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Mon Dec 2, 2019, 06:45 PM

My KPop Playlist Tracks: TVXQ - Something

Korea's SM Entertainment does one thing better than anyone: Finding premium vocal talent. TVXQ is one of the primary entries proving that point.

TVXQ consists of leader Jung YunHo (right), also known as U-Know to his fans (I call him Living, Breathing Sex on Two Legs—but maybe that’s just me), and maknae Shim ChangMin (left), who goes by the nickname of Max. Given that he has quite a few octaves in his range and that eternal chipmunk-cheeked baby face, ChangMin is the lead vocal and “aegyo” (cuteness) master of the group, while YunHo tends to cover the rapping, dancing and raw sex appeal. But don’t think that YunHo isn’t a terrific singer in his own right, because he is, far better than many a lead vocalist in other groups. It’s only that ChangMin is so very good that YunHo doesn’t get as much recognition for his vocal talent as he would in another group.

Originally a five-member a capella group formed in 2004, TVXQ became such a huge sensation after their debut that at one time their fan club was purported to be the largest in the world, with over 800,000 members. It’s not difficult to understand why. Just look at them:

From left to right: Xiah “Xia” Junsu; Park Yoochan—aka Mickey; Kim “Hero” Jaejoong—the original leader of TVXQ; ChangMin and YunHo, circa 2009.

So what happened that the group now has two members instead of five?

In 2009, Jaejoong, Yoochan and Junsu sued SM Entertainment for subjecting them to what they considered slave contracts and unfair earnings distribution. After winning the case, the litigants left SM to form the group JYJ (based on the English initials of each member’s first name), while YunHo and ChangMin retained the SM representation and TVXQ name as a duo. Having the power of SM behind them has enabled TVXQ to be more successful than JYJ after the split, although neither group attained the heights of popularity they had as one unit. These legal disputes are becoming a constant in KPop, and SM seems to get more of the ticked off artists than any other label.

Still, YunHo and ChangMin have fostered a reputation in KPop as a group that enjoys taking chances and deviating from the norm. That would explain “Something,” a luminous send-off of 1930s swing standards, replete with punchy brass and funky stand-up bass married seamlessly to modern music sensibilities and production values. If you love jazz or just plain good pop with great singing, you will probably like this song. It’s not every day you will hear a freestyle jazz breakdown in any pop song, never mind in KPop, but TVXQ not only pulls it off, but YunHo comes up with a great dance routine to go with it!

It’s really something. And that’s saying a lot, coming from TVXQ, who have had several stellar and sometimes strange hits over the years, such as “Hug,” “Tri-Angle” and “Mirotic” when they had five members, to “Humanoids,” “Spellbound" and “Chance of Love” as a duo.

Once again, I’m providing a live performance, but of a song that is 180 degrees different from “Something,” to show that TVXQ is nothing if not versatile:

That fringe of hair falling over YunHo's eyes slays me. It's damned unfair for one man to be so scary sexy.


TVXQ probably has more names that they’re known by than any other group: Their primary name is in Chinese: 東方神起. For those who don’t know Mandarin, it’s pronounced Tong Vfang Xien Qi, and hence the abbreviated name of TVXQ. In Korea, the way to say the same thing is Dong Bang Shin Ki, so that gets abbreviated to DBSK there. And because 東方神起 also has a Japanese kanji reading, they get yet another name in that language: Touhoushinki. Whatever the language, all of these names more or less translates to “Rising Gods of the East.”

If that’s not enough, the TVXQ abbreviation sometimes comes with an exclamation mark added on, like this: TVXQ!

Whew! That’s a lot of names for one duo.

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Despite being the baby of the group (he was only 16 when they debuted), ChangMin came up with the name for the enormous TVXQ fan club: Cassiopeia.

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Unlike many other KPop acts, TVXQ never accepts gifts of food or drinks from “fans,” and with good reason: In 2006, a deranged anti-fan gave YunHo a drink spiked with a super-glue type of adhesive. If it hadn’t been for his immediate bad reaction to the poisoning, and the even faster response of his managers in getting him to the hospital, he would have died. I don’t know what’s wrong with people to do something so spiteful, for such a ridiculous reason. I’m only glad that YunHo survived the ordeal so well.

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