Boy, have the triple S’s and Henecia been waiting for this! Yes, a few other members of SS501 have made their solo debuts this year, but lets face it – Kim Hyun Joong is (arguably?) the most popular member of the group. As the leader, we’ve set high standards for him and we’re expecting more, making this a crucial debut, and from a soloist no less. Have things panned out successfully for Kim Hyun Joong?
In my experience, the build-up is one of, if not, the most important parts of a successful comeback. It includes everything before the official release of an album. It’s incredibly tricky to make it work, because the better the buildup, the higher the expectations, and the more pressure on the artist. Yet, it can be oh-so-rewarding when done right.
In Kim Hyun Joongs’s case, the expectations derived from his status as a celebrity. Since he is ranked pretty high up in K-pop’s roster of stars, all eyes were on him the week of his debut, even from spectators that weren’t a part of the SS501 fanbase.
How unfortunate was it, then, that the music video for “Please” was released on the same day Big Bang‘s Daesung suffered a car accident? Do I think it hurt KHJ’s comeback? Not as much as it would have hurt the debut of someone with less popularity. It did make one thing clear: the industry is very unpredictable.
As far as the hype behind “Break Down” (the song), it may have been beneficial of his label to have released a teaser a couple days after “Please”, just for more of a reaction.
In short, a bigger buildup – a countdown even – would have been nice.
The first comeback ‘look’ we saw of Kim Hyun Joong was in his video for “Please“. He revealed a new haircut: a shorter and manlier style, though I still don’t see enough of a change to call this a new image. What I do see is the same KHJ, just a bit skinnier.
His outfits look outdated. Looking at him in the music video, we see a tie with a pin, silks, a glove, and office pants from the 90s; they look similar to what fashionista G-Dragon wore for “Love Song“, so they must be in, right?
The music video itself wasn’t too original either. It is very possible that whoever wrote the screenplay to “Please” may have written it in about a day. I really wasn’t thrilled by it, especially being the first thing we get from KHJ in who-knows how long. It was, however, very similar to the Kim Hyun Joong everyone loves, so I’m going to classify it as the classic “playing it safe” detail of his comeback.
Then for “Break Down”, everything changed. Hyun Joong looked stronger, more muscular, and – dare I say it – almost Rain-like. A total bad boy, running away from the police (well, walking…) breaking it down in a tunnel, entering an underground secret lair full of people dressed in black, and girls in cages. Ah, I know, I know – it’s meant to be edgy… it’s meant to be the other extreme from “Please”. But, it’s far away from the Hyun Joong we know that it seems unnatural. Am I alone in this?
Yes, both videos were shot well, and no matter what you dress Joongie in, he will remain pretty damn perfect. But it would’ve been nicer to see a more grounded presentation. Maybe even lighter, with no extremes and no gimmicks. Something more natural, and at the same time, daring. Achieving that is hard, but not impossible. This is exactly what a label is responsible for, so I don’t really blame KHJ as much as I look at Key East and wonder if this is all they got for one of the most popular faces of Kpop. This is also why big companies like SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment have been doing so well all these years; they know how to find that happy middle and they know the exact formula to get it right.
And believe me, there is a formula.
THE COMEBACK STAGE
Before I go into Kim Hyun Joong’s comeback stages, I have to mention that I found a fan-cam of his performance of “Kiss Kiss” during an earlier showcase, and while it isn’t exactly a winning song, he looked so natural performing it that it blew everything else out of the water.
Its not that his live performances aren’t natural enough, but it’s clear he doesn’t feel secure (at least in my eyes). He’s always been considered a good dancer, but during these first comeback stages, it felt like he was unsure of what move came next, coming off as stiff rather than strong.
For “Please” – and I must say that I really like this song – the choreography wasn’t/isn’t one of my favorites. I’m not a fan of the mic-less mic stands (I mean, really?), and a bit less lip-syncing would’ve been nice (it is a slow song, after all). As a whole though, I think KHJ did his job well, considering what he had to work with.
In “Breakdown”, the choreography was better, it felt better, but this is the type of song that requires the artist to OWN the stage. The performance came off weak and cheesy to me, and Hyun Joong didn’t quite make it his. All this considering that what we’re looking at as the ‘final product‘ on TV is in fact the result of many takes, so the capability of improvement is definitely there (not to mention it would save filming time, too, if it was done cleanly the first few takes).
Having said all this, I think there is enormous room for improvement. Many of the things on my list of peeves can be worked on and fixed, so I wouldn’t be surprised if KHJ makes progress in the next few weeks.
Will Kim Hyun Joong end up winning any of these countdown shows? Its hard to say, especially with Beast having set the bar pretty high. In my opinion, neither KHJ’s songs nor his performances are strong enough to take first place, so everything will rely strongly on fan participation (hint-hint to all Henecias out there). However, Hyun Joong’s album is doing pretty good, so I wouldn’t discard the idea just yet.
[Update]….and lookie there, he’s starting to win awards already.
Hey everyone, I’m Anna. Nice to meet you!
I’ve been working in the entertainment industry for about 10 years, first in music and currently in TV. I breathe, eat and sleep music from all over the world, especially K-pop! I’m really excited to share my thoughts here on McRoth’s Residence! Lets talk on twitter @blueorchids or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.