Today’s First Gen Friday is 90s born group Shinhwa, the longest running boy band in K-pop history and what seems like the only group to continue their activities and be very successful after ending their contracts with SM Entertainment.
The group consists of members Eric, Minwoo, Dongwan, Hyesung, Junjin and Andy, and are the longest running K-pop group still running today. Their debut came in 1998 with their first full length album ‘Resolver’ but it didn’t perform as well as hoped on charts and also with the public. This lead onto the second single ‘Eusha Eusha’ from the same album. Although the concept was very unadulterated bubble pop, this lead to criticism about the group being a mere copy to their seniors H.O.T as the song was a similar concept to H.O.T’s ‘Candy’. Even though they won ‘M.Net Best New Artist Award’ that year, it was a disappointing year for the group from the expectations that were placed on them before debut.[youtube id=”8U_d0zTbUjI”] [youtube id=”qzgccjUBJig”]
But the second album ’T.O.P (Twinkling of Paradise)’ turned it all around for them in 1999. They starting to gain the love of fans which won them a number one hit in the music charts. It started to give them their own image instead of them just being copies of another group which helped them in their future successes. Their recurring change of looks and concepts was a signature of Shinhwa as their third (‘Only One’) and forth (‘Hey Come On’) albums were a roaring success with singles such as ‘Wild Eyes’, ‘First Love’ and ‘Only One’ that became some of Shinhwa’s most classic and renown songs in their career with its creativity and performances.[youtube id=”f7vrt1yITL4″]
Two more album were released in 2000 and 2001 and were music chart successes with their third ‘Only One’ debuting at number one at its release and ‘Hey Come On’ coming number three and climbed rapidly at its release as well. Again, they opted for image changes from a gothic one with ‘Only One’ and a cleaner look with ‘Hey Come On’. Shinhwa also won popularity awards in 2000 at various award shows to end the year off.[youtube id=”ve6i6qJtliE”] [youtube id=”NCxa2rexdO8″]
However, in 2001, Shinhwa saw Andy leave suddenly to America, which stirred up rumours about the reasons for this sudden departure. Even with his leave, Shinhwa continued to promote and always said that ‘Shinhwa is 6’ indicating they aren’t complete without Andy. Though their next album saw the return of Andy in 2002 with ‘Perfect Man’, with his return not affecting their popularity as this became their second number one album. Releasing their sixth album, ‘Wedding’, later that year, it saw the group become the longest running boy band in the Korean music industry history.[youtube id=”ZrazjRx-wPE”] [youtube id=”nJP9ujZfB5M”]
Even with all the success, it didn’t stop their contracts running out with SM Entertainment in 2003. SM had offered them a renewal to their contracts but the members declined efficiently and went on their way to a new company called Good Entertainment. But, it wasn’t easy for them as they had a legal battle to contend with to keep the Shinhwa name. This gave them a bit of time between contracts to pursue solo activities before continuing at a group in 2004. Hyesung and Minwoo continued singing while Jun Jun, Eric and Andy. Dongwan did a few variety shows and also MC SBS’s Inkigayo. Thankfully they won the legal battle to keep the Shinhwa name and seemed to be the only ones who have been very successful outside of the SM loop.
Ironically, after they came back supported by the new company and also their seventh album, it was called ‘Brand New’. This saw a transition from bubblegum pop songs to dance tracks. They also took charge as lyricists with Eric writing the rap lyrics while Minwoo wrote full lyrics. Their lead song ‘Brand New’ won first on Mnet’s M Countdown for three weeks resulting in a triple crown win for the boys in 2004.
It wasn’t until 2006 that they released their either album ‘State of the Art’ with the lead song ‘Once in a Lifetime’ and then another year and a bit for they nineth album in 2008 with ‘Volume 9’, and this was also called their 10 anniversary album since their debut in 1998. The members were very busy in these years with solo activities. They had left their management company in 2007 and 5 of the members started their own companies. Also Hyesung, Minwoo, Dongwan and Junjin continued singing and releasing music near the same time as each other, but they considered themselves as friendly rivals. Andy starred in a musical called Music in My Heart and Eric finished his drama ‘Que Sera, Sera’.[youtube id=”znxvcHy0f9A”]
In the next few years, all of the members began to do their military service with Eric and Dongwan being the first two to go in late 2008. Junjin enlisted a year later, followed by Andy in early 2010 followed by Minwoo soon after. Hyesung was exempt due to serious and recurring injuries to his knee that developed from concert in 2001.
They didn’t return to the music scene until 2012 with ‘The Return’, ironically named again. This saw them take a sophisticated concept as to show there return as men instead of boys. In 2011, Shinhwa had created their own company called ‘Shinhwa Company’ which they managed themselves and this new album. ‘Venus’ was their comeback song into the limelight and was received well after a few weeks, winning number one on Mnet Countdown. To commemorate their comeback, they started their own show called ‘Shinhwa Broadcast’. It showed various sides to Shinhwa as they tackled tutorials in things such as comedy, ballet and a popular South Korean mobile game, then continued on to a mothers cooking segment where they had to cook to fool a family into thinking it was their mothers food as the group and mother competed together, to now focus on the unsung heroes in communities. There have been 60 episodes thus far since its showing in 2012.[youtube id=”uqsHnxo35cg”]
Their most recent and up-to-date release from 2013 was their new album ‘The Classic’ and released a vogue inspired fashionista music video with their lead song ‘This Love’. The release of this album caused servers to crash on its pre-order and on its release charted first on various online music charts with other songs from the album also charting too. They won a Triple Crown on Mnet for three consecutive weeks at number one and accumulated 8 first place wins promoting ‘This Love’.[youtube id=”45wH_HHnJBg”]
Shinhwa have been an ever changing group since their debut, with ups and down throughout their career but to be the longest running boy band in the Korean music industry, it just shows their resilience and passionate personalities in continuing together as a group and pursuing their own dreams in solo activities. Now, we can look back on the groups historic past and also look forward to the future of Shinhwa.
Check out their Youtube page if you want to see the legends at their best.