Kpop Music Monday #5: Kim Jonghyun, “Before Our Spring”

Today’s Music Monday is a somber one and comes with a trigger warning for depression and suicide.

On December 18th, 2017, Kim Jonghyun committed suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning in a rented apartment.

I found out through the explore page on Instagram as tributes started pouring in. A lot of second generation kpop fans were hit very hard by this news, as Jonghyun was not only a member of massively successful group SHINee but also had a stunning solo career. He was an enigmatic solo artist who wrote much of his own music and hosted a late-night radio program where he “wanted to create a space where people, including myself, could set their hearts at rest, no matter where they were.” *

In his suicide note which he had given to his dear friend and fellow artist 9 from group Dear Cloud, he wrote: “What can I say. Just tell me I’ve done well. That this is good enough. That I’ve worked hard. Even if you can’t smile don’t fault me on my way. You did well, you worked hard. Goodbye.” Thus, the hashtag #youdidwelljonghyun and #youdidwell were popular on instagram and twitter.

A white background with a hand holding a rose on the left and a picture of Kim Jonghyun wearing a white sweater and covering his mouth with it on the right. In the center it reads “April 8, 1990” and “December 18, 2017” around his name in red.

It was obvious that he was hurting a lot, suffering from depression and the troubles that come from fame. Listening to his music, you can tell that he was a sensitive soul who wanted to make the world a kinder place, and he longed to create a space in which people could set down their everyday burdens and just be at peace with themselves. It appears, based on what I’ve read, that he planned his suicide for a while, which makes everything all the more tragic.

The group he was in, SHINee was one of my favorites. They were known for having a sparkly, brightly colored and quirky concept. One of my all-time favorite videos was theirs for “Married to the Music.” Despite the tragic loss of their main vocalist, SHINee continued to put out music. They honored Jonghyun at their Osaka concert by having a fifth microphone in the center of the stage, where he would have stood, along with a rose.

Some people in my life couldn’t understand why I was distraught at the death of this singer I’ve never met. They treated it as a childish thing. Their hyprocrisy showed when they later dealt with losses of their own idols, including David Bowie and Prince.

We grieve the death of people we’ve never met because they have created something so magical that we are taken by it and it changes us. Jonghyun was a soothing voice for so many people in dark places, and to have succumbed to his own darkness made everything all the worse.

In addition to the posthumous album that was released (which was the first kpop album I’ve ever bought, because proceeds were going to his family and the creation of the Shinin’ Foundation), the entertainment company he was under, SM, created the above video as a tribute. Some of the lyrics:

They say spring will come faster than last year
But the cold and frozen winter is still here
Don’t worry about what to do
I’m alright, spring will come to me too

“Before Our Spring”

I am including his solo “Y Si Fuera Ella” (yes, it’s a Korean cover of a Spanish song) and a clip of him singing “White T-Shirt” and “She Is” because his vocals and dancing skills are truly powerful.

Kim Jonghyun wearing a blue sweater, khakis, and a partially tie-dyed scarf, sitting with both hands behind him and smiling at the camera.

You did well, Jonghyun. You did so well.

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If you are contemplating suicide, please reach out to a trusted friend or family member. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255