So for a first post on here, I want to talk about my favorite group, B1A4.
A quick background on them: The name derives from the fact there are 5 members, 1 with a B blood type (Baro), and 4 with A blood type (Jinyoung, CNU, Sandeul, Gongchan). They debuted in April 2011 under WM Entertainment. They were very active during 2011 and 2012, and came back in 2013 with 이게무슨일이야 (What’s Happening) ; their sole comeback for the year that gave them their first music show win. I actually became a fan during that comeback as well, since I had never heard of them prior and ended up seeing them by accident at a concert when I was abroad in South Korea.
Without any activities for about 8 months, they released a full album “Who Am I” on January 13, and the lead single is called 없구나 (Lonely). A majority of the songs on “Who Am I” were composed by, had lyrics written by, or were produced by the members – namely Jinyoung, Baro and CNU, and Lonely (forgive my lack of not wanting to switch back to my Korean keyboard throughout this), is no exception.
When the initial video was released, I had a lot of mixed feelings. For one, I much prefer B1A4’s uptempo fun songs (OK, Beautiful Target, Baby I’m Sorry [does that one count?], What’s Happening) over their more mature (aka: ballad-y) songs (Only Learned Bad Things, This Time is Over, Tried to Walk). Please note my feelings about Baby Goodnight actually change on a daily basis because the video is such a mess and the falsetto isn’t my thing. The teasers WM released for Lonely had me feeling it would be a continuation of Tried to Walk, which it pretty much was but at an even slower tempo. But once I heard the full song, I was hooked. I found myself singing about ‘enjoying by myself’ ‘sticker photos’ and ‘not being there/having nothing’ constantly. What made it worse was that I was waiting for my Who Am I album to arrive from Korea. Rough life.
There’s already been a few controversies surrounding B1A4 during this comeback, but I really don’t want to get into any of that, but instead focus on something that’s been bothering me since I saw that Jinyoung was the lead in the MV. Throughout my time as a fan, Jinyoung has always been my favorite member. It’s not just because he’s pretty, but I really found it admirable how involved he is in making B1A4’s music, since most idols aren’t as involved, and many who do get involved, the company limits their songs to album tracks and not singles. After watching B1A4 on variety and reading interviews, I feel like I connected to his personality the most too; despite that he’s probably the most boring member to watch on shows since the rest of them are hilarious. Basically for me, Jinyoung can do no wrong; granted if I never had to listen to Bling Girl or Feeling ever again I wouldn’t cry, but everyone is allowed a few mistakes.
BUT! Jinyoung is not the only member of B1A4. And I really feel like WM forgets this at times.
There are 5 members of the group. From speaking to international B1A4 fans, Jinyoung always came across me as being the least popular. All the international fans are obsessed with CNU (rightfully so), Baro (rightfully so), and Sandeul (rightfully so). Honestly I love all 5 of them, and B1A4 is the only group I can actually say I love every member. I even had one fan get annoyed at me for saying Jinyoung is my favorite member. But after speaking with people a bit more out of my social circle, it turns out Jinyoung is the most popular in Korea. Going back to watch performances from 2013/2012/2011, I see that…Jinyoung is disgustingly popular in Korea. He gets the most fangirl screams during his solo parts, and most of the fan signs have ‘진영’ written on them. I see a few for Baro and Gongchan, and even less for Sandeul and CNU. Jinyoung’s popularity in Korea is slightly saddening considering how much it overshadows the other members.
Looking on B1A4 twitter accounts, Jinyoung has the least amount of followers, by over 100k less than Sandeul, who is last of the other 4. I heard Jinyoung’s old twitter was hacked so he remade it, but that’s still 100k less, which is a significant number and why his popularity surprised me so much. Not only that, but CNU is basically ignored by most Korean fans, and I honestly feel it’s because his appearance isn’t that of a typical idol. For me, CNU is the most talented member in terms of performance/musical ability (he does still have some ways to go on his compositions to reach Jinyoung’s level, but the two included on Who Am I are fantastic!). CNU is easily the best dancer of the group, CNU has the best vocals for me (I know how much praise Sandeul gets for his Immortal Song performances, but if I had to choose only one member to listen to of the 5, it’d be CNU), and his voice can handle any type of song and not sound out of place. He can rap, maybe not as good as Baro, but still better than a lot of other idols. Not to mention his stage presence. I showed my mother the dance practice video of What’s Happening and despite that being one of the songs where CNU doesn’t get many lines, my mom asked me if he was the focal point of the group. He’s not.
That title belongs to poor Gongchan. He’s the maknae, and supposedly has the title of ‘visual’. Generally idol groups with visuals will be sure to give the visual either the lead in the drama parts of the MVs, or will give them more lines in the single songs to show them on camera more; or just say ‘forget it’ and show them even if they aren’t singing. Not WM. In the music videos B1A4 has had to date, not including Lonely, Baro was the lead in 3, Jinyoung was the lead in 2, and CNU was the lead in 1, and the rest I don’t feel have a lead. Sandeul and Gongchan have yet to have a lead role. Gongchan, as the visual, should have a lead in a video. Arguably he is the best looking member, and while that is obviously a preference, he has very nice features which I think are appealing to both the Eastern audience and the Western audience. Gongchan also has the second most twitter followers, after Baro (though this could be due to Gongchan posting the most on his twitter).
The problem is Gongchan gets constantly shafted by WM in terms of lines. Looking at only the singles, he was reduced to saying ‘love me’ 50 times in OK, a measly 10 or so words during Only Learned Bad Things, and Jinyoung’s echo that was overpowered with fanchants during Beautiful Target. He finally had some substantial parts during Baby I’m Sorry and Baby Goodnight, but then that was taken away again during Tried to Walk all the way up until now with Lonely. What’s sad about it is that it’s not like his voice is even bad. It’s very calm and soothing. It definitely fits slower paced songs better, but that’s no excuse to let Sandeul and Jinyoung sing half the song and then give Gongchan barely any lines. Baro always has a nice rap break or two, and CNU either gets a substantial amount of lines, or very little.
On the Lonely video, and all over tumblr, most of the comments I’ve seen are how Jinyoung is a line hog, and how it makes him look bad that he gets to sing most of the song, and have substantial screen time compared to the other members. As someone who is completely biased towards Jinyoung, I agree. From a marketing standpoint, WM is doing what they know Korean fans (the main market) wants; showing the most popular member. But from a B1A4 fan standpoint, I want to see my other 4 boys. Sandeul biased people don’t want to be staring at Jinyoung while Sandeul is singing. Honestly in terms of lines vs screen time in the original version of Lonely, Sandeul was easily the most shafted. Gongchan was at least seen most of the time he was singing, as was Baro.
What’s problematic about it is that Jinyoung is the songwriter. So all I’ve been seeing is how it makes him look selfish. As someone who understands a bit about marketing, I don’t think he asked to be the lead, and I’ve even been making jokes about how he was probably only the lead because the skinny kid would float the easiest. But after doing a quick experiment (aka, hitting the ‘x’ on my keyboard for every syllable a member sang), Jinyoung did get an excessive amount of lines in this song – at least twice as much as any other member, including Sandeul who is the main vocal. I even remember Jinyoung saying that he has a say in who sings which parts of his songs too, which kind of upsets me since he doesn’t have the strongest voice in the group (he’s second or third), and should have distributed the lines a bit more fairly amongst the other 3 singers.
While watching live performances, you don’t notice Jinyoung as much, which I think is good, and has gotten people to settle down on criticizing him for being so present in this comeback. Though this could also be because he doesn’t have the best stage presence. CNU and Baro have been owning the live stages, really.
Today WM released a second version of the Lonely video. The company told the fans once the original version reached 2 million views they’d release the second version. I was praying for a dance version, since I absolutely love the choreography to this song. Watching it live, it’s all so on point; the scarves are a great touch since it’s seasonal, and add a bit of sex appeal. But it turns out it wasn’t a dance version.
I actually love the second version significantly more than the first. I watched it on my phone when I was half asleep since I saw the notification in my email that it was posted, then I watched it again when I became a functioning human. But I really love the single shot opening sequence. I like how they incorporated every set used for the video. I like that each member was actually able to be onscreen when he was singing, instead of showing Jinyoung holding on to a floating girl. It’s simple, and effective.
While I get that there is some symbolism in the first version of the video, the amount of Jinyoung in it doesn’t look good for Jinyoung, the rest of B1A4, or WM. To me it says that the rest of the members are basically disposable as long as Jinyoung is there. What’s sad is that I don’t feel that way, but I’m sure a lot of the Korean fanbase could. I think CNU is most deserving of a solo career, but would flop like no tomorrow. If for any reason Jinyoung ever decided to leave B1A4, I could see them basically being done; even with Gongchan’s social media presence, Baro’s newfound popularity from his drama role in Reply 1994, and Sandeul’s acclaim as a singer from his Immortal Song performances.
From a marketing standpoint, I suppose that the company did the right thing. B1A4 dominated music shows the first week they were eligible to win; and still pulled wins this second week too, winning 6 trophies for Lonely, which is great for them, especially since it took 2 years to receive their first win. Being from a smaller company they’re already at a disadvantage compared to other groups. But from a fan standpoint, if they would have released the second version first and then the first version second, I feel like the song would have done just as well. It was doing great on digital charts upon release; it was #1 on many real-time online music charts, which has nothing to do with the video. I also feel like today’s release had a more of a ‘teaser’ feel to it as well, which would have helped increase the view count to 2million for a second version even faster.
Overall, I’m very happy with what B1A4 is achieving during this comeback. I know I haven’t been a fan since the beginning, but even watching their mess of a a debut stage up until now just shows how much they’ve grown and improved, and that they deserve all the love they’ve been getting and even more. I just hope in the future WM, and Jinyoung, will learn how to properly utilize all of the members to their full potential.
And with that, I’m going to listen to “Who Am I” again.