singapore, I’ll be going to L.A. to rehearse for two weeks for the show on the 27th of October and I will be working with people like John Secada, Jody Watley and even the choreographer who choreographs for Michael Jackson. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s something international and very huge for me.
Q: Are there any differences between how you feel for this musical and the previous one you did(RENT)?
The previous one was actually more nerve-wracking for me because it was my first musical ever. It was difficult because I had to memorize the whole script front to back pretty much all in Korean and there were more songs, more parts and more dialogue and more responsibility. In Loving the Silent Tears, it is going to be more group effort, and for me to be on a project like that. It’s going to be a big thing, but unfortunately it is only for one night. Hopefully we can continue to do the show internationally and not just in Hollywood.
(Loving the Silent Tears is a musical featuring a diverse star cast with a total of fifteen Grammy Awards, four Oscar Awards, three Tony Awards and six Emmy Awards. Hailing from many different countries, sixteen countries will be represented in the musical, bringing together a wide array of languages, cultures and dances into one spectacular performance. As mentioned, Brian Joo and Heather Park are the representatives for Korea.)
Q: Your latest album was titled Reborn Part 1. So is Part 2 coming out soon?
Part 2 was supposed to come out. But unfortunately, I left my recent label. I was with Jellyfish before, and Jellyfish and I actually decided to part ways, on good terms of course. Right now, I’m in the midst of talking to a new label and once I settle down, I’m going to [make decisions pertaining to] the next album, Reborn Part 2. I’m not sure if Reborn 2 will be a mini album or a full album with thirteen, fourteen tracks on it. Right now, I’m still in the midst of thinking of what I want to do, and I hope you guys will like the next album, whether its Reborn or not.
Q: First generation idol group Shinhwa who made a recent comeback. Can we anticipate a comeback from Fly to the Sky as well?
Of course. Hwanhee and I talk about it all the time. We felt that our breakup as Fly to the Sky in the past was a little too soon, even though we had been together for ten years. Unfortunately the main reason [for going our separate ways] was that we did want to do our own solos-career, life, sound. Basically, Hwanhee wanted to do more R&B music. Me, I wanted to do more pop. Music that kids can listen to, enjoy and have fun in the club-Hwanhee wasn’t really into that music. So we kept fly to the sky to more R&B dance ballads. And from that point onwards, Hwanhee did his own thing, I did my own thing. But when we get together, we create that music, that sound that we had in the past, because that what our Fly to the Sky fans love, so that’s what we’re going to do. Hwanhee has another year to do his military career in Korea, so once that’s over, we’ll actually talk about it, and hopefully we’ll come up with something soon.
Q: Is there a genre of music you would like to try?
Country music? (Laughs) I won’t say I’m well-rounded but I feel like I can fulfill any genre of music as long as I put my mind and heart to it. Not saying that I do classical music. I love listening to all kinds of music but with my goofy image, my crazy image and also my ballad song image, I don’t think I can do rock music. I listen to rock, but people do not expect it from me, nor do they want it from me. I might do it on the show or concert a few times, but that’s about it. I won’t produce a rock album. I will probably do more of the electronic, K-pop, house club music. Taking all these genres and mixing them together, that would be fun.
Q: If you had a chance to collaborate with a Korean female artist, who are you interested to collaborate with?
There’s actually a few. Lena Park, I loved listening to her when I was growing up. G.NA, of course-G.NA is like a little sister to me, and hopefully we can work on something. We were supposed to do a duet on her album at one time, but everything got delayed and pushed back. Maybe [a collaboration with] the Miss A girls? [They are] the girls that I’m very close to in this business. I love hanging out with them, so I would love to do music with them.
Q: And how would you describe your musical journey so far?
So far, I feel like I am still in that learning process even though I have been in the business for as long as I have been. Every day is a new learning experience for me. Even from watching other artistes, I could learn from them as well. Just because they are younger than or less experienced than me in the business does not mean that they are not better than me. I don’t like to compare, I don’t say who is better than me-everybody has their own musical gifts and talents. For me, being in the business for as long as I have been, that’s the mindset that keeps me stable in the business. [I’ve been] trying to keep my mind and my options open- it is not just music, but also variety shows, or when other countries ask me to go [there] to perform or be a part of some project-that’s what I do. As long as I’m busy-well, not that busy, but somewhat busy-to the point that I’m in the scene and people know that I’m out there and want to know me more and more. That’s why I continue to do what I do!
Insights: The REAL Brian Joo up close and personal
Q: We’ve seen numerous appearances on certain variety shows such as Strong Heart. So we have a rough gauge on how Brian is like on variety shows. But tell us, what is the REAL Brian Joo like in person?
To be honest, one simple word that describes me is boring. I’m a very boring person (Says this sincerely). Most people want to travel and party and sightsee and do all these things. The first thing I did yesterday after we landed? I went to the hotel, packed, had dinner went back to the hotel and stayed in my hotel room all night [even though] everyone else wanted to go out drink and party. For me, the party life is very work-related, so sometimes I just want to get away from that and be a boring person.
I love to watch movies. I love to listen to music. I love to sit in front of the television, watch television and have a bowl of popcorn. Pretty much like that. I’m just like everyone else. Everyone assumes that just because you are a celebrity, you work with the media and you have to have this fabulous star-studded life, which is not true. We do the same things you guys do. We wake up in the morning, read the papers, have breakfast and hang out with our friends. The differences are work life-our work is our lifestyle. And because of that, in my own time, I do nothing at all.
Q: That’s the side that nobody gets to see. Everyone sees the variety shows and Brian dancing…
Because of that image, people think I stand in front of the mirror every night by myself at home, and come out with these weird goofy dances. Trust me, everything I do is very spontaneous, and on the ball, right there and then. I don’t actually create these dances. If I did I have a problem, I should be in hospital. [Says it with a deadpan face, drawing laughter from the crowd again]
Q: You debuted when you were just a teenager [in 1999], and you’ve come a really long way. To all the new people in the industry-because there are a lot of bands debuting especially this year, and they are really young, even from the 1995, 1996 batch-what advice would you give to them or to the other artistes out there to stay grounded?
Actually the advice I would want to give is what a lot of the other kids probably would not take [right now]. They are still in that crazy “I’m young and getting world known right now” phase, because the internet is so advanced. I would tell kids to stay grounded by staying surrounded by humble people and realize that you are doing what you are doing because of the people around you who brought you up-your parents, your label and the staff. That’s what I do-I literally do not hang out with that many celebrities. I probably have, at most three or four, celebrities that I actually see and hang out with on a regular basis. [One celebrity would be] Siwon from Super Junior. When we hang out, we literally don’t do anything, we’ll just sit on the sofa and talk about random stuff- I’ll talk about my album, he’ll talk about his relationships with the other Super Junior members and when he wants to get married.
I hope the kids in the future can learn from [this]. Even though you are living this crazy celebrity lifestyle- girls, money, cars, [being able to say] whatever you want on stage with lights shining down on you-don’t let that get into your head because as soon as it comes to you, it can be taken away from you. I think a lot of kids live with depression because they expect to be at the top and stay at the top, but that’s not the truth. You have your ups and downs. I have a lot of friends in the business who are a lot younger than me and when I hang out with them, I try to show them the calm, chill, relaxed, not-celebrity-like lifestyle as much as possible. If they need advice, I am here for them, they have my number and I have theirs. I hope kids in the future do not let them get to their heads.
I tell my little cousin that too. She loves to sing, and she’s got a real good voice but I begged her not to become a K-pop singer only because her main goal was to make a lot of money and to be famous. I said to her: “If that’s where your heart is at, don’t do it.”
Music isn’t about money or fame. Music is because you love the music and you want to create music for other people as well.
(A long pause as all dwelt on the wisdom of Brian’s words…)
Well if you give us money that doesn’t hurt either! (Laughs out loud and the crowd explodes into laughter)
Brian’s love message to his BFFs
Q: Any shoutouts to your BFFs?
As you all know, BFFs are my fans. It usually stands for Best Friends Forever but I changed it to Brian’s Family and Friends because that’s what I honestly feel. I wouldn’t be here today if not for the supporters from all around the world. I don’t like the word fans-fans feel very distant, like a huge wall or barrier between me and the people who support me. I would rather use the words ‘family’ and ‘friends’. I really want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart, for being beside me all these years since 1999 till now. I’m still living, still working, and still breathing and it’s all because of you guys, so thank you so much. I hope you guys will continue to support me, and I’ll continue to do my best to put a smile on [all BFFs’] faces! (Beams at everyone)
A summary of Brian’s journey in Singapore and his upcoming activities
Brian’s posts on Twitter charting his journey to Singapore, his experiences and his farewells, revealing his newly formed but strong attachment to Singapore and his BFFs here!
Indeed, this Up Close & Personal experience gave all an unobstructed view of Brian’s chiseled face Up Close, a chance to get Personal with him-to interact with the down-to-earth, friendly and charismatic superstar who is ironically interesting because he loves being boring-and to be a part of his ‘Family and Friends’. These charms explain Brian’s longevity in the entertainment industry, and are indications of more great achievements to come, don’t you agree?
Brian is currently in Los Angeles, California, preparing for the musical Loving the Silent Tears, to be performed on the 27th of October, at the Shrine Auditorium.
Special thanks to Jig Asia Entertainment Pte Ltd for giving us the opportunity to cover Brian Joo Up Close & Personal Concert, 2012.
Event covered by Kenny@hellokpop & YunTing@hellokpop
Sources (News): silenttearsmusical
Sources (Pictures): Brian Joo’s Twitter and Kenny@hellokpop
Release: July 29, 2011
Distributor: Loen Entertainment
I won’t lie–Hwanhee‘s first studio album was one of my most anticipated releases this year. It’s been two and a half years since Fly to the Sky parted ways, but this unbelievably gifted, twelve-year-veteran vocalist has released but two short EPs to his name. No, neither lived up to the admittedly lofty expectations; the flashes of brilliance found therein, though, were enough evidence that the big release could be something special when it came. Long story short, Hwanhee’s self-titled album Hwanhee follows its predecessors’ footsteps–for the most part, it disappoints, but not before showing us that elusive glimpse of what could be.
Hwanhee’s voice is still superb, and the sound is polished. The disappointments lie more or less along the same lines as in Fly to the Sky’s releases, as well as in Hwanhee’s previous EPs: a lack of imagination. Hwanhee is content to stay in that comfort zone of gut-wrenching R&B ballads for the most part, other than the occasional foray into the equally familiar haven of trite dance/pop hybrids. For the first couple tracks, the album does a good job of dispelling fears of such a scenario. Opening track Temptation, composed by Hwanhee himself, is actually pleasantly surprising in its thick, moody atmosphere as well as its true-R&B sensibilities; it’s a little reminiscent of Bring It Back, all the way in H Soul, and also of Hwanhee’s comment a couple years back that this was the style of music he’d like to pursue. 하루 종일 (All Day) is similarly drenched with atmosphere, this time owing to ambient, trance-like synthesizer and lyrics.
After that, the facade starts falling apart. Lead single 죽을 것만 같아 (somewhat oddly translated to Love Pain by the agency, but whatever) immediately returns to the tried-and-true ballad formula. The forced-tragic melody is uninteresting, and the lyrics generic; the subtle mood change in the chorus is beyond predictable as a trick by now. Several other tracks, including 어젠 (Yesterday) and 그대가 가르쳐준 이별 (The Parting You Taught Me), among others, are similar products. That predictability permeates the rest of Hwanhee as well. As a result, the album’s lone dance track, T By Tears, is interesting chiefly by virtue of being what it is: the lone dance track. (I’ll give it that the sound design produces at least an engaging beat, but the track could still pass for a Fly to the Sky album filler.) 사랑해 사랑해 (Love You, Love You) draws attention because it’s the only track with a somewhat varied soundset (it’s guitar-hinted) and a rap verse. You see the point.
From many other artists, an effort like this could be downright intolerable. We are still talking about Hwanhee, though, and that means the vocal performance generally brings even mediocre and below mediocre tracks up to a certain standard. Remember the really early Fly to the Sky albums? Most everyone agreed that Hwanhee totally made duo-mate Brian (not a shabby vocalist himself… now more than then, but still) look bad by comparison, but he sounded like he had yet to learn to fully harness all his talent. A decade does wonders: Hwanhee is made of that same level of superb track presence and control that 2010′s …하다가 (…While) showed us. The range of his expression, displayed in an explosive duet performance in 남남 (Strangers) and a restrained, stylish soliloquy in 악몽 (Nightmare) is testament to the kind of damage that this guy can still do when paired with an engaging melody and track. But such moments are rare to be found.
I’m not sure what I expected out of Hwanhee. Something great; even something groundbreaking. It was probably unrealistic, as Hwanhee (the artist) doesn’t have a proven record of producing masterpieces, but that doesn’t justify the amount of disappointment that Hwanhee (the album) brings. We know Hwanhee can sing, and we know he can sing those sad R&B ballads really well. We also know he can do the generic dance tunes, too. (As well as dance, period, but that’s besides the point.) Yet that’s almost all that this album has to offer–in a decidedly rehashed, derivative way. If the Fly to the Sky guys ever had a friendly competition to be the better solo artist, Brian would have the clear upper hand. Actually, I guess Hwanhee would have a slight advantage in the album cover department.
Tracklist (recommended tracks listed in bold)
1. Temptation (Intro)
2. 하루 종일 (All Day)
3. 죽을 것만 같아 (Love Pain)
4. 모르게 (So You Don’t Know)
5. 어젠 (Yesterday) – Original Hwanhee Version
6. 악몽 (Nightmare)
7. 남남 (Strangers) – Featuring Maydoni
8. T By Tears
9. 사랑해 사랑해 (Love You, Love You) – Featuring Se Yong
10. 그대가 가르쳐준 이별 (The Parting You Taught Me)
Photo credit: maniadb