There was no post yesterday because of horrible news.
In an earlier post I mentioned that I’m a SHINee fan. Yesterday, my group lost a member – the main vocal, Kim Jong-hyun (known simply as Jonghyun, aka BlingBling, aka Puppy, aka Dino, aka Jjong) – to suicide. In the horrific onslaught of talented people leaving our sides, 2017 continues to do its best to outdo itself to the very end. I debated whether I should write something here, and I decided I should because 1) authenticity matters to me 2) this blog covers inspiration, which SHINee – and Jonghyun – are to me and 3) I hope respect is recognizable and honorable to anyone reading this, in any case.
Kim Jong-hyun will remain:
- SHINee main vocal
- SHINee member
- Supportive younger brother (동생)/member to Lee Jinki (Onew)
- Guiding older brother (형)/member to Kim Kibum, Choi Minho, and Lee Taemin
- Introspective writer
- Creative composer
- Avant-garde producer
- Generous collaborator
- Filial – and only – son (아들) to his mother
- Doting younger brother (동생) to his sister
- Informal leader
- Staunch supporter of arts and social progress
- Mental health advocate
It’s hard to be an American fan of Korean popular music. It’s harder still to be an African-American fan of Korean popular music. It’s even harder still to be a Woman-of-a-Certain-Age African-American fan of Korean popular music. From an external perspective, I *think* I’m *supposed* to like Beyoncè and/or Rihanna. Erykah Badu?Maybe I should be listening to Chris Brown? I *think* trap music? I can’t- I don’t even know who’s “in” right now in American popular music. If I’m feeling nostalgic, I presume Keith Sweat, LeVert, New Edition (& Company) are on the approved list for someone who “looks” like me and is my age. But I don’t listen to them. I just don’t. For lots of reasons (By the way, I *do* love Maxwell, Prince, and, of course, creative respect to Michael Jackson; and I also would be remiss if I didn’t state that most of the artists I’ve mentioned here are/were influences of Jonghyun’s work).
It’s hard because if something/ when something happened to those people, the onslaught of community support materializes – and quickly. For me, I have no one to talk to. I get instead, bewilderment, impatience, feigned concern, and worst of all, silence – all things that marginalize my current state and deem it “less-than.” People who have responded overlook that Jonghyun didn’t die in a plane crash, or as a result of an unintentional drug overdose, or similar. I also get to read sensationalized Western news reports contextualizing the Korean entertainment industry as somehow *more* “evil” than the Western one (Um, Mariah’s first husband? Whitney’s former manager? Beyoncè’s Dad? NSYNC’s manager? #CmonSon). Writers rehash old articles instead of learning about individuals or international issues. They don’t know that Jonghyun suffered with depression and anxiety for most of his private and public life – so it *must* be the industry. They don’t know – or ignore – that South Korea, in general, has one of the highest suicide rates in developed countries – so it *must* be the industry.
I found SHINee soon after I began learning about Korean language and culture. Since 2011, they have given me the sound of my past with the creativity of the contemporary. Their positive outlook has impacted me in numerous ways – becoming a fan of a “boy group” (men, really) is different when you’re an adult than it is when you’re a teenager. Within the context of my life experiences, they were very refreshing and rejuvenating to my own outlook and have continued to be so.
I recently started my two week end-of-year holiday with the goal to read, rest, and catch up on my SHINee-centric television shows and concerts (and binge-watch Season 2 of The Crown). For quite some time, SHINee has been the only bright spot in my entertainment life – a wonderful alternative to the Western televised world of flying weaves, rising bleep levels, faux luxury, and in more serious matters, the ongoing documentary of my country’s slow, apathetic erosion of democratic government. Now, I don’t even have SHINee. Jonghyun’s voice is on every single song and thus, he is part of every single stage presentation. I don’t know when I’ll be able to listen or watch again.
That being said, I remain a Shawol (the SHINee fangroup – an amalgam of SHINee World). I am thankful I got to see the entire group perform three times: twice in the States (NYC – 2011 and Dallas – 2017), and once in Seoul (2013). There are very few American Shawols who have been lucky in this regard.
What I can do also is share SHINee’s direct role in improving my skillset as a contemporary information professional. As a member of KPK: K Pop Kollective, I worked to create and curate digital exhibits for Korean popular music artists. While planning the project metadata and display – which is housed and archived in Omeka, I volunteered – very quickly – to create SHINee’s exhibit. While the project is no longer updated, enjoy the link. You can view how learning Omeka’s platform was eventually applied to my LIS work at my campus.
While working with KPK, I also created a running visual archive of artist websites produced by the Korean record label SM Entertainment (SMEnt). SHINee is managed by SMEnt, and every time they dropped an album in Korea or Japan, a new website was created to assist with promotion efforts. I called my recordings the Digital Documentation project. Enjoy SHINee’s Korean and Japanese digidocs.
I sign off this post with a notice and reminder: Depression is real. It is tangible. It is devastating. Keep in mind that mental health remains stigmatized in our country, too. Keep in mind that mental health services are not as accessible as they should be. Keep in mind that we should be doing what we can to increase awareness and access. You can begin to access and research mental health services here.