In life after K-pop, Son seeks new niche
The Korean pop scene has long been dominated by “idol groups,” those ever-present bands that churn out bubblegum music and consist of members in their teens or early 20s.
But these idols have to grow up at some point. As they age, members of K-pop groups must prepare for life on their own. It’s a daunting task fraught with emotional hurdles and professional challenges, as these former teen stars often find themselves performing in front of much smaller crowds and struggling to gain a following.
Only a few, Lee Hyo-ri and Yoon Eun-hye among them, have succeeded in surviving after the K-pop light fades. Lee once led the four-member girl group Fin.K.L., while Yoon was a member of the girl group Babyvox. Both have managed to handle the transition extraordinarily well, with Lee enhancing her singing career and Yoon carving a niche in the world of acting.
Among the nation’s many former idols, Son Ho-young is one of the few who continues to pursue a singing career, as most try their hand at acting or professional dancing.
Leaving behind his glamorous days, the 31-year-old - who recently wrapped up a concert at a small hall - is striving to shed his idol image and earn recognition as a genuine musician.
With his bashful smile, Son was once bombarded with letters and presents from fans when he performed with g.o.d., also known as Groove Over Dose, a five-member K-pop group. But the band went downhill when member Yoon Kye-sang left in 2004, and g.o.d. broke up in 2005.
Son, who debuted as a vocalist in the group at 19, is now 31. He recently sat down with the JoongAng Ilbo to talk about his transition to life after K-pop.
Q. You used to have concerts in huge stadiums with tens of thousands of seats, but now you perform in small venues with room for just a couple hundred fans. How have you handled the transition?
A. In those days, I probably wouldn’t even think of having concerts in such a small venue, but I’ve realized that I can have fun in that type of atmosphere as opposed to a huge stadium. You can even see the faces of fans who are seated in the back of the venue. But you also have to be well-prepared for the concert, because you can’t cover up your mistakes.
Is it profitable to perform in small venues?
It’s not lucrative at all. After a single concert, you can maybe earn about 1 million won ($833). It’s hard to make a living. To be honest, if I sing a couple of songs at a nightclub I can earn 20 times more than in a small concert hall. But I prefer to sing in the concert halls while interacting with my fans.
Many former idols struggle to maintain stardom after their groups disband.
I know I still have a long way to go. But I have tried hard. In order to shed my image as a pretty-face idol, I had to go back to basics. I learned how to breathe when singing and get into a rhythm for eight hours a day. I even went to swimming classes to learn how to hold my breath for a long time. I never did that when I was a member of g.o.d. The members of TVXQ shouldn’t think their popularity will last forever. If they carry that mentality with them when they go solo, the public will give them the cold shoulder.
Idols are literally everywhere when you turn on TV. What’s your strategy to survive?
I believe the only way that I can compete with them is to prove that I can sing. After I decided to go solo, I did the musical “All Shook Up” 100 times, and I also held about 20 concerts at small halls. I also took lessons to learn how to play the piano and acoustic guitar. Other singers usually have concerts for two hours, but mine are around two and a half hours because I don’t want to disappoint my fans.
By Lee Byung-goo [firstname.lastname@example.org]