Welcome to the another installment of Side B! Like looking at the the B-side of old vinyl records, this segment is designed to allow for a closer look at some tracks that may have been overlooked or overshadowed by the more popular tracks in a group’s discography.

This week, I have the honor of highlighting the Burning, Lovely, Untouchable, and Emotional… C.N. Blue! In light of the fact that the boys are finally making a comeback in Korea following up from a successful promotion period in Japan (as well as a concert in L.A. that Johnelle and Jessie were lucky enough to attend), I’ve decided to devote this week’s Side B to looking at the band’s Japanese material, because I strongly feel that it is their music in Japan, and not Korea, that really reaches down into their roots.

If you ask the typical K-pop fan that isn’t too familiar with the band which songs that they like the best from C.N. Blue, you will almost unequivocally get the names of the same few title tracks that they’ve promoted heavily on Korean music shows (“I’m a Loner,” “Love,” “Intuition“). And while these tracks are great tracks in their own right, if you ask a BOICE what their favorite C.N. Blue songs are and what draws them to C.N. Blue’s music, they might point you to some of their non-title Korean tracks (“Love Light,” “Tattoo,” “Love Girl“) as well as the boys’ Japanese discography.

Why? For two main reasons: Firstly, C.N. Blue fans tend to like the tracks composed by C.N. Blue themselves, the best. Secondly, it seems to be the trend that when not using remakes, Korean companies allow for more artistry and freedom when it comes to Japan. It is for these very same reasons that among Cassies, the material produced by Tohoshinki (“Doushite,” “Love in the Ice,” “Bolero“) generally elicits a stronger emotional reaction than the more well-known material produced in the past by DB5K.

Let me start you off with a brief history of C.N. Blue. Although they are widely perceived in Korea as a pretty-faced idol boy band, what not everyone knows is that C.N. Blue actually had its humble beginnings in 2009 (prior to their debut in Korea) as an indie band playing on the streets and live clubs of Japan.

They debuted with their first mini-album Now or Never on August 19th, 2009 under indie label AI Music. At debut, the original bassist of the band was Kwon Kwang-jin, who left the group in late September of that year and was replaced by Jungshin instead. In addition, the leader of the band was originally Jonghyun during their early days; he switched places with Yonghwa during their Korean debut with Bluetory on January 14th, 2010.

With the explosive success of “I’m A Loner” under FnC Music, C.N. Blue became widely known to the general Korean public as an idol boy band. However, with the label of “idol” came quite a few drawbacks and accusations, the foremost being that music critics questioned the legitimacy of the group as a real band. The fact that in Korea, C.N. Blue was forced to hand-mime performances on weekly shows (though to me, it showcases the faults of Korean music programs for not being able to supply adequate equipment or trust their performers, than anything) simply added fuel to the fire, as well as the plagiarism controversy that briefly sprung up around their debut track, “I’m A Loner.”

The funny thing is, “I’m A Loner” wasn’t even composed by any of the members of C.N. Blue. It was instead co-composed by songwriters Lee Sang-ho and Kim Do-hoon. A $50,000 lawsuit from the indie band Ynot, pressed against the co-composers for plagiarizing their material soon followed, but after investigation into the matter, the court ruled (for the first time) in favor of the defendants, and the plagiarism accusation was lifted. C.N. Blue’s reputation, however, was permanently tarnished in the process. Now, not only were they scrutinized for hand-miming, but it was also passed around the K-pop sphere that they didn’t even compose their own music, further casting public doubts as to their legitimacy as a real band.

This kind of claim saddens me because if you take a closer look at their discography, Yonghwa and Jonghyun in fact compose the majority of C.N. Blue’s music. And if you take a look at their live performances outside of the idol-centric Korean music shows, it becomes vastly evident that C.N. Blue does not need any backtracking at all in order to perform their songs… in fact… they sound the best when left to simply their raw voices and their instruments. In Japan, where the rock scene is generally a bit more developed and mainstream, C.N. Blue is, for the most part, able to hold live performances on programs without a hitch. In addition, many of their title tracks in Japan are self-composed, which to me marks a huge difference in the way that AI and FnC approach their audiences.

For some reason or other, FnC chooses to use songs written by outside composers for the majority of C.N. Blue’s title tracks in Korea, despite the fact that many of the songs within their albums are self-composed. Indeed, it is said that “Hey You,” the title track for C.N. Blue’s soon-to-be-released 3rd Korean mini-album Ear Fun (2012), is once again composed by Lee Sang-ho and Kim Do-hoon. Although I’m sure that the boys will manage to make the song their own (and it sounds great based on the teasers so far), a part of me wishes that FnC would have enough faith in themselves to allow C.N. Blue to release more title tracks that they composed on their own.

But where business and music mix together, things become complicated — especially in Korea, where the ‘business’ side of the equation seems to be vastly (and sadly) more important. I get that FnC is trying to play it safe — trying to recreate a previous formula of success — and appeal to the larger market by pushing forward compositions that may fit in better with the general K-pop landscape. However, the way I see it, by bringing in outsiders to create the boys’ Korean title tracks, they are also shooting themselves in the foot and further reinforcing malicious stereotypes about the group. And I’m saying this because the boys are more than capable of taking care of these things (their music, their performances, their compositions) by themselves, the way that they have done successfully in Japan.

This is why I find it laughable whenever someone states that C.N. Blue is a fake idol band masquerading as a real band, because anyone familiar with the group beyond a cursory glace is aware of the fact that the opposite actually holds more credence: they are a real band, forced to hand-mime and masquerade as a pretty-faced idol band… while they are in Korea.

In chronological order of original release date, here are some of my favorite, C.N. Blue tracks from albums released in Japan. I will be including several title songs in this list as well, because despite what level of success they might have attained in Japan, I still find them to be lesser-known among the general K-pop audience.

“Teardrops in the Rain”

“Teardrops in the Rain” first appeared on Now or Never (2009), C.N. Blue’s debut mini-album in Japan, and also appeared on their first full-length Japanese album, ThankU (2010). The mini-album contained five songs, all written in English. One of them was “Love Revolution,” which later made a reappearance on their first Korean mini-album, Bluetory (2010). The mini-album, although failing to chart on the Oricon, showcased C.N. Blue’s versatility, as each song had its own unique feel, ranging from upbeat and poppy to more symphonic and alternative. “Teardrops in the Rain” was the last track on the album, and showcases a mellow and easygoing side to C.N. Blue.

“Why, Y”

“Why, Y” was composed by Yonghwa and is the fourth track off of Voice (2009), C.N. Blue’s second Japanese mini-album. It also appears in ThankU, and was later translated into Korean to resurface again in Bluetory. I love the harmonization between Yonghwa and Jonghyun’s voices in this song.

“One Time”

“One Time” was penned by Yonghwa and is the first track off of C.N. Blue’s first Japanese single, The Way (2010), as well as the second track off of their 2nd (and last) Japanese full-length indie album, 392 (2011). It’s a really, really fun song to listen to, and you can tell that the boys have a ton of fun performing it as well. Check out that sexy rapping by Jungshin in the middle! And lovely Minhyuk looking oh-so-fine drumming away in the background. This song was later translated into Korean and resurfaced on their first Korean full-length album, First Step (2011).

“Eclipse”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it time and time again — Jonghyun is, without question, my future husband one of the most underrated people in the K-pop-verse. Aside from having a bit of a shy personality, this boy is pretty much the whole package: he has the voice, the composition skill, the instrumental skill (guitar, piano, bass, and harmonica), and the looks (he was a famous ulzzang when he was younger). As an added bonus, he even has a black belt in both Judo AND Taekwondo.

Back to the song — “Eclipse,” composed by Jonghyun, is the third track off of The Way (2010) and the sixth track off of 392. The song starts off pretty minimalistically and slowly builds up over time. There’s also a lovely guitar solo in the middle by Yonghwa (which is intriguing to me because with their Korean material, it is usually Yonghwa taking the singing lead, and Jonghyun doing the guitar riffs). I love when bands create breathing room to showcase the sounds of the individual instruments themselves; to me it really shows their respect for the genre and the music itself.

“I Don’t Know Why”

“I Don’t Know Why” is the title track off of C.N. Blue’s second Japanese single, I Don’t Know Why (2010) and the 7th track off of 392. The song and lyrics were composed by Yonghwa. I love this performance in particular because not only are there moments that highlight each member individually, but there’s also such a perfect interaction and harmony between their voices and instruments. “I Don’t Know Why” managed to reach #8 on the Oricon Daily Chart, marking the first time the band made it within the Top 10, as well as reaching the #1 position on the Japanese Indie Top Chart. This song later resurfaced on their first Korean full-length album, First Step (2011).

“Lie”

“Lie,” composed by Jonghyun, is the second track off of I Don’t Know Why and the fifth track off of 392. I don’t really know what to say besides the fact that I think this track is as close to perfection as it gets… so many things just seem to click together all at once. “Lie” was later rewritten in Korean and re-released in First Step.

“Don’t Say Goodbye”

Yonghwa sheds his guitar for this particular performance of this song, and pours all of his energy and emotions into his singing instead. Written and composed by Yonghwa, “Don’t Say Goodbye” is the second song off of C.N. Blue’s third Japanese single Re-Maintenance (2011) and the sixth track off of 392. It was also rewritten in Korean for their third Korean mini-album, First Step +1 Thank You (2011).

“Kimio”

This is hands down my favorite C.N. Blue song of all time; I can literally listen to this song on loop, for hours. Composed by Jonghyun, this is the third song off of Re-Maintenance and the final track in 392. Out of all the songs on C.N. Blue’s discography, I feel that this one draws the most from a J-rock influence. This is not too surprising considering that after all, Jonghyun grew up for a period of his life in Japan.

“In My Head”

Composed by Yonghwa, this is the title track off of C.N. Blue’s first debut single under a major label (they are currently signed with Warner Music Japan, graduating away from AI Music, their original indie record label), In My Head (2011). The song peaked at #3 on the Oricon Daily Chart and #4 on the Oricon Weekly Chart, and the album also managed to earn a gold record accreditation according to the RIAJ (Recording Industry Association of Japan), which means that it sold over 100,000 copies within a month of being released.

This song is also rumored to be resurfacing on their soon-to-be-released 4rd Korean mini-album, Ear Fun (2012). The boys sound even better live than recorded, don’t you think?

“Where You Are”

“Where You Are,” released on February 1st, 2012, is the title track off of C.N. Blue’s 2nd Japanese single under Warner Music Japan, Where You Are (2012). Penned and composed by Yonghwa, the song reached #1 on both the Oricon Daily Chart and the Oricon Weekly Chart, becoming the first foreign band to top the chart in 41 years.

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That’s it for this week’s Side B! I hope you enjoyed listening to this list as much as I enjoyed compiling it! What are some of your favorite, lesser-known C.N. Blue songs?

(Cnblue4brothers, arwin0820, judegee1, BurningNoona, warnermusicjapan)