There is no emptiness in SHINee’s stages. In fact, it’s so perfectly filled that this is the homework that SHINee will have to solve. The Onew we met offstage was so easygoing. The 24 year old Onew is a peculiar young man who says he is happiest when he buys food for his friends with the money he made and falls asleep on top of an anatomy book.
“I developed an obsession with time after I debuted. When I’m free, I think about how to use that time. There have been many instances when I went out to drink coffee or rode the subway around alone. When I have time, I should know to savor the leisure feeling but I’m not good at doing that.”
The idols of South Korea grow through similar phases or processes for the most part. After their debut entrance with somewhat awkward and cute appearances, they begin to slowly show off their mature side and become polished. Then the time comes for the men to start emphasizing on beastliness and women on sexiness as they exude deadly charms. However, seeing them rush and become adults too quickly isn’t all that pleasant. SHINee is a popular group even amongst idols for debuting at a young age. Around the time of their debut, maknae Taemin was a middle school student and the rest of the members were all high school students. It’s true that I thought it was impossible for SHINee to become sexy guys or homme fatales within 2~3 years. It’s obvious that fans were hoping “Please don’t change. Don’t rush to grow up.” Fortunately, Onew has no plans to pretend to be an adult already. Seeing him say “I want to be a boy for as long as I can” made me feel at ease. If he answered “I’m disappointed that there are still so many people who see us as babies,” I would have been mopey. The conversation with Onew was warm and comfortable. The reason is because I felt that he’s not an idol who wants to grow up forcibly but rather takes what he has now and tries to enjoy it. So I think SHINee’s fans can be happy for a long, long time and not just a flash.
SHINee’s maknae is now also twenty but SHINee still looks like a fresh young boy band. Are you dissatisfied with this image or are there times you want to shed out of it?
Ah, even our maknae is twenty so we have grown a lot. It’s true that the boy-ish image still comes before a macho image. When I eat or perform on stage, I get so happy that I smile like a little boy unknowingly. I smile automatically so I don’t want to just stop and pretend to be strong, cool, and tough. That’s why I’m still enjoying our current image. Although I get worried at times when work becomes burdensome, I smile again like a little boy on stage.
There’s a K-pop fever. When you go on world tours, what’s the excitement at the venues like? Aren’t you conquering the world at too young of an age? I feel like you can even get cocky sometimes.
The phrase conquering the world really does not suit me, Interviewer. Hahaha. It’s definitely a good opportunity and experience. I try to get full vibe of the passionate stage. A performance is a performance but I’m really happy that I can travel to many countries and choose delicious foods to eat. Cocky? There’s barely a chance of it happening. On TV, we’re surrounded by an incredible amount of cheers and fans. But there have often been times when there weren’t many fans at the airport so I was disappointed. Hahaha. I can’t forget the concert we held at the New York Madison Square Garden. To think that I went and performed at the place I found out through “Rush Hour 2”. I still can’t believe it.
Is it because of your title track “Noona, You’re So Pretty”? It seems like SHINee, especially Onew, is the fantasy of noonas.
There are a lot of noona fans who like my voice more than my looks. To be honest, I really hated my voice before. It’s because a unique voice tone cannot express various feelings. When I was young, I preferred voices with a lot of technique for no reason. Now I’ve come to like voices that can emphasize emotions. Maybe that’s why I think there are strengths about my voice which has a comfortable and unique feel to it even though it lacks special techniques.
That’s right. No matter which song you listen to in SHINee’s albums, you can hear Onew’s voice right away.
I’ve heard many times that I have somewhat of a distinctive voice. This unique tone that some people don’t have is what gives life to the song. Even though I am not the main vocalist, I am happy to have this role in the team. Talent in singing? I’m not sure. I liked to sing since I was young is all. I didn’t have many definite thoughts on becoming an actual singer. When my dad played cassette tapes in the car, I did my best to sing along and I occasionally sang in front of my family. I never dreamed of being a member of an idol group. I wanted to be someone who writes lyrics and sings songs. My dream was to win the “Yoo Jaeha Music Contest” and make my debut.
Who are your close celebrity colleagues and what do you do when you meet up with them? I’m curious about what kind of person Onew normally is at personal meetings. Do you perhaps have a mentor in music?
In personal meetings, I go back 100% to Lee Jinki! I mainly hang out with Lee Joon and Go Ara but everyone is really kind. My behavior at personal meetings depends on the atmosphere. Maybe it’s because I’m a sensitive blood type O but a different side of me emerges every time. That’s why I might appear like I do what I want. Musically, it is Kim Yeonwoo sunbaenim. I personally met him while working on music so I want to become more emotional like him. I told people I met that I like Kim Yeonwoo so the fans put together a CD with songs that I sang and gave it to Kim Yeonwoo sunbaenim as a gift. I actually think he’d want to receive a girl group’s CD like Girls’ Generation. Hahaha.
I hear that for days like idols’ birthdays, they receive a ton of presents! It doesn’t seem like you’d be lacking in material items. What do you need the most right now?
I definitely receive a lot of presents. That’s why I rarely buy clothes. The clothes I’m wearing now? The clothes I’m wearing today are actually bought by me. I bought them in Hollywood… Woohoo! I pick out and wear comfortable styles out of the clothes that the fans give me. I receive various types of presents like a computer, bicycle, CD, headset, and more and they fit my taste for the most part. That’s why I don’t lack anything. In fact, I receive things that are too expensive that I have returned them on many occasions. What do I think I lack? Ah! It’s time. I’ve developed an obsession without realizing it. Even if I have a little bit of free time, I always go out of the dorm.
It’s already been 5 years since your debut. What has changed the most between the Onew back then and the Onew now if there is anything?
I have become more social compared to when I debuted. I’m open and get along with the staff as well. I used to just be polite but now I’m more comfortable.
The Onew that we know has a smart image. You look like a nice son at home and a sentimental lover to your girlfriend.
To my girlfriend? To my family? I’m normally not that style so at some point, I actually developed a fixed idea that “I should act like Onew.” As soon as I felt that, I thought I had to break away from it. That’s why I’m trying hard to show my true bright, active, and nonchalant self recently. I’m not sure what an unexpected appearance would be. Reading an anatomy book? Hahaha.
If you lived a normal life as a student, where would you be and what would you be doing right now? Perhaps studying hard in a library? Or enthusiastically dating?
I have a lot of curiosities so I do many things that I end up regretting. That’s why I don’t know what I’d be doing now. Studying was fun until my 3rd year of high school. Lately, I miss the days when I used to study. I’m still interested in geology, astronomy, and more. If I didn’t become a singer, I probably would be studying?
How does it feel to live as an idol member and the leader of a group on top of that? You don’t seem like
Before and in the beginning of our debut, I had many burdens of being a leader. I thought that I should always pull the group. But then I looked one day and saw that the members were taking care of themselves. Hahaha. Aside from every day and minor issues, things get settled without me having to step in. I have a rather optimistic personality so there’s no sense of rivalry with the members or other groups. I have interests and curiosities like “Oh, you do these kind of things too?” There’s no jealousy so I’m not even impatient.
Is there an ideal type or female celebrity who has captured Onew’s heart?
This is a hard question. It’s because I don’t have a specific ideal type. There are just times when I briefly think “Wow, this person is alright” when someone passes by. But I forget about it after a little bit and I think the same thing about a different person the next day. Rather than there being a pattern [of types I like], I like people who have good vibes. A basic quality is a woman who is also interested in music. It’d be even better if she can sing together with me. If I had to add one more, it’d be a woman who has qualities that I don’t so she can help me improve. It’s even better if she has pretty hands. An actress I’ve been attracted to lately is Lee Nayoung noona. I fell for her after watching her on “Infinity Challenge”. Ah! And Kim Jungnan noona! We recently filmed “Radio star” together. I like people who like me. Noona, are you reading? Hahaha. ♥
credits: kimchi hana and jennyjjong.