What I’m Listening To: Soulmate, Shinhwa

Ever so often, I like to share what’s on heavy rotation on my iPod. It isn’t always the newest thing, or the most popular thing, but for some reason this is the stuff that I’m grooving to.  I make no distinction between idol and non-idol Kpop, popular and obscure, mainstream and indie. It’s just what I like, and some info about it. Maybe you might like it too. With Minwoo’s release from military service, the mighty Shinhwa is now complete and poised on the brink of a legendary comeback in March.  It seemed only fitting to share one of my favorite Shinhwa songs.

What I’m Listening To

Who Does It

Shinhwa holds the distinction of being the oldest Kpop male group of the Hallyu era that has maintained its original lineup.  I think many people wrote them off as part of that first generation of Hallyu groups (i.e. H.O.T., SES, Fin.K.L.).  I might have agreed with you. Have you gone back to see “Resolver,” (1998) their first video?  Remember those shiny suits? That swinging pendulum? You know you thought that was hot. Ok, in some ways, I still think it’s hot.  However,  Shinhwa has stood the test of time, through ups and downs, even through having five of the six members undertake military service.

Shinhwa is made up of three rappers (Eric, Andy, Jun Jin) and three singers (Minwoo, Dongwan, Hye Sung).  Since debuting, they have produced their own music and starred in Kdramas.  One of the other things that distinguishes Shinhwa from other groups of their era is their legendary exit from SM Entertainment.  Rather than sign a contract without some group members, Shinhwa walked out, and later sued SME for the right to use their name (all Tina Turner-like) and one. They’ve tried just about every concept in the book and lived to tell the tale.

Their last Korean studio album was released in 2008, and at one of their last concerts, they promised their fans, called Changjos, that they would return. Some may have been skeptical, as military service has broken up many a male group.  However, even before the release of Andy and Jun Jin, rumors started flying about a reunion. In late 2011, members of Shinhwa began confirming plans for a comeback.  In May 2011, Eric and Minwoo formed Shinhwa Company, and by October 2011, Hye Sung confirmed a Shinhwa comeback during his Japanese concert.

Why I Like It

“Soulmate” is a single from Shinhwa’s 2002 album, Wedding, and in many ways, exemplifies the best of the group. Shinhwa features three rappers and three singers, and one might think that the singers would overshadow the rappers, or the rappers would steal the spotlight from the singers.  One of the things I like about Shinhwa is that they do a good job of balancing these talents, and “Soulmate” is a nice example of that.

The song begins fairly mellow with individual singers.  It features simple instrumentation throughout.  The tempo picks up, with harmonization by singers, followed by a brief,  rapid-fire rap, and then a return to the up-tempo pace.  This completely works for me.

Several customer reviews on YesAsia suggest that the album takes multiple listenings to really appreciate it. I concur. When I first listened to it, I completely disregarded “Soulmate,” but thanks to the sneaky iTunes shuffle feature, it popped up one day, and I was hooked.

Sources:

Shin Hye Sung Confirms Comeback Date for Shinhwa, allkpop.com

Eric and Lee Minwoo form “Shinhwa Company” for Shinhwa’s 2012 Comeback, koreaboo.com

Customer Reviews for Shinhwa’s WeddingYesAsia