The one who created Kpop wave, S.M. Entertainment agency.
Artistes revealed the secret behind that huge strength.
2001 BoA, 2005 Tohoshinki. Both groups of artistes who gained extremely high popularity after debuting in Japan, were under Korea’s S.M. Entertainment.
They were entirely different from the current Japanese music market whereby any Korean-born artistes were easily flattered and loved.
They fought their own success out with their talent/effort in the previous Japanese music market and now they casually talk it out together with their agency representative Kim Young Min for the first time.
BoA’s continuous release of works which generated millions of revenue was around 2003. Two years later, Tohoshinki came to Japan. They finally gradually created the change in Japanese music world with a full team’s work. These two groups of S.M. Entertainment (SM) is a Korean “hit” factory that uses their own unique ways to push their many artistes out into Asia market through training of their artistes.
They did not sing Kpop songs for their activities (in Japan) but was yet said to be the ones who started the current K-pop trend. Together with Representative Kim Young Min who accompanied along the artistes from the beginning of such trends, we asked BoA and Tohoshinki on the secrets behind such a elite agency. (This talk was done in Japanese.)
First, let’s start with how everyone entered SM.
BoA: I was with my brother who was auditioning when I was 11 years old and I was approached by the people from the agency. H.O.T. and S.E.S. were the most popular groups at that time. Because a lot of my favourite artistes were from SM and SM’s advanced image in music direction were strong, thus I was very happy to be approached. There was no Representative Kim at that time in the company and Tohoshinki’s duo came in later than me. (laughs)
YH, CM: She is our big senior.
BoA: I entered SM in 1998.
Kim Young Min (KYM): (T/N: He talked about how he came into SM in 1999, how he met BoA for the first time and his impression of her as a serious worker.) So how did CM came into SM?
CM: I was playing badminton during the physical education lesson in school then I was approached by a person in specs… Then I joined in the audition and entered SM. It was my third year in middle school. At that time, senior BoA was a hot topic in Korea due to her advancement in Japan, together with six-membered Shinhwa and I had an impression of SM being an outstanding entertainment agency. But as I had no interest in entertainment field and I felt that I am not suitable in this field, I spend a lot of time accomodating to it.
YH: Changmin, your Japanese is good~ (laughs) I am the poorest at Japanese among the people here, please forgive me. I was performing in a dance group during my middle school years and joined the audition with 3-4 friends when we heard that SM is having the audition. Then I was the only one being chosen…
CM: He is very proud of this. (laughs)
YH: Yes. (laughs) I thought I could debut right after I passed the audition but there were about 100 trainees altogether. I was shocked. But everyone was like a family and we developed a mutual challenging relationship. I really learnt a lot then. I felt that I improved a lot in many ways after entering SM.
BoA: You sure knows how to talk well.
YH: I would say such words. (laughs)
[ Foray into Asia market because of BoA ]
After entering the agency, what do you do in the beginning?
BoA: (T/N: She talked about how she was given a strict schedule of classes for vocal, dancing and Japanese. She asked the recent juniors and realised there were a lot of various classes which makes her envy.)
KYM: (T/N: He said that things changed a lot due to BoA and Lee Soo Man told him that he was able to foray into Asia market due to BoA.)
(YH, CM clapped their hands.)
BoA: Hahaha (shys)
(T/N: KYM mentioned how male groups like H.O.T. were unable to go overseas due to mandatory army duties and passport issues thus Japanese lessons were in BoA’s regular classes. That is, BoA is the one who can foray into overseas market. KYM was BoA’s teacher for Japanese language.)
YH: I lived with Representative Kim when I was a trainee.
KYM: Yes. When SM signed a contract with an artiste, a dormitory was arranged for them before they debut. The company’s staffs would be their room mates as well as manager and guardian. (laughs) CM was from Seoul thus he stays in his own house. During training period, the kids who stayed near Seoul would to and fro from the company and home. When they was grouped, the group would stay in a dorm together. It was such a system.
There was no Japanese language lessons arranged for Tohoshinki?
CM: There was no Japanese language lessons at first but we had Chinese language lessons. It was then decided that on the debut in Japan. When asked upon, “Do you want to debut in Japan?”, I did not think too much into it. It was when the time for Japan debut was approaching that I starts to be serious with my learning of Japanese language. However once I learned other countries’ languages, I forgot everything that I had learnt previously. I have to re-learn my Chinese.
YH: Therefore senior BoA is very talented. Due to her recent activities in U.S., her english is very fluent.
BoA: (T/N: She said how she debuted in Japan when there’s no Hallyu wave and not many people know she is Korean.) I was only 14 then, thus I was at the age of quick absorbance of learning new stuffs. But Tohoshinki starts to learn Japanese when they were in high school/university’s age, thus they were great (at learning).
CM: Additionally, such a senior BoA, though she is only 20 plus years old and yet she can speak English so well, I think she’s good.
KYM: Hahahaha (claps) As expected of Changmin. (laughs)
What other lessons were given?
BoA: (T/N: She was given vocal trainings and hip hop dancing classes. But she keeps herself in a learning mode as music trend genres changes.)
[ Closing the distance from “monitoring” ]
KYM: From BoA and Tohoshinki onwards, all SM artistes practice “monitoring”. Any potential artistes could see the difference from here. Although other companies are practicing this, but our way of approach is different.
KYM: It is to check out the video footage after own performance in live or variety shows. For example, the job is not done after a recording for a music programme but to check the recorded footage immediately and to improve in places where it has to be. From what I have seen, BoA and Tohoshinki have never neglect “monitoring” no matter how tough schedules were.
YH: I am happy to be praised. As Tohoshinki took reference from what senior BoA has been through, I hope to create our own style from that. If that could become SM’s style of working, I would be very happy.
Any improvements through “monitoring”?
YH: For example, when upon expressing myself in front of the audience, I ever had this experience that due to my wrong perception of the atmosphere, I did a mistake causing an awkward situation. Then Changmin told me, “How about pausing it for a moment?” I tried it and the reaction was very good, it feels ah… thats very good.
BoA: Do you mean the talk (section) in variety show? (laughs)
YH: Mm. (acknowledgingly) Although this is about a talk, but if the timing for a dance choreography was grasped well, it would cause a better stance. I think that the basis for accomplishing this is “monitoring”.
BoA: We are able to see ourselves while practicing in front of a mirror but once we stood on the stage, we have to perform as though we could see ourselves.
Was there any suggestions given to you during trainee days or after debut that was precious to you till now?
YH: Producer Lee Soo Man ever said to me, “Enjoy oneself on stage.” There was a time he told me, “Although the image of working hard is important, a man has various issues/matters in life and you have to enjoy yourself in all of it.” “The genius will not win against the hardworker, a hardworker will not win against one who enjoys things.” This is my life motto now.
CM: Mine was what senior BoA said before. Tohoshinki’s first stage was a special guest on the stage of senior BoA and Britney Spears. At that time, senior BoA told me, “I think we should just perform with the thought that we are the best on stage.” I was a bit introvert from young so these words impacted me.
BoA: (T/N: Hers was “Never stop learning” from Lee Soo Man. She find it as an life advice.)
Everyone here seems to have fully succeeded but yet maintained self-discipline. How do you preserved this motivation?
BoA: (T/N: She said that after her overseas expeditions, she feels that she needs to continue challenging after seeing so much in the outside world.)
KYM: (T/N: He is grateful to his artistes who said that they can work in a new country with no qualms, as he knew they must have suffered in normal daily life at a new country.)
SM TOWN LIVE was held not only in Asia but also in Paris etc, marching towards the world.
YH: When the schedule was set, I said, “Is it real?” As there has yet to be any Korean artistes who held such a large-scale performance in Paris. And yet this time we are going together as a whole family. To be honest, I was worried. But the reviews were good and I feel that from now on, we are going to create a total new SM style.
CM: In the past, we listened to non-Korean songs and became that musician’s fans. Now it is the opposite party who listened to our music or watched our performance and became our fans. I feel very happy and am in happiness. Though we are actually singing in Korean language, the whole crowd was standing and singing with us all along. It was very touching to see such a scene, and that deepened our motivation to spread SM’s music to all other countries. The only regret is that senior BoA was not able to join in the performance in Paris.
BoA: (T/N: She said about how the Asian community is larger in LA and in Europe, the Asian community is smaller yet was able to held a live performance. She hopes SM will be able to foray into other places.)
[ Tohoshinki’s Reborn Performance ]
YH: With regards to last year’s schedule, the both of us restarted from SMTOWN LIVE ( Last august in Seoul) , isn’t it? Although a lot has happened, the both of us still wants to stand on the stage to sing and it was really happy to have SMTOWN as our starting point. The staffs around us was a part of the family and we are able to perform together with our beloved seniors and juniors, it became our biggest strength. From then on, we regained our self-confidence and was able to move on till today.
CM: Indeed. If it was just the stage of the two of us, it would have been more nerve wrecking. But it was together with the artistes and staffs who were close to us and everyone took this (comeback performance) as though their own, cheering for us. It really became our strength.
YH: Because it was really very nervous at that time. It was also because of that, and made me realised this is really a family.
What is everyone’s perception of SM’s principle?
BoA: Not staying at one’s comfort. Not staying at one place, not easily satisfied with one’s comfort and to carry on improving any enquiries could probably be SM’s principle.
CM: Our performance is titled SM Music Performance (SMP) and dance choreography was taken into consideration when composing of the song. I think this results in SM’s unique tempo and songs.
YH: I think in usual cases, dance choreography is created separately from song creation. But SM was able to incorporate the consideration of performance during the initial stages, I think it is one of SM’s true charm and style.
KYM: (T/N: He further explained that SM’s songs was to allow the performance to shine even more. The motive was to let fans of BoA and THSK to have a deeper impression of them. He mentioned Lee Soo Man emphasized on individual’s uniqueness and for individual to accept their true value, maintaining of modesty and to keep on striving.)
From the previous works, although there are personal works by BoA and Tohoshinki, it seems that the emphasis is still on performance and not on personal compositions?
BoA: (T/N: She agrees, saying how being a performer is more sutiable for her. Being a performer was to take care of all aspects from singing to outfits to dances. She would still compose in her free time among the hectic schedules.)
YH: We have the same thinking. There is also one persistence from SM. Even before the release of a song, if Producer Lee Soo Man thinks that, “This work is still not ready to be out in the market. There are still some imperfections.” We would redo this (the song i.e.) again and this kind of situation is a norm.
KYM: That’s right. Even after all the mixing is done, if Producer Lee Soo Man is not satisfied, we would do it all again.
CM: However, I think this is very important. A work goes down in history.
Rather than “Kpop is very popular!”, the feel is stronger for “The artiste who stood on that stage was being supported.”
What do you think of the current Kpop trend in Japan?
KYM: (T/N: He talks about how BoA and THSK went from nothing to their current status in Japan. He feels that BoA, Tohoshinki and SM are of different meaning with Kpop.)
There is an impression that both groups of artistes represented the good quality of Korean entertainment.
KYM: (T/N: He said that SMTOWN Paris was reported with “Kpop is popular in France”, but he wasn’t sure if the popularity of SMTOWN artistes equates to the popularity for the whole Kpop.)
BoA: (T/N: BoA mentioned how UK music and US music is clearly differentiated in the America and feels that Kpop and Jpop is slowly reaching that state but it is still currently not differentiated due to internet. She gives her advice to her juniors to stay true to their own music and be proud of their own music and performances.)
[Trans] Nikkei Entertainment October 2011 Issue – Tohoshinki, SHINee Live Report
(only THSK’s translated)
It was Nikkei Entertainment’s first time for both senior and junior in the same agency to appear on the cover. Talking about the first time, the three-way talk with the agency’s representative was the first time for Tohoshink as well, who have accepted various kind of interviews in the past.
“As this is a rare opportunity for us, I was very thankful,” Yunho said.
Although he was worrying about his Japanese, his smartness, reliability and nice character allows others to understand the reason behind everyone’s admire for him.
As for Changmin, it was his solo interview during last November’s issue that impressed everyone.
“It was rather embarassing. Please keep it (Nov ’10 issue) away,” he said, lowering his eyes.
[T/N it’s a different article in the same mag]
trans by: rachui@sharingyoochun
shared by: sharingyoochun.net + dtl