In more than a footnote to her Critic’s Choice article, Saharial reviews the achievements of Lee Minwoo this year
My personal nomination for artiste of the year goes to Lee Minwoo a.k.a. ‘M’. In the last 12 months he has not only released a live album and a third solo effort, and held successful tours in both Korea and Japan, but also started his own company, produced and written songs for other artistes and started his own line of clothing merchandise designed by himself.
The year hasn’t been an easy one with his 3rd solo album being leaked onto the net a week before its release date. Four months after its release, there was a completely bizarre and late-timed decision from the ‘youth board’ claiming that lyrics of one song ‘La Noche Bonita’ were written ‘unhealthily’. The repackage had to be sold with an ‘over 19 years only’ sticker. Despite these setbacks he has worked hard to achieve a unique sound and style, eschewing sleep and personal relationships for studio time. Personal injury while dancing at a charity show didn’t slow him down either, continuing his performance despite the injury to his knee.
In an age of gossip and ‘scandal’ Lee Minwoo stands out as a respectful man who actively avoids gossiping about others and spreading rumours. Hardworking and dedicated, establishing his own company: Mrising, now gives him more independence to grow as an artiste as well as mentor new acts and discover new talent. Like many other artistes he has an eyes on the US market, but wisely aims to be a producer rather than release a solo as he is well aware of the prejudices and pitfalls that still exist. In this last year he has matured a lot and one gets the impression he cares a lot less for industry and netizen opinion than his own integrity.
His independence from the need to follow the rest of the industry has shown even more over the MKMF Mnet awards. The results, which initially indicated he had won in the dance category, appeared to be overturned via a less than transparent voting system and the award given to ‘CSJH – The Grace’, a group that neither won in the on-line poll nor sales. His withdrawal from performing at the award ceremony did anger many, some fans even claiming to have lost respect for him, but for many, like myself, he gained respect for having principles in the face of rigged awards. It was easy for others to say he would have not made a fuss if he had won, and true, maybe he would not, but then it would have appeared a just and correct win as the polls indicated it would be him. To back out of an obligation and disappoint fans is not a decision that would have been made lightly by him, something reflected in the statement issued by Mrising — not the one made by Openworld which did sound rather hysterical and accusatory.
You might wonder if he will ever take a break. Well, it’s not likely to be any time soon – his plate is pretty full! As one of Shinhwa, Korea’s longest running vocal group, there will be more than a few upcoming activities. Shinhwa is releasing a single in December, touring Japan and China and then having a 10 year anniversary album and more concerts in Seoul in March 2008. These activities run concurrent with his solo promotion and planned solo Christmas concerts. In addition, demands for his song writing skills have increased and fulfilling these obligations, whilst enjoyable, is stretching his health and stamina to its limits. One can only hope he doesn’t push himself too far.
He is due to sign up for National Service in late 2008 early 2009, though he has spoken of a fourth album in June next year. I have no doubt that he will be as dedicated in serving his country as he has been in serving his fans.