This is a really long interview and spanned 3 posts in the Excite News site. Early apologies for a lot of tl;dr.
SHINee's Taemin Presents His Japan Solo Debut With a Unique Individuality
This year, they had concerts in the two big domes in Tokyo and Osaka; with that kind of scale, SHINee continues to flourish. Within them, the youngest member Taemin also begins his solo debut in Japan. In his solo debut in Korea, Taemin showed a different charm as a soloist from when he is in a group, winning popularity. This time in his Japan debut, Taemin's title song, "Sayonara Hitori, possesses an Asian taste. With his unique individuality, Taemin presents it with glamor. Because he's releasing a mini album, the other songs include a Japanesque ballad, a song that presents a unique worldview, etc.--challenging different types of songs. It is a CD crammed to filling with Taemin's inexhaustible talent. This time, Taemin personally speaks about his own work. Please read the interview while calling to mind Taemin who is quite different from his sharp looks while performing, and is instead smiling from beginning to end while speaking in Japanese.
Presenting His Debut Work in Japan with a Unique Individuality
Q: This time, you are the first among SHINee to have a solo debut in Japan. What were your thoughts when it was settled?
Taemin: When I first heard it, I was really happy. I was also the first among the members to have a solo debut in Korea, and since that's the first time, it has a special meaning to me. It makes me happy to be able to also have activities in Japan as well.
Q: Didn't you feel pressured?
Taemin: Of course there's pressure as to how I'm going to show SHINee's level of performance and energy and stage all by myself. But I have my own personal color, so I concentrate on showing a color different from what I show as a member of SHINee.
Q: You do activities as part of SHINee and you also have activities as a solo in Korea--doing a lot of things must keep you so busy. And now, you're also having solo activities in Japan. Where does all that motivation come from?
Taemin: I think that's...thinking I have to do what I can while I'm young (LOL).
Q: That is true...(LOL).
Taemin: I really like singing, so my job is interesting so I always have fun. In addition, since I'm Korean to be able to have activities in Japan is a precious opportunity for me, and I expect it to be a nice experience. I want my name to be known by more people here.
Q: You say it like that but do you feel that it would be difficult?
Taemin: Yes. As expected, it's still difficult to (use) Japanese. I can't always put into words the things I want to say. It's a bit frustrating (modokashii).
Q: I think (your Japanese) is good enough when you can use (words like) modokashii (LOL)
Taemin: I saw it in a book (LOL).
Wanting to Show New Things
Q: Well then, again we'd like to ask about your solo debut song, "Sayonara Hitori." What kind of impression did you have when you first listened to the song?
Taemin: There are lot of "candidate songs" for this mini album, but when I listened to this song for the first time, right at the start I really liked it. There are other songs selected to be the title song, but I discussed it with the staff and decided this to be the title song.
Q: What part (of the song) are you pleased with?
Taemin: I thought, it had an Asian aura, so doesn't it make you want to show something different from SHINee's image as well as from other artists? I wanted to show something new instead of the usual feeling/expression. Certainly, since it's something new I felt some anxiety, but I've always liked challenging new forms of music, so I was happy that this song was decided (to be the title song).
Q: Do you have a particular phrase in the song that you like?
Taemin: I like the hook part of the song. It is where the Asian feel is most strongly expressed, I think. Like the percussion sounds. The lyrics are also nice. The lyrics saying, "Flowers blooming in full glory" gives a poetic feel instead of just a usual song about love. I feel that it brings fresh sensation to the song.
Presentation of the Song that Almost Felt Like Acting
Q: There are lyrics in the song that go, "Instead of being close while worring about separating someday, is it happier to move forward while dreaming of embracing each other". Which kind of means, that if one is scared about an eventual sad outcome, it's better to do nothing and just dream". What does Taemin-san, who constantly challenges various things, think of these lyrics?
Taemin: I interpreted it in a similar way: if the reality is painful, it might be happier to just continue dreaming. When I was receiving directions for it, I was told to imagine a warrior/samurai while listening, so I did that way and thought about it.
Q: Is it different from your own way of thinking?
Taemin: That's right. But performing a song is really quite close to acting. In some way, the lyrics are like dialogue lines. That's why I think for that purpose, it's important to come into a character of the song. From there, I can add in my own interpretation.
Q: The choreography for "Sayonara Hitori" was done by Sugawara Koharu-san, right? How was it doing work with her?
Taemin: I was surprised to feel so much energy (from her). Even though she's a girl, she's more powerful than me (LOL)! She was motivating. Her methods of expressing emotions...she uses her eyes to express, etc. It was really cool. While I was dancing with her, I was enlightened with a lot of things.
Q: How was your music video (the interview was done before the MV was released)?
Taemin: I also haven't seen the complete version with the CG effects added, but I think it's a whimsical world view. I wore costumes with an Asian taste (oriental influence), I danced over water and on a piano, but I'm sure it'll be a beautiful video.
Q: Please tell us about an (interesting) episode during filming.
Taemin: The dancing was difficult. There was the expression part, but first there's also endurance (LOL). From morning until night, I danced for how many times--that was really difficult. I think I danced not less than 50 times?
Q: You danced that much?!
Taemin: Yes (LOL). But during breaks, I'd ride and go wild with this segway I brought from the dorm. That was fun.
I Want to Sing this Song with Everyone in a Live Performance
Q: Let's talk about the other songs in your album. The song "Sekai de Ichiban Aishita Hito" is a song composed of thoughts for a person (you) parted with.
Taemin: I really like the melody in this song, so when I first heard it I really wanted to perform it. The producer considered my thoughts and I was able to record it, so I was happy. I think I want to sing this song with the fans during a live performance. My songs are mostly dance songs, so there aren't many songs that I can sing together with the fans. But this song even has a melody that's easy to remember, so probably!
Q: This song really has Japanese feel, and is quite different again from the songs you sing in Korea. How was that kind of delicate presentation?
Taemin: I received directions how to do the expressive style, then sang it several times in order to get the J-pop feel during recording. I had to do a different way of singing as compared to singing Korean ballads, so it became like a lesson to study to me, and it was fun.
Q: Was it difficult?
Taemin: It was difficult (wry smile). In order for me to perfectly understand (the song), there were many parts wherein I needed guidance. It would be nice if I can improve my Japanese more.
Q: The song "Sekai de Ichiban Aishita Hito" is about wishing for another person's happiness more than oneself's. If you were in such a situation, what would you do?
Taemin: I'm really greedy so can I do it...I'd like to become mature enough to do it (LOL). When we were looking at the lyrics, the producer told me, "This mood is just like Taemin's" but...I don't really know that myself (LOL). Like, who would that someone (the person loved the most) be. But I was able to sang sit by imagining that I became such a person.
I want to perform onstage the powerful concept in TIGER.
Q: Moving on, the song Final Dragon has a dramatic progression and the lyrics presents a magical image.
Taemin: When I listened to the demo, the lyrics were in English. At that time there's only a dark image with it, but with the new lyrics, the concept of the song became stronger. It became about the feeling of wanting to protect a loved one. It's a song that, again, a completely different type from the other songs I recorded.
Q: Although interpretation of the world view of lyrics is difficult even for us who normally speak Japanese...
Taemin: Yes. This is just a secret but, it was difficult (LOL). However, I recorded the song while being reminded of the world in the film "Road of the Ring".
Q: And then the song Tiger, is a danceable song, so it's probably a song that's easy to imagine for you.
Taemin: When I first heard it, I thought, "It's fast!" (LOL). I think it's probably the fastest among the songs I've done?
Q: That's right. Just singing the fast Japanese lyrics must be tough.
Taemin: For the recording, first the lyrics were written in hiragana, and I practiced singing while reading it. But for only thing song, I have to write furigana over the lyrics using hangul. Because it's so fast I can't read it (wry smile). But it's true that I immediately imagined how ot to perform the song on stage. It has a similar feeling to SHINee's "DxDxD". So I kind of want to perform on stage with the strong concept Tiger has while capturing emotions akin to snatching away a girl's heart.
(t/n: furigana is the small simplified letters you see above difficult words so the reader will know how to read them)
Q: By the way, how do you study Japanese? It seems you don't have any problems with ordinary conversations.
Taemin: When I'm in Japan, I try to talk only in Japanese with the staff. When I'm in Korea, I watch a lot of Japanese anime. But...even though I know I shouldn't forget ....I end up forgetting (Japanese). (LOL)
Q: Even if you forget, just being able to talk this much is already good enough. Also, these are songs you can only express in Japanese, which is a foreign language to you. There must be a lot of challenge because of that.
Taemin: That's right. But first, I have to take a strike on it first. Instead of pounding it in my head, "This is how it's done," I think it's more important to try it out first. SHINee also had gone head to head with various things since debut, and we grow because we overcome them. This time, even though there are hardships, I'll still do preparing and recording--basically go through the pile one by one and grow from them.
I Think I Won't Lose to Anyone When It Comes to Energy and Performance Shown Onstage
Q: With Press Your Number (Japanese version) and four new songs, your album boasts a total of five songs. Listening to them as one whole, what kind of feeling would be had?
Taemin: I think that it's one CD wherein each song presents a different side of me. It's interesting that it has become a work that is rich in variety. If I ever have the chance to perform (this album) live, I'll be able to show different images.
Q: I think that Taemin's solo this time once more has a different identity from Taemin as SHINee.
Taemin: Well firstly, in both Japan and Korea, there aren't a lot of soloists who dance and sing at the same time. As such, like my respected idol, Michael Jackson, I want to try creating an identity, style, and solo image that I dream of.
Q: What do you think is your own distinct trait?
Taemin: My body is small and thin, but onstage I won't lose to anyone when it comes to energy and performance. From that part, I want to go and present that to everyone. Also, aside from that energy, I also have a cute side, so I think that kind of gap is my distinct character...hehe, I'm embarrassed (LOL).
Q: You shouldn't be. It's completely right.
Taemin: But for those words to come out of my own mouth (LOL)...
Q: Hahaha. Well, then. What kind of Taemin do you think your Japanese fans want to see?
Taemin: I don't really know (wry smile). The people who like me range from really young people to really older people. The age range is really wide. There's a sense of fitness when it comes to fans in the same generation as I am, but when older fans tell me "do your best!!" I can feel their support for me.
Q: You have to have activities that cater to a wide range of age groups, right?
Taemin: But even so, I cannot really please every one. That's why, instead of trying to change myself to suit people's demands, I prefer to honestly just show myself as I am. Then if everyone comes to like me, I will be thankful. But when various people come to like me because of that, I have to continue doing great effort to show something distinctly me.
Q: The something that's distinctly you would be?
Taemin: Showing a great performance on stage, and do other things that would repay the fans' love for me.
More Like a Family
Q: This time, regarding your Japan solo debut, what did the members say to you?
Taemin: When I had a solo debut in Korea, I was told a lot of things, but everyone is busy doing his own work so we weren't able to talk much. It feels that they've gotten used to it and just say, "Ah, you're releasing an album again." (LOL)
Q: Even though you're going to have overseas activity by yourself?
Taemin: I've always been the type to worry about my own things myself, and everyone is really busy so... (LOL)
Q: I thought it would be something like, "Since it's Taemin it would be alright!" they'd think...
Taemin: Yes, that's exactly how it is.
Q: For Taemin, what is the existence of SHINee members?
Taemin: They are already very much like a family to me. Since we've been together since our trainee days, we've been together for more than 10 years. That's why, we've had enough (of each other) (LOL)! So, this kind of response from them is already enough.
(t/n: Just for clarification "having enough of each other", Taemin doesn't mean they don't care about each other any more. More like, their existence with each other is as normal as breathing at this point so they don't feel the need to poke around and deliberately show their feelings in words when mutual understanding is enough.)
Q: Hahaha. Well, then, after this what would you like to try doing in Japan?
Taemin: My dream is to have a live event in front of a lot of people in a large venue.
Q: Something like a solo tour?
Taemin: I would like to do a solo tour. I heard that one of our sunbaes in the company, Super Junior's Kyuhyun, had done it so I was really envious. I also want to do it soon and show everyone my stage performances.
Q: I had the chance to see Kyuhyun's concert tour and even so, to hold a concert alone for how many hours, for several days, must be quite difficult.
Taemin: That might be so....but...if it we're me it'll be fine! (LOL)
Q: You're really young (LOL).
Taemin: That is also one thing (LOL). Since I haven't done it before I don't know how difficult it would be. If I try it, I can say "Ah, this is hard" but I still have to try it first.
I Want to Experience a Lot of Things and Create Music From Those Experiences
Q: That's true. Then, how do you feel about lyrics writing and composing in Japan?
Taemin: I want to try it if I could...there isn't a place for it in my heart yet, but maybe I'll have time for it (LOL). First, I want to completely prepare for my songs and performances. If there's some time, I'd like to experience various things, and write songs from those experiences.
Q: With this kind of level in speaking Japanese, you might be able to appear in Japan TV. Are you interested?
Taemin: Eh! I think there's still a long way to go for me. I'm interested, but watching Japanese variety shows on TV, I think I haven't fully grasped their sense of humor. With that, I think I'll study more (LOL).
Q: Lastly, please give a message to your fans.
Taemin: My mini album "Sayonara Hitori" has five songs with their own charms. I think that you can feel in it my internal world view, so please listen to it! And please enjoy the music video!
➤ sources: 01; 02; 03
➤ translation may not be 100% accurate.
➤ please do not repost without permission.