This is not the reality I wanted

It’s usually not a good idea to immediately jump to conclusions after seeing only one or two teaser photos released a month before the actual comeback (*cough*), but it was a little hard to keep myself from bursting into tears of despair after seeing DBSK’s concept photos, which were released today:

Obvious 2PM references aside, the reason why I’m rolling my eyes right now isn’t necessarily because they’re fugly. The look would hold up just fine in a magazine shoot (as if they didn’t have enough of them anyway), but…it’s not a fashion spread. It’s their performance concept. In that, they’ll be performing like this. On stage. Where people can see them.

Y’know, I won’t pretend that SM has always had brilliant creative staff or anything, but this is a whole new level of gimmick. I’ve been trying to be more tolerant of visual artistic license in K-pop as of late – that is, forming a distinction between things that look good, and things that look good to me – but for Shinki’s sake, this just doesn’t look right on them. Heck, it probably doesn’t look right on anyone, but especially them. Maybe it’s just the striking Fly To The Sky resemblance that’s getting to me, but to be honest, I don’t really see Yunho and Changmin doing the whole “Gods-Of-All-Boybands-Evar” thing as a duo. This then brings up a whole slurry of issues concerning their performance quality and new material…but it means one thing for sure: smeared eyeshadow and disco ball shirts probably aren’t gonna fly.

Don’t get me wrong: the news of their return is pretty exciting, but I’m half-curious and half-terrified to see how they’ll be formulating their comeback-slash-new-identity. With the departure of two lead vocalists and one lead dancer, the group is thrown wildly off balance. All you’ve got left is one dancing machine with so-so vocals and one guy who can hit a high G if needed. Their individual specialties just don’t mesh. The only real thing they have in common is that they’re considered to be “gods” of some sort, and boy is SM playing that up.

I find this to be really obnoxious. For one, the members have previously seemed to regard the name as being somewhat humorously ironic – or, at the least, they’ve tried to laugh off the gaudiness of the title and tried to show off how down-to-earth they are…which is something I’ve always appreciated about them. It just looks really awkward how they’re now taking the “godliness” thing seriously now. Or worse, it just looks like SM’s running out of ideas – which, considering SM’s creative resources and what they’ve been given to work with, probably isn’t too far from the truth.

It would probably be so much easier to debut Yunho and Changmin separately as solo artists, but Cassies would throw a fit and the fanwars would be ten times as bad as they already are…and plus, it’d be a bit foolish for SM to not cash in on the DBSK name while they still can. A few months back, I wrote a post about the “fizzling-out” phenomenon in K-pop, in which I also predicted HoMin’s comeback to the K-pop scene. For reasons I stated in that post and this one, I’m concerned that this comeback may very well spell the beginning of the end for the pair.

I’m viewing this comeback more as a debut for the “new DBSK.” And, as a newly debuting group, the new DBSK is not well engineered, and the members don’t mesh with each other. And for good reason: they’re simply what’s left of what was once perhaps the most perfectly engineered group in K-pop. The fact that the five members of “old DBSK” worked so well together as a group despite the fact that they were haphazardly put together last minute after Shinhwa’s departure – that’s nothing short of a God-given gift. Post-breakup DBSK just isn’t doing it for me anymore. It’s true that, after seeing JYJ perform live, I can no longer deny that they (JYJ) still have an amazing sound. However, their repertoire is now highly restricted due to their limited vocal range, and their choreography is nothing special…Jaejoong and Yoochun look awkward on stage, and Junsu tries to make up for it with that weird hip-thrusting thing he does that only looks sexy when he’s not trying to use it as a compensation device. There’s something missing in JYJ’s performance, and it shows – badly. With HoMin’s comeback, I’m sure that it’ll only show even worse.

SM knows all of this, but like I said before – it’d be stupid of them to have the DBSK name in their hands and not use it to their advantage and bring back Yunho and Changmin under the DBSK name. It’s just a matter of how they go about it. I was half-hoping that they’d present HoMin as the grown-up gentlemen that they were, like they did for Kangta’s Chinese debut…but their appearance at SMTown Live kinda killed those chances. For some reason, they’re insistent on keeping HoMin within the current K-pop trends – that is, making them your typical over-the-top idols – when, in fact, Changmin and Yunho are past their idol days already. Evidence of this transition from ‘idol’ to ‘artist’ began showing during Secret Code promos in 2009, when the group exuded a very down-to-earth vibe. They acted less like five Gods of the East, and more like five guys who just liked to sing.

But of course, the stupid lawsuit had to come in and ruin everything.

Both HoMin and JYJ are guilty of overglamourizing their individual concepts, and, cynicism aside, I wonder why this is. I’m inclined to believe that both parties are just trying to make a big deal out of themselves by portraying themselves as “godly,” but the fact that they’re overglamourizing themselves just makes them all the more ordinary. It’s perhaps fair to say that BoA was guilty of the same thing during “Hurricane Venus” promos. Or maybe it’s just a matter of personal taste – I find the gaudiness of K-pop to be rather childish and immature, and are thus perfectly fitting to more “childish and immature” rookie groups – SHINee a la “Lucifer,” or 2PM a la “I’ll Be Back.” I expect something more mature from sunbae artists. Mature men don’t play dress-up with their sister’s wardrobe and makeup.

On a semi-related note, it appears that I’ll be in Taiwan during the bulk of the year-end Gayo shows, as well as for DBSK’s (man, it feels weird referring to HoMin by that name now) comeback. It’s not Korea, but at least I’ll be several thousand miles closer to the action than I would’ve been had I stayed in Connecticut. Maybe my K-pop fangirling might even expand outside the realm of my internets! Exciting thought, I know.

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  • Max

    lawl korean visual kei