Note: The following is a review of Junsu’s concert in LA and contains the author’s reactions and opinions.
At 25-years-old, “Xia” Kim Junsu has seen more than his share of drama. He ascended to pop royalty in the wildly successful five-member boy band TVXQ (aka DBSK). Following the success of their iconic single “Mirotic” in 2009, he and two other members filed a lawsuit against their label, citing unfair profits margins and an unreasonably long 13-year contract.
They won. Sort of.
In response, the label filed an injunction against the rebellious three; though it was dismissed last year, it led to a hiatus of the legendary K-pop act. Some of the new members formed a new boy band, JYJ, which Kim is still in, despite having his solo gig on the side.
What sets Xia apart from other soloists is that he’s had to label hop (he’s now with C-JeS) so he can get closer to doing whatever he wants; Korean record labels are run like the old Hollywood studio system, and rarely do any stars get autonomy.
Like pop diva Robyn, Kim’s had to snuff out his own bubblegum career in order to emerge as an artist with some semblance of control over his own vision. There’s a reason most proteges don’t strike out on their own: Xia’s own journey has, up until recently, been plagued with constant label changes and suspensions.
In the past three years Kim has played the titular character of Mozart!, released his first solo album Tarantallegra, and has an international tour that recently went through Asia, Europe, South America and is now finishing in the U.S.
[JYJ3 Note: Junsu’s World Tour started in the U.S. after finishing his Asia Tour. The writer seems to not be clear on this]
While Kim relied heavily on a translator throughout the night, it did not preclude him from interacting happily and extensively. In fact, there were times when Kim just looked content to be musing out loud to a throng of doe-eyed girls.
His new English single “Uncommitted,” produced by Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer, sounds like it could have been for JT. After performing it live for the first time, Kim remarked that it was really hard to be so intimate with the ladies playing his girlfriends in the video, who had to coach and relax him on set. “Really!” he chirped to the crowd, in English.
Like Michael Jackson, to whom he is often compared, Kim proved to be a commanding performer, carrying a bit of sexuality, but also naiveté. In his bashful interactions with the crowd you almost couldn’t believe this was the guy whose trademark move is the pantomimed doggy style.
Kim has a peculiar allure. He combines the androgyny of a Japanese shock rocker with the masculine prowess of a R&B mack daddy. As the son of a former Miss Korea, he knows a thing or two about pageantry and possesses a feminine mystique. And it drives girls wild.
It’s a shame that most of the night was marred by poor sound quality. Kim’s set design and production quality was impressive, but couched within a traditional rock venue, the hard, militaristic beats didn’t quite work.
What Kim’s solo career has shown is that his creative passions run far, wide and random. He is a disciplined veteran who easily belts out throaty, velvety jams, all while throwing down polished dance moves. But deep down inside, you know he just can’t wait to let loose on his operatic power ballads.
Kim absolutely radiated (and wept) during songs like “I Hate Love” and “Leaves.” He’s not just a theatrical performer. He’s a theater geek trapped in a pop star’s body. Babs, Liza, this is your guy.
Nevertheless, the standout performance of the night was the album’s titular single “Tarantallegra,” a rumbling hybrid of pop-meets-classical. The song’s catchline is, “What music would you listen to?” His raging international fans can easily answer that.
Personal Bias: I still get this guy confused with Big Bang’s G-Dragon. I know, not all blonde, svelte K-poppers look alike.
The Crowd: Tweens on the verge of meltdown.
Random Notebook Dump: A Minnesotan in town for work decided to check out a random local show and ended up here. Verdict? Different. Good.