JYJ in Newark

My photography skills haven’t improved by much since JYJ’s concert in November, but a camera upgrade definitely helps. Heh.

On the whole, the Newark concert was a lot more organized and a lot less chaotic than the New York show, and it felt more cohesive. My only complaint is that the structure and direction did feel a little dry at times, but considering JYJ’s repertoire (not to mention language restrictions), it’s forgivable.

My mom attended the concert as well (yes, I have the coolest mom ever; she took some of the above photos and was even adorably waving a light stick at some points) and having not watched any of the JYJ members perform live save for DVD recordings from DBSK’s old Japan tours, she commented that JYJ presented themselves in a more mature manner compared to their days as DBSK. Which is a given, considering that Jaejoong and Yoochun are both 25 and Junsu’s 24, but I think that that really says something about the current K-pop scene and the presentation of artists similar in age to JYJ. I get the feeling that JYJ seriously considers advice and criticism from fans, moreso than any other K-pop management company. The most notable example of this is probably the changes in JYJ’s style that were likely prompted by this vlog from a fan. But even beyond that, the thing that sets JYJ apart from most other K-pop idols is that their work as a trio thus far has been heavily music-based, with image and styling playing second fiddle. And I dig that, especially since the members of JYJ have proven themselves as true musicians and composers that are capable of functioning outside the mechanism of a large entertainment company. But I also really dig the emphasis on visuals K-pop boasts, and the thought of JYJ pursuing a business model that is more American in practice makes me a little uneasy. Not because it’s American (and by “American” I’m referring exclusively to operational methods and business models, rather than artistic styles), but because I doubt JYJ’s had any exposure to an entertainment business model apart from the Korean model – which is hardly their fault, considering they’ve spent so much of their professional lives with SM and their modes of operation.

And it makes me now wonder whether or not JYJ can still be considered K-pop artists. Sure, they’re still singing pop music and they’re certainly still Korean, but they don’t operate by the traditional K-pop system – and the system is basically what identifies K-pop as K-pop. Then again, I get the feeling that this is what JYJ was going for all along. The biggest folly of the current K-pop idol system as is is that it ensures that every artist’s career will essentially be over by the time they’re 30 years old, at which time they’ll be left with no stable future, no skills other than those applicable to idoldom, and oftentimes no financial fallback plan. JYJ’s primary reason for leaving SM was financial; they basically confirmed this as fact after releasing thelyrics to “Song With No Name.”And rather than writing off their reasons for leaving SM purely to financial greed, I’m more inclined think JYJ realized that they didn’t have much of a future relying on the K-pop system as is, and needed to learn how to become self-sufficient before the ends of their idol careers. Sure – by suing SM, JYJ loses completely – they lose support from a large, powerful corporation, they lose their ability to perform freely, they lose their old songs, they lose their name, they even lose some of their fans. But had they stayed with SM, they would have lost all these things within the next five years anyway and would have had no foreseeable future as musicians outside of their idol career. In my opinion, JYJ’s biggest disadvantage doesn’t lie in the fact that they’re no longer with SM, but rather in the fact that a) their new management company is shady as heck, and b) they don’t have Yunho or Changmin with them. Because – let’s face it: it was basically a miracle that all five members of DBSK could work as harmoniously together as they did. And individual talent aside, half of DBSK’s worth lay in their abilities to work together as a group. Break up the group, and you lose half your worth. In the words of my mom, the split itself is incredibly 可惜 – pitifully unfortunate.

The part of me that believes in Asian loyalty values still thinks that it was wrong of JYJ to break their preestablished contract, and I think that Yunho and Changmin thought the same when they made the decision to not fight SM. That, and SM’s promise of a well-managed, sturdy, and safe career – for the next five years running. I’ve come to pity Yunho and Changmin the most throughout this whole ordeal because their careers will be cut short – not at the hands of JYJ, but simply at the hands of the system. It’s not fair and it shows just how screwed up the K-pop idol system actually is – but for whatever reason, the Powers that Be in the K-pop world still believe that the system works. To that, one can only shake her head at how 可惜 it all is.

Man, this turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it’d be, but I think I just needed to do a big mental dump after that concert. And it was a great concert, no doubt – the venue was far from sold out, but the energy more than made up for it. And JYJ were incredible performers – but that’s a given. Mom only had one criticism: she was disappointed that she didn’t get to see them in white suits. I don’t really get her reasons for wanting to see them in white suits – but JYJ, if you’re reading this, my adorable momma wants to see you guys perform in white suits, and I don’t know how anyone could possibly say no to her.

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