What drives SHINee’s Taemin to remain a “Genius of Hard Work” – Behind the Budokan stage where he showed his true worth | Model Press Interview [Part 1]
[Taemin / Model Press = November 1st] Taemin (24), a member of boy group • SHINee, who made his Japanese solo debut last July. Growing from a cute young boy into a matured man brimming with sex appeal, and continually captivating his fans with amazing performances, he is of course [acknowledged] for his innate talents but is at times called a “Genius of Hard Work.” About his Nippon Budokan solo stage in July which showed the true value of “artist Taemin” and deeply impressed audience. And also about his Japanese drama which most likely was a new surprise (discovery) for the fans. He talked about his reasons for deliberately choosing a “super busy” path at model press interview.
Taemin appeared to the interview room chatting with the staff(s). He was extremely busy having come to Japan from Korea after finishing filming a program that extended past midnight, but he greeted us with his [sweet] smile as usual.
― I heard that you arrived in Japan this morning.
Taemin: Yes. The variety program filming lasted until late [at night] so I organized my belongings right after getting home, then I got on the plane after sleeping for about an hour.
― Thank you so much for your time despite your busy [schedule].
Taemin: Not at all. I just arrived from Korea so I’m sorry if my Japanese is a little weird (off) (laughs).
I personally volunteered to “be busy this year”
― Then I will begin by asking about the Budokan [stage] in July first. It was a dense hour and a half that condensed Taemin(-san)’s world-view, I was deeply impressed.
Taemin: Thank you.
― I was told that you prepared within a very limited amount of time. What was your schedule specifically like during the months leading up to the concert?
Taemin: It really went by in a flash. SHINee activities, the drama shooting, and preparation for my Korean solo album…they all started together. I prepared while feeling the pressure of possibly not making it in time for Budokan, which was my first first solo stage. As expected, I do feel that I was a little short on time, but I feel relieved now after finishing it without any trouble.
― Didn’t you feel disarrayed with jobs in various genres starting all at once?
Taemin: I told the staffs this year that “I’m okay even if I’m really busy.” I think I’m currently in a [state] where I’m the most excited and have the most energy so I thought if it’s not now, physically, I won’t be able to do it [in the future].
― You’re still so young yet you already feel such a sense of urgency.
Taemin: I wanted to do what I can while I can. I thought that I wanted to try my best.
A stage that was completed by digging deep into “Taemin’s Identity”
― The show had 13 songs including the encore; the staging (production) was quite elaborate for each song. You also said during the MC that “I had a hard time choosing because there was so much I wanted to do,” what were your thoughts leading up to the day [of the concert]?
Taemin: First, even I wasn’t sure of how my color or image would turn out; so in a sense, as a way of introducing myself, I wanted to show a new (unprecedented) image as Taemin, a single individual, rather than as SHINee’s Taemin. When I thought that, there was so much I wanted to challenge. For example, for the song “I’m Crying,” the dancers are dancing and acting as if they’re in a musical; I tried to create a stage where even I, the person singing amidst all this can concentrate in its world-view. I also veiled my face with the outfit’s hood(ie) so [the audience] could better conceive the emotions in the song.
― You really put together (The stage was put together) really delicately.
Taemin: I didn’t want to do something ordinary. I wanted create things no one had ever challenged before, things people haven’t really seen before in my own way. I prepared with giving it a lot of thought[*].
[*] giving it a lot of thought: having a hard time deciding, mulling over choices
― It takes heart to send out a new image to the world, you might have worries like “I wonder how people will respond?”
Taemin: You’re right. Of course I do think that you need courage but I’ve been doing this challenge of changing my hairstyle many times when promoting as SHINee in Korea so…(laughs).
― That’s where [you point to] (laughs). [*]
[*] As in “of all things you could have mentioned, you use changing your color as an example”
Taemin: So I think there’s a part of me that’s used to (changing my image) (laughs).
― That was an unexpected point [you brought up] (laughs). Despite having the choice to have fun together with the fans at close distance, the constitution this time was one with a story and coherence as one show. I believed that this too was a huge challenge.
Taemin: Right. Of course I thought that it was important for many people to sympathize (to connect with the audience) even more so because it was my first stage, but more than that, I fixated first on showing Taemin the person distinctly in a relatively short amount of time. I did think, “I wonder if it was better if there were more songs where [I] could connect [with the audience]”
― No, it was very beautiful. Singing “Itsuka Kokode” with the piano at the end, you finished [the show] leaving a lingering feeling (afterglow).
Taemin: That was also my idea.
― Purposely leaving out the MC, it was really beautiful how you ended in a way that stirred our imaginations. Do you have songs that you’re especially deeply attached to?
Taemin: “Itsuka Kokode” and “I’m Crying.” “DOOR” is also cool but the ballads that I sing while focusing on my own emotions are memorable (remains the most vivid in my memory).
Singing while playing the piano was a huge challenge for me. I wasn’t very good at it actually. My skills on the piano is still lacking so I couldn’t focus on singing. How can I do it well during the concert…I prepared feeling really pressured, but I finished it without problems. It became a challenge that I succeeded in for me.
― That’s going to give you a lot of [self-]confidence.
Taemin: Yes. I think I’ll be able to sing a lot more [*] while playing the piano from now on! (laughs)
[*] more often
― Did you practice the piano until the last minute?
Taemin: Yes. Really, until the very last minute.
― That means the most nerve-wracking time was waiting for you for the climax.
Taemin: Right. Dancing and singing is something I can manage so long as I have energy but it doesn’t go that way with the piano.
― It requires a different skill.
Taemin: Since I have to pay attention to the small details.
― For “DOOR” you were bound by ropes and bandages, it was a stimulating (exciting) stage.
Taemin: “DOOR” was also a challenge. I think the presentation of the choreography that Nakasone Rino-san made was wonderful. She guided me so that I could express to the detailed parts [of the choreography].
― How was the Budokan stage surrounded by the audience 360°?
Taemin: It really makes me lose track of where I am! At first, we put “North” and “South” labels but once the [song] starts I don’t have time to look at them (laughs)
― Was that something you didn’t expect during your preparation period?
Taemin: If I include [my activities] in Korea, it’s been about 10 years so I thought that if I tried the 360° stage, I would be able to do it right away (laughs). But when I actually [performed on the 360 stage] it was a bit difficult. There’s no reference so I would gradually but steadily go out of position (laughs). This was especially the case with “Sayonara Hitori.”
― It[*] also became a new asset for you on stage then. Choreographer Sugawara Koharu, whom you worked together for “Sayonara Hitori” “Flame of Love” and your newest release in Korea, “MOVE” said on her radio program that there was a period when you were feeling down struggling with the mental pressure/burden while preparing for Budokan. Did you talk to her about your problems?
[*] It: his experience in performing on a 360 stage
Taemin: Right. She’s really kind and she would notice right away when I’m troubled / fraught. It’s hard for me to constantly stay happy so at times I would become sad and feel stressed but when that happened, Koharu-san showed me videos of my favorite [artist] Michael Jackson[*] and cheered me up. Casual words like “Do your best” also gives me a lot of strength. She’s someone I respect, of course in regards to dancing but also as a person.
[*] It’s actually written “videos of Michael Jackson whom/that I like”
My motivation is “myself,” I want to come through every challenge[*] and grow
[*] all sorts of
― After [completing] this Budokan, do you have any goals for the future[*]?
[*] Goals: challenge, tasks
Taemin: So I could have more stamina to spare (reserve stamina)[*]; it would be nice to ease on dancing, and take the balance towards singing.
[*] Sorry I can’t come up with a good phrasing for this. He means that he doesn’t want to constantly be at his limit physically when performing. (I’m guessing it’s to give him more room to concentrate on other things so he isn’t as preoccupied on just pushing through a performance)
― If you were to give a score to this concert (Budokan)?
Taemin: Eh, is 100 points the full score?
― Please go with that!
Taemin:…Hmmm, it’s hard to give a score after all.
― Is it hard to express it in a number?
Taemin: It’s really difficult! It’s just that, it’s always the same after finishing a concert but I’m always left with more desire than happiness.
― Like, “I want to do more next time!”
Taemin: Yes, that’s right.
― Seeing your concert this time around, the fans were also saying, “Taemin is a genius of hard work”
Taemin: No no….
― It was a stage where we felt that strongly but where does your motivation (strength/drive) to constantly work hard in order to grow come from?
Taemin: Hmmm…. I think I’m influenced by various things. For example, like developing your emotions and imagination by watching movies and seeing sceneries is one of them but I think it’s important to build experience outside of practice. I’m someone who regards both as important (treasures both).
― So [it’s important to] balance your ‘on and off’ (work and personal life)?
Taemin: Yes. I don’t know exactly know why but when I take a short break from practicing dance and watch various videos, then practice again, there really are times when I improve even more.
― What’s your greatest motivation for you recently?
Taemin: Recently, myself. Really!
― You are your own motivation.
Taemin: Recently, I’m attempting various things in both Japan and Korea but I want overcome them and continue being “me” (someone) who grows even more. Should I say “myself” who’s grown more than myself from yesterday – a new “me”. It’s hard to put it in words…. Please help me! (and he seeks help from his manager)
― It’s fine, we all understand you! In Taemin-san’s case, is there an aspect where you grow as you draw in (engulf / involve / swallow up) everyone else around you?
Taemin: I haven’t grown to that extent. When I see TVXQ-senpai, I understand exactly what that (“to engulf everyone”) means but I think I still have long way to go.
― I think it means… that people are struck seeing Taemin-san work hard, and are moved (to action)
Taemin: I think it will still take me a long time to be like senpai (TVXQ) but..I would like to continue to grow.