My favorite color is blue, despite my many pink belongings (you name it, I got it). Already, I was at a bias when I heard about Korean indie band CN Blue 씨엔블루. I have always appreciated the creativity behind Korean band names, and CN Blue tops my list of distinctive bands, beating out American bands and even Super Junior. CN stands for ‘Code Name,’ while BLUE symbolizes each member’s essence:
Burning = Lee Jong Hyun, Lovely = Kang Min Hyuk, Untouchable = Lee Jung Shin, Emotion = Jung Yong Hwa.
CN Blue is not like any other Korean group, at least not the typical dancing-licious K-pop boy band. I’m typically into the K-pop craze, so I was surprised that Korean indie-rock bands existed and I got sucked into a new dimension. I said to my sister, “Hey, I kind of like this K-pop band CN Blue!!” who subsequently glared at me and responded, “They are NOT K-pop at all you know. They’re like… this underground band in Korea.” In my head, I was thinking, “Underground? That sounds… shady..” you know, like the Hong Kong triads, drug cartels, the Underground Railroad, or prostitute lanes. What she could not describe without sending creepy shockwaves was that they are part of the indie or alternative rock crowd. To put them in perspective, they are akin to American bands like Maroon 5 or All-American Rejects. Wait, my bad, Maroon 5 and AAR are American versions of Korean sensation CN Blue. And it is always the lead singer with the melodic, soulful voice who entrances me, let it be scruffy Adam Levine, skater boy Tyson Ritter, or pretty face Yong Hwa.
The boys of CN Blue are not just pretty faces who spend hours on end dancing. Instead, they jam on their guitars and drums like rockstars under control. They sit down, compose and write music, and practice like any other garage band, except they made it out of the garage and onto the Seoul stages.
CN Blue is a relatively new band, beginning with performances in Japanese night clubs and bars and debuting only in 2009 with their Japanese mini-album Now or Never. They also played in the Seoul district of Hongdae, a dynamic haven for the artsy and talented. However, their big break did not hail until the following year in January 2010 with their Korean debut album, Bluetory. The first single was a HIT, BAM!-in-the-face GOOOOD, “외톨이야 Oetoriya- (I’m a Loner).” The first time I heard it, my sister was repeating all her CN Blue songs, and I was still foreign to anything else CN Blue except for “Love.” I was immediately hooked to the up-beat, pop-rock tune. It is funny in the MV, which was confusing at first, how each member gets caught up with life, whether it’s wandering in a populated street or getting beaten like a pulp, and then letting out a climactic scream, before meeting at a concert to perform, together…
“Love Revolution” is another great CN Blue classic, with a strong rock-n-roll beat to it. You feel like you want to get up and jump up and down.
01 외톨이야 I’m a Loner
02 Love Revolution
03 Y, Why…
04 Now or Never
05 그럴 겁니다… 잊을 겁니다… I Will… Forget You…
I vividly remember “Love” as the VERY first and only CN Blue song I listened to until recently. I had too much K-pop congestion in my iTunes that I was too lazy to explore and follow up on this foreign band. That first taste of CN Blue was truly impressionable, because the song was a mix of alternative rock AND jazz. Jazz??!! Yes, I was impressed with the catchy, jazzy tune. Yong Hwa’s soothing vocals and the upbeat instrumentals, supplemented with a brief rock-and-roll section, truly made the song unique.
I like “Black Flower” for its heavy rock tune and “Love Light” for its relaxing soft strumming, perfect for a vacation on the Hawaiian beaches. Seriously, it’s like a song you’d hear under the palm trees with a cooling Pina Colada.
02 Sweet Holiday
03 Black Flower
05 사랑 빛 (Love Light)
06 Let’s Go Crazy
Now, their most recent album, First Step (2011), features some incredible songs, “Love Girl“ and “Intuition.” I was actually watching “Love Girl” on Youtube by accident one day, because I get subscriptions to live performances in Korea. The rest became history. I was automatically addicted to “Love Girl” to the point of watching almost EVERY live performance they did for their First Step promotion. It is a cute and entrancing song; I still cannot stop listening to it, like right now as I finish this piece. There’s a pop-feel to it, mixed in with some energy and catchy guitar tunes.
I believe what draws me to CN Blue so steadfastly (I’m jamming to my CN Blue collection as I write this, for inspiration) is how they are so different from the K-pop scene. I watched their performances on repeat, especially “Love Girl” like 50 times to date, and I was amazed they could sing AND play instruments. I thought, “Man, they don’t DANCE or wear funky outfits??” Technically, they are no different from Maroon 5, AAR, The Fray, or Matchbox 20, except they’re Asian eye candy. However, CN Blue is a nice medley of different musical styles. Can Adam Levine serenade a jazzy tune, and make rap sound sexy? Can Isaac Slade and the Fray graffiti my car and get away with it? Can Tyson Ritter slow-jam to a love song, or rap and rock at the same time? Can Rob Thomas sing in Korean and Japanese? Jong Hyun wins my heart with a soft rendition of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” Even better, Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning.” Jung Shin can rock that silky, long hair in a ponytail, versus scruffy American guitarists/bassists who throw their greasy locks in all directions. Min Hyuk bangs on his precious drums in the background. Yong Hwa, my CN Blue bias, looks plain adorable in simple attire, whether it’s a striped shirt or a slick suit. His puppy eyes and shy smile makes me weak in the knees and flush in the cheeks.
I suggest watching their 2010 documentary, CN Bluetory, which is like those ever-addicting E! True Hollywood Story, except featuring CN Blue’s evolutionary history =) They are a cohesive group of friends who enjoy each others’ company and making music together. All their hard work has paid off!
I liked this particular segment in their documentary: What music means to them?
Yong Hwa – “Music allows me to breathe, allows others to breathe.”
Jung Shin – “Music makes me think of rest. We usually listen to music when we rest, don’t we? If my music could mean a rest to someone, that would be great.”
Jong Hyun – “Music is a form of communication when I can’t express through words. I also want to relay my music, share with others.”
Min Hyuk – “Music is something like… rice, maybe my rice. In my life music and rice are the same. Rice is something we eat 3X a day. Without rice, we’d feel hungry and uneasy.” Oh I like this one the best, because it’s a genuine comparison between passion and basic needs.