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The Curious Case of TVXQ/DBSK
Any one who has read any of my Korean Entertainment-centered article on this blog would know my, err, "dissatisfaction" towards idol groups. That is why the next question I will attempt to answer in this article will be a big surprise. Could TVXQ be the greatest boyband Korean has ever produced so far?
As mentioned, I have trouble calling idol groups artists. It's nothing personal and it really isn't about the member. Well, not entirely. You may refer to this article to know more about why I don't favor how boybands are formed and develop.
However, I have always pride myself for maintaining objectivity whenever I form opinions about different entertainers. Shinhwa is one of the few idol groups that have gained my utmost respect. I don't like their music and only listen to them when they have a new material but I admire them for the way they have taken creative control over their career and for having such strong pairs to battle a giant to gain independence. That's another post.
TVXQ, now a duo made of U-Know Yunho and Max Changmin, have always been a curious case for me since they rose to prominence more than a decade ago. They were still a five-member group then and I have watched them close enough to get to know their music and artistry (by their definition) but far enough to maintain objectivity.
I do not dislike them. I do not dislike JYJ either. I wish both groups happiness and success. They deserve it. However, this articles will focus on TVXQ and you will know why, later.
TVXQ/DBSK back when they were still a five-member group.
Entertainers of a Different Level
If you have ever seen Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Beyonce and a few others perform live, you will see (or feel) something in common in them. They put everything on the line in every performance. You could feel they give everything they've got on that stage. They don't leave anything for themselves. Every ounce of energy, every skill, ever talent, every muscle in their body are pushed to their utmost limit to make sure they give the best possible performance they could ever give. Beyonce shimee like she has never shimeed before, MJ danced like the world's gravity depends on his snaps, Turner shakes like the sun sources its energy from her.
There are very few other artists out there that give such performances and TVXQ is one of them.
Their choreography is always very snappy and no one snaps the way these two do. Their snaps give so much power that each of their dance performance could probably supply energy of an entire country for a full year.
You could feel the anger when their words are angry. They growl, they grit, they crack their worlds as the emotion of their song calls for. They jump as if they are reaching for the doors of heaven.
They don't hold back and the amazing thing is that they have enough talent to pull it.
And they ACTUALLY sing live gundam it.
They really are a cut above the rest. Of all the boybands I have watched perform live, no one has quite impressed me as TVXQ. And impressing me is beyond difficult, not that anyone cares to try.
Their vocals are never perfect. Changmin's voice shakes every now and then, Yunho's vocal sometimes disappear but they are still far more superior than others. It is also these imperfections that prove they sing live, often, without a voice assist.
They also actually do not cheat when they sing and dance at the same time. Many idols who sing live actually stop dancing when it is their solo. It allows them to stabilize their abdomen where the power and stability of their voice come from. Not TVXQ. They ACTUALLY sing WHILE they dance and the level of the quality of their vocals and dance don't change.
Larger than Life
Yes, it does help that they have a big agency that affords them to have productions with big customized stage designs, live bands and an army of back up dancers dressed fashionably enough to walk the ramp Seoul's Fashion Week. What they contribute to the larger than life environment they are stuck in is the ability to outshine their stage. Anyone in the entertainment industry would know how difficult that is.
They are tall guys, alright but they are battling the humongous backdrop and an army of good, if not great, dancers. It's easy to drown in that.
They have become better with age, I must say. Although they were good when they were still a 5-member group, these two simply have evolved to become a different kind of entertainment spicies. I am not saying JYJ has fallen behind. It's no ta conclusion we can make because they have taken a different direction in their music. Their sound is far slower than that of TVXQ. So, a comparison would be inappropriate, in this context.
How Much of That is TVXQ?
It is not a secret that many of TVXQ's materials were written by other writers. As of late, they have been "allowed" to write more and more of their songs and participate in the production but how much control they have over their material is still up in the air.
Both members have alluded to having some influence on the kind of material they will use or the performances they will have. "Something", for example, came out of U-Know's idea to do something different and differ from their usual fast and "power" songs and performances. To their standard, this song is slow and "easy". How much of the eventual final material is their, however, is unclear.
We just know that both members are writing more and more for themselves and other artists.
However, idols are not really expected to write their materials. They are expected to perform but that's where this whole curiosity starts.
The two have proven they are great performers and, so far, no current boyband can hold a candle against them. They remain kings of SME and the greatest kings of all other kingdoms. The question is whether or not these two will be given the freedom to explore the depth of their artistry.
SM has surrounded them with the best writers, best creative directors and best choreographers that produced groundbreaking concepts. TVXQ is SME's biggest star and it's not surprising the kind of care and diligence they have provided TVXQ but until when will they be at the mercy of other writers.
What do they have others don't?
They are able to pull performances that combine complicated melodies with complicated choreography without sacrificing one for the other. They are also perpetually pushing the envelope, exploring new sound and growing as performers and artists.
The other components are just bonuses:
- both are pursuing higher studies, a good example to other young people
- maintain a great relationship with their fanbase
- a stable image that protects their personal lives and maintain their relatively clean reputation
- dedication towards their work
I Shall Wait
As entertainers, I'd say they are the best boyband bar none. I can put them up against every single boyband and no one can deliver that level of performance. The difficulty of their choreography, vocal power and stability, and the image they are able to maintain allowed them to protect their throne.
Their evolution has been headed north. They are maturing, experimenting with different sound and beats. They are edgy and will most likely continue pushing the envelope as they realize that their age will force them to do just that, anyway.
How much of that evolution will be their decision and vision is something I would gladly wait and see.