I awoke this morning to a tragedy. Jonghyun, lead singer of the iconic Kpop band Shinee, has passed away. Though there is no official confirmation, it appears to have been a suicide. You can read the details here.
I will be the first to admit I’m not the biggest Shinee fan. But, they were one of the first Kpop bands I discovered. I can still remember watching the MV for “Lucifer” for the first time and being awestruck.
Shinee are undeniably one of the most important bands of Second Generation Kpop, and were (still are) hugely influential to up-and-coming Kpop stars. Many cite Jonghyun himself as an inspiration.
News of Jonghyun’s death shook me. I wasn’t sure how to process the loss of such an icon. To me, his life seemed full of potential. He was young, had a hugely successful career, and was most likely set for life.
Just a couple of hours ago, a friend of Jonghyun revealed the last conversation they had with the star. They mentioned that Jonhgyun was unsatisfied with the music he was making, that he felt he lacked talent. If you asked his family, his friends, his colleagues or his fans, they’d tell you he had talent in abundance.
However, one statement made by his friend stood out to me in particular. He mentioned that Jonhyun felt as though he was getting “bumped down as he got older.” As someone who has seen the decline of Second Generation Kpop coming for a while, this resonated with me. Newer Kpop bands like BTS, GOT7, and TWICE, are rising to fame as the Third Generation displaces the Second. Bands like Shinee and Super Junior and Girls Generation—though always acknowledged as the legends they are—do not have the fame or popularity that they once had. Their loyal fanbase stands by them, but newbie kpop fans don’t pay them as much attention. It is not hard for me to imagine that Jonghyun felt this in some capacity, and placed the burden on himself, and his own perceived inadequacies, rather than just time and trends taking their course.
No one will ever know what exactly was happening in Jonghyun’s mind. As a public figure, I imagine he faced the added burden of presenting a certain image of himself to his fans and the world, while having to deal with his demons in relative isolation.
In the wake of Jonghyun’s death, and frankly, the recent deaths of many prominent musicians (Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Lil Peep), I hope that we, as fans of music and a society in general, can work to bring attention to the prominence and severity of mental health issues and work to create a space in which musicians (and fans) can more easily find help: a safe space for discussion and healing.
But today, Shawols, the Kpop community, and music lovers mourn the loss of an icon.
Be in peace, Jonghyun. You are deeply loved and deeply missed.
As is to be expected, as time goes on, we find out more about this tragedy. It has just been released that Jonghyun left a will, of sorts, to be released upon his death. I leave a link to the best translation I could find here.
My heart aches even more.