It took a particularly long time to do your hair, weren't you tired?
It's okay. I kept listening to music.
What did you listen to?
Our song. I listened to SHINee's 1st album.
Do you listen to it often?
When we release a new album I compare it a lot to the previous album. How much did we change, how much did we improve. I listen for my own parts as well.
I wonder if it gets tiring.
When it comes to listening to other songs, after time passes I don't listen to them anymore but with our music I even look for the songs we recorded as trainees to listen. Listening to those I am often surprised. Haha. Because I think that I'm still learning I monitor and study a lot.
You still seem like a newcomer, but it's already your 3rd year. Do you still think you're in the learning stage?
I still can't believe we're in our 3rd year. There are so many new things here and there, so I still feel like a newcomer. In particular every time I go on variety programs they always feel new. And I feel so nervous. Yesterday we went on "Entertainment Weekly's Guerilla Date" and the MC had me do the closing talk. Even though it's just naturally saying something like "SHINee will continue to work hard in the future," I felt so nervous that I thought my heart would explode. I've always been a bit reserved. Ah, but when we become close I'm very active.
Do you have a member you're particularly close to?
Because the five members have been together for over five years now, we've seen everything there is to see and know all about each others' personalities. Because we all know each other so well, there isn't any one person to be particular close to or not. It's not just me, it's like that for the other members too. With everyone there are one or two points that fit well together. Key hyung and I like the same animation. "Princess Mononoke," "Spirited Away," things like that. When I watch football I watch with Minho hyung. I frequently talk about my worries and concerns with Onew hyung. Because Onew hyung is the leader and I'm the maknae.
Fans also look at you as the cute maknae. You're now eighteen years old as well, how does it feel to always be called cute?
When I first heard that I was being called cute I felt very awkward. Truthfully at the time the other member hyungs were hearing that they were cool and impressive, so I wanted to be told that I was cool and impressive too. But now, I really like being told that I'm cute. Truthfully you only hear those words during a certain stage. I think I have about 2 years left. It may be dangerous for the hyungs now. Haha. Not too long ago I went to make my citizenship ID and I felt very strange. During my trainee days I thought it was so fascinating when I watched Jonghyun hyung make his, so when I thought that now I'm making one I couldn't believe it. I thought I'm going to seem less cute now…
Since "Ring Ding Dong" it seems that you've been going for a more manly appeal. That applies for this "Lucifer" stage as well. What does it mean to not be a young boy, but to be manly?
On stage it's the look in your eyes, the particular feel that comes from there. Um so… a natural charisma? I think that personality-wise you're manly if you're loyal and responsible. When I monitor other sunbae singers' stages I feel that something about SHINee still looks boyish. But looking at someone like the Shinhwa sunbaenims, they looked manly and grown up even during their performances from a long time ago.
If you look at the debut ages, aren't Shinhwa and SHINee similar?
Ah, I've watched Shinhwa sunbaenims from their 5th, 6th albums on. I truthfully don't remember H.O.T that well.
Since you auditioned in 2005, you were thirteen years old at the time. How did you come to feel that you wanted to become a singer?
I wanted to since the 2nd grade in elementary school. Policeman, pilot, soldier, I liked those types of professions before that. I didn't really careers like being president. I was pulled towards careers where you fight, a strong type of job. Ah, I suddenly remembered, when I was young I really liked "Dragon Ball" so I would play along. Should I say it was the dream to protect the earth. Then during the 2nd grade in elementary school my interest in music programs suddenly increased and I fell hard for dancing.
If there is someone in particular you could pinpoint who made that happen?
Sunbaenims like Rain or Se7en, and Michael Jackson. I would record them and sing and dance along.
They're all solo singers. You must have for certain thought of standing on stage as a soloist?
No matter what I wanted to debut and succeed by myself. But then when I was a trainee, I spent time with other trainees and grew fondness and attachment. As that happened, I began to think that it would be so good to do it with someone else. Right now I fit so well with the members, and I love group activities. Though at some point if I have the opportunity, I have the greed to release a solo album.
Anyone nowadays can make certain guesses about life as a trainee in a large company. Were there times you had trouble adjusting or when you felt lonely?
I've never had a time when I felt particularly lonely. Instead, there were many times I worried because my singing or dancing wasn't coming along well. Truthfully I thought I wouldn't be able to sing at all. I hardly ever tried singing, you see. Since I was young I only liked dancing, and when I entered as a trainee I was undergoing puberty so I hardly had any vocal training. I received brief training right before my debut, and I couldn't hold a tune and couldn't match the beats. People thought that I was a kid who couldn't sing at all. So I did feel a bit disheartened. So even after debuting I kept practicing and practicing again. Even up until "Love Like Oxygen" things felt very uneasy. I know that too.
That's not something that just solves itself. Do you have someone you lean on during those times?
Onew hyung listens to me. Rather than telling me what to do in particular, he shows me many examples. He leaves the choice up to me. The fact that he worries with me serves as a big strength to me. Even with singing practice, I would practice next to Onew hyung when he practiced and learn from him.
I thought that you would learn singing from Jonghyun.
Jonghyunie hyung helps me a lot when we record. He teaches me systematically by writing on the lyrics and going, "How would it be if you sing it like this, try giving it this type of feel." Rather than sitting me down and teaching me every day he'll give me pieces of advice in passing. Since he went to a music school his technical abilities are strong. I want to learn much a lot from the hyungs and become a singer who can both sing and dance well. And I want to act well too.
You haven't done anything after the sitcom, does taking up a challenge still have its charm? How is acting and performing different?
When I think about it one way they're the same, and when I think about it another way they're different. If they’re the same in that I'm showing something to the audience through the camera, then they're different in with acting it seems like I have to go a little 'overboard' to come across well. Also when it comes to acting, because there are so many people who have been doing it for a very long time, there are so many things to feel and take in as we broadcast. As a result, it was a big help to me with the expressions I show on stage.
Onew is already doing his second musical. You must have some thoughts of, I want to try it too, right?
I want to try it soon. Because singing, dancing, acting are all important in musicals I feel that much more greed. I think that if an offer came in right now I could do it right away.
How about music. SHINee's music in general is trendy, but it doesn't express a specific genre or style. Is there something you feel greed towards?
Of course there is. Greed towards music that's a bit grander and bigger in scale. However I don't think it's the right time yet. Because right now SHINee is doing music that we can do the best, doing music that only we can do. Everything we can try doing at this age, I want to try them all.
The systems seems to be a bit too complicated for someone to make a breakthrough by just wanting to do it. When you choose a concept or whatnot, how much of the members' opinions are reflected?
We exchange a lot of words. Among the members we talk a lot, of course, and with the producers of the songs and with the company we exchange countless words. As we do that we agree on ideas and go forth. I like this type of method.
Conflicts must arise as well?
Occasionally there are times when we want different things. But now since we know each other so well and often discuss things together there isn't any particular conflicts that arise. With me, I'm originally a bit stubborn but I've eased up a lot. In the past I would always argue that I was in the right all the time, but now if I’m not put in a losing situation in particular I'll understand and go along.
There must be someone who has a stubborn streak.
Um.. Often when we go to eat there are times when opinions are split. When it's like that Key hyung goes "Let's eat that, that, that" and everyone thinks. "Ah, Key's stubbornness can't be broken. Let's be understanding." Of course it's done jokingly. Key hyung's assertiveness tends to be the strongest.
When you sing or practice there must be an unseen competitiveness?
Of course there is. When someone practices everyone follows and practices. And when it comes to monitoring we don't just monitor ourselves, we study the other members as well. In the midst of that we compete to find our own styles. Jonghyunie hyung and Onew hyung sing so well. Minho hyung acts well and has variety sense. Key hyung is good with words. In this setting you can't help but receive motivation.
In that situation what do you do? When you're so close to each other it can be a bit awkward to ask certain questions, something about it can feel like that.
Yes, I don't ask about those things often. Since we're so close it's embarrassing to ask. I just watch by myself and think. "Oh, look at that gaze."
Credits: GQ Korea 10Men
English Translation Credits: live laugh love @ soompi