Shin Hyesung – The Stories We Haven’t Told (Singles interview)

He is an idol singer who is Shinhwa’s main vocalist and who sometimes partakes in solo activities. If this is all you know about Shin Hyesung, then take a listen to him albums now. The real Shin Hyesung, and what he wants to say, are all cleverly hidden in his albums.

There was a time when Shinhwa was the box-office and ratings guarantee for variety programs. While they seemed to pierce through the cathode ray tubes with their wild eyes and perform their testosterone-laden chair dance to perfection, their image completely falls apart with their funny antics on variety shows, but at times they would demonstrate their gentler and more sensitive side as well. After Shinhwa gained a stable popularity, they began to start on their own solo activities and expanded their field of activities, eventually showing off their own distinct personalities. This, at the time, was very unconventional.

After Shinhwa set the precedent for variety-type idols, among all the talented members, Shin Hyesung – as the most “un-Shinhwa”-like member – chose a path that was different from the other members. Although he has appeared in various variety programs, showing his cute and cheerful side performing his trademark ‘crab dance’ and spinkicks, unlike the other members who have moved on to focus on acting, sitcoms or variety, main vocalist Shin Hyesung has only prepared to be a solo singer. To him, this is a double-edged sword with the burden of “the general prejudice against singers with idol beginnings” and “the unconditional support from the fans”.

At a time when single albums seem to be the norm, his album seems to bucking the trend with complete stories behind Track 1 to Track 10. Keeping the album format that fans who were students in the 90s are familiar with, it was like he personally selected the songs and recorded it on a tape or CD to as a heartfelt gift to a friend. A high-quality album that does not fall short in any area, and not letting any song get missed out on – that’s his ambition to create such an album.

As a result, Shin Hyesung’s solo debut has been very successful. Although he’s known as a Shinhwa member, but to people who don’t know Shin Hyesung, compliments like “He really can sing very well, he’s got a great voice” are abundant. Prior to the release of his album, his presales took the #1 spot on major online music sites, and many of his lovely fans responded with ”If anyone could do this, it has to be our oppa”.

Supported by the unconditional purchasing power of the idol fans, and successfully earning popularity with the public, Shin Hyesung has been working towards achieving the goal of building a brand of “Shin Hyesung-style ballads”. Unknowingly, he has already released his 3rd album (and a double album at that) as a recognised solo singer. And that has been his position until now.

Q: While we were preparing for the interview, we realised that you’ve always remained an idol. There were really many questions posted on our website. What are Shinhwa and the fans to you?

A: Shinhwa to me is like my home, my hometown. Although we’re all busy with our own solo activities, and some are now serving their military service, but there’s nothing better than the feeling of coming home to a hot meal and a good rest after a hard day’s work. It’s really nice when we get together, I have the feeling of coming home. Fans to us are like our fence, or perhaps like family members.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between Shinhwa member Shin Hyesung and solo singer Shin Hyesung?

A: Hmm, firstly the music genre is different. In Shinhwa, we mainly perform our songs coupled with powerful dance choreography and intensive expressions, and because now as a solo singer I mainly sing ballads, I have to convey a gentler and more melancholic feeling.

Q: Are Shinhwa and S on good terms? Do you all get along well?

A: These days, Kangta has gone off to serve in the army, and our members are also serving their military duties in different departments, so there hasn’t been a chance to meet. But whether I meet with Kangta and Jihoon, or with our members, I always feel very comfortable with them. We often hang out together in a group too.

Q: Are you in frequent contact with Kangta who’s serving in the army?

A: Of course. Not too long ago we met up when he was out on vacation.

Q: Many people are curious about the relationship between Shin Hyesung and Kangta, somehow they see you as rivals.

A: Me and Kangta? Why would that be the case?

Q: Aren’t you two the main vocalists of Shinhwa and H.O.T respectively?

A: Ah, but that was a really long time ago. Perhaps because we both started out as idols and became ballad singers, that’s why they think that way.

Q: How did you and Kangta become such close friends? If so, then why don’t you have any of Kangta’s songs on your album?

A: The first person I actually became close to after my debut was Jihoon, and Jihoon is close to Kangta, so eventually I became on good terms with Kangta too. Like the members, I’ve known him for more than 10 years too. In fact, it’s not just Kangta, but no close friend of mine has written any song or featured on any song in my albums. It’s not deliberate, but when I released my first solo album, I wanted to showcase just my own style, different from Shinhwa or S. Once I’ve accumulated enough experience as a solo singer, we’d be able to work together whenever the opportunity arises.

Q: So if the fans hope for S to continue, will there be future plans for S?

A: When we started S, it was more of a freestyle project. Although we all work differently, but the music that we’re working towards is the same. With similar tastes in music and similar interests, we naturally formed the group, and since that is the concept, we can actually release an album sometime in the future. In fact Kangta wanted to release an album before he enlisted, but because we all had our own activities, we couldn’t coordinate our schedules. We’ll probably have to work on it when Kangta finishes his military service.

Q: Your 3rd album is a double album. Side 1 and Side 2 have completely different styles. Which one is Shin Hyesung more satisfied with?

A: The reactions of the fans are always the same. For Side 1, fans said things like “it’s a different approach”, “it’s not really weird”, ” Trying something new is always welcome”, while this time round, they say “Ballads are indeed more suitable for him”. But this is what the fans say. Excluding the negative comments and things like that, I’m very grateful to the fans for thinking this way. Personally, it seemed like the fans reacted better to Side 1. I like the fans’ encouragement and faith in me for trying something new. If I had to pick one.

Q: Do you think that Shin Hyesung is more suited for ballads?

A: I think I can do best at ballads. For other genres, or to sing and dance at the same time, I seem a little awkward.

Q: You must have heard it many times, but what is your favorite song from this album?

A: Ah, I really like them all, I can’t choose. Everytime I release an album, I hope to hear people say “You can’t miss out on any song”. Although all singers may share the same opinion, but with so many singles being released these days, I have this desire to release full albums with many songs.

Q: The more albums you release, the more sensitivity you have. What is the secret behind your ability to control your feelings when you sing?

A: I try my best to have a perfect understanding of the lyrics and melody of each song that I record, that’s the most important thing. Actually because I’ve been single for so long, that’s why naturally I would come across as lonely (laughs).

Q: If you were to release a remake album, whose songs would you want to try?

A: I’d like to try it once as a solo singer. Although I’ve been thinkin about it, but I really don’t know who to choose if I had to pick.

Q: There was a fan who commented that you seem suited to sing Park Jung Hyun’s songs.

A: Songs from female singers would be interesting. Lee Seung Gi once released a remake album featuring songs from female singers. In fact, I had this idea before Seung Gi released his album. Really. (laughs) At that time remake albums were really popular, and I thought to myself, “I’m a ballad singer and my voice is more on the emotive side, how about singing songs by female singers?”. But at that time Seung Gi happened to released his album, and I thought “Ah, that got snatched away” (laughs). So I reconsidered and thought about using gentler vocals to sing songs by male singers with rougher vocals such as Im Jae Beom. Even if it’s a remake, I want to make it more interesting.

Q: Are there any songs lately that you like to sing?

A: I’ve been listening to my songs most of the time. If not, then I’d be listening to the autographed CDs that the juniors give to me at the TV stations after recording.

Q: The image of Shin Hyesung that we see on TV is that of the “Little Prince”, which is somewhat unrealistic. What kind of guy is Shin Hyesung in his daily life? Usually a regular 30-year0ld guy would be making a portfolio of investments, or changing the fluorescent lightbulb at home. Have you done ordinary things like this before?

A: Honestly, I’m no ”Little Prince”. I’m not young anymore. I’ve made investments and bought shares before, but I’ve stopped because I don’t think it’s right for me. Although that kind of image makes me seem quiet and sensitive, but in reality it isn’t like that. There are many differences between me in reality and me on TV. There are times when I’m very laidback, and times when I’m reticent, and I’m really quite playful most of the time.

Q: Being in showbiz for 11 years, you’ve been living as a celebrity for so long. Have you ever envied others for being able to lead ordinary lives?

A: No. I felt the opposite during the shoot today. Until now, because I know all the staff, it feels a little burdened when they take care of me. I don’t think there is anything special about being an entertainer, so usually I like to go out as simply as possible. But today for me alone, so many clothes were brought here and makeup was done separately, this feeling is really nice. At this time I’m thinking, “Anything can be done just for me. I’m really a celebrity too”.

Q: Didn’t Andy appear on “We Got Married”? If Shin Hyesung were to take part in the show too, who would you like to be paired up with?

A: Anyone will do (laughs). But since that is a reality programme, so no matter what, it will be fun only if it’s a partner I like. As for the name…

Q: Hmm, SNSD?

A: They’re too young. She must be a little older, very feminine and domestic. Think about it.

Q: Who~? Your ideal type has a very feminine style?

A: Someone who’s really demure and feminine.

Q: Are there any professional gamer friends you’re on good terms with?

A: I’m on very good terms with Hong Jin Ho, Jin Ho has also gone to the army. I’ve played 5 games with Jin Ho before, and I won 3 games. I really hit the jackpot! Since I beat a pro gamer. I’m on good terms with the pro gamers from MBC’s Game Hero too, Seo Kyung Jong, Min Chan Gi, Bosungie… Many of them. I keep in touch with Kyung Jong more frequently.

Q: Your network of friends mostly seem to be from this circle.

A: Actually they’re all my dongsaengs (younger brother/junior), so it’s not like we have a deep friendship. We got to know each other better because I like to play games. Recently I haven’t been playing much.

Q: When do you feel most bored and lonely?

A: When I’m not working I get bored. I’ll meet the guys too. I’m working hard to expand my social network, but that’s not an easy thing, because the people I meet everyday and the places I go to everyday are all pre-arranged, so I get bored.

Q: Kim Dongwan once said in an interview, “When people meet, they’d be smiling until their faces are about to get spasms. When I see a face like that I really like giving a punch. Towards people that I dislike, I would approach them in a friendly way and then slowly bring them over to my side.” He said that as he got older, he really hated the idea of becoming a person who gets swayed by things and people around him. Especially having to give up your own beliefs in order not to make enemies. How is it like for Shin Hyesung?

A: I hope to do that. I don’t take to unfamiliar people well, and itt was very bad when I first started out. I didn’t want to go anywhere with strangers and only wanted to be with people I know. Even for a meal, I would go to 3 or 4 shops to see which is the one with the least people. I don’t know why I was like that back then. I was just like that for no reason. Now I’m trying hard to expand my social network, and compared to before, things are much better. So unlike Dongwan, I’ll continue doing what I’m doing. Before I only spent time with the same few people and basically didn’t care about anyone else, but I should be doing what Dongwan says, “Now I won’t look bad when others look at me.”

Q: You seem like the type who don’t send text messages to other people.

A: It’s not that I don’t, it’s more like I don’t receive messages often (laughs), so I think it’s embarrassing if I send a message first. I’d be worried if the other party thinks that I’m being too overenthusiatic. The juniors or friends would send messages like, “Ah hyung, what are you doing now”, “Ya, what’s up? How’s it going?”, but I can’t do it.

Q: Is there anything you want to change in terms of your appearance or personality?

A: I would like to have a more angular chin, and more defined cheekbones, a more masculine image? I want to look handsome. In terms of personality, even if it’s not very much more, I’d like to be more sociable. Although sometimes I feel that I can do it, but when it comes to the time to do it, I can’t.

Q: Have you ever regretted becoming a singer?

A: Not even once.

Q: In your 11 years of activities, what were the happiest and most agonizing moments for you?

A: Ah, that’s a tough question. The happiest moment is when Shinhwa received the Daesang? I really felt very grateful. The most agonizing moment, actually there were many tough times. Just thinking about Shinhwa, it’s the worst when the members get injured. Jinnie injured his head once and nearly died, and Minwoo fell during a performance, those were really terrible times.

Q: As a solo singer, do you think you have any rivals? And what is your long-term goal?

A: There’s still too long a road ahead of me to talk about rivals. There are people that I aspire towards. I often mention the sonbaes like Lee Seung Chul, Shin Seung Hun and Lee Seung Hwan, I hope to continue singing for a long time like them, continue holding concerts and receiving love and support from everyone. It’s my long-term goal to be like them.

A shy young man who didn’t want to go to anywhere with strangers, who works hard to improve his interpersonal skills because he senses its importance, and who always makes a conscious effort to show a brand new side of himself, and his fierce desire to let us hear high quality music with a unique touch. This is the attitude of always doing your best, coming from a top idol group member who’s been around for 11 years.

He is in the midst of changing, and compared to the present, he’s a singer whose future people have even higher expectations of. In showbiz with its many ups and downs, sticking to only one path and also showing visible musical growth only means that he has much more to offer. And more than anything else, the fans who have grown with him through his 20s and into his 30s, as long as they’re there, can he not be happy?

credit: Singles
chinese translations by: jojoyu7@shinhwachina + 悟空空,宝宝爱王子@S.C.I.C
english translations by: midnightgirl13@absolutshinhwa

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