The girls, who are they?
After what seemed like an eternity, the girls have finally returned. They have dominated the charts since their return and have turned into a worldwide craze. Of course the girls I am talking about are none other than SM’s mammoth idol group SNSD (Girls’ Generation.) They have achieved much more than most people their age would ever dream of achieving and are now at the forefront of marketing K-pop across the world. The girls have now worked with each other for four years and have gone through many trials and tribulations, most of which happens to be behind the scenes and away from the ever increasing attention of fans. In this four-part series produced by KBS and being re-capped by us, we will be delving into a more personal and intimate side of SNSD as we follow them through their daily life and perhaps gain a better understanding of the group at the end of all of this. At the very least we will see that behind their fame and glamour, SNSD is just like any other girls in their same generation, with similar dreams, ambitions and interests.
The girls make their comeback.
Let’s first roll back the clock a bit and start off on October 21, 2011. We begin in front of the KBS studios and fans have already gathered out in force. Some SNSD fans might already recognise what this date symbolises. It is the day when the girls made their first broadcast comeback for their new album “The Boys” on KBS2 “Music Bank.” It has been over a year since they’ve released an album within the domestic market and the girls have arrived early in the morning to prepare for their comeback performance.
We follow them into their dressing rooms and we can see everyone busily getting ready for their performance. The dressing room is awash with people making sure everything is prepared for the girls’ first comeback and since they are singers, one of the key items they are checking is their complete audio systems. Here we get to see something that is not always mentioned in other places and that is, what kind of In-Ear Monitors the girls use during the stage performances. Let’s have a look shall we?
They are custom molded UE In-ear monitors that have been specially made for each member’s unique ear shapes, each stickered and named for each member. We’ll let Taeyeon explain the rest “These are the earphones we use when we perform on stage. They’ve been produced after getting a (ear) mold done.”
“My ones look like this. It’s different compared to the other members.”
They are now making their final preparations before their performance and a sense of anxiety and nervousness is apparent on the girls’ faces. Despite the fact that it’s now been four years since their debut, a comeback stage is always nerve-wracking.
Sooyoung explains it nicely when she explains that “I’m nervous, since it’s our first on-air appearance, a lot of people would definitely pay a lot of attention and watch our first on-air appearance. There is a slight sense of burden since I think we need to be perfect but…”
Some people have previously commented on the fact that the girls’ new title song “The Boys” is slightly different from what they usually do. The girls also look to have felt something similar as well with YoonA mentioning that “Since the music, dance and choreography isn’t a style that we have usually demonstrated up until now, we also found some elements of it to be a bit awkward (while they were preparing for it). But since it’s a new challenge and since it’s good to always show off a new image, I’m curious to see what kind of response people will have.”
Even just before they are about to get on stage, the look of tension and caution never seems to escape from the girls’ faces as the constant thought of having to show off a much improved performance all the time and knowing that they have to please their fans continues to linger in their minds. While everyone always expects that the girls will make an elaborate comeback and do well, the girls are always in a constant state of worry.
Taeyeon refers to this during her interview when she states that “It’s definitely makes me worry, even when I am singing, I don’t know what kind of direction it will take and what kind of sounds will be emitted. When I have the flu or when my throat isn’t in the best of conditions that is really my most worrying situation and I become really edgy.”
But they can’t worry for too long, their fans are waiting for them and they have a performance to do. The girls move up to the stage accompanied by loud cheers from their supporting fans and make some last minute preparations and prayers before they begin their performance.
And then the dice is rolled and they once again begin their activities within the domestic market.
But it’s never as easy as it seems. Despite being just around three minutes long, they will have to take constant re-takes to ensure they get the perfect performance they want.
As the shooting continues, the pains of having to keep performing on high heels is starting to take its toll with Hyoyeon mentioning that “It’s really tiring, even though I’ve danced for four years with heels on, I’m still not used to it. When will I become used to it? In 10 years’ time? In 20 years’ time?”
After an hour of constant recording, the girls have finally finished their first comeback performance. An hour to produce just three minutes or so of footage is the amount of effort they all have to put in to get the performance we all expect.
Tiffany notes that “I have never seen them (the members) do a slapdash job. I think I’m also learning about that (not doing a slapdash job) by observing the members. Rather than saying that I worked hard right from the outset, I also ended up working hard because there were members who worked hard. It’s just…it’s just amazing to see us accomplish all of this. Even when I think of it now, it’s amazing. The fact that we are doing this right now is amazing.”
It may have been difficult but everyone seems to be pleased and in high moods, knowing that their fans are supporting them.
YoonA explains that “Since they give us a lot of love every time we make a comeback, I think we are the ones that are more surprised by it. There is a small sense of burden but since they seem to give us a lot of love when we work hard, we are very thankful about that.”
Their day’s work is still not over and they have a pretty important job left to do and that is the traditional sharing of albums with other colleagues. The girls busily sign their CDs and set out to personally deliver the CDs to their many colleagues.
The girls are welcome wherever they go due to their good manners and approachable personality, receiving the love of all their other colleagues.
The girls have now finally finished all their work for the day. They entered the KBS studio when the sun was rising and are now leaving with the sun having set already. They now head back home and prepare for their next day’s activities.
The girls want to be ordinary college students.
A new day has arrived and two of the girls are busy getting ready for something early in the morning. They are Sooyoung and Yuri, who are preparing to attend their college classes. Some fans might already be aware that Sooyoung and Yuri happen to go to the same university and attend the same course (Film and Theatrical Studies). They free up what little spare time they have during their tight schedules to attend college. The girls step into the van and make their way to college to attend their first class of the day, which happens to be narratology.
When the girls arrive at the college, there is no escaping the fact that they are famous celebrities and the whole campus is abuzz trying to get a glimpse of them. However there is something else more important that needs to be resolved first before heading to class and that is trying to fill their empty stomachs. They head to a bakery within the campus but what would be a simple and casual situation for any other student is anything but for the two SNSD members.
Yuri immediately talks to her manager and tells him that “There are too many people here right now…” It’s something that only a celebrity would have to take into consideration when doing such simple tasks and unfortunately they have to leave the store before they are able to get anything.
Yuri later explains that “We were going to buy some bread here but since there are a bit too many people there, we are going to buy something to eat somewhere else later.” It’s an unfortunate side effect of being popular, having to be aware of the fact that the amount of people could suddenly swell up and become unmanageable but they are somewhat used to it now.
So with an empty stomach, they head to their first lecture session. Before the start of the lecture Yuri shows off her lovely note file, notepad and pencil case. It all looks very natural and seems no different to any other college student but even in this there is signs that they are indeed celebrities. In Yuri’s pencil case, she carries around a felt tip pen she can use to provide signs for people that want it. She reveals that she carries this around because people come up to her with a mechanical pencil and ask for signatures, so she instead gets out her felt tip pen and provides signatures using that.
During the lecture, they are just like any other student and pay close attention to what is being said, writing down notes when needed and handing in reports for class. Of course due to their tight schedules, they are sometimes unable to hand in reports on their designated due date.Today is such a day and Yuri has had to bring in her report separately to hand in.
But when do they get the time to write such reports? It’s hard enough for even a normal college student to write and hand in a report on time. Well for the answer to that, we once again roll the clock back to a few days prior.
We are once again back in the SNSD dressing room during one of their “Music Bank” performances. While all the other members are relaxing and chatting away, there is one member that is clutching to her iPad and busily writing something.
Yuri is using the brief moments of rest that she has to somehow try and write her report. She has so far spent two hours and it looks like she has hit a bit of speed bump. She has only written a few lines and is still thinking over what she needs to write.
When the PD mentions that she seems to be writing during every little chance she gets, Yuri replies that “Of course, if I don’t write it now then…last time I woke up at 3am and stayed up for two hours till 5am to write it, and then went to the makeup shop at 5am to prepare, then went to the TV studios and then go to school. If I don’t write it right now…besides I don’t think I can write it all today but after finishing my schedules, going home and after getting some sleeping, I think I’ll have to write it in the morning. Every time I think of a line, I need to organise it in my head and write it down.”
Sooyoung also asks about her report, which she sent to her professor by email. Her professor is full of praise and remarks that she wrote it really well. The lecturer has so far received two of her reports and states that Sooyoung’s writing is very logical in its flow, with a strong will. She continues on by saying that Sooyoung knows how to think back on everything she has done so far and also knows what direction she has to take in the future.
Sooyoung states in her interview that “I don’t think that I’m acknowledged as a real artist right now but I just want to be an artist that isn’t just a pretty idol that dances on stage. Since ‘I am a singer’ is popular lately, I wrote my report under the title of ‘I am an artist.’ Truth be told, if it’s not in the form of a report, it’s too embarrassing to say anywhere else.”
From her report, you can see her thoughts about being an artist; here is a short extract from her report.
“Before we can really determine whether or not something is art, I believed that the path I have walked down in life is art. In terms of art, it’s difficult to say with certainty what the scope and limits of art is, but I believe it is the influence that every day emotions have within our everyday lives.”
After their lecture, they can obviously no longer hold back their hunger and head to a nearby store to buy something to eat. Even here they cannot avoid the stares of other people, with a lot of people gathering outside trying to get a glimpse of their favourite idols.
Having to live like this every day is probably a very tiring prospect for anyone. They are all pretty much the same age but they seem to live in a completely different world. But of course the girls sometimes wish to be normal.
Yuri states in her interview that “I have a small wish to spend life as a normal ordinary student, like other girl students of the same age as me (22 years old). I would be able to just walk down the street; I also want to walk around college without thinking about anything when I don’t have any lectures and I also want to buy stuff to eat as I walk but people find that amazing to see.”
Sooyoung continues on by saying that “We were looking around to see what restaurant was popular with students lately, so we went there once and the students had left memos on the wall. So we said we should like try it as well. So we left one there. We wanted to try everything that normal college students our age do.”
“So we hung up our memo in between the memos of the other students but they took this down and laminated it. We just wanted to be in between all those other memos but they took it down and laminated it.” Yuri continues on by saying “Just like a real student, we hid it really well like this. We didn’t even write that we were SNSD.”
The staff head over to the restaurant where the girls left their message, and indeed their memo is hung up in a different part of the store, all laminated up and displayed for all to see. The owner states that business has gotten better since they have come. As a celebrity it’s rather difficult to live an ordinary life no matter how much you try.
The girls conquer the world.
It’s now night and the girls are starting to arrive at Incheon International Airport. They will be flying off to perform their first ever North American concert along with their other fellow SM artists in New York City.
The reception they receive once they arrive is tremendous and illustrates the growing worldwide popularity of SNSD and K-Pop. People of all different shapes and sizes have gathered for the single purpose of greeting SNSD and the other SM artists at the airport. For the girls, it’s an amazing sight and one that they cannot believe. To get such a reception on their first visit to New York City is amazing.
It demonstrates that SNSD is becoming a global superstar, one that is continuing to drive the K-Pop boom across the world. As popular culture critic Choi Kyu Song states, SNSD is leading this K-Pop popularity boom across the world and is cementing the notion that they are the super stars of Asia, thus being at the forefront of increasing the quality and value of K-Pop across the world and which we expect they continue to do.
But as Sooyoung mentions in her interview “We wouldn’t have been able to do this if even one of us had been greedy, but we were able to come all this way since all nine of us like each other, like being together and since we work while enjoying ourselves. If even one of us had passionately thought that they (themselves alone) must succeed no matter what then on the contrary, that kind of thought could have been a reason to cause conflict with each other while we were working. But I am really thankful since there was no member that was being extremely greedy.”
It’s now the day of the concert at Madison Square Garden and the fans have gathered out in force to watch their favorite artists perform. The girls have also arrived at the location and begin their preperations.
After they have finished their preparations, they come out backstage to watch the performances of the SM artists. It’s not often you get to see performances like this even if you are an SNSD member and they plan to take full advantage of it.
But they can’t sit and watch these performances forever. They also have a concert to perform to their fans and thus they head up the stage to perform their first ever New York Concert.
Come back tomorrow as we continue to look at some of the events that had happened during SNSD’s New York Concert and delve into the private lives of the other members.