*translation by heich_, please repost less than half with full credit to justjyh.
Jung Yonghwa's Private Wonderland
Did you think of Jung Yonghwa as a typical, predictable guy?
A man who has built a firm, unique world of his own underneath that wholesome image.
His certain hidden desires, and the possibility of departure from the norm
-writer Kwon Minji, Photographed by Choi Young Bin
Earlier this year, while on the variety show “Radio Star,” Jung Yonghwa kept saying, “I’ve got nothing more to lose.” After the drama “The Three Musketeers,” he had earned the title as a “Chart-topping singer” in both Korea and China with the solo album “One Fine Day”. Though Yoon Jongshin and Kim Gura overlooked the album’s success and sharply criticized the low ratings of “TTM,” Jung Yonghwa responded calmly with a little bit of self-deprecation. He would introduce himself as “I’m Jung Yonghwa, the best solo singer in the entertainment industry who can act, sing, do variety, compose, and write lyrics,” and brag “I’m really hot in China!” when nobody’s asked. Everyone reacted in awe, “Yonghwa, what made you become this way?” On another hand, on his one-man reality show “Jung Yonghwa’s Hologram,” his spending time alone idly left the staff bewildered; the show’s theme ended up being about his solitude.
In other words, Jung Yonghwa is no longer just that upright, predictable guy in “You’re Beautiful” so engraved in our memories. CNBLUE’s second full album “2gether,” released on Sept. 14th, was also a surprise. Unlike the strong band sound that seemed to have dominated CNBLUE’s genre thus far, it was filled with 11 tracks of danceable synth-pop. Not a single sweet, acoustic track or melancholic ballad that’s a must in every idol album. A distinct color, much like the laid-back kind of confidence that he exuded in variety shows, was filling the beats. Naturally, one becomes curious. What happened to this good student who used to be goaded by his agency ceo to go date somebody? Following the photoshoot at a hotel in Seoul, Jung Yonghwa, sitting on a bed, began to speak in Kyungsang-do dialect, entirely different from how he speaks on TV. “I always speak in dialect in private. This is comfortable for me.”
-Upon release of the title track ‘Cinderella’ from the second album “2gether,” your fans speculated it would be ‘DSM (Dark Sexy Metal)’ style. That’s Jung Yonghwa’s specialty, they said (laughs). Perhaps that’s because in the introduction, you said you tried to embody CNBLUE’s unique identity.
Just like putting on different clothes during a photoshoot, I tried to find clothes that fit CNBLUE. To be honest, there was a kind of a burden so far. I was conscious of the views that thought, “CNBLUE’s an idol band, what do they know?” and forced myself to insist on powerful music. Now, I don’t care much. Once I put aside that desire to be acknowledged, I came up with more comfortable music like disco and synth-pop. That’s the reason I didn’t include an acoustic track in this album. Before, we always included a song like ‘Love Light’ because people liked them. But actually at concerts, I tended to not sing them much. I just wanted to fill the album with songs that we like, the songs we would play during live performances.
-Just as the rappers who don’t write their own lyrics aren’t MCs, bands that don’t make their own music are considered “fake” bands. But in fact, you’ve been writing music since you were in middle school, and now you arrange songs as well. However, because you were labeled as an idol, you tended to be underrated.
Now it’s much improved, but many used to think we couldn’t even play our instruments properly. Being too conscious of such things, even though I wrote those songs, it didn’t seem like my own. As if I’m creating Jung Yonghwa to show others, not being the real Jung Yonghwa. But I’m not the type that tries to break away from being an idol. I think it’s less cool to purposely throw that away. When you’re a kid in everyone’s eyes but try to act like you’re an adult, it looks tacky.
-Jung Yonghwa’s solo album is close to an acoustic feel, whereas CNBLUE’s albums have been much fancier. “2gether” seems like you’re trying to find the middle ground between those two colors.
That happened naturally. It’s true that we were swayed by what people wanted. But because we had that time, we could find the middle ground. If I had insisted on one direction and said, “Either this or I quit,” I don’t think as many people would have listened to my music. Since I’m a popular musician (*as in musician for the masses, not bragging about his popularity), I don’t want to release an album that only I like. Some day, something extremely experimental would be nice, but not yet. I want to take it slow and look further.
-You said that you used to like the melody of ‘It’s only my world,’ but now it’s the lyrics that pierce your heart. It must ring true all the more since you’re in the process of defining your own color.
It’s a punch line from the get-go: “‘You don’t know the world at all,’ you would say to me.” In fact, I dream of the day that I live in seclusion. I’d make albums, do a round of tours, and go back to my own world. Because I wanna do that someday, I’m building foundations for that right now.
-If that’s your final vision, the first step would have been ‘Easy Love’ that you wrote in 3rd year of middle school. I wonder what it was about.
There’s not much to say. I don’t know why I wrote it, nor why is it ‘Easy Love.’ Back then, I wrote it with an ambition that I don’t wanna sing someone else’s song anymore. But it had an air that was not appropriate for a middle schooler. “Easy love, sing a song with me,” kinda like that (laughs). That phrase doesn’t make any sense, even to me.
-From ‘Cinderella’ to ‘Hide and Seek,’ ‘Roller coaster’, and ‘Catch me’. Just by looking at the track titles, I can see a sexy woman who’s such a tease. What kind of woman is ‘Cinderella’ that you pictured?
The word ‘Cinderella’ popped up in my head while sitting in my studio. At first, it was just an interesting keyword, but later I read an article about the women who dream of becoming a Cinderella. I got a gut feeling then, “Oh, this means I should write a song.” (laughs) If you just look at the lyrics, it’s talking to a woman who has to go home either because of work the day after or curfew. I restrained myself once or twice, but no more, we’re adults, let’s stay together tonight. But what I really wanted to say was to break away from the framework. Everyone’s living very busy daily lives these days. It’s such a hectic schedule to dream of stepping outside the box. I hope everyone could have vicarious satisfaction from listening to ‘Cinderella’.
-It seems like a wish you also hope for yourself, not just for the listeners.
Does it? Sure, I wanna get away from the everyday, too! But my personality doesn’t allow it. It’s not to look good in the eyes of the others, but it bothers me. I wanna put everything aside and go on a trip for a month, but even if I left, I would keep thinking about work. In fact, I haven’t even really traveled by myself.
-I heard you like Homer Simpson very much. He’s like the symbol of living without tomorrow. Though he’s a father of three, his dream job is to work part-time at a bowling alley. Are you having vicarious satisfaction from him?
I really do. Homer Simpson is a complete rock star. “The Simpsons” isn’t just a cartoon. There are so many parts that makes me think, “How do they come up with those things?” so that watching it makes me feel like I’m breaking my own inner conventions. For instance, the 13th episode of season 6! Finally, Homer submits his resignation letter and fulfills his dream of being a part-timer at a bowling alley. But because his youngest daughter Maggie’s born, he has to return to the nuclear plant. When the president pastes a piece of paper that says “Don’t Forget, You’re here forever” on Homer’s wall, he mixes his daughter’s photos to change the phrase into “Do it for her.” I was very touched watching that episode.
-Perhaps not to the level of residents of Springfield (the town in The Simpsons), you definitely seem above the fray compared to before. In “Radio star,” you kept saying you had “nothing more to lose.”
In the beginning, there were often times when I had to do what I didn’t want to; in the case of making music, there wouldn’t be enough time so I had to release what I wasn’t satisfied with. Now, I can focus on what I need to do, my level of self-satisfaction has gone up. I was also very influenced by the American TV show “Entourage.” It’s about a Hollywood actor Vince Chase and his friends, a complete mind-blower. Despite a film totally flopping, Vince would pass it over saying, “It’ll be fine next time, I’m from the slums anyway, flopping here is much better than before.” Although he’s so at ease about everything, he’s such a professional when he’s acting. When he doesn’t feel like it, he’s got the guts to reject tens of millions of dollars. Wow, you can live like that. That’s the real swag. I was so impressed and watched all the way to season 8 twice (laughs). The mindset of Vince Chase is such a great role model. Before, I used to avoid many things, but now I tend to think, "If I do it, I do it. If not, I can try something else next time.”
-“The Simpsons” and “Entourage” have some things in common. They’re both representations of desire, very personal activities. Watching “Hologram,” you seemed to really like spending time alone.
Early on during my debut years, I was so sick of not having time to rest. Maybe I was a bit burned from that, I’m so happy when I’m slacking around for couple of days, not writing any music and just watching TV and playing games at home. The perfect feeling of liberation that I don’t have to do anything today… Come to think of it, I like GTA(Grand Theft Auto) — I guess there’s definitely that desire for the things I can’t do in reality. When I watch TV, I just watch it (without effects), but when playing GTA, I turn on the home theater. Blasting the sound, I’m like, “I’ve come to this world, there’s no more Jung Yonghwa, I’m Michael!” (laughs) I would go shopping all I want, buying and riding all the cars and yachts I’d wanted. It’s so much fun, I cleared it three times. Playing it made me really want a yacht. I must have mentioned it so much, my brother already got the yacht license (laughs). I tended to say out loud the things I wanna accomplish, and they really came true one by one. So these days, I talk about even bigger goals.
-What are such sayings that came true?
I heard this from my mother a while ago: when I was a kid, I said, “When I grow up, I’m gonna wear an Armani suit and drive a red sports car.” I have no idea how an elementary school kid knew about Armanis, but it came true. It’s a fascinating and grateful thing. When gaining popularity, sometimes what I have right now can be taken for granted. I always try to be alert about that. When I’m communicating with fans, instead of for business, I try to be genuine and friendly. That’s why I read each and every replies on certainly the Korean ones and the Chinese social media, Weibo. If I don’t understand, I use the translating software. I also study because I must know Chinese culture and popular phrases to share them.
-So, you’ve been acting the roles that girls dream of. But you said in an interview, “my real self is much more attractive than in the drama.” Were you being serious? (laughs)
Yes. I’m more attractive (laughs). So far, I’ve done too many roles that are in unrequited love. They couldn’t approach the girls, grieve alone and watch from behind the wall. I’m the type that honestly expresses that I like someone. Also, the roles I’ve played weren’t witty at all. They would stare wistfully and smile once in a while. They were all stiff. A(n ideal) guy has to have a sense of humor.
-I thought maybe your last drama “TTM” was a reaction to such characters that had targeted girls. It was your first historical drama that highlighted the male camaraderie, but it didn’t do well in ratings.
Most works after my debut, “You’re Beautiful,” had low ratings. For a while, I thought I need to do something with good ratings rather than what I want to do. I used to enjoy acting, but it became scary after a certain point. Though I’m not the type that cares about negative comments, I realized that when I kept reading criticisms like “It’s because of you! Because of you that this flopped!” it made me get cold feet and get hurt. When you’re shooting a drama, you have to be completely immersed in it for a few months, which means I should do projects that I’m attracted to. Honestly, filming “TTM” was so much fun and I learned a lot. Ah, I’ve got one more thing to brag about: now I’m good at riding horses too (laughs).
-There’s news that tvN has purchased the license from HBO to produce the Korean version of “Entourage.” You’d be great in it.
Whoa, really? I really wanna do it. I can do any of the roles (laughs).
-If you get to take the role of Vince Chase, perhaps you could have a more laid back life?
I’m starting to get laid back. Though I’m not showing it overtly, a little by little inside myself (laughs).