“Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.”
― Alice Walker, The Color Purple
The first time I heard Crazy I didn’t even know who the singer was. Yes, it was Korean. Yes, I was into Kpop but I was just getting my foot in, learning the different bands and producers and labels and singers–I mean, Super Junior in its first real incarnation was 21 members big. I had no idea who this man with the voice of an angel was. So, I hit Shazam and Jonghyun showed up. I then rushed to google and found out that his real name was Kim Jong-Hyun, he is from the band SHINee and he was beautiful.
His voice was pure, it was filled with emotions and clarity that I had come to expect from Korean bands but there was something else. After I binged on all the solo stuff I could find by him, I started looking into the rest of his band, SHINee and ever since that day, became a Shawol (fans of SHINee are called Shawols). I was addicted to Jonghyun and Taemin – so much so that any time there is anything posted on both these singers, Youtube would send me an email suggesting it.
A few days ago the world received the news that Jonghyun was gone. He’d committed suicide after reaching out to his sister in a way to say goodbye. She didn’t think she would get to him quick enough so she called the police.
Though I didn’t know this man personally, it felt as if someone had reached into my chest and ripped my heart out. Why? Let me explain.
Music, good music, breaks down barrios and walls. Great music doesn’t care what language you speak – it moves you in ways that is indescribably. Jonghyun and his brothers have a way of doing that for me. The talent that surge through those veins always amaze me –even now as I try to listen to his music without crying.
A while back, I accidentally came across a kpop rapper that I fell madly for. His song titled Agust D drew me and for a while I was confused. It was hard, dark, deep and though I don’t speak Korean, before having it translated, it broke my heart. As I watched the video on repeat I realized he looked familiar. So, I did what I always do when I find a new singer/band/actor, I researched. Turns out, Agust D is Suga from BTS (Bulletproof Boyscouts). And he talks about the soul crushing loneliness, the way people and tides can turn on you on a dime. He talks about battling depression and that the idol lifestyle isn’t all it cracked up to be.
You see, we look at these men and we see gorgeous, out together, sexy, talented angels. But most of us fail to see past that glitz to the human beings behind. A lot of people were angry with Junsu after he left TVXQ, they were saying he shouldn’t have broken up the group. Then two more members, Jae and Yoo left the group. Once again, there was an outcry. I had people who refused to listen to JYJ because of this reason. I love me some JYJ. Backseat always made me giggle and Get Out speaks to me on a whole other level.
What am I saying? I’m saying in everything we do, we have to do what’s best for us. We’re on the outside looking in. We see what is on the surface. We don’t see the super long contracts that eats away every part of these people’s lives. We don’t see them getting taken advantage of. We don’t see them not having control of their own lives, their own words their own minds. We don’t see what goes on in the backstage of the kpop industry, the pressure to be respectful, of having ever minute bit of their lives scrutinized. We don’t feel the judgment of the people around us, and millions of strangers around the globe. We don’t know what it feels like to not be able to want to go somewhere and can’t.
We don’t feel the pain.
For Jonghyun, I suppose he didn’t see another way out. He was in so deep and it was so dark that he felt as if he was drowning and he needed the pain to stop. I can honestly say I know how he feels. Depression is a horrible thing. It consumes you until you feel as if there’s a dark cloud over your head and it’s always raining but it’s only raining on you. And I keep hearing people saying he was in a band, why didn’t they know? The answer is simple, a depressed person doesn’t walk around with a sign that say look at me! I’m depressed! And most people can’t recognize when someone else is going through this. Most times, he smiles and sings and he dances and he has normal conversations–but they don’t know what happens when he’s by himself. The other guys of SHINee cannot be with him 24 hours of the day. Depression is a silent killer, it’s there, lurking.
Others, like Junsu, Yoo and Jae, file a lawsuit to get out of their contract and find their own happiness. I mean, JYJ is one of the biggest selling Kpop bands around.
I think, Jonghyun’s death should be a wake up call to the Asian pop industry–hell to all the music industries around the world. They now need to take responsibility for the stress they’re putting these kids through – I said Kids because most of these agencies start grooming these singers as kids. They need to realize that their mental health is just as important as their physical health. If the Record companies won’t do this willingly the government needs to start stepping in and saying you MUST have a doctor/shrink on hand for these artists to meet with at least once a week.
Something needs to be done. It’s bad enough that we’re losing these singers to military service – but at least we know that’s only for 2 years. It’s worse when we know they are never coming back.