Post #47 – … I left a few blank spaces to add the title of this post a bit later. Will it be about the bond between fans and artist, will it be about the intensity of feelings in the ‘land of morning calm’, or just an autobiographical confession on how I came to live here and write about this?
It just dawned on me this jet-lagged morning at 6 am that TAKE-KR is a traditional media, a little step farther than social media. We report. Cover events. Interview people; visit and research and write about places. Although in the blog I can get away with being more opinionated, the magazine holds the objective truth.
What is the objective truth in a land that I explore, but by no means know in a profound way? Do I have the right to analyze, say what I think, judge, tell this story? Taking a big leap of faith, I decide that I have the right. An emotional right. This blog post is about the role of CNBLUE in the life of their fans, me included. It will be my ode to them and especially to Jung YongHwa, the band leader and an outstanding human being.
Still remember the day I looked up CNBLUE in Google for the first time. I had seen JongHwa back at home in the US on the TV screen in a musical drama and was curious why such a talented young man got a supporting role. The lead role should have been his, I thought, on looks and talent. He was poised, intense, and acted far better. I also wanted to hear him sing more since he had little screen time singing, just to be a fair judge, on a sunny afternoon with little things to do. Then and there I opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box.
Raise your hands if you know what I am talking about. There was so little online back then. Just a few words, a few songs, some scree time; and who was CNBLUE? Nevertheless, the impression was deep. Everything about him was special, memorable. I found myself humming CNBLUE songs just days later, remembering words in a language I don’t understand. Afterwards, I found out it was called K-pop. What an ambassador!
Fast-forwarding a few years … Last night I watched YongHwa in concert, on Korean soil. I’ve seen him about a dozen times live by now, which is not a lot, but way more than many of his world-wide fans have had the privilege to do. I feel very lucky. I know the feeling of scrolling through social media to get bits and pieces from concerts I was not able to attend. Yong performing live is addictive. Pure and simple. Addictive.
I was asked many times if I moved to South Korea because of CNBLUE. It would be fashionable to say yes. But I did not. I moved here to write a greatly-needed English-language magazine on this beautiful country that moves me with its emotional intensity, its discipline and humility, its common sense, and its respect for the older generation, among many other things. I came to love all things Korean. I admire the country’s history and traditions. I am in awe with G-Dragon. I love my iBrush, Derma-roller, and I am thankful for my general doctor. I can see the Lotte Tower from my balcony. I enjoy walking by the Sokcheon Lake, at least for a few months a year. And I love photographing this land. So, no, I did not move here for CNBLUE or YongHwa. But him/they do make for the best company in cold evenings such as last night.
This was the autobiographical part of the post. It is my excuse. Now I can write the rest. The rest being about: idols, controversies, fan wars, uber-emotional fans, and more. Every bright light throws dark shadows behind things. In these shadows live envy and sensationalism, and public opinion feeds on it.
There are a few core ingredients which make controversies so palatable for the masses. These are: use of wrong language/words/terms; blindly assigning blame; and bad timing. All these are negative terms. As a PR and crisis management specialist for the past decades, I could dissect them here in detail, although I would be doing exactly the opposite from what I am preaching.
In just a few words of advice from the older generation, to all the fans out there, here are things to be avoided: Do not repeat/repost bad news or comments even when you want to fix them. Do not use negative words in your posts. Do not use weak terms when referring to your favorite artist. Do not compare. Do not attack. Do not use profanity. Do not judge your artist; as you don’t judge your family. Don’t boss around other fans. Do not mention your idol’s private life. Do not talk incessantly about bad news; know when to call it quits.
Instead, here are the things you can do:
Saturate the social media with very happy messages. Use positive words when talking about your artists and between each other. Praise your idol constantly. Praise each other. Praise other artists as well. Talk about their artistic endeavors and charity work only.
Most surely you have other fan friends. With them and in private you can talk about anything you want. But in public, be a good public figure, and a positive fan. Your idol will thank you forever.
In my humble opinion, most of the hype that controversies cause is just intensified by fans trying to put out fires. This is the blessing and curse of social media. Idols have to live with it. I think YongHwa is handling it just fine, but other performers don’t have his maturity, health, intelligence and strength. I cry for them.
Enough about overly emotional fan responses to crisis situations. Now let’s focus on ‘why we are here’. The concert.
Last night YongHwa invited us into his house – ROOM 622. Or his private hotel suite? Either way, it was private, intimate, loud, warm, and intense. If his fans hearts were not melted before, they melted last night. He held two concerts in a row. I was lucky to see the second. Two hours and 40 minutes of high-caliber entertainment.
By himself, without the other three band members, Lee Jong Hyun, Lee Jung Shin and Kang Min Hyuk (by the way, the last two were present last night and supporting their mate, while his Busanbrother was wrapped up in filming), YongHwa can take more liberties in all the aspects of his performance, from rearranging songs more drastically, dressing up, dancing more, and making more personal comments during the breaks. Both kind of performances have their special appeal. With CNBLUE he is the leader, he is in charge; he takes control, saves the day and brings down the house. As a solo singer he is more vulnerable, more tender, more young and sensitive, although he is as well totally in charge of the stage and the audience.
ROOM 622 was a very, very fine concert. Thinking about how his fan demographic has evolved since the first concert I attended, I can say that YongHwa has found the right potion to attract people for life. Although in the past the audience was entirely female and very young, now his concerts are attended by all ages and surprisingly by many men as well, not necessarily accompanying their ladies, but by themselves. This is a good recipe for longevity. It gives me hope that he will age well and follow in the footsteps of internationally acclaimed stars who have endured for decades.
YongHwa’s solo repertoire last night was incredibly colorful. He jazzed up a few of his songs, and showed up in a black sequence jacket to sing Checkmate sitting down at a bar table. His ballads were sung center-stage, dressed in a slightly unbuttoned thin white silk shirt, while he returned for his happy party songs in a classy white and red Hawaiian short-sleeve shirt. His back dancers were on fire, and he danced along for most of the performance. The cherry on the cake was his newly-acquired taste for salsa dancing. Maybe his trip to Cuba had something to do with it. He is like a sponge and picks up everything musical wherever he goes. ‘Hola señorita’ was his intro to Diamond Girl, and I just can imagine his fans in Latin America going crazy about it. We hope the concert was videotaped, so many more will get to see it in the future.
My favorite part of the ROOM 622 concert were the ballads. He performed, at first, from behind a curtain covering the entire stage, with a projection of a rock wall on it. As he sang, the virtual wall crumbled little by little, and eventually came down on him like a ton of bricks, in a cloud of dust. In the rubbles, green leaves started to come out and soon the entire stage was covered in green ivy. Very strong message. YongHwa did mention that he was personally involved in all aspects of the concert, including the stage design. That felt like his idea. Very emotional.
There were two encores at the end of ROOM 622. The first started with ‘Hello’ followed by a long and serious talk. Although my friend translated part of it, I focused on his speaking voice. Mature, deep, serious, heartfelt, unlike other times when he generally is the clown of the group. He sings even when speaking, and touches every chord in people’s hearts. Such an outstanding performer and entertainer. I always try to remind myself that it is a show; nevertheless the sobbing audience was compelling. Everyone around me was in tears. The girl in front was choking while her mom was patting her back, while the lady next to me was in need of a box of tissues. On the way out I saw many ladies with red eyes comforting each other. The level of involvement from fans is very high. This raises his responsibility as a celebrity to know how to comfort and heal. For YongHwa this comes naturally, since he is always deeply honest with everything he does, sincere with his emotions, and relentless when it comes to sharing joy and happiness with everyone around him.
The second encore came after a long chanting period. It was rather unusual to see the audience staying behind and cheering and singing. Many efforts were made by fans to organize moral support for YongHwa and it paid off. During an unprecedented moment, the audience performed for him while he was backstage. He was deeply touched. I can imagine him waiting behind the curtain and savoring this very special moment.
Now is the time to share all this with worldwide fans, to post happy thoughts, to applaud and cheer for Yong. There is a lot of strength in positive messaging. I hope I can add mine to many, many others, in support of YongHwa, CNBLUE, BOICE, K-pop, and South Korea… in that order. Yong was also supported last night on site by his band mates Shinnie and Minioc who left together in a lovely white sports Bentley, as well as by his parents and his friends who came from Busan. Now that’s a solid private entourage!
This incredible outpouring of support we witnessed last night comes as a response to a crisis situation YongHwa had faced recently. Without going into much details, and as we hear very sad news from other artists who passed or deal with illness and grief, I wish to say this …
Our moral compass is dictated and influenced by the places we live in, by our social fabric, by our beliefs, by rules and laws. After living in five countries in four continents, I can say that a supreme moral compass does not exist. What is good there is bad here, what is normal there is abnormal here. There is no such thing as ultimate righteousness. We don’t get to be the judge of other people, just because in our land things are done this or that way.
Being good is more important than being right. Having a good heart is more important than being a leader. Loving and caring for others is more important than filling out papers, and following bureaucratic rules. And love is unconditional after all. Especially when your loved one is … just perfect! Just like YongHwa.
And now I promise this is the last post about YongHwa, for now… today… this week maybe? If you want more though, read up on the latest sample post from TAKE-KR MAGAZINE, January cover article on CNBLUE and their fans “Make some Noise”. Also make sure to revisit this post for a video clip coming up soon.