Saharial joins the Shawols in Abbey Road and catches a glimpse of SMTown’s boy band.
Abbey Road at 7.45am lies unsuspecting in the morning sunshine of the hundreds of kpop fans that will swarm the area in support of SHINee who are performing “Japan Debut Premium Reception in London“ (http://youtu.be/codeksErVqU) – a live streamed concert which is part of their Japan Debut. SHINee fans, known as Shawols, began arriving before 9.30am to get a good spot outside the studios with placards, signs, costumes and a lot of patience seeing as the concert itself was not starting until 3pm, and for a select few fans only. Most people were there to simply greet and catch a glimpse of their idols.
SHINee, a quintet of boys, originally debuted in Korea in May 2008 with a track called ‘Replay’ (http://youtu.be/DocBfPIgk70) which once released debuted at #10 in the charts and peaked at #8. As an SMTown managed group its not surprising they do well, and their first album released in August of the same year debuted at #3. They became well known for the ‘SHINee Trend’ as it was called, a fashion designed for them by Ha Sang Bak that consisted of skinny jeans and bright coloured jumpers, a trend that led them to endorsements of products such as Smart (uniforms), Nana’s B (cosmetics) and Reebok. They won Best Newcomer award in November at the MNet Music festival, and then again at the Seoul Music Awards in February the following year – sealing their popularity and continued rise in activity and media exposure.
2009 brought a new mini album in June, further awards throughout the year, a reality TV show “Hello Baby” and of course the ‘Ring-Ding’ (http://youtu.be/roughtzsCDI) single that really got them noticed with its catchy rhythm and distinctive dance, a trademark music style of SMTown. July 2010 had SHINee at the top of the charts as soon as their second album ‘Lucifer’ (http://youtu.be/Dww9UjJ4Dt8) was released, a new style and smart marketing in the preceding weeks with the release of the concept photos one by one. Their first concert was held in December 2010, and app to buy and listen to their music was also released that month and now, post SMTown Paris concert, they are embarking on their Japanese debut with a new version of ‘Replay’.
Already greeted at Heathrow by fans the previous day, it was obvious there would be a large attendance at Abbey Road and according the Facebook page advertising the event 1,242 fans said they would be attending. It was something that had to be seen to be believed, so armed with camera and notepad to interview fans I made it there by 9.40am where a crowd was already gathered.
Andrew, Mako & Danielle were three fans I met on the tube, wristbands with Kpop band names and some excited demonstrations of dances making them easy to spot:
They actually represented a good cross-section of fandom, with Danielle a fan from their debut, Mako a fan for a few months and Andrew a fan for a few weeks. For Danielle, the debut of SHINee filled the gap caused by the split of DBSK. A tough time for Cassies (An article for another time) she felt SHINee reminded her of the good days of DBSK fandom and hopes that SHINee can have the same success as their former friends. It’s all about the music for her and its the catchy sound of ‘Ring Ding Dong’ and other tracks that she would use to get friends into liking the group. It seems to have worked so far!
I then dashed over the road to interview some of the fans in costume when, mid sentence, there was a massive wave of screaming. The boys had arrived! A van with darkened windows had pulled into the Abbey Road courtyard and for a brief twelve seconds the group were seen walking up the stairs, waving to the fans and the disappearing inside as seen here on my out of focus clip. Do NOT turn the sound up loud.
After that it was just a waiting game, one that lasted hours and punctuated by random screams, chanting the names of the band, demanding that they come out and say hello and general chatting and discussing of the band and kpop. The waiting is very typical for any fandom, the chanting, the singing, the making friends and shrieking when every car ‘honked their horn for kpop’ as the banners demanded, though a few stray fans in the road might have had the same effect. Judging by the number of fans that showed up, I would say SM missed a golden opportunity for a fan meet and greet with UK Shawols.
SHINee fans are known as Shawols. SHINee World (샤이니월드) is SHINee’s fanclub, so taking the first two syllables, sha and wol, the fans’ name is created. DBSK fans are known as Cassies after their fanclub name Cassiopeia, and all groups have a meaningful name that can be applied to their fans. SHINee have individual fanbases also: Flames – Minho – because his nickname is Flaming Charisma; Blingers – Jonghyun – because his nickname is Bling Bling; Lockets – Key – no real explanation needed there; M.V.Ps – Onew – In the song, Nuna You’re So Pretty, Onew sings “Nuna you’re my MVP”; Taemints – Taemin – After their debut, Taemin would always carry around candy with SHINee wrappers to give to nunas
The Shawols at Abbey Road seemed to be of every age group and ethnicity and, despite some expected shoving and surging forward that happens at any event, were a really decent and well behaved group with a combined decibel lung power that was pretty awesome!
Being a little boxed in and no sign of the boys re-emerging, I took a quick opportunity to interview the above two fans, who had been to Paris Concert and thought it was “amazing” and “The most amazing experience ever.” While they hadn’t made it to greet the boys at Heathrow, they only had to come from about half an hour away. Like the fans I spoke to earlier they would get people into SHINee by showing them dance videos and making them listen to the music, to dismiss any derision that they could be ‘just another’ boyband. I asked them about SHINee’s Japan debut and the talk some fans had about it maybe being too soon and over-stretching them. “Its hard to say,” said Asha. “Even though they haven’t been out as long as other groups who have gone to Japan, their popularity is amazing so I think it’s the right time, but I think they deserve a break, they don’t get enough time to themselves. “ Fury adds here that “The last proper vacation they had was 2009, so in the sense that it’s pushing them too far physically then yes maybe, but career wise it’s a good move.” That they went to Japan after Paris, before coming back to London certainly belies this.
Because of other commitments, I had to leave early, my good vantage point filled in seconds as the fans surged forward. They were still arriving when I left, the screams of the ones left behind heard half way to the tube station, though for the band or just random excitement it was hard to tell.I hoped they would all get a chance to see SHINee that day but more than that I hoped that SM have learned from this experience that they do have a market outside Asia, one that has actually been there for a number of years, so that when they say they will have a ‘World Tour’ they actually include this country as part of that, and that passing up a market of opportunities would be a very foolish business strategy.
Judging by the photos from the facebook event page, the wait was worth while – pictures can be seen here:
Many thanks to Danielle, Mako, Andrew, Asha, Fury and all the other Shawols I spoke to that day. You guys rock.