Why, what a pleasantly depressing surprise!
The members of SHINee recently sat down for a photoshoot and interview with GQ Korea. Personally, I didn’t care much for the photos, but their interviews are very interesting (and, to some extent, controversial). I’ll let you take a gander for yourselves, but if there’s one thing I have to say about them, it’s this: I’m really surprised that SM let some of this stuff through. That, and I’m pretty sure that this is my favorite SHINee interview to date.
But first, some photos:
Love is patient, love is kind*, the song “Love is Always,” do you know it?
It’s also a reference to the ‘o-new’ of summer**. Haha. I’ve heard that my name was created as reflection of my personality. I don’t really know, but the people around me say that. That my name matches me well.
You’ve been defined as ‘flubber,’ a person who doesn’t know where he’ll bounce, and people around you also say that unlike the calmness of nature you’re 4 dimensional and silly?
I’m not silly. Since I debuted at a young age people around me have watched over my growth. Perhaps that is why they say that? I’m not that special.
It seems that you may be referring to something else when you say that you’re not special?
I think I’m just ordinary. I really changed a lot after debuting. My personality was originally quiet, but in comparison to my age I’ve gone around meeting and getting to know many people, so I’ve become outgoing to match the atmosphere.
Do you have a thirst as an idol singer in regards to freedom?
I have plenty of freedom now. The things I can express I’m expressing as a MC, singer, musical actor. I’m not in confinement somewhere.
Did you ask the people around you for their reactions to your lyric-writing for this album?
Speaking honestly, I don’t think that there are many people who will speak truthfully about everything to those around them. Only my parents, close friends, and members can speak of my personality with certainty. However, I wasn’t able to receive much feedback from those people. So I don’t think this portion is something I can speak about with certainty.
Rather than speaking with uncertainty, do you opt to not say anything at all?
You don’t know how other people will accept words you say by mistake. I believe that you can change a life with just one word. If I feel that I’m in the wrong then I apologize no matter what. If I happen to slightly brush past someone on the street I say that I’m sorry first. That’s what my parents taught me to do since I was young.
To always greet the security ahjusshi even if I see him several times a day. I think the inner thoughts that I formed as I lived like that have made me who I am.
What do you think when you compare the lyrics Jonghyun wrote for “Obsession” and the lyrics you wrote for “Your Name.”
“Obsession” is better. They are lyrics that feel a lot more than the scenes I’ve seen and thought of up until now. Even though I concentrated on the lyrics as well, I don’t think they’re always right. I don’t think there’s an answer. There are many points in “Obsession” that are missing in my lyrics. Though another person’s thoughts and my thoughts can’t possibly be the same.
So you’re saying that although it wasn’t the best, it wasn’t particularly the worst either?
I did what I wanted to do and what I felt was fun. There are so many people who are better than I am. Though of course there must be people who are worse as well.
The lyrics for “Your Name,” and the title of the song you sang with Kim Yeonwoo is “The Name I Loved.” Do you have something with names?
There’s a part I wrote while thinking of my mother. Rather than being called by their names, mothers are usually referred to as so-and-so’s mother. I felt that when they’re called by their names something would reach out to them more.
Kim Choonsoo’s “Flower” approaches that topic.
It was that sort of meaning. I think it means that the general practice of calling them so-and-so’s mother is awkward. There are pet names between lovers as well. I thought that in relationships of love and affection, names would be very important.
When people call you by your real name ‘Jinki’ and when they call you Onew, do you feel a difference about yourself?
There is a difference, but as I’ve been called that for 3 years I’ve gotten accustomed to it and it’s no longer awkward. And people tell me it matches me well. Some fans say that Jinki has more sentiment. Truthfully I also like it a little more when I’m called by my real name. It’s precious because it’s the name my parents created for me first. If my parents had called me Onew from the beginning, then I would be Onew.
What would you want your significant other to call you?
I would like it if another pet name was created. But if I had to choose between the two I would like my real name.
Do you have a nickname close friends call you?
I do. They call me ‘yah.’ Haha. My friends don’t call me by a nickname. Adults often did. ‘Jinki Myungi.’
You know that fans say that they’re “aching for Onew,” right? Because it’s used as a term of endearment it’s a bit complicated. You use this term when you like someone but no matter how much you endure you can’t fill the void. What sense of responsibility do you feel towards these people?
I think that I need to repay them. Even if things are really difficult before going up on stage, I know that if I just complete this I’ll receive strength from fans and create synergy. When I’m on stage I unconsciously do things that fans will enjoy. I wonder how I would perform if it wasn’t for these people. I first began all this simply because I enjoy singing. Without a sense of responsibility or burden, I want to do this for them.
I felt quite sad for you when I once saw you talk with the air of ‘one day I’m going to try dating too.’ It’s not as though dating is something that needs to be postponed. In order to pursue music you’ve sacrificed a lot. So if there is something you’ve gained, is it that explosive emotion you feel on stage?
I believe that it will occupy many different parts. At concerts I often feel a sudden burst of emotion. When cheers come and go I feel like I was physically hit.
Rather than on the stage, how is SHINee’s musical profession being set? As the leader.
This is just my personal thought, it may be different for the members. It’s to become the contemporary band in all the aspects we always talk about, like fashion, music, dance, artwork, everything. Honestly, even with “Lucifer” there were many points that were difficult in terms of public appeal. However, didn’t the public ultimately came to understand and like it? I think it would be good to lead the contemporary in such a manner.
By saying that, does the public point to all age groups?
That’s right. Like when you talk about the South Pole you think of penguins. So that when you talk about contemporary, you think of SHINee.
The composition of idols receives love from all age groups, but don’t you think there ultimately is a limit?
I don’t think of that as being the answer. It hasn’t even been 20 years since idols began to debut. I think that if we do well we’ll be able to promote for as long as we want. There’s a lot left ahead without restriction.
You see it as being longer?
Objectively I’m still young.
What do you think the virtues of a person who is acknowledged by society as a grown-up, a man who is an independent adult, are?
Above all dreams, aside from character and personality. I think that if you just think that you’re going to do everything you want to, then everything is possible.
How about a man who cries easily?
He can cry. Every person is different.
What do you mean by different?
I said that objectively. Personally I think that somewhere there is a person who looks like me or behaves the way I do. A person who is simultaneously doing the same thing as me or singing the same song. I have many thoughts. It’s a bit strange.
You are a ‘musician’ and are referred to as an ‘artist,’ it seems quite natural that you would think that there’s someone out there who is the same as yourself.
I think that somewhere there is a person having the same interview that I’m having and doing the same work that I’m doing. I don’t think that only our earth exists.
What do you mean by that? Andromeda?
It could exist outside the universe, or it could be something that makes us look like a speck of dust, or something that’s a speck of dust to us.
By any chance do you put in a lot of effort in studying physics?
I want to. I also want to study psychology. I’m accustomed to thinking to myself, but I think that certain parts would become official, and be cleared up.
Most recently when you cried on a music program, there was much speculation about your tears. Your colleagues said that the preparation for the 2nd album wasn’t that difficult, and that they couldn’t understand. I wonder if perhaps you faced difficulties through your individual schedules like your musical “The Brothers Were Brave.”
That could be a part of it. But I think that when a person cries, he doesn’t necessarily think of just one single happening or moment. We won 1st place and I cried, that’s true. However, it would also be true if I said that I didn’t cry at winning 1st place. Couldn’t I also be crying because of my maternal grandmother who treated me warmly? I didn’t cry because of a certain reason and I didn’t cry because of a lack of it either. Everyone is different.
You say that people are all different quite often. What about SHINee? Do you have characteristics that make you different from other teams?
We’re working to give off something that is surely our own. Giving off our own color is the ultimate point. However, I think with that comes personal satisfaction. If we reach some point and go “Now we’ve become SHINee,” wouldn’t that be the end?
Just as you wrote the lyrics for “Your Name,” I hope that you will be able to write the lyrics for SHINee.
There are many different directions that can be taken. I could choose many, or I could choose one, or I could not choose at all. You can say that taking on various activities from different fields is an effort to collect diverse experiences and make a broad choice.
* in the Korean lyrics of the song, the actual word used is “onew.”
** “O-new-wol” is short way to refer to the months of May and June. Onew is joking about his stage name.
What type of person do you see yourself as?
Me? I don’t lie. Really. I’m objective. And I’m blood type AB.. (opens eyes wide) Why do you ask?
I was just asking. Do you watch your own performances objectively as well?
Um. I try not to watch them calculatedly. First off because the stage is created through practice, something about it is systematic in a general sense, so I think that I have to show myself enjoying it. If I think that it is so difficult right now, then I do it with difficulty. If I think that I really can’t do this, it all shows on my expression. I mainly monitor those things.
If there is something lacking about SHINee’s stages, I think that perhaps your lackingness is lacking. Maybe with the song and choreography, everything is too tightly fitted and dense.
I think I know what you’re saying. Naturalness is the most difficult point. I can’t help but feel burden each time I stand on stage.
On the flip side, you must have developed a sense of freedom and ease now as well? Does the song you hum day to day change with the weather?
The thing I think of most importantly, and so what I concentrate on polishing the most, is emotion. If the weather is like what it is today where it feels like the curtain is drawn, then I’m most true to that. But I forget quickly. It felt like this yesterday too but even if the situation is the same tomorrow it approaches with a fresh feel so there comes to be tens of thousands of expressions. Today I keep humming Wheesung hyung’s songs.
In order to do something precisely your schedule must be too crowded. It seems like you may sometimes feel that you’re trapped.
I am trapped. However it’s not like that every day. Today’s weather is the type I particularly like so I think I am feeling more this way. A bit melancholy. I resolve that ‘Today I should raise my spirits like this’ and seek liberation. I think a lot about my trainee days. Rather than missing it..
Time passes by fairly but ultimately it’s different for everyone. How have you changed since your trainee days?
I’ve walked the road I’ve wanted to ever since I was young. I did everything the way I wanted to. I joined a band, transferred to a music school from my high school, dropped out and received my GED, then debuted, I’ve lived the way I wanted to. I’ve walked the road the way I imagined it. I think I will continue to that in the future.
It seems like you have a life that just continues to flow. Do you like it?
I think that I’ve walked through it decently, but I don’t necessarily like it. I don’t like it.
Where does the difference start?
You know, it’s like this. If I only look at myself I can’t really tell but when I look at the person next to me I feel regretful. In a notable example, I didn’t feel disappointed at all not being able to take my high school graduation exams. But when Minho took his I suddenly felt sad. Like a fingernail’s worth? It could just be a minor feeling of complaint. Since I’m still young.
You’re still young?
Yes. That is really my shield. Saying that I’m still young, I do a lot of things I shouldn’t.
At a young age you have accomplished a lot. With “Lucifer,” what more do you want to accomplish?
I want to hear that these kids are really good. And I did hear that. We did hear that during “Juliette” as well, but “Lucifer” is much more difficult than “Juliette.” The performance in itself. I think that if it wasn’t us, it wouldn’t be doable. This is confidence. When we first received the song I thought, how will we do this? But as we practiced I saw that we were doing it. I think that as we do this, it’s how we grow.
As the team’s main vocal?
Um, I concentrated a lot on pronunciation. Not on whether the pronunciation is good or bad but on the issue of whether the pronunciation suites the song. Because I think that if I sing a song with a bit of a ‘rolling’ pronunciation and people go “What is this kid doing?” then I’ve sang it wrong. I sang “Replay” with that feeling and I heard that I did well and so I think I gained confidence. With “Love Like Oxygen” I felt a slight sense of burden. So I did go a little overboard but personally I liked that feel. If you listen to it a certain way isn’t it very funny? I sang the Korean lyrics with stresses and emphasis like in English. I wanted to give off the feel of Michael Jackson in that song. In “Ring Ding Dong” we went down to bass, a thick sound, I gave off a rough sound a lot. When we came to “Lucifer” I thought to throw that away, I wanted to lose that a bit and go with something more refreshing so I put in effort to do that but I don’t think that came across well.
In comparison to that sort of careful effort, isn’t SHINee’s boundary a bit confined?
Um, in regards to SHINee’s fandom I definitely have a greed for more. Though I don’t feel dissatisfaction or have a prejudice towards being an idol. My greed is the people who liked the music from before the year 2000. I mean that I want to receive recognition from the people who say that music nowadays isn’t even music.
What do you think about SHINee’s lyrics? There are times when I figure, oh, that’s just how it must be, but then I wonder, what does that mean?
That’s very difficult. I think that when mass appeal and artistry meet the very best music comes forth, but there’s a bit of a contradiction. It’s akin to liking hook songs but criticizing them at the same time. SHINee does commercial music. It is commercial music. It means that we have to do music that people listen to. As we do that we offer attractions and earn revenue. We have to make people hum along to our music. There is so much music, and the issue comes down to who will imprint it first. And with that momentum, to make people listen to it one more time, to make them look for it one more time.
That must mean that what’s important is if you can persuade people with it, whether it be a hook song or not. Whether it’s “butterfly butterfly” or “ring di gi di gi ding ding dong.” It’s the fate of singers to convince the listeners to accept it, thinking that it’s worth it. Even if you take the stage alone.
Yes. Even if I’m alone on stage I’m going to sing. If I’m in a really good mood I could sing “Let’s Ride a Horse” without accompanying music. If I feel like I could die from sadness then I could sing Wheesung’s “Hell.”
Don’t you have any impatience in regards to going solo?
I don’t have the greed to fill a song with my vocal. Because, I don’t know. For me particularly, when I listen to or make the music of the team called SHINee, I think that ultimately SHINee is me and I am SHINee.
Looking at it as an objective person, what kind of team is SHINee?
A fun team. I think we are a dynamic team. Rather than a feel of, they do well, they’re impressive, it’s like a “there isn’t a kid like this anywhere else” sort of feel? A team where five kids like that are gathered together? There are so many people who sing better than I do.
What do you want to steal and from whom?
Wheesung hyung’s sensitivity and emotion. It sometimes seems like he and I are similar in that respect, but he’s so much deeper. Also Naul shi’s vocalization, and Jungyeop hyung’s interpretation, if that could all be combined together…
You may become a monster.. Um, the meaning of being twenty years old to a man?
An age when you should do everything you want.
Do you do that?
I can’t. I can’t because I’m busy.
But, what does it mean to be busy. It’s not like you don’t have time to eat? Isn’t every person in the world busy nowadays?
Because it’s like that, that’s why people go crazy. For three months I exercised really diligently. I did so without skipping a single day. But after beginning promotions I couldn’t exercise even once for about a month and a half. About that much? Not just exercise, but composition, piano, harmonics study, I keep going, if only I had time for it all, and as I think that regret piles up. Because with my personality I’m the type to pester myself, so I’m living thinking that it’s destiny.
Right now at this point, what is the type of good music that SHINee could do?
Well. They’re quite at odds with each other. What I want to do and what SHINee has to do. I think it would be good if we did ballads.
Are you preparing?
For now I have to rest. It’s my own personal thought, but when you debut as a singer your skills don’t grow. Since you’re so busy your condition continues to go downwards, and because in that state you can’t practice as you hope for your throat to return you have to take a break, but your schedule doesn’t stop. And then when a period of empty space does come around, you set yourself to work hard to raise yourself back up a little bit again, it’s like that. I think right now is a period where I should rest.
You said your dream is to be a composer?
Yes, even now I’m writing songs. Alone at home. Recently I learned harmonics and a music program, it’s really like a new world. I thought of going to music school as the first turning point in my life. Lately as I compose songs I feel that it’s the second turning point. It’s much stronger than when I entered SM.
If I come to pay more attention to you while watching SHINee, why do you think that would that be?
Because I’m short? Or because there’s one guy who stands out like he can’t be seen.
Is that what you view your role to be?
Rather than that, I think that if you see me it’s due to the performance. I try to explode on stage. When energy that was bundled together overflows it explodes. I want to become like that. I hope that is the moment when people will remember me.
If you become that sort of person, people would have no choice but to watch. But I think that perhaps throughout the entire interview you’ve only said proper things.
I know. It’s the third year since SHINee’s debut but until now we haven’t had any rumors. Something has to explode for it to be fun.
Is this fun?
I don’t usually get to wear these kind of clothes. Normally, I have a natural style and dress like a “teenager.” Because there’s so much I want to do, I wish time would go by slower.
When you look at your face when you debuted in 2008, what do you think?
I definitely think my face looks much better than before.
After monitoring your growth, what do you think about yourself?
Rather than saying I’m perfectly content, I merely like myself. I’m not extremely good-looking, I don’t have a body like a model, I don’t have the best voice in the world, I’m not the best dancer. But I just like myself?
Compared to the other members, you really look like you’re enjoying yourself [on stage].
I try my best to make it look like like I’m doing this for fun instead of looking like someone forced me to do it. Doing all the songs that I want to sing, and dancing everything I want is not ok, right? Because we are a team.
Which member causes you to feel jealous?
We all have moments where are envious of each other’s good points. You can be embarrassed when you think “he can do it but I can’t.” I would think that because of that greed, many sunbaes have gone on to go solo… I could be jealous of another member’s songs, or even another member’s gags.
Jonghyun sings the most, right?
It’s because it is his most charming feature. When I see someone who was bad at singing become good at it, that’s when I want to become like that the most. The fragments of us that you see in the media is not everything. (I love Key’s backhanded compliments.)
Because you’re at this teenage age, I’m sure that there has been some instances where SHINee has fought and been jealous.
Over time because of jealousy, you do come to hate that person. There are situations that I don’t like. A tame example would be if someone has prettier clothes? But I can’t hate the member because of that. It’s only, a “Oh, I want to wear pretty clothes too” kind of level.
Isn’t it like a brotherly feeling now?
They are not family and they are not my closest friends. There’s no way I could explain them. “Member” is the best word for them.
That’s why I am getting this cool and distanced feeling.
If we become too close like family, I feel like there will be a problem. You will begin to think about your relationship instead of the person. We only meet for work so the we have only a work relationship is the best description. I’m not being cool and distant.
How is your injured leg?
It’s okay now. I was injured just a few days before our comeback. I really worried a lot about what I was going to do. We prepared the album for over half a year so privately I did feel like it was all ruined.
For a few weeks after your comeback you sat on a chair and sang, right?
People asked why I had a separate stage to myself. That the concept seemed pretty good. And some would talk without really knowing the situation. Haha.
Because the choreography is so fast it seems like it would cause difficulties even for healthy legs.
It’s not an addictive song with an addictive choreography, but a rhythmic choreography that matches each beat. Because it passes by so quickly that it’s hard to follow along, people say they can’t remember anything from it. It’s difficult when we come down from the stage after performing once.
What thoughts cross your mind while you’re on that stage?
During our debut the dance that had been absorbed into my body just came out, but now I think that I dance knowing exactly what steps and actions I’m doing at that moment. I’ve developed a sense of freedom.
You’ve come saying that you’re a contemporary band, do you feel alert of running ahead of the trends?
All the members have that pride. I want to create a stage so that people will say, those guys can absorb and pull off even those types of things. At first rather than thinking that it’s unique, I thought, will I be able to do this? Will I be able to carry out this fashion and song? Those were the first thoughts that struck me.
In that case, what about a song like “Replay.”
When I first listened to that song, I laughed a bit. Putting it simply, we’re directly saying that nuna is so pretty. At first I wondered, how should I express this? Can I do this? But as the five of us worked through it, it was possible. Aye, even if it’s embarrassing, we can do it if we do it together.
If you had debuted with a different song, would SHINee have been different from the group you are today?
There’s nothing like that. I’ve never thought even once that we selected the wrong song. Rather, because we have that sort of image I think that different charms are able to be highlighted.
Is this album charismatic?
I feel good each time we release an album. But I always feel regretful. Until now there really hasn’t been a single thing that I liked 100 percent. Although I feel satisfaction in the accomplishment.
Do you have any greed to take on more parts?
Because it’s important for the five members’ colors to unite as one, I don’t think it’s important for individual parts to stand out. Of course there are parts I feel greed towards, but if it’s decided that another friend is going to do it, it’s because that friend is the best for that part. Everything we have done was the right thing, I feel.
You’ve also taken on the responsibility of creating raps, right?
Truthfully, minus a couple of songs you could count using just one hand, I’ve written almost all of the raps on our album. Although there are times when I think that it would be nice if people acknowledged that, at the same time they may also be very trivial parts that could easily be skipped over. I don’t think that I should go around saying that I did this, I did that, wondering why people won’t give me recognition. I gain strength when I see the writings of fans wondering, Minho oppa did this but why won’t people acknowledge it?
Did you find it to be doable?
At first I was very bad at it. But if I didn’t do it then it would be detrimental to me as well as to the members so I thought that I should really try to do it properly. It’s true that when you put in effort your skills change. I thought, there isn’t anything that can’t be done if a person really tries…
When an acquaintance came into the studio before, I was a bit surprised to see you initiate the handshake first. Because it doesn’t seem like something a twenty year old would do…
When I’m with adults I realize that I’m very young and that I don‘t think things through enough, but when I’m talking with friends I think, ah, because I entered society and experienced things early there’s a lot that I know. When I send a text message to my closest friend saying “Listen to your mother,” my friends are surprised.
You must do things that suits a twenty year old as well, right?
I watch TV and play games and do everything like everyone else… Ah, during this recent break I enjoyed college life a bit. As I did that I really thought, you know people have their own lifestyles. I think that my lifestyle is very different from that of other twenty year old friends. Some mornings I wake up early and take in my schedule. I do that for a few days then one day I sleep in really late. Photoshoot schedule, radio schedule, music program schedule, variety schedule, each day differs like that. This is a celebrity’s lifestyle, and I saw that in a regular college student’s lifestyle you wake up early and go to class and when class ends you eat and play with friends. Ah, so this is why you experience it. This is why it’s so different to actually feel it yourself. The way college friends live is very routine, and I really could feel that I’m living a bit differently.
Your school life must be a bit more comfortable now that you’ve made friends during the beginning of the semester.
I am a student who is earning money, but even if I try to buy my friends a meal they always insist on paying Dutch, on eating cheaply no matter what, finding a food and beverage shop to eat at, and when we did that I thought ah, this type of day to day life is really fun.. Those friends don’t know but I feel it. It’s also fun to take the bus and the subway when I go to school. It’s a given for a college student to ride the bus and the subway, but when I say that I take public transportation everyone seems to look at me with fascinated eyes? I find those gazes to be fascinating too. Ah, I rode on the 10,000won subway once too. The one where you squeeze in. Oh, and the thing that was the most fun after debuting was watching people selling things illegally in the subway.
It seems like you’re even going to say that exam periods were fun.
I took both the midterms and finals. After my debut I haven’t properly studied for an exam. The feeling that I went back to being a middle school student after a long time? Sitting in the private library with my friends going, this book, ah, like this, ah… really.. I felt happy.
What about your grades?
I don’t have any F’s. I also have one A.
Was your football coach father more opposed to you pursuing sports or you becoming a singer?
He was very opposed to my becoming a singer as well but he was more opposed to my becoming a football player. Because he knows the difficulties well. He says that he didn’t want to put his child whom he treasures the most through that hardship.
If you had become a football player, the history of the movement of the audience may have been different.
Haha, no. It wouldn’t have been like that. If I had taken up football, though of course I don’t know how things would have ended up, I don’t think I would have been very good. Because of my father’s opposition I wasn’t able to play football much during the period I should have been learning the basics..
But you were the ace on the program “Let’s Go! Dream Team Season 2” where you were a fixed member. But you would get angry during the variety program.
Haha. I’ve always had a bit of a strong sense of competitiveness. After filming Dream Team, on days I won I would be in a really good mood, and on days I lost I would keep thinking about it. It’s the same as when I make a mistake on stage. When I mess up on one step on stage, I feel hateful towards myself. I grow angry. Wondering why I did that that during that step. I think it’s because my competitiveness is so strong. But that doesn’t mean I enjoy competing. Instead, if there is a competition I tend to avoid it. Because if one wins, the other loses. Because any person, no matter who it is, dislikes losing.
Did you unfairly lose at something once?
When I was young everything was a competition with my older brother. In elementary school my hyung went to a school you had to take a test to be accepted into, and I was rejected from that school. Since then I think that I began to feel that I had lost. My older brother was always the class representative and is strong and is good at sports… I lost at everything. My hyung is also competitive so if we lose we’re the style to go the entire day not looking at each other.
Now that you’ve succeeded with SHINee, a reversal of wins?
No, it’s not like that. Ah! What’s really amazing about my hyung is, when I debuted he got lucky. He grit his teeth and studied and was accepted into Seoul University. I went “Ah, hyung, really, daebak, recognition.” And hyung told me that he felt like he had lost so he worked even harder.
Outside of family, do you have someone you would like to grit your teeth and win over?
Rather than trying to win over them, the people who give me the most motivation would be my members. We live together and practice together, we’re attached for 24 hours. As we do that, I think that we progress learning from each other, seeing what we each lack and filling each others’ deficiencies. Not like rivals, but people who help each other and are each other’s strength? People who make it possible for me to firmly grow.
Is there a member whom you particularly lean on? A member with whom you want to have a drink with.
Um, I don’t think there is in particular. I think I lean on all four members. But I don’t know what the other members think. Honestly for me, it’s all of them.
If you heard someone wonder if you’re succeeding with your looks?
I would receive motivation. I’ve heard those words before. Because I knew that I was lacking I worried a lot at first when I debuted. My skills were lacking, but my company was saying that I was going to debut.. I think that I caused myself a bit of stress during that time. At that time I heard that I was getting by with my looks, so I was more motivated and I worked hard on my singing, dancing, these things all at once. I thought that I really need to accomplish this now. I’m really lacking so much.
If you say things like that fans may be disappointed.
I’ll just have to show them more. If I have the opportunity I want to try acting as well, but I don’t think I’d be good at it. Although I think I would work hard and put in a lot of effort because I know that I’m lacking. I don’t think people would go, wow, he’s good.
From whom do you want to receive praise?
My mom and dad. That makes me happiest.
It took a particularly long time to do your hair, weren’t you tired?
It’s okay. I kept listening to music.
What did you listen to?
Our song. I listened to SHINee’s 1st album.
Do you listen to it often?
When we release a new album I compare it a lot to the previous album. How much did we change, how much did we improve. I listen for my own parts as well.
I wonder if it gets tiring.
When it comes to listening to other songs, after time passes I don’t listen to them anymore but with our music I even look for the songs we recorded as trainees to listen. Listening to those I am often surprised. Haha. Because I think that I’m still learning I monitor and study a lot.
You still seem like a newcomer, but it’s already your 3rd year. Do you still think you’re in the learning stage?
I still can’t believe we’re in our 3rd year. There are so many new things here and there, so I still feel like a newcomer. In particular every time I go on variety programs they always feel new. And I feel so nervous. Yesterday we went on “Entertainment Weekly’s Guerilla Date” and the MC had me do the closing talk. Even though it’s just naturally saying something like “SHINee will continue to work hard in the future,” I felt so nervous that I thought my heart would explode. I’ve always been a bit reserved. Ah, but when we become close I’m very active.
Do you have a member you’re particularly close to?
Because the five members have been together for over five years now, we’ve seen everything there is to see and know all about each others’ personalities. Because we all know each other so well, there isn’t any one person to be particular close to or not. It’s not just me, it’s like that for the other members too. With everyone there are one or two points that fit well together. Key hyung and I like the same animation. “Princess Mononoke,” “Spirited Away,” things like that. When I watch football I watch with Minho hyung. I frequently talk about my worries and concerns with Onew hyung. Because Onew hyung is the leader and I’m the maknae.
Fans also look at you as the cute maknae. You’re now eighteen years old as well, how does it feel to always be called cute?
When I first heard that I was being called cute I felt very awkward. Truthfully at the time the other member hyungs were hearing that they were cool and impressive, so I wanted to be told that I was cool and impressive too. But now, I really like being told that I’m cute. Truthfully you only hear those words during a certain stage. I think I have about 2 years left. It may be dangerous for the hyungs now. Haha. Not too long ago I went to make my citizenship ID and I felt very strange. During my trainee days I thought it was so fascinating when I watched Jonghyun hyung make his, so when I thought that now I’m making one I couldn’t believe it. I thought I’m going to seem less cute now…
Since “Ring Ding Dong” it seems that you’ve been going for a more manly appeal. That applies for this “Lucifer” stage as well. What does it mean to not be a young boy, but to be manly?
On stage it’s the look in your eyes, the particular feel that comes from there. Um so… a natural charisma? I think that personality-wise you’re manly if you’re loyal and responsible. When I monitor other sunbae singers’ stages I feel that something about SHINee still looks boyish. But looking at someone like the Shinhwa sunbaenims, they looked manly and grown up even during their performances from a long time ago.
If you look at the debut ages, aren’t Shinhwa and SHINee similar?
Ah, I’ve watched Shinhwa sunbaenims from their 5th, 6th albums on. I truthfully don’t remember H.O.T that well.
Since you auditioned in 2005, you were thirteen years old at the time. How did you come to feel that you wanted to become a singer?
I wanted to since the 2nd grade in elementary school. Policeman, pilot, soldier, I liked those types of professions before that. I didn’t really careers like being president. I was pulled towards careers where you fight, a strong type of job. Ah, I suddenly remembered, when I was young I really liked “Dragon Ball” so I would play along. Should I say it was the dream to protect the earth. Then during the 2nd grade in elementary school my interest in music programs suddenly increased and I fell hard for dancing.
If there is someone in particular you could pinpoint who made that happen?
Sunbaenims like Rain or Se7en, and Michael Jackson. I would record them and sing and dance along.
They’re all solo singers. You must have for certain thought of standing on stage as a soloist?
No matter what I wanted to debut and succeed by myself. But then when I was a trainee, I spent time with other trainees and grew fondness and attachment. As that happened, I began to think that it would be so good to do it with someone else. Right now I fit so well with the members, and I love group activities. Though at some point if I have the opportunity, I have the greed to release a solo album.
Anyone nowadays can make certain guesses about life as a trainee in a large company. Were there times you had trouble adjusting or when you felt lonely?
I’ve never had a time when I felt particularly lonely. Instead, there were many times I worried because my singing or dancing wasn’t coming along well. Truthfully I thought I wouldn’t be able to sing at all. I hardly ever tried singing, you see. Since I was young I only liked dancing, and when I entered as a trainee I was undergoing puberty so I hardly had any vocal training. I received brief training right before my debut, and I couldn’t hold a tune and couldn’t match the beats. People thought that I was a kid who couldn’t sing at all. So I did feel a bit disheartened. So even after debuting I kept practicing and practicing again. Even up until “Love Like Oxygen” things felt very uneasy. I know that too.
That’s not something that just solves itself. Do you have someone you lean on during those times?
Onew hyung listens to me. Rather than telling me what to do in particular, he shows me many examples. He leaves the choice up to me. The fact that he worries with me serves as a big strength to me. Even with singing practice, I would practice next to Onew hyung when he practiced and learn from him.
I thought that you would learn singing from Jonghyun.
Jonghyunie hyung helps me a lot when we record. He teaches me systematically by writing on the lyrics and going, “How would it be if you sing it like this, try giving it this type of feel.” Rather than sitting me down and teaching me every day he’ll give me pieces of advice in passing. Since he went to a music school his technical abilities are strong. I want to learn much a lot from the hyungs and become a singer who can both sing and dance well. And I want to act well too.
You haven’t done anything after the sitcom, does taking up a challenge still have its charm? How is acting and performing different?
When I think about it one way they’re the same, and when I think about it another way they’re different. If they’re the same in that I’m showing something to the audience through the camera, then they’re different in with acting it seems like I have to go a little ‘overboard’ to come across well. Also when it comes to acting, because there are so many people who have been doing it for a very long time, there are so many things to feel and take in as we broadcast. As a result, it was a big help to me with the expressions I show on stage.
Onew is already doing his second musical. You must have some thoughts of, I want to try it too, right?
I want to try it soon. Because singing, dancing, acting are all important in musicals I feel that much more greed. I think that if an offer came in right now I could do it right away.
How about music. SHINee’s music in general is trendy, but it doesn’t express a specific genre or style. Is there something you feel greed towards?
Of course there is. Greed towards music that’s a bit grander and bigger in scale. However I don’t think it’s the right time yet. Because right now SHINee is doing music that we can do the best, doing music that only we can do. Everything we can try doing at this age, I want to try them all.
The systems seems to be a bit too complicated for someone to make a breakthrough by just wanting to do it. When you choose a concept or whatnot, how much of the members’ opinions are reflected?
We exchange a lot of words. Among the members we talk a lot, of course, and with the producers of the songs and with the company we exchange countless words. As we do that we agree on ideas and go forth. I like this type of method.
Conflicts must arise as well?
Occasionally there are times when we want different things. But now since we know each other so well and often discuss things together there isn’t any particular conflicts that arise. With me, I’m originally a bit stubborn but I’ve eased up a lot. In the past I would always argue that I was in the right all the time, but now if I’m not put in a losing situation in particular I’ll understand and go along.
There must be someone who has a stubborn streak.
Um.. Often when we go to eat there are times when opinions are split. When it’s like that Key hyung goes “Let’s eat that, that, that” and everyone thinks. “Ah, Key’s stubbornness can’t be broken. Let’s be understanding.” Of course it’s done jokingly. Key hyung’s assertiveness tends to be the strongest.
When you sing or practice there must be an unseen competitiveness?
Of course there is. When someone practices everyone follows and practices. And when it comes to monitoring we don’t just monitor ourselves, we study the other members as well. In the midst of that we compete to find our own styles. Jonghyunie hyung and Onew hyung sing so well. Minho hyung acts well and has variety sense. Key hyung is good with words. In this setting you can’t help but receive motivation.
In that situation what do you do? When you’re so close to each other it can be a bit awkward to ask certain questions, something about it can feel like that.
Yes, I don’t ask about those things often. Since we’re so close it’s embarrassing to ask. I just watch by myself and think. “Oh, look at that gaze.”
Source: GQ Korea 10Men
English Translation: live laugh love @ soompi (Onew, Jonghyun, Minho, Taemin); MTV K (Key)