TVXQ! Talks Overcoming Biases, Feeling 'Grateful and Sorry' Backstage at 'Music Core': Exclusive Interview
Billboard spent the day with the male duo while it promoted its jazzy new single "Something."
To highlight the success of TVXQ!'s newest album "Tense" and its shining decade in the industry, Billboard was exclusively invited into the green room of MBC's K-pop music chart program "Music Core" to take a look at what a day in the life of K-pop royalty is like. The duo also discusses its most memorable moment of the past 10 years, new goals and current perspective.
Early Saturday morning (Jan. 18), Yunho and Changmin -- aka TVXQ! -- are crammed in MBC's green room along with their 20-member entourage. While their dancers and stylists are sprawled out and catching up on sleep, the boys have no time to take a break. Their grueling schedule, which started at 6:30 a.m., is packed with rehearsals, hours of prepping, signing CDs, greeting and taking pictures with fellow K-pop artists, filming behind-the-scenes clips for social media and websites for their record label, SM Entertainment, along with short interviews, which they carry out with boundless energy and without a single word or sign of complaint.
Despite their superstar status, the boys are grounded, diligent and driven, but with a loose demeanor and relaxed confidence like true K-pop veterans. They don't have fussy or high-maintenance demands and spend most of their waiting time in comfortable clothing -- goofing around and playing games with their staff members.
At 11:30 a.m., after an hour delay, it's finally TVXQ!'s turn to film its performance of new single "Something." The duo -- in slick white suits -- emerges onstage as the previous performer Rain steps down (giving Yunho a quick handshake) and a hysterical outbreak of TVXQ! uproars with hundreds of screaming fans, creating an ocean of glowing red lights -- the color that signifies TVXQ!'s official fan club, Cassiopeia. Before the shoot, Yunho quickly thanks fans for supporting them by coming out to see their one-song performance and kindly asks fans to applaud the producers and camera crew for their hard work.
"Although I don’t get to do it as much as I'd like to, I try to thank our fans and converse with them [during music program shoots] because they have to wait for hours in the cold to see us during the short performance," Yunho later explains. "I feel like that's the least I can do. I am grateful and sorry at the same time."
The music for the jazz-pop single "Something" begins and TVXQ!, along with its 10 backup dancers, immediately transforms into full-fledged performers, showcasing the highly technical "line" choreography, for which it uses ropes to illustrate various scenarios like playing the guitar and pretending to be string puppets or marionettes.
"Something," at No. 7 on this week's K-Pop Hot 100, shifted the group away from its signature sound, resulting in a promising display of creative growth as well as a new platform to express its playful stage personas, which was rarely exposed in previous promotions.
Yunho and Changmin pull off each vibrant-yet-demanding performance with ease, while younger generation K-pop stars watch and study their predecessors' every move from the side of the stage with utmost admiration.
"It’s an honor and personally satisfying to know that some artists have built their dream of becoming K-pop stars by watching us," Changmin says. "With that in mind, we feel the sense of duty and responsibility to flourish as artists without becoming lazy or arrogant. It's a major driving force."
After few takes, the filming is over and the two -- drenched in sweat -- head back to their green room, where they patiently wait for the announcement of the No. 1 song of the week.
NEXT: "I want us to become one of the longest-running live performers"
Hours after juggling multiple tasks, feasting on delivery food, monitoring other artists' performances and retouching makeup/hair, the boys are ushered back to the stage, where they are announced as the winner (against Ailee's "Singing Got Better" and Girl's Day's "Something") of the week. With a dazzling encore performance, the duo successfully ends its long day at MBC.
During its 10-year career, TVXQ! set new standards for both commercial and artistic success in the world of K-pop, but the duo doesn't think it's reached the pinnacle of its career and expresses its zeal to achieve higher goals.
"We've done a lot of large-scale concerts and even had the privilege to perform at Japan's Nissan Stadium last year. I want TVXQ! to continue to perform on many different stages and venues in front of a dynamic crowd. I want us to keep pushing our sonic boundaries, experimenting with new genres/concepts and keep growing as an artist, so that way we can be a group that is loved by all types music fans and ultimately become one of the longest-running live performers," Yunho says.
Changmin expresses similar ambitions. "I want to be able to do what I do for a long time. The Korean music industry believes idol groups don't have a long-lasting career span. I would like for us to overcome those biases and limitations. I want TVXQ! to be a group that works hard to consistently release new materials. It is my wish and dream to become a group that is loved and supported, while making and sharing memories for many years to come."
When asked what their favorite moments of past ten years, both Yunho and Changmin choose their anniversary concert, which was held on the date of their 10-year anniversary (Dec. 26, 2013) as part of SM's week-long concert extravaganza "SMTOWN WEEK LIVE" that featured labelmates Super Junior, Girls' Generation, f(x) and EXO.
"It was extremely cold that day, but it felt warm and special because it was our 10-year anniversary," Changmin says of the concert that sold to thousands. "The fact that we were able to perform and spend time with our fans that have supported us through 10 years was very humbling and heartwarming. It was a very fun, meaningful time for us and I think it will clearly remain in my memory forever."
Yunho adds, "We performed a lot of our old hits, including our debut track, 'Hug,' and even wore high school uniforms like we did 10 years ago. It was a bit embarrassing [laughs] but it was a great reminder of our fans' unconditional love and how much we matured and evolved as TVXQ!."
TVXQ!'s decade-anniversary mark and triumphant return onto the K-pop scene confirm its unceasing popularity and power as today's most renowned K-pop artist. Even with its impressive track record of milestone accomplishments, record sales, chart prominence and big pay checks, TVXQ! doesn’t seem to take its overwhelming success for granted as it continues to reinvent itself and its craft.
The boys aren't slowing down anytime soon and K-pop fans can look forward to TVXQ!'s many, exciting promotions to come.
Billboard's celebration of TVXQ!'s 10-year anniversary continues with a video interview coming soon to K-Town. Check out TVXQ's 10 biggest career moments, a track-by-track review of new album "Tense" or go back in time with our video interview from the duo's Los Angeles concert from July.