September 2009 was a dark chapter in K-Pop history.
Up to this point, the worst I had seen was the breakup of DBSK when JYJ went their separate way. But DBSK had been in the game since 2004. 2pm was still relatively new, only having debuted in September of 2008.
By all accounts, 2pm was considered a top contender to be one of the best in the industry. Hailing from JYP Entertainment, they came from the same label as the immensely popular Wonder Girls. They had just released “Again in Again” in early 2009. They were appearing on variety shows and winning all kinds of fans with their charm, talent, and diversity as Korea’s first “beastly idols”.
Then…Jay Park, Jaebeom as he was referred to back then…Jay Park left the group. Fellow member Taecyeon once described it as the worse day of his life. So much drama happened in the span of a few months but to a fan such as myself, it’s like it all happened in an instance. And when 2pm returned to the scene, they were no longer seven members, but six. The song they released seemed all too fitting to describe, not only their anguish, but the anguish of their fans. It was called “Heartbeat”.
So let’s back up. Here’s what happened…
In September of 2009, some of Jay Park’s old posts from Myspace surfaced where he’s talking crap about South Korea in a comment to another user. He called Korea gay and said he hated Koreans.
So…I’m gonna defend Jay Park here, regardless of his insensitive comments. If you gotta problem with that, I suggest you stop reading. Because I understand Jay completely. Should he have posted what he posted? Absolutely not. But I don’t fault him for it. To me, it makes sense, given the context.
Allow me to explain.
First and foremost, Jay Park is an artist. The whole point of being an artist is freedom of expression. We NEED to express ourselves. Our thoughts, our feelings, we need to get it out of our systems in some sort or fashion. Some people do that through their paintings, through their performances as actors, even martial artists do this in the way they practice. For singers and song writers, they do this through their written words and lyrics. Look at N.WA. Look at Eminem. Look at Kanye. Look at Kendrick Lamar. You’re trying to tell me they have no right to criticize what’s happening to them, whether it’s a race, institution, authority, or the system if they felt oppressed by it?
Again, should he have said it? No. But I only say, “no” because I know the word of God. The Bible is my ultimate source of authority. But I didn’t read the Bible in its entirety until I was 28. Can you imagine the s**t that came out of my mouth before then? Check the dates of Jay Park’s post. They were from 2007 and earlier. The post explicitly about Korea was from 2005. The dude was seventeen. You’re tryin’ to tell me he should have known better? Get the f**k outta here!
This was back in 2005, WAY before the fragile snowflakey PC Culture took hold. Back then, we used words like “lame” and “gay” all the time. It wasn’t even referring to homosexuals, just that something was whack. It’s the way we talked.
By the way, I’ve never been on board with holding someone responsible for opinions they had years ago. Jay Park was born and raised in the Seattle, Washington area of the United States of America. Until 2009-ish we were free with our speech, before people started trying to control us with labels like homophobic, bigoted, and intolerant based on whether or not they liked what you were saying.
Jay Park went to Korea to make it as an artist who was clearly oozing with talent. I can’t even imagine how much of a culture shock he faced with their conservative nature where things like seniority was important, nationalism was high. To this day, people in S. Korea still get mad if a Korean celebrity wears anything that resembles Japan’s Rising Sun in the slightest, and I mean the slightest.
Now, imagine oozing with talent at the age of seventeen, being roomed with a whole bunch of guys and for days and days on end, all you do is practice when you already know your shit. This went on for years!
Is a young man not allowed to vent his frustration with the system? So yeah…some asshole went and dug up his old comments and now S. Korea was up in arms, all shocked that a youth has the audacity to make his frustrations known. And yeah, I blame the asshole who dug up his old comments. It’s not like Jay Park did that himself. And it’s okay to be frustrated during the process. After he debuted, I imagine he changed his mind about the system and the fruits of his labor…as one would expect.
So yeah, fuck the dude and everybody who goes looking for a public figure’s old comments. People are allowed to have their thoughts and share it with their friends and family. Lol, so that’s how I feel about Jay Park’s situation now…you can imagine how a lot of us felt back then in September of 2009. Most of us were thinking…was it really so bad for him to be kicked out of 2pm?
I remember there were a whole bunch of conflicting reports about whether he really was “kicked out” or resigned of his own volition. Nonetheless, Jay Park left, very contrite and humble and full of apologies. He left the country and went back to his home near Seattle.
2pm went on without him…They released “Heartbreak” and at the Mnet Asian Music Awards (MNET), they won the “Artist of the Year” award…my ass. Honestly, I like 2pm. I think 2pm is one of the best and they produced some good music. But “Artist of the Year” in 2009? Are you shitting me? That should have gone to G-Dragon for his groundbacking solo album, “Heartbreaker” and everyone and their mothers knows it. But because the public was all proud of 2pm and feeling a type of way for their hardship of having lost their leader, Jay Park, they were given the award.
When that happened…I’m sorry, it wasn’t the members fault. I blame JYP for not holding onto Jay Park and defending their artist. Honestly, it was difficult to regard 2pm as a legit contender after that because you never really knew if they were popular and winning awards because they earned it, or because the public felt sorry for them. They’re follow-up promotion in April of 2010, “Don’t Stop, Can’t Stop” was awesome. Truly, I enjoyed it a lot. But at the same time, it seemed a continuation of their “Heartbeat” sound. Gradually, I began to wonder if it was the best they could do.
Without Jay Park, it just seemed like something was missing. Quite similar to Winner, after Nam Taehyun left years later. But Jay was always supportive. He would tweet and promote the group. I remember him complimenting Nickhyun, saying he was fire! I will say this though…that if there was to be a breakout star in Jay’s absence, it would definitely be Junsu. His vocals in “Don’t Stop,” showed me a lot. That kid had so much potential. He really could have been the R. Kelly of Korea without all the sexual abuse, of course.
In 2010, the perception of Jay Park started to change a little. And it was interesting. It’s like everyone calmed down from jumping to conclusions and realized Park’s comments were taken out of context. More and more, it became popular for female celebrities to name Jay Park as their ideal type when they were asked about it. On the real, that was getting a bit annoying. I can’t stand when females do this. Where everyone openly expresses their affections for the same dude because it’s popular to do so. And yeah, you might say, “Oh, but guys like Beyonce…” And I’m like…That’s it though. Guys have liked Beyonce for about two decades and really nobody else. Meanwhile, women will jump from a different guy to a different guy, whoever’s popular at the time.
While Jay was in the states, the boy didn’t stay silent. Yeah, he had humbled himself but in that true American spirit, he didn’t stay down. Videos started popping up of him performing with his break dance crew AOM, Art of Movement.
And then…sure enough, Jay started releasing music on his own. In particular, he released a cover of “Nothin On You” that blew up. Jay’s name started to trend on Twitter and more and more people started asking for his return to Korea. It was amazing to see.
Jay’s hustle, the continuous release of music and videos kept Jay in the spotlight despite his absence. It showed a tenacity unlike any other. Where most artists would simply allow themselves to fade into obscurity, Jay kept coming. Then, at last. Jay Park came back to South Korea in June of 2010.
The reception was astounding. Fans were waiting for him to come out of the airport and everything. It was a success. He’d go on to sign with SidusHQ, and planned to debut as a solo artist, much like starting over again as a rookie. And on April 27, 2011, over a year and a half since his departure from 2pm, Jay Park released his first solo mini-album “Take a Deeper Look” with the title song, “Abandoned.”
In retrospect, one can’t help but wonder. Let’s look at the big picture here. Comments came to light where Jay Park talked crap about the county. He leaves the group. 2pm goes on to have apparent success by winning the Artist of the Year with hits like “Heartbeat” and “Without You”. But while 2pm is “succeeding” on their own…Jay Park is still doing his thing by releasing music and dance videos, trending on Twitter…all on his own.
Mind you, even though 2pm was good…let’s be real, they were never on Big Bang or DBSK’s level. They had the potential to be. But once they lost Jay Park…that all went up in smoke.
Then here comes Jay Park. Returning to Korea. Loved by all. If you were a member of 2pm, how would you feel about that? It’s like a child who suffered through the divorce of your parents, the pain and heartbreak, only for your parents to remarry after you’ve grown up and moved out of the house. It’s like…dafuq?
Of course, I could be overthinking it. But I don’t believe I’m alone in seeing it this way.
ON TOP OF THAT! Jay Park goes on to create his other motherfucking label, AOMG. Are you kidding me? He’s the founder and CEO with acts like Simon D, Gray, Hoody, and Loco under his belt. And Jay Park is still releasing good music to this day. At the time, some of my favorite hits from back then were “Star” and “Girlfriend.”
Jay Park – “GIRLFRIEND”
Jay Park has that it-factor 2pm lacked. Edge. A street vibe that differentiated 2pm from other groups in their early days. Every group needs that “it” factor to distinguish them from others. With DBSK, it was Yunho and Micky. With Big Bang, it’s TOP, Taeyang, and G-Dragon. With Ikon, it was Bobby and B.I. With Block-B, it was Zico. With EXO, it was Kai.
This chapter isn’t to bash 2pm. I just want to put that straight. I had high hopes for their group and they gave us beautiful songs like “Only U” and “Again and Again.” This chapter just expounds on the folly of caving into public opinion. One of the things I liked about YG was their resilience everytime they were hit with a plagiarism accusation or even when horrible things happened like Seungri’s car accident, or Daesung accidentally killing a man. Of course, the “Burning Sun Scandal” was the straw that broke the camel’s back. But that’s for another chapter.
For now…I raise a glass to Jay Park for his resilience. In so many ways, he really is like the Kanye West of South Korea. Except, he sings and dances better…Of course.