In early 2010, I discovered a group known as TVXQ. Or Tohoshinki. Or DBSK. Or Dong Bang Shin Ki. (“Rising Gods of the East.”) It was actually a Japanese release called “Break Out” that introduced me to the then-five member boy group. Korean artists often release Japanese remakes of their music, as well as original Japanese language albums.
This Japanese release by TVXQ was unusual for several reasons. The song was dark and electronic, and the video was even literally darker, with the members brooding around a post-apocalyptic city of some sort. During the chorus, the members fend off masked villians, and there’s spiders and even creepy looking children.
It takes a second viewing of the video to realize that none of the members are ever in the same shot. Three of the members (Junsu, Yoochun, and Jaejoong) were then embroiled in a lawsuit with their record label, SM Entertainment, accusing them of having a “slave labor contract” with long hours and little pay. 2009 was the last year that TVXQ promoted as five members, having been formed in 2003.
I loved “Break Out” so much that I decided to binge-listen to every song that TVXQ had ever released. One stands above all, and that is “Mirotic,” a song once banned from public broadcast in Korea due to the lyrics, “I’ve got you under my skin.” (They changed it to “I’ve got you under my sky” to perform.)
Ten years later and the song still gives me goosebumps. The video is another dark one, with the boys captured by a woman dressed in red. The video production value is great, and the outfits are simple as to not distract from the iconic dance moves. (Speaking of iconic, listen for Changmin’s scream at roughly 2:30 in.)
The fandom name for TVXQ was Cassiopeia, and it was the first fandom that I found myself in. Fandoms work much differently in Kpop than in American pop–there are official names, official colors, lightsticks, events… Back when I was in middle school, the Backstreet Boys fighting it out over N’Sync and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for door space was the only representation of a proper “fandom” that most of us had. I had fallen for a group that would no longer be performing as five-members, but two: Changmin and Yunho, as the other three formed a much-less successful group, JYJ.
I consider TVXQ to be a pretty good group to visually show the bridge between the first generation of Kpop and the second. Their first releases were grungy and futuristic (“Tri-Angle” and “Rising Sun”) as well as softer and cutesy (“Hug” and “Balloons”). The fact that the remaining two members continue to release good music (“Spellbound” and “The Chance of Love”) while we are in the third generation of Kpop is really awesome.