By early November of 2005…the novelty of Japanese rock music was wearing off. I still enjoyed it. But the waves that once washed over me…it’s like I had gotten used to the temperature and now found the waters lukewarm.
*disclaimer: If you hadn’t read the intro, the following is a personal memoir about my 13 years of exploring Korean and Japanese music.
In South Korea, you can tell the singers and groups pride themselves on their ability to dance. The following was one of the first videos I downloaded in which, the most popular singers of the day got together for a Christmas special to dance it out. You’ll find Se7en at 1:17 in. Followed by Rain…and then Minwoo of Shinhwa, then the guy who I’d come to call the best.
A popular style of dance at the time was an innovative form of pop-and-locking as well as the wave. Se7en was an awesome freestyle dancer. I learned that his main competition was another solo artist named Bi or Rain, who everyone was calling the Korean Usher. But the man who I definitely considered the best by a landslide when it comes to dancing…is U-Know.
It was the middle of December of 2005 when I saw this exact video:
lol, now aside from the “Ah’s” and “Oh’s” you may have noticed a dancer doing some amazing things. The waves are so simple yet complex at the same time. In order to do them well, you have to have good body control. Something, I felt I was capable of. His name is U-Know, or Yunho…And mind you…even though I was watching it in December of 2005, that video was from 2004. Surely there had to be more.
I’d come to find out Yunho was the leader of a Korean Boyband called DBSK and dude…Discovering DBSK was an early Christmas present to myself. When I say K-pop got me through college. I mean it.
That December, I was hoping to go home and spend Christmas with family. But from delivering pizzas, I caught a flat tire and couldn’t afford to come home. For two weeks, I was alone for the first time for the first time in my life. I’ve felt loneliness in the sense of being surrounded but not connecting with anyone. But the legit physical loneliness, I wasn’t quite used to at the time. Growing up, I always had brothers or some company present. Being alone for Christmas my first year away from home was abysmal. The only glimmer of happiness that got me through the holidays was DBSK. Like uncovering a buried treasure map, sparking a sense of adventure to see where it leads.
To understand how culturally significant DBSK was, I have to tell you a little bit about their history. All of which, I learned gradually throughout 2006. To put it in perspective, its sort of like how Jive Records was the label for the Backstreet Boys. Then came Nsync and Britney Spears. They were all under the same label at one point and dominated the American pop scene I’d say from 1998-2002ish.
In South Korea, the most prominent music agency is called SM Entertainment. In the thirteen years I’ve been listening to Kpop, SM may have had some close competition with other labels in which there was the big three, such JYP, YG, and it used to be DSP Media (home to Sechskies and SS501). But SM Entertainment has always remained at the top.
Very similar to how the Backstreet Boys were put together, with a benefactor picking out five talented youths and molding them to be superstars, South Korea’s entertainment agencies work the same way…except ten times tougher, with more rules, discipline, and longer years of training. That’s how they start out, as trainees to the agency and it takes years before they debut. Sometimes, they don’t.
DBSK also known as TVXQ or Dong Bang Shin Ki, consisted of Jaejoong, Micky Yoochun, Xiah Junsu, Max Changmin, and Yunho. All of them were hand-picked and groomed by SM Entertainment to sing, dance, take the lead and dominate. Just like their predecessors, which I’ll get into later.
But whatever, right? Bunch of talk, right? So what if ya boy Yunho can dance. I thought this was about music? How good is DBSK?
The first music video I saw of DBSK as a group was “Rising Sun.” And dude…I’m telling this group was the complete package.