‘Immortal Song 2’, we’ve all heard of it haven’t we? It’s the ever anticipated variety show, where different singers compete against each other to see who can reenact a classic tune the best. It’s a fierce competition which blurs the line between ‘singer’ and ‘performer’, as different talents come together to win and compete for the prize of… their own personal satisfaction, I guess. But most of all, let’s not lie, it’s fun seeing different idols try and outdo each other — it’s basically like the idol version of ‘I Am A Singer‘. But throughout its run, different idols and personalities have had their turn in the spotlight, and it’s line-up is changed every other minute.

The newest additions to the lineup? Brown Eyed Soul‘s Sunghoon, and SHINee‘s Taemin.

When I read the news, I was ridiculously happy. Despite being tied for my least favourite member of SHINee, Taemin is also my favourite vocalist in the group, and even though I still have recurring dreams of him killing me while I sleep, I find the colour of his voice sweet and beautiful. I could only imagine that Shawols would be jumping out of their seats at the news, because their precious maknae finally has an opportunity to really show off his voice. However, looking at the comments, this seems to be far from the case. And instead there’s a general reaction of ‘lol… wut’ going around. Some people are more outraged than others, and the majority seem to scoff at the idea of Taemin guesting on any singing show that’s not having a dance special.

From what I’m observing, there are three main arguments against Taemin and his future stint on the show.

Taemin isn’t a good singer: I understand that despite my love for his voice, Taemin is not the best singer in the band. Up until recently to be honest, he wasn’t even promoted as a singer, but a dancer. Which is one of the reasons I believe, that people undermine the boy’s vocal prowess to an extent that it is almost insulting. I understand that Taemin debuted as the second worst singer in the SHINee– after all, he was barely fifteen and was still growing into his voice. But the boy has come such a long way from debut until now, and people refuse to believe how far he has actually come. Yes, there’s a gap when you compare Taemin’s vocal prowess with Jonghyun and Onew, but that gap is nowhere near as large as the one between Taemin and a ‘mediocre’ singer. Although he’s in a band like SHINee where relatively he’s ‘weak’, the boy can sing. And he can sing well. He has raw talent, and raw talent doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a powerhouse vocalist. But it means you’re born with a voice that has the potential to be molded into one fit for a good singer– Taemin has such potential and even more. And he’s certainly not the worst vocalist to have joined Immortal Song 2 (no offence).

He’s going to get pummeled by other powerhouse vocalists, how embarassing!: This is a legitimate reason, and I understand why fans are concerned. But Immortal Song is a great place for learning! The show does not test a singer on their vocal prowess, but they test a singer on their flexibility and ability to perform and make a song their own. Admittedly the show’s first line-ups were pretty intense, since almost every singer on there reached the heavens and above; HyorinChangmin (2AM), Hongki, Yesung, JonghyunYoseob, Jieun and IU. 

Throughout the show, singers left, and singers were added. And to me, that’s when the real potential of the program started showing. And it dawned on me that this show wasn’t about who was the best singer, but who could adapt and intrigue an audience the best. I didn’t realise it immediately, since during the first line-up everyone was fabulous (some more than others of course, but in general they went above and beyond). But later on it became clear. How else did Jay Park and Jiyoon beat out the likes of bombs such as Kyuhyun, G.O, and Hyorin?

Immortal Song is about growth, the singers on the show learn to step out of their shells and really, it’s a performance contest more than a singing contest. They choose the contestants based on vocal prowess when casting, but then test them beyond that. Kyuhyun didn’t get his first win until he let go of his dignity, ditched those ballads, and instead embraced the guyliner and rocked out. That was a big stepping stone, not for Kyuhyun the ‘singer’, but Kyuhyun the ‘performer’. Jiyoon and Jay Park both grew as well, they were forced to be compared to these amazing voices, and you can tell that they really stepped up. Jiyoon who’s always been rough around the edges, really shaped up with her technique, especially since she put in great practice before each of her solo stages. To be honest, I’m a bit sad that their runs ended so quickly, because all of those singers on the show had the potential to become so much more. This show has the potential to be a huge step for Taemin. He may have flaws as a singer, but week after week he will be forced to confront his flaws and perform his heart out.

Plus, the show is not mean. They aren’t going to isolate Taemin if his vocals are not up to par with people like ALi or Sunghoon. The thing I love about Immortal Song is that pre-determined knowledge and prejudice about the contestant’s vocal skills are set aside, and everyone is put on the same level. When the show does hand out criticism, it is done in tact and not embarrassing at all. The previous contestants didn’t spend their spare time thinking about how inferior the others were, they spent their spare time chatting to each other on twitter. This won’t only be a chance for Taemin to grow as a singer and performer, but also a chance to chat up some other vocalists and nice noonas. Go get ’em, tiger!

It should have been Onew: If you had told me three years ago that I would be taking the side of my least favourite member Taemin, over my own bias Onew, I would have laughed at your face and told you to go home. But three years later and, is this really happening? I love Onew deeply and dearly, but if anyone deserves a chance in the vocal limelight for once, it is Taemin. As I mentioned before, the boy is pushed as the dancer so much, that there’s a large number of people who don’t even think he can sing. This is a chance for him to step out of the type he is boxed in and show everyone his true potential.

I loved all the singers who were on the show. But after thinking about it for a bit, the ones who really reaped the most benefit out of Immortal Song, were those who were not widely known to be good singers, or those powerhouse vocalists that had yet to reach mainstream appeal. I have ALi’s new album playing as background music, and I would never have appreciated her had she not been on the show. And I mean, how many people jumped on the ‘Hyorin must go solo’ bandwagon after watching her cute little head out-sing other idols?

Of course, I’m not comparing Taemin to the likes of Hyorin. But Immortal Song 2 once stated that it’s out there to disprove the theory that idols are ‘3-second singers’. And to be honest, it didn’t really do a good job of it the first time around, when they just pitted all those great voices against each other. Everyone knew Kyuhyun, G.O, Yesung, Jonghyun, Hyorin, Junsu ect. could sing. None of them are put under the same assumptions and scrutiny a lot of other talented idols are put under by the public. However, for someone like Jiyoon, who hailed from 4Minute (AKA: ‘Hyuna and the pussycats’), a group which has to have some of the most obnoxious singles ever, Immortal Song 2 became an opportunity for non-fans to blink and go ‘oh hey, 4Minute has a decent singer’. Even though she was outdone by more powerful vocalists, she still gained an appreciation because prior to her stint, nobody was really aware that anyone in 4Minute aside from Gayoon (who’s promoted as the main vocal) knew how to hold a melody.

Likewise, everybody knows Onew can sing. His vocal prowes is never doubted, everyone appreciates him. A lot of people even consider him to be a better singer than Jonghyun due to his deeper voice. But Taemin? People go as far as to put him on the same par as Minho. And honestly, everyone’s talking about what a joke Immortal Song is and how they’ve lot respect for the show — but I’m only beginning to appreciate it for what it’s doing.

So yes, I’m glad it’s Taemin being put on the show over Onew. Immortal Song 2 is a chance for idols to show that they can sing, and it’s a chance for idols to grow, it’s a chance for idols to show that they aren’t just the ‘pretty faces’ or ‘dance machines’ which they’re being type-casted as.

And you know what? Heck, why stop at Taemin? Since Junsu has had his shot, why not put Junho or Wooyoung on the show! Taeyeon has gotten her (much well-deserved) dues already, so cast Seohyun, Tiffany, and maybe even Sunny! Yoseob is always fantastic, but let Hyunseung or Kikwang do their thing!  We already know KRY are awesome, give Sungmin and Donghae a chance in the vocal limelight! Yes, they all have things to work on, some more than others. but they are all talented. And Immortal Song is a great way for them to gain some exposure, face their faults, gain a lifetime worth of invaluable experience, and most importantly, gain some credit for what they’re meant to be  — singers.

(KBS2TV, en.korea.com, Sport Korea)