Welcome back, boys
I’ve been hoarding all my Changmin and Yunho photos for this post, kekeke.
It’s weird to see Yunho and Changmin as the sunbaes of the company now, standing with the likes of BoA and Kangta during the pre-concert presscon. Granted, I wasn’t around in the fandom for long enough to see them as “hoobae DBSK,” but considering how the company has evolved since their debut, it’s also now easy to see the evolution of DBSK’s status within the company. I think that DBSK as a whole has been “away” from SM Entertainment – that is, away from Korea – for long enough that people have started to forget what their place is within the company. The focus has been placed so heavily on the younger groups lately, and the face of SM is changing – an inevitable fact.
Think about it: BoA might be the queen of SM – heck, the queen of K-pop – but she makes one (admittedly lackluster) comeback for her tenth freaking anniversary and she’s still equal, if not lower competition for her hoobaes…arguably in terms of skill, but obviously in terms of popularity. BoA has certainly become a legend, but it now seems that BoA’s too much of a legend to have fans. And let’s not even talk about Kangta. Both older-gen artists will have their faithful fans who were around during the idol’s heyday, but that fanbase will only shrink with time, no matter how amazing the idol’s new work is. K-pop audiences are ADD and will be attracted to things that are new and shiny. As new stars rise, old ones will twinkle out and fade into oblivion.
Not gonna lie: I expected Yunho and Changmin to suck during last night’s performances. I didn’t think they were practicing their singing and dancing, because they had nothing to prepare for. I didn’t think they would be thinking of continuing their career and raising it to the next level, because who wants to see an incomplete DBSK?
I thought that they were ready to step away from the idol life, and that SMTown Live ’10 was going to be their way of saying goodbye. I thought that they would just do a little tearjerking remake of “Mideoyo” and apologize to the fans and play around with their SM friends one last time before backing away from the limelight for good. Which, considering all they’ve been through, would be okay.
But they didn’t say goodbye. They said, “We’re back.” They didn’t apologize, because they had no reason to. And they didn’t suck. They were better than before. They were awesome.
And it worries me. Now, I’m totally jumping the gun by making all these predictions, and I’ll probably end up being wrong, but right now, this is all I’m seeing.
I think SM’s got something in store for them. From the moment they spoke at that press conference and identified themselves as Dong Bang Shin Ki, from the moment they performed that medley of old DBSK hits, from the moment they introduced three brand new songs…I started getting the vibe that this wasn’t the last we would be seeing of Yunho and Changmin.
There’s a chance that things might’ve been lost in translation, but I’ve been reading everywhere that Yunho and Changmin have plans on carrying on the name of DBSK in “future activities” – whatever those might be. SM introduced them as a package deal at the concert, and although “Dong Bang Shin Ki” was not flashing all over concert megascreens during their performance, it was surely apparent that it wasn’t just Yunho performing on stage and Changmin performing on stage, coincidentally at the same time. No – they wanted to make it clear that it was Dong Bang Shin Ki that was onstage, their legacy still intact (by performing their old songs), alive (through their current presence), and growing (by presenting new songs).
And for good reason. Jaejoong, Junsu, and Yoochun are off playing Tokyo Dome under a new name and no concrete legacy to speak of. SM, on the other hand, has all the trump cards, all the key players, everything that makes Dong Bang Shin Ki Dong Bang Shin Ki – and to ignore their current resources would be foolish. So what do you do if you’re a major company with millions of dollars worth in influence? You cash in on your advantages. You make a comeback.
Sounds impossible? Yeah, probably. I’d like to think that such a notion is simply a product of my overactive imagination, but Yunho and Changmin’s recent performance was too suspiciously polished to not ask questions. For one, this:
Changmin hasn’t sung in public for more than half a year. He doesn’t have any reason to practice, because he hasn’t had any scheduled performances. He’s spent six months filming a drama that has drained his life away, leaving no room for any sort of “recreational practice.” If you stop doing something for eight months, you get worse. You don’t get better. And you definitely don’t extend their range by that much solely in preparation of one three-minute song. When Changmin lowered “Wild Soul” by a whole step during Tokyo Dome last year, it indicated that, yeah, this guy’s now 22 and hitting high E’s is getting kind of hard. So why in the world are you hitting a high
F G a year later? Just because you can? Yes. Just because, for whatever reason, you now can.
And then there’s this. It would’ve made sense if they had performed a few covers alongside their “DBSK Hit Medley.” But three brand new songs, composed (or pulled out of the basement) for one SMTown concert? I think that there’s probably more where that came from.
The signs seem to extend beyond the SMTown Live stage, as well. I think there’s a good reason why they’re constantly postponing the airing of Paradise Ranch. If it were aired now, it would merely be known as “that-drama-with-the-tall-guy-from-that-disbanded-boy-band.” Because let’s face it: the K-pop world has moved on. DBSK is now on the shelf of forgotten treasures, and no one is going to care if one big-lipped figurine dances off and stars in a sixteen-episode drama. For a drama with a budget that high and a potential viewership that low, people have to care about it. Otherwise it will just be one giant bundle of wasted money. And SM hates that.
So you wait until your main dude regains his popularity. You wait until he’s back in the limelight. And, according to Lee Yeon Hee’s Twitter, you wait until February 2011, which is when Paradise Ranch is supposed to be airing. Wonder if we’ll be seeing Changmin back in the K-pop scene at that same time.
At this point, I’m willing to believe that most fans have, to some degree, accepted that DBSK will not be five members again for quite some time. Which, therefore, leads to varying levels of discomfort concerning the members’ future activities. Jaejoong, Junsu, and Yoochun – or should I say, JYJ – seem to have transformed into their own little group now. Which is fine – they finally seem like they’re completely happy with what they’re doing, and that’s what matters.
But as for Yunho and Changmin…I’m not sure if, given the opportunity for a comeback, they will achieve similar results. For one, they will presumably promote under the name “Dong Bang Shin Ki” – which is bound to unleash controversy – or, at the least, the wrath of overzealous fangirls who don’t accept DBSK in any number other than five. Worst case scenario, DBSK and Cassiopeia will suffer a situation not unlike that of 2PM and Hottest, where members are separated into traitors and noble renegades.
(And it really doesn’t help how fans are already getting pissy about Yunho and Changmin singing old DBSK songs at SMTown Live.)
But even if everyone doesn’t wind up hating their guts, Yunho and Changmin will still be stuck in the dreaded “forgotten sunbae” position – where everyone treats you like a god, but nobody likes you. Compared to the multitude of new names in K-pop, Yunho and Changmin will just be old, recycled faces who are bound for the military in three years so why should we care? Will Cassies still be around to support, or will they be too butthurt and angry to care? Or will they have moved on?
The moment that DBSK stopped promoting as a group was the moment that it began to lose its fans. No matter how they try to make up for it – even if, by some miracle, they come back together as five – Cassiopeia will never be as great in number as it was back in DBSK’s heyday, and to try to salvage those numbers after the fact is a vain effort. If this comeback for Yunho and Changmin actually goes through, it will most certainly be motivated by money (on the part of SM) and the pursuit of the past (on the part of Yunho and Changmin). Such a motivation will only bring about loss, both fiscal and emotional. To be honest, I think that the only ones who will emerge victorious from this ordeal is Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu – because they risked it all to pursue their dreams of being artists, not idols. They realized the power of time and popularity working against them, and they decided to fight for what they loved. And right now, they’re succeeding.
Don’t get me wrong – I would be so happy to see Yunho and Changmin bounce back to the K-pop scene, if only because it makes me so happy just to hear Changmin sing. But if he’s singing not because he wants to, but because it’s all he’s got left…then that’s a tragedy.