I attended SMTown NYC on 23 October 2011. It’s been almost two weeks since the concert happened, and I’ve had time to reflect and think about what exactly did happen, and start to sort out my feelings.
Following is a discussion of each act that SHINee performed or appeared in, and then I will briefly sum it up at the end. As usual, I am expressly not aiming to be rude or to unfairly criticize. These are observations and subsequent analyses that I have made, and are only to be used as discussion points, and not as absolute rulings.
“7989” — Kangta & Sulli, cameo from Onew
In other concerts, Onew appears carrying a jajangmyeon (Korean ramen) delivery crate, but in NYC and LA, they changed it to a pizza box. Lame. Otherwise, no gripes, except the Onew Sangtae trip definitely was planned for. Cute, though. I won’t lie, I literally screamed my head off because this was the first time a SHINee member appeared on stage.
“Stand by Me” — SHINee
I heard the opening synths to the song, and I inwardly groaned. Stand By Me is quite possibly the most corny single in SHINee repertoire and least, for lack of a better word, imaginative. However, I guess for these reasons, it is a good stock song to open up with a concert (though I think Love Like Oxygen could have accomplished the same thing, more or less).
Honestly, this was the only song that SHINee sang live completely. The main way I could tell is that Jonghyun’s and Onew’s voices almost got covered by the overpowering MR (backing track), because they sing in somewhat of a lower register for that song. The one thing I remember most clearly is how out of place Key’s voice sounded with Jonghyun and Onew (because really, Stand by Me is a trio, and leaves Minho and Taemin out). Key was completely fine mechanically singing it, but something just sounded grating and untoward.
“Replay” — SHINee
After Stand By Me, was Replay, and in the middle of it, I did my characteristic suspicious-squint-of-eyes. Everyone was hitting every note. Suspicious. Jonghyun’s high notes were exactly the same as the recordings. Suspicious.
Jonghyun eventually went up on wires, and had sparklers shooting out of his butt / seat / halter / thing. I’m still not sure how I feel about that.
Key had a good accent but it was very apparent that none of them were fluent and they just memorized some lines beforehand and do not actually understand what they are saying completely. Not a bad thing, just an observation.
They all seemed quite out of breath as well, and weren’t as active and gregarious as I originally thought they would be. Two reasons for this departure in expecations: they aren’t comfortable in English and they were tired. Though I don’t remember the name of the concerts, they had a large concert immediately before SMTown NYC, then had to go to Japan for their Nagoya SHINee World concert, and now they just were in London. SHINee has been pushed around a lot lately– as TVXQ is beyond repair, and Super Junior is on the downslide as members are going into the army, SHINee is getting shifted from being B-side to being A-side. SHINee is fulfilling a lot of activities that TVXQ and Super Junior would do if they were not in their reduced states.
“Get Down”– SHINee
This song is mostly rapping, so you have Onew, Taemin, and Jonghyun trying to look badass and dancing along with the music, bopping their heads, flailing their arms and legs. They looked like they were having fun, but it somehow looked a bit awkward because I’m sure everyone, including me, are extremely used to tightly choreographed routines from SHINee. Honestly, being spontaneous is not SHINee’s strong point, simply because they do not really have any reason to do so normally– everything SM does is choreographed efficiency. Efficient as in the fan spends the maximum amount of money. Devious.
I never liked Juliette as a dance track because it lacked what every dance track needs: a strong bass. The instrumentals are just too weak and punchy to provide a solid thumping. By this time, I highly doubt anyone in SHINee was singing live. The live dance was fine, but what bothered me quite a bit is that the stage is quite large and for many of the acts, including SHINee, they just did the regular dance confined to a small space and really did not make use of the rest of the stage, creating this sense of separation from the entertainers and the ones being entertained.
You can tell that both performances of Get Down and Juliette were uninspiring because I wrote nothing down for both of them.
“My First Kiss”– Key/Krystal
Someone asked me on formspring before how lip-synced this performance was for another SMTown. Watching via fancam, I said very heavily. Watching live, I say 95%, except for perhaps some ad-libs and some simple parts. It was also rather anticlimactic when they reached the bridge.
It did not feel like a performance, more like filler, I’m sorry to say. It was a lot of prancing and preening around stage, but not much substance unless you are a Key or Krystal stan.
In the beginning of this performance, the lights flashed in the aisles. I was thinking, “No, crap they’re coming down aisles. Yeah. Right.” Then I turned around, and Eunhyuk was gleaming in his blonde hair. “CRAP THEY’RE COMING DOWN THE AISLE.” So they went down the aisles. I was sitting in the aisle seat.
Eunhyuk and Shindong came down my aisle. They were so close I could have reached out and touched them. Like WTFBBQ.
But what was even more WTFBBQ was that men in black suits were surrounding them. What is the point of coming down the aisles if the people in the aisles cannot properly see said idols? Another thing I noticed throughout the concert was the lack of contact that the performers had with the audience. Taylor Swift has been having concerts lately, and she’s always shaking hands, hugging with fans (heck, she even kissed a baby). And what about my oft-cited example for everything pop, Britney Spears? She’s been giving random guys lap dances. So. For the time that they were not rapping, I wish the performers had taken the initiative to interact properly with fans.
For fans, I think the most important fanservice idols could ever give is touch. Not even extremely cute JongKey (or Jongho) interactions could be this monumental. I’d rather much Jonghyun give me a high-five than see JongKey mouth-to-mouth kiss (think emo jrock)– the latter does not concern me, it’s their private matter. The stage was also constructed in a way that even the fans in the floor seats could not reach idols even if the idols stretched out their hands (which I’m told, Donghae tried very hard to do. He’s such a nice kid).
If you want, watch the fancam I took. You first see Shindong in red, then Eunhyuk with his blinding hair. Then I sort of tracked the camera in the audience and looked for Minho and Key. It was actually a pretty good rapping performance, because all of them were rapping at some time and not just standing around awkwardly (cough, Taemin-Onew-Jonghyun-Get-Down). Minho particularly was very into it, I even wrote “Minho wild.” Minho is usually described as an emotionless rapper, but this time, he was very passionate. Good for Minho.
The lyrics were a little suspect, though, for example:
When I do a SM Town concert A-yo!
When the anchovy is getting beat up A-yo!
When Eunhyuk gets fat and becomes Shindong A-yo!
When I’m hungry and there’s no rice A-yo!
When someone drank the strawberry milk A-yo!
When I see E.L.F. who I love A-yo!
When I do the Sorry Sorry dance~ A-yo!
“I Did It For Love”– BoA/Key
This was probably my favorite performance of the entire night. BoA is amazing (AMAZING AMAZING x 6.022e23) live, and though I have my doubts on Key singing completely live, their chemistry was ridiculously amazing. Though it was very ‘separate’ in the proper Korean sense, it still was jaw-dropping.
After this performance, I was rooting for Key to get him some BoA tail. Key to hit that. How could Key ever be postulated to be gay. How.
This following fancam is the best one in which you can see Key’s seduction face, but really, watching it on the big screen, and without random dancers scooting in front, it was just amazing that he could produce that sort of expression while looking at BoA (think the 0.12s expression, but more intense and directed at BoA). Really, Key, go tap that.
*The following video is a different fancam than I originally posted. It’s very shaky, so you can’t really get to a good pause location to stare at Key’s seduction face. Just keep watching it, over and over.. concentrate! I will try finding the original one, I can’t imagine why the owner took it down.
The arrangement of the song is much better than with Sean Garrett’s vocals because Key’s voice is gritty and it introduces the drama in an otherwise smooth and pretty song with pretty chords and progressions. It fits much better.
The only little nagging feeling I had was how Key looked that night, he looked a bit tired. Don’t hit me, but I wrote, “like wasted. Cocaine.” Not that Key does cocaine, he just had the red-rimmed eyes that made me think of withdrawal. I was disheartened that he looked so (shaking fist at SM).
“Ring Ding Dong”– SHINee
The controlling-camera-director-person(s) missed all of the shots. It would be Jonghyun singing, and we would see Taemin dancing. It would be Minho rapping, and then we would see Key being all cool. Sometimes they would hit on the right person, and they rejoiced, and then when someone else sang, they panicked and started shifting cameras haphazardly again.
I don’t understand why this happened for just Ring Ding Dong. Everything else went fine (I’m lying. I can’t speak for SNSD and f(x), because.. well, I’ll let you know about it later).
Jonghyun was clearly lip-syncing. Perhaps he was so tired he really did not care anymore. Perhaps. But it was just extremely obvious, and I was sitting there with a frown wrinkle forming.
“Ready or Not”– SHINee
Kudos to Taemin for singing live. But no kudos because his voice kept wavering and sinking into the heavy MR. Another rap-heavy song, so we got another song in which some SHINee members were standing awkwardly around. SHINee already did a rapping song (Get Down), so I was hoping they would go with something like Romantic, which would highlight the singing members of SHINee. Any ballad pre-Lucifer would have been fine. Disappointing.
Rock remix version; apparently this meant that everyone but Jonghyun got to fly in harnesses above the stage. When they reached back down, and were bopping their heads again, Onew apparently bopped his head too hard, and his necklace broke. So for a good minute, he danced and clutched his necklace in his hand. I would have to say, very professional of Onew; he acknowledged but went on without panic.
Also, A.Mi.Go is a dance track, with an intense choreography. What does mean? 100% lip-sync!
I was listening to this track earlier today, and I cannot understand why it is so high on my most played playlist. It is intrinsically a boring track with weak direction. I did not write anything down for the performance.
“Nessun Dorma”– Onew
I reviewed Onew singing Nessun Dorma on formspring before, and basically I said:
(1) Onew does not do enough vibrato.
(2) It’s so gimmicky.
It still is resoundingly true. Onew’s voice cracked in the middle, and though his deep voice was resonant, while he held the long notes, it just felt like a drone. His last note of victory, of vittoria? It completely faded away, crushed under the applause of the audience. No, no, no. Even if the audience applauds prematurely, the note does not fade, it stays and it soars over our hearts and over anything we the disruptive audience can attempt to noisily conjure up.
Onew can sing so many things well, for example, pre-Lucifer ballads (hint, hint, SM!), so to make him sing something so corny and something that he does not do well is irritating and a bad choice. Onew is a pop singer, not an opera singer, and his repertoire should play to his strengths, not his weaknesses.
Dance Battle– Taemin/Minho & others
Funny. I did not notice Minho in there; I did not pay much attention. SM dance battles are always run-of-the-mill, a lot of popping, but no inventive choreography or ventures into new styles. In other words, totally forgettable.
I was wondering when their trump card would show up. It finally did after Cassies screamed their hearts out for TVXQ.
The Wolverine-claw-laser-things were used as all five of them this time were lifted above the stage, and Jonghyun’s and Minho’s claw-laser-things both lasered me at one point. Minho lasered my area quite a lot.
None of this song was live.
All of SMTown streamed out at this point, so I was too busy trying to follow Jonghyun instead of focusing on who was singing (sorry!). I get the impression that Hope was just one big track with generous MR. Performers sang at volition. If no one sang at all, it still would have been all right.
On a 100 point scale, I give SHINee a 70. They were tired and they were lip-syncing. Not their fault, but being impartial means throwing away these considerations and grading their performances. Their performances were lip-synced and “perfect”– what I would see on MuBank or MuCore or Inkigayo; they sang ‘perfectly’ and looked perfect and hot and pretty and cute and fangirl-fanboy-melty-what-have-you. I suppose I was expecting SHINee live with all their wobbles and quibbles, not SHINee so-tightly-and-efficiently-choreographed. I did not see a SHINee that endeared me even more as a Shawol, I saw this fearsome money pumping machine, well-oiled and stretched to its limits.
I went to SMTown NYC for the sole reason of seeing SHINee. I wanted to see them live, and I wanted them to rock it. I wanted to be blown away by Jonghyun’s vocals, blown away by their stage presences. I enjoyed their performances, but I cannot say I was reeling, that I was feeling punch drunk after the concert.
The surest way to tell the quality of the concert is how disoriented I feel afterwards. The more disoriented, the more it touched who I am inside, the more I felt it reverberate through my soul. I know this sounds silly to many people, but music like that fills me up and expands within me, so I have no more space for me to keep my own thoughts, my own orientation. I am quite literally lost within the music.
I felt so alert afterwards. SHINee in SMTown NYC was a cerebral experience. It was not an emotional one.
More to come: SMTown non-SHINee performances review, fan account of waiting outside hotel & other related activities, what this means for me as a SHINee fangirl. I may expand this a bit more because I am a walking zombie at this point, but I owe you guys this post, I really do.