JH: I’ll forget about SHINee’s maknae Taemin, you should do so too. I’ll talk to him in a thorough business relationship, as DJ vs. guest, singer vs. singer, lyric writer vs. singer. Taemin-ssi, who released 1st solo album, hello~
TM: Hello, I’m Taemin~ Blue Night viewers, no, listeners, nice to meet you!
JH: Why are you so nervous? Relax.
TM: I came here alone. I’m scared of you ㅠㅠ.
JH: Taemin-ssi told me he’d like to talk comfortably. This is your first radio after your solo album release. How’s it? Ah first of all, thank you.
TM: What do you thank me for? I thank you.
JH: Taemin-goon may not listen to my radio program everyday but when there’s an event, he gives me a review because he cares about it.
You know what kind of program Blue Night is. (TM: That’s why I’m scaredㅠㅠ) Quiet and lots of talk about music. Taemin-goon and I talk about music a lot, don’t we? He is the one among members I talk about music a lot. There have been few chances to show that side of Taemin, so I think this will be a good chance. This is your first appearance on radio, so feel free to talk comfortably.
[About Taemin’s solo stage at SMTown Concert]
JH: You showed your sangnamja side, going topless boldly almost ripping off your shirt and jacket.
TM: Let me explain it. During m/v shoot, I got to go topless without plan. The shoot was 3 weeks before the concert. After going topless, I regretted it, “I should have worked out.” It made me want to show my transformation during the remaining 3 weeks, so I worked hard to build my body. I was on a diet working out. You may think, why did he take off his clothes while being so skinny? What I wanted to show was my energy and a message with my aspiration on the stage.
JH: Not to show off your body, but as part of your performance?
TM: I wanted to make it look powerful.
[About Taemin’s solo activities]
JH: There must have been great pressure.
TM: To start it was pressure. Told of the plan from my company, I had lots of talks with the music business team. Looking for songs with the team, I gave my opinions like “I want to try this music style” or “How about going in this direction?” We talked a lot like this in the beginning, but when the album production started, it didn’t apply much. Songs are not there for you always. Even though you’ve collected songs, some songs come in out of blue. Good is good, so good songs are recommended and I record them… I recorded about 9 songs in total out of which 6 songs were included in the album. I made efforts to give unity to the album.
JH: What did you mean when you said ‘things didn’t go well as you thought’?
TM: You pinpoint well 🙂
JH: I’m curious about such matter. There are idol images. From the viewpoint of an idol, some of them are falsely charged. The dilemma you had preparing for your album, I thought, might be related to it.
TM: There are my own ideas and the company’s or the music team’s in the process of preparing for the album. I think the differences should be mediated. It’s not like following 100% the company’s idea but my own ideas added to it. In percentage, there are more of the company’s ideas in it. It’s my first album and the company is more experienced, so I trusted the company. It’s not like I’m discontented.
JH: All the trouble you had in preparation goes away when it is released, doesn’t it?
TM: Right, it all goes away. We had lots of fights and conflicts and lots of misunderstandings. At the party after SMTown concert, it was all resolved.
[About responses to the album]
TM: It seems good. I checked music charts and many people seem to show interest. After watching the m/v and my performances on music programs, people gave me feedback. They are divided. Some like it but others find it not their style. Responses are diverse, but I’m thankful to each of them for showing interest. I want to improve as I take good advice.
JH: Since it’s your first time, you mean you are thankful for responses.
TM: Yes, ‘interest’ is good.
[About title song Danger]
A listener: I liked the shooting sound in your music program performances. Why isn’t it included in the digital version?
TM: It was added right before performing on a music program as effect sounds for performance. It’s not included because it may damage the musical completion of the song.
A listener: Danger has some of Michael Jackson feel. Did you have it in mind while working on the song?
TM: The song was composed abroad and bought. It wasn’t like our goal or role model but just happened so in the process. The company thought it would suits me well, and it’s not a style I dislike.
JH: What about choreography?
TM: One week before the m/v shoot, I went to meet Ian Eastwood, a youtube star choreographer. He’s hot in urban dance style. We are the same age, so we went along well.
JH: I heard from manager hyungs that after seeing you dance, he said ‘oh do you dance like this?’ ‘you can dance this well?’ He heard you are a singer from Korea so thought you may not be that good in dancing. Surprised by your dancing.
TM: Korean idol entertainment is very systemic. So our basic skills are solid. To a foreign dancer who is new to such a system, it looks fresh for me to copy him so well.
JH: I heard he found it amazing for you to copy him so well. It’s very common in Korea.
[about the songs and Taemin’s favorite ones]
TM: 3 songs. First, Ace. It came out at the last moment. TVXQ Changmin wrote lyrics and volunteered to do chorus for the song. I was so thankful, and it made me have more affection to the song. The second is Pretty Boy. Our music team’s staff member liked this song very much, and Jonghyun-ssi wrote lyrics for it. My friend Exo Kai did the rap part featuring. The last is my personal favorite, Sonata (Play Me). It is very sweet. At first, I thought it’s very plain, but after all the work was done, it turned out very well with good lyrics.
A listener: Why didn’t you ask SHINee members for featuring?
TM: I thought it would make the album have SHINee feels. It’s very good for them to participate in such things as lyric writing, but their vocal participation will make it sound like SHINee and locked in the frame. I wanted to broaden my scope.
JH: I think it was a very good decision. Musically, you can’t discard all SHINee’s colors. Because you are a SHINee member. You are a fifth of SHINee, so your album can’t help but have some SHINee color. But your effort not to have any more was wise.
[about Pretty Boy]
JH: I wrote the lyrics thinking about what Taemin-goon must have felt living as an entertainer and what I felt.
TM: People have images of idols like ‘they are nice or pretty’. Although we have to carry those images, I also wanted to show different sides. So I talked to Jonghyun-ssi about it.
JH: Right, we had a talk at the airport. On the airplane and at the airport. Aren’t we global? 🙂
JH: You said you don’t want to deny this pretty boy side. ‘I am pretty by look, but there are also other sides. I want to be a pretty boy with other sides.’ People may think ‘oh that person is pretty so he must be nice and obedient.’ I wanted to say it’s people’s misunderstanding. I think Taemin-ssi may have had hard time due to rumors or misunderstanding. You debuted when you were 15 years old. Even after you came of age, people still forced certain images on you as you had a long period of being a minor. I thought it was bad for Taemin-ssi.
TM: I have my own opinions and views. When I express them, some people might feel hurt since to them I was always nice and obedient and it’s hard for them to accept the fact that I can advance my own opinions. One time, someone reacted ‘oh how can YOU say that?’ when I said something. So it makes me afraid.
JH: To them, it’s awkward to see your different sides. It’s important to admit there can be different sides to each other.
[about ‘fairy’ nickname]
TM: It was rather burdensome at first. I used to like to be called sangnamja, but as I think of it now, it is a praise, isn’t it? It’s one of my images which I can’t discard but carry on. Now I like it since it’s not for anyone.
JH: I saw a headline “from a fairy to a man”, so you became a man now. 🙂
TM: I think I’ve seen it for 5 years. 🙂 We are now sangnamja.
JH: How would you be described?
TM: I like ‘mysterious thief’ Taemin. It’s the title, and stealing can be also stealing your gaze as well as hearts. I want to remain in your memory, carved in your mind.
[about music study]
TM: I’m not studying through a regular program, but learning through experiences, through composers, engineers and our members. Talking with them, I learn naturally.
JH: No self-composed songs this time?
TM: Right. I didn’t even advance such an opinion. For the self-composed song I showed last time, there was a reference. I liked a song and wanted to make a song like that. It’s not something of my own, but I’m still at the stage of learning.
JH: Like a study?
TM: Yes, still just studies not completed, and I didn’t want to show them yet. When I have my own style and find what I want to do, then I want to do self-composed songs.
JH: When nothing is lacking…
TM: When I find my identity…
JH: Well, I’m composing songs even though my skills aren’t good…
TM: I’m envious of you. You have your own style you want to do, but in my case, it keeps changing. 🙂
JH: The music genre you like keeps changing. Which genre do you like?
TM: A calm one these days. I like folk songs too, listen to old pop a lot these days. I think I need some healing. Maybe because I have been running without rest, I need something to calm me down.
[about the entertainer’s life]
JH: You have lived an entertainer for half of your life. How’s it? Briefly?
TM: There were moments that made me get better. They made me who I am. I could have been just a common student without those moments. They changed me as I walked on an unusual path.
JH: Don’t you fear it? You have no experiences as a common man. As people watch movies about stars, you learn about common people’s life indirectly through movies.
TM: I’m afraid of crowded places, of people recognizing me when I’m with no make-up or hair done, when I’m not styled up perfectly. I wanted to hide when people recognized me like that. Sometimes I think I want to live without minding people’s eyes. But I also feel I’d be sad when people don’t recognize me. It’s an entertainer symptom.
JH: Entertainers should admit that they have that symptom.
TM: There’s a contradiction. We don’t like too much attention but feel sad when not recognized.
[about serious talks]
A listener: is it usual for you to have this kind of serious talks?
JH: I think Taemin-goon is the SHINee member I have serious talks most.
TM: When SHINee members are all together, we get noisy. When we two are by ourselves, we are quiet.
JH: We used to go home on the same bus. From those old days, we had serious talks.
A listener: You must have felt you grew more mature. When was it?
TM: It is easy for us to look up and monitor what we were like before. I feel I was different just one or two years ago. You don’t see the difference as you look in the mirror everyday. Then you get to see it when you look at a video of yourself taken one or two years ago. I didn’t try to transform consciously, but experiences seem to change me. There are a lot of things I feel about, each of small things, maybe that’s why I get to change? 🙂
[about singing solo]
A listener: Each song has its own features. What did you try to focus on?
JH: You paid much attention to the vocal, right?
TM: Yes. I made efforts to express each song’s color. Our team tends to use diverse tones. For calm songs, we sing calmly. For dance songs, we sing powerfully. I thought I’d sing with more energy. To express a song by myself, I tried to draw a picture.
JH: Not to make the song dull.
TM: Right, to make it have the structure of ‘intro-development-conclusion’.
JH: What difference was there between singing all together [*with members] and by yourself?
TM: When you sing all together, you just have to do your part well. When I tried all the parts of a song like that, it was too much. So I realized a song flows more naturally when it has the structure.
A listener: What do you think is your identity in one word?
TM: There’s a common image of Taemin that comes up in people’s mind like sexy, cute or tough. I hope it is not just one thing, but something more complex. I want to be not a simple person, but a more complex one.
JH: You mean you don’t want to be a symbol of one thing? Like, for example, a fairy. You want to have different sides.
[about crying in fanmeet]
TM: From when I was little, I was shy of crying in front of people. I thought I had no tears in me. Recently, I shed tears at an award ceremony. Since then, this is first time. During the fanmeet, what a fan said struck my heart. (JH: what was it?) It was something simple like “Taeminah, you went through many hardships.” It wasn’t just those words, but with eyes, gesture, situation, atmosphere all added, it touched my heart and made a picture of past memories come up in my mind. My mouth got open 🙂 (JH: Were all the holes of your body open? 🙂 ) Tears poured out of me. I cried and laughed.
JH: I think it wasn’t sad crying.
TM: Right, it was crying out of joy.
[about watching each other’s growth]
JH: We met when we were young. We’ve watched each other grow up. How do you feel about it?
TM: First of all, time flies by. Jonghyun-hyung is unchanging [*consistent]. Well, when we live together, there get to be trouble. But now even that is a good memory. Suffering together and doing activities together was a hardship at that time but as I look back, has become a good memory.
JH: Taemin is old-young, aren’t you? How can a 23 years old say such a thing? huhu (TM: I’m 22 years old!)
TM: It’s fun to talk about old days. I like doing so with dancer hyungs drinking alcohol.
Jh: Taemin can drink alcohol now that he’s 22 years old, but listeners may be surprised to hear that.
TM: It may sound illegal. 🙂 even when I have a driver’s license!
JH: I think we, especially idols, should think about our future. How do you think you will be remembered in future?
TM: First of all, I hope SHINee will go on. We went through hardships together. We’ve come this far because we had faith. Idols are busy with schedules and exposed a lot to the public to the effect of fast image consumption. I think each of us needs his own area and role, not only as a SHINee. It can be musical, broadcasting, or business. It’s time for each of us to find his own niche. So in a far future, we do activities together not because SHINee should make success, but because we like to do it. I wish we wouldn’t feel stressed out as SHINee.
JH: Right, I think there’s a path of our own and for us.
[about DJ Jonghyun]
TM: Jonghyun hyung has many sides, when having serious talks, when being very cheerful, when being sweet to fans. I’ve seen you for a long time. There’s nothing I don’t know about. 🙂 Nothing’s awkward now.
JH: I’m afraid of you as you have seen everything. 🙂
TM: What else to say when we took shower together! haha, when we were in China.
TM: The lyrics were changed. They were more frank originally.
JH: More fit for night?
TM: Yes, and about deeper love? Now it’s more wholesome…ah no, how to say it, more under 15 🙂 🙂 🙂 [*Taem having hard time finding right terms ㅎㅎㅎ]
[Trans by juju]
*Wow, this is pretty long. I skipped some parts but still about 40 minutes remain to be translated. I will try to finish it soon.
*Done! Some parts are abridged. This was a serious talk about Taemin and his album. Although the translation may not convey the true sense of what Taemin said, I hope it will help you understand Taemin better and more deeply. Thanks, Jonghyun, for giving Taemin this chance to talk about his aspirations as a musician!