[Interview Part I] JYJ′s Kim Jae Joong Talks about Prejudice Against Idol Members Taking On Rock
The public likes what they′re used to, as it takes time for them to recognize anything new and again settle down with the changes. This is why stars, who live off the love and interest of their fans, often listen more to their fans than themselves.
Idols are especially put under strict standards. They′re often attacked for taking on any genre other than dance or ballad. The most prominent example was H.O.T.′s leader Moon Hee Jun. When he announced he would become a rock singer after H.O.T.′s disbandment, many scoffed at his choice and a large group of anti-fans amassed to mock his every move.
JYJ′s Kim Jae Joong, however, took up the challenge and decided to release his first solo album of his career in the rock genre. It took him 10 years to arrive at his first solo mini album I. As it came after such a long wait, the way he expressed his thirst for the music he likes burned with passion.
Kim Jae Joong told his story through the tracks of the album, and showed he was thinking seriously about rock by composing many of the tracks. The public welcomed his sincerity, and Kim Jae Joong managed to smile with them after spilling his heart out through his music. Enews met with the passionate rock singer Kim Jae Joong.
This is your first solo album in 10 years. How did you come to release your album?
"I had been active as JYJ, then I started acting when the other members also started to launch their solo ventures. I met with my fans as an actor for a long time. There were fans who loved to see me act, but there were fans who wanted to hear more music from us and missed our singing voices, or those who wanted to see something new from us. I came to release my album with the thought that I should return to music as fast as possible for those who had waited so long."
You chose to go for rock in your first solo album. Did you always want to try rock?
"I grew up listening to rock. It wasn′t deep or hard core, but I liked to imitate N.EX.T, Yoon Do Hyun Band and Seo Taiji sunbaenim (senior). I′ve often performed rock at our concerts or for my solo project singles. Still, I didn′t know I would be releasing my first album in the rock genre."
You co-produced the album with Sinawi′s vocalist Kim Bada. How did you come to work together?
"I happened to get to know about Kim Bada sunbaenim by chance. I asked him [to work with me] because he′s the vocalist of a legendary band, and because I heard his songs are really good. He first wrote One Kiss for me, and I could only say that it was ′great′. I loved that it incorporated sessions, melodies and a mood that can′t be found in other Korean songs, and I was satisfied at how it embodied Sinawi′s strong sounds and yet gave off a dreamy feeling."
Kim Bada wrote not only ′One Kiss′, but also ′Mine′, the promotional single of the album.
"[Kim] Junsu kept asking me what I thought about singing in a style like that of Maze, a single I sang in Japan. I asked sunbaenim for a song with a quicker beat, he said ′I got it′, and then he came up with Mine in just two days. He was the best."
You must′ve felt very satisfied with the results.
"It was great. It was so great. I still can′t believe it′s my voice singing in One Kiss (Laugh)."
How did Junsu and [Park] Yoo Chun react to your rock album?
"Yoo Chun was preparing for his media day event in China when One Kiss was released. I sent him the song and he said he had some drinks after listening to it. I guess it′s a song that makes you feel like drinking (Laugh)."
"Junsu really liked Mine. He listened to it and kept saying, ′Oh~ Good, good, good.′ Like I said, Junsu kept pushing for a similar feeling so he said it was great because it turned out the way he wanted it to be."
You must have been concerned about choosing rock music. The public seems to feel awkward when idol singers try new things, especially rock.
"That′s what′s hard about it. If you think of it in terms of acting, an actor who′s going to appear in a comedy piece when he′s mostly appeared in romances all this time will feel scared. It would feel the same for a singer, who′s only sung for dance or ballad pieces, to go for rock. Because I was scared, I aimed for rock and didn′t try to include any other styles that I′m good at. I just wanted to put my voice on traditional rock pieces."
What do you mean, you didn′t try to include any other styles that you′re good at?
"Since I would be putting a lot of things at stake with my new attempt, it felt I should do something I′m good at too in order to make it less daunting. Still, I felt that would make the music more difficult to understand, so I just sang in traditional rock. I especially asked for help from those who work in the rock genre."
How did Kim Bada say you should react to any criticisms about your being an idol trying out rock?
"When idol group members try out a new area, big fans of the genre often welcome them with prejudice. I was worried because I was part of a group too, and I think he knew. He tried to set my emotions and vocals straight so that they would fit traditional rock. I mostly sing in a fragile voice, but I shouted and sang in a solid, husky voice for One Kiss. He told me it′s good to try new vocal methods outside of the original K-Pop methods."
How did you come to choose the five tracks included in your album?
"The songs that I wrote before were more R&B and K-Pop, so I wanted help from rock musicians this time. I wanted a lot of help from those who wrote songs and were also members of rock bands. I wanted to learn more about rock and get to understand it more. I composed Healing for Myself and All Alone myself, but for the others I used tracks from Jeon Hae Sung sunbaenim and Kim Bada sunbaenim."
How did you come to choose ′Mine′ as your promotional single?
"I thought a lot about it. I thought One Kiss would appeal more to the public, but Mine was unique. The melody and session fit perfectly as the promotional single of my first rock-themed solo album. I chose Mine because I needed a music video for the promotional single, and I thought the video needed to make a big impact."
Photo credit: C-JeS Entertainment
Reach reporter Choi Eunhwa on Twitter @silvercandy88!