[kpop] SHINee: 2012 in review

It has been a busy year for SHINee. Because of this year–more than any other–it has become clear that SM intends SHINee to take the helm of the boy bands after TVXQ.

shinee 3

ALBUM: Sherlock Read the review of Sherlock

Released online on 19 March 2012, and promoted for just under a month, Sherlock is the fourth extended play album SHINee has released to date. With a crazily choreographed dance by Tony Testa, SHINee promoted the singles Sherlock (Clue+Note) and Stranger. The lives in which SHINee did sing live were generally well-received, except for a few bumbling lines here and there by Minho, and even in the lives they did not sing live, their dancing was pristine. A solid, but short, comeback in Korea.

CONCERT TOURS: First Japan Area Tour, SHINee World II, SMTown Live World Tour III

Nothing much to say, really, sold-out shows all over the world; SHINee is busy filling their coffers.

see below for a discussion of JongTae, see Key covering Lady GagaTaemin not playing piano again

DRAMA: You’re Beautiful [Minho]

I never wrote anything about this drama on ilam, because (as everyone knows) my bias is mostly Jonghyun, so I rarely pay attention to other members’ solo activities, like Minho acting in You’re Beautiful. However, since I did love watching the Japanese verison, Hana Kimi, I watched the first few episodes of You’re Beautiful. I concluded that Minho has gotten better in acting, and his range of emotions has increased from two to four. Maybe even five. However, Sulli and the other actors were actually passable; I would have continued watching if not for the asinine writing. The funniest parts of Hana Kimi were perverted into emo touchy-feely moments in You’re Beautiful, so I ultimately decided to abandon watching.

GAYO DAEJUNS [end of year performances]: see this post for a complete review

SINGLES: Dazzling Girl, 1000 Years, MAXSTEP [Taemin], Spectrum [Taemin & Minho] / Read the reviews of Dazzling Girl, 1000 Years.

Released on 10 October 2012, Dazzling Girl was SHINee’s first original Japanese single, an upbeat dance track that quickly went down the drain after the first few listens–it also was not too popular in Japan, peaking at no. 2 in the Daily Singles Oricon chart, eventually earning gold certification.

Later this year, 12 December 2012 saw the release of 1000 Years, another original Japanese single by SHINee. This thoughtful single, while not too novel or epic–more like a hand-me-down from TVXQ–was the first real indication about how serious SHINee is about creating material in Japan. Nonetheless, 1000 Years has not been that successful either, peaking at no. 2 in the Daily Singles Oricon.

MAXSTEP by Younique and Spectrum by SM The Performance are, simply put, disasters in dubstep. I never paid much attention to MAXSTEP, as it was marketed as a song promoting Hyundai–a song like that will never be good, like 2NE1’s quasi-debut, Lollipop. As for Spectrum, I discussed it in depth in this post reviewing SHINee’s 2012 end-of-year performances.

SCANDALS: SHINee members receive SM stock, JongTae, Sulli and Taemin couple rings, jujugal closing, Onew’s depression / isolation / beating up Jonghyun, Taemin having lots of foreign sex

The first ‘scandal’ is not exactly scandalous, but I do remember there being quite a bit of uproar when on March 26, 2012, SHINee and their labelmates received shares of SM Entertainment. Each member of SHINee received 340 shares each, which at the time, was valued at $13,600, which is quite a measly value compared to what each SHINee member should bring in each year. Moreover, after payment of the fees to issue stock in the original IPO, a sunk cost, SM really does not lose money either from this transaction because at the core, they are just issuing pieces of paper. Moreover, however the artists choose to treat their shares, either by keeping them or selling them, SM does not lose money either. It is a win-win for SM. All in all, this was more of a symbolic gesture, SM still trying to cover its behind even all these years after TVXQ’s split, and trying to foster a more collaborative community in its company, giving its artists the illusion that they too, can contribute. But 340 shares? Stop kidding me. Out of 20.4 million shares of SM Entertainment outstanding, SHINee collectively owns only 0.000083% of the company.

SHINee fangirls have been waiting for ever this ever since Jonghyun bared his muscled back in LuciferJonghyun parades his muscled chest, every inch as glorious as Minho’s, and then does a steamy performance with Taemin to boot. Nosebleeds abound. The Taemint fandom gathers up a storm.

Of course, a few sharp-eyed Shawols eye Taemin during Sherlock live performances and bring up the unlikely rumor, yet again, that Taemin and Sulli are dating.

Adding to controversial rumors of Taemin dating, the Shawol boat was rocked when jujugal, a well-known Taemint who did many translations and ran her own popular blog, suddenly closed down. Later along the road, many Onew fan sites started closing their borders to outsiders as well. The reason? Malicious Onew-biased fans started accusing the other members of SHINee of isolating Onew, using evidence gathered from the Onew fan sites.

Running along these lines, rumors of Onew’s depression and uncontrollable breakdown which resulted in the beating up of Jonghyun started to spread, along with a rather hilarious one that Taemin loves having lots of sex when abroad. I partially addressed these rumors on formspring: [1], [2]. The conclusion to all these rumors, as ever, there may be a drop of truth–Onew may very well be struggling with fatigue, Taemin may be dating someone–but the extremes to which they are imagined are definitely not true. SHINee are all normal human beings, and we can all give them the benefit of the doubt that they are not as pigheaded as rumors make them out to be.

VARIETY: Taemin on Immortal Song / Read reviews on debut, ep. 2, ep. 3, 4, 5, ep. 6, 7, 8

We should have all seen it coming–with Taemin’s solo activity on Immortal Song kicking off the year–we should have known that 2012 would be Year of Taemin.

Taemin had a solid but unsatisfying run on Immortal Song, slowly improving throughout. However, it really is in the group activities later in 2012 that shows Taemin’s rapid progress as a singer.

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[kpop/rumor] Sulli & Taemin couple rings. verdict: you are all way too paranoid.

I saw this about a month ago, and I thought it was pretty interesting. Rumors about f(x)’s Sulli and SHINee’s Taemin have been starting since 2010. Before you look at the ‘evidence’, keep in mind that:

  • They both work under the same agency, so they share stylists, who have the access to the same wardrobes.
  • It could also be a case of sponsored jewelry.
  • Sulli wore it only once or twice whereas Taemin has been wearing it much more frequently during Sherlock promotions.

To be honest, even if they were a couple, no one should be that surprised. Despite all of Taemin’s feigned innocence, I am willing to lay down big monies that he has had at least one girlfriend before. How can he not? He is handsome and surrounded by many pretty women. In variety shows, the idols that have retired often talk about the times they vehemently deny their romantical adventurings when in fact they were sexing it up big time.

So now, onto the ‘evidence’!

everyone but SHINee review, SMTown NYC 2011

I will discuss by groups, not by performances like I did with the SHINee SMTown NYC review. I will discuss them in the order that they appeared.

I sound rather caustic in this review, be warned.

f(x)

They were the opening act, and I basically wrote down three things total for f(x) throughout the whole concert:

  1. clearly f(x) is weakest group
  2. huge cheers for Amber
  3. lip-synced

They remind me of SHINee at their debut stage, where only Onew and Jonghyun had polished enough vocals to comfortably perform live– f(x) has only Luna and perhaps Krystal at this point, and the rest is just lip-sync. SM knows this, so that’s why they were primed for opening act, they are more like a warm-up compared to the more seasoned performers that show up later on. I should also mention that I generally am indifferent to girl groups because most of the time they sound too high-pitched and are too ‘cute’. I like harder-sounding clubplay, one of the reasons I liked SNSD’s “The Boys” substantially more than SNSD’s “Gee“. At this point, f(x) repertoire only consists of things like “Gee”.

My personal theory on why Amber is so popular is that there really is no one like her in kpop right now, so outwardly tomboyish, so she attracts a lot of attention for this, and she has a passable personality. Plus, she is American, and SMTown NYC is, after all, in America.

Krystal and Jessica’s cover of Tik Tok was just grating to my ears. Ke$ha is unapologetically white trash (“Kesha also uses a trademark talky “white-girl” rapping style with exaggerated discordant phrasing and enunciation“), and watching Krystal and Jessica sing/rap this song in such sweet, dulcet tones made me gag inwardly.

I suppose one could say that performers reinterpret meanings in covers, valid point. But really. Can you sing these following lyrics without being a little bit rough and trashy? It is like Taemin singing Britney’s “Circus” without much sex appeal.

Ain’t got a care in world, but got plenty of beer
Ain’t got no money in my pocket, but I’m already here
And now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger
But we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger

I’m talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk
Boys tryin’ to touch my junk, junk
Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk

Kangta

He seemed a bit out of place, to be honest, since he is age 32 and some performers are still in their teens. Nonetheless, he delivered very seasoned performances and I felt that though I did not particularly prefer any of his performances, he kept me entertained for the present, and I got addicted to his song, “Breaka Shaka“.

One thing I did love about Kangta was how low he bowed during his introduction. Though f(x) was the opening act, Kangta gave the proper introduction for all of SMTown, and I highly respect his regard for us as an audience. None of the other acts bowed during introductions or even the ending (if I recall correctly), which I found disappointing, since SHINee is also apparently well-known for their deep bowing.

Kangta bows deeply at 0.42s.

Super Junior KRY

One of the best performances that night, completely live, because sometimes their voices just barely made it over the backing vocals. Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung are all formidable singers; their harmonies were well done and this performance cemented their professionalism.

(I even wrote, “Wookie so cute”–  he really is adorable in his pink suit.)

Kyuhyun later sang a duet with Seohyun (SNSD), “Way Back Into Love“, and I am afraid Seohyun did not measure up to Kyuhyun’s singing. She was a little shaky and was overwhelmed by Kyuhyun’s more dulcet and sure tones– even Kyuhyun initiated the skinship.

SNSD

SNSD are gorgeous live. Squint your eyes, and they look like little toothpicks prancing around. Those two phrases are probably the best things I have to say about them. Their repertoire and their performances were rather stock, what you would see on Music Core, Music Bank, Inkigayo (perfectly lip-synced and choreographed).

It was actually the first time I listened to “Run Devil Run”, and “Oh!” and it really just confirmed that I was correct in not giving them tries.

SNSD has beauty and subsequently stage presence, but unless you are invested in the beauty in the first place, their performances were not very exciting or moving. Point in case, I was sitting next to two fanboys who would always start bopping their head when SNSD came on but would scowl a bit when I started screaming for Super Junior and SHINee. Their performance of “The Boys” in English confirmed how awkward it sounds in English, though I find Sunny’s accent to be quite endearing.

Super Junior 

Same thing with Super Junior. They are pretty boys with stage presence, but with substantially better-sounding music (in my biased opinion). Though I have to say, blonde-haired Eunhyuk was looking really, really good in this concert. When he took off his shirt (he was wearing a wife beater underneath) at the end of the concert to throw into the crowd, his arm muscles just sort of glimmered in the spotlights, and yes, he was extremely good-looking, that I concur.

During the performance of “Mr. Simple”, Donghae was the only one wearing a silver suit, the rest were wearing white suits, so perhaps a wardrobe malfunction occurred; perhaps I have OCD. They did make an effort to sing the song live, but they were noticeably off-key in the bridge.

After listening to this performance, I wrote, “The more I listen to SM, the more it is about making catchy music, not good music.”

BoA

The more I listen to and watch BoA, the more I am so utterly surprised that in this long period, SM has managed to not ruin BoA à la TVXQ, HOT. BoA is the single best performer that SM has now. BoA sang everything live. I also might be a little unfair to the performers who do not know English well, but she kept up some banter on the stage, even mentioning checking her Twitter during the concert at one point– this little bit of talking gives a much more personal connection with the audience, and I liked her and her performances all the more for it; she was not just walking through the schedule.

All of her songs were dance, and she sang no ballads. Extremely impressive, all that dancing and still singing live. BoA performed quite a lot from her American debut album, which I was a little sad about, because her best songs come from Japan, but I suppose it is too much to hope for a performance of those songs. I wish they at least granted her one ballad, because really, if BoA can sing and dance, she can also stand still and belt out an incredible song.

If I ever got a chance to see BoA in a solo concert, I would definitely go. I cannot stress how amazing she was, especially in the sea of smiling-pretty lip-synchers.

TVXQ

So, the concert started at 7:20pm, and TVXQ came on at 10:15pm.

I suspect it is because now that three members of TVXQ are gone, there is significantly less repertoire TVXQ can perform; they only performed four songs total, compared to SHINee’s seven.

I initially was extremely impressed with Changmin’s high-pitchedness, but then Patricia (I went with her to SMTown NYC, by the way!) informed me later that they only sang one song live, which I believe is “Keep Your Head Down”. Disappointing.

Watching TVXQ as two members is sad. Even though I am not a Cassie of any sort, when “Mirotic” started playing, I felt sort of empty for them, and TVXQ is just a painful experience, it’s a reminder of what a horrible company SM can be and how that can eventually affect groups that I like (i.e., SHINee).

Their entrance was a little sad too, as “Rising Gods of the East” (which is what their name translates to), “Keep Your Head Down” opening riffs were played, they floated over the stage, seemingly exhorting us to rise up in respect of their godliness. It was extremely awkward. After the first few minutes of fangirl screaming, it sort of died down, and we were wondering when the riffs were going to stop repeating and when TVXQ was actually going to get down to business.

Changmin had rather curly hair this time, and he looked faintly like an ahjumma. It was sort of adorable. He was also sweating profusely, if that has any importance. I could not decide if this was an ick point or an attractive point.

Previously, I only heard BoA and TVXQ were amazing live. BoA definitely delivered, TVXQ did not (though it is more because they are missing three members, rather than defects on Yunho or Changmin’s parts), and everyone was blah and lip-synced as anticipated, though Super Junior KRY was pretty good. SMTown NYC was a great beauty pageant, but even then, I cannot say it was a great spectacle. A great spectacle implies there is something else other than the gorgeousness of SNSD or the handsomeness of Super Junior to focus on, that there are intricate sets and new dance sets and unconventional uses of lights, etc.

It was a good concert for fangirls and fanboys.

Nonetheless, for others, who do not know Eunhyuk’s favorite color, do not know what Amber’s last name is, and do not know who named Jonghyun’s puppies, I can only imagine their indifference at SMTown NYC 2011.

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[kpop] SHINee biased analysis of Gayo Daejun

I completely forgot about Gayo Daejun last night. This is a fail, because I was planning to watch it. Instead, I got up at 12:20PM today. Major fail. Nevertheless, Youtube is forgiving.

SHINee appeared in three performances: Key and Onew singing trot, Taemin participating in the maknae performance of Britney Spears’ Circus, and Lucifer with f(x).

I advise you skip over the trot, unless you specifically like that genre. The corny sparkling black outfits of Key and Onew were kitschy, but their good-natured expressions made the whole 1:02 minutes bearable. Sort of.

Taemin as the ringleader in Circus was horrendous. Instead of being sexy, he was awkwardly-cute-trying-to-be-sexy. If you watch the beginning of the original music video, Britney Spears has an undeniable, overt sexuality: we see her curvy silhouette, and in another cut, she is dressed in a skin-tone, skin-tight outfit. Of course, some may argue that Taemin does not have to imitate Britney because they are, after all, different artists. In this case, given the lyrics and the music itself, it is sort of impossible not to channel sensuality. Moreover, they gave Taemin a whip. A whip. So yes. The producers knew that they wanted to channel Sex Taemin. Taemin has proved he can be Sex Taemin in Lucifer (see long hair and guyliner), though androgynously so.  In this performance, he looked like a lamb with his curly hair, and it didn’t help that his costume made him look like a Puritan on the way to Thanksgiving.

Also, I don’t think that Taemin’s voice has achieved the amount of finesse necessary for Circus, it sounded all rather the same inflection: awkward-sexy. Looking closely, Taemin lip-synced most of the performance, so the track we heard was pre-recorded, which makes the result all the more disappointing. Sometimes I think we tend to take Britney’s recorded voice for granted—-she has an amazing range of breathy, raspy, nasal inflections that all culminate in a snappy and addictive song. This performance highlights how much Taemin has to grow as an artist and the questionable choices of the producers: Why the Puritan outfit? Why Circus? Why Britney Spears (that music video would probably be banned in South Korea!)? Why not cover another Lady Gaga like Just Dance in 2009? Or at least a Ke$ha?

Given the improvement Taemin’s shown as a singer in Lucifer and Hello, compared to their Love Like Oxygen days (where Taemin never nailed his high note in live performances), I am confident he will continue to develop in the right direction.

I completely loved the beginning of Lucifer with f(x), all of them chained and yelling. Jonghyun in the cage made me have a symbolism-orgasm; breaking free during his long note was also a neat trick. However, the music reinterpretation was a bit lacking: the remix was just the rock remix they previosly performed with TRAX. In addition, the f(x) cameo felt unnecessary and random: while f(x) was on stage, there was minimal interaction, and after f(x) was done singing, they disappeared. Honestly, I think that f(x) was just put out there, with their experienced sunbaes, to get more exposure and try on a harder and womanlier image.

All in all, Gayo Daejun 2010 was a glorified Music Bank or Inkigayo or Music Core, take your pick. I’m sort of glad that I decided to sleep 12 hours instead. (I lied. I slept for around seven hours, woke up to play Professor Layton and the Unwound Future on the DS and then went back to sleep.)