With the Christmas period slowly coming to an end and the new year just around the corner, it is important to remember those who will not be moving on with us. In the modern day of invasive technology and overwhelming press, celebrities all over the world are having to find ways to cope with the growing pressure put on them by the media. Unfortunately, sometimes, the struggle becomes too much and leads to the tragic and heart-breaking reality that some celebrities can no longer live this kind of life anymore. With all the artists in the music world already gone in these recent years, one recent death has shattered the hearts of many and left a feeling of emptiness we can only console with one another.
Jonghyun is most known for being a member of the K-pop group, SHINee, as well as being a solo artist, radio host and author. Born April 8th 1990 in South Korea as Kim Jong-hyun, Jonghyun saw fame over many medias and multiple layers of success as an artist. On December 18th 2017, Jonghyun took his own life due to reasons people believe are related to a long time battle with depression. The details of his death will not be discussed in this blog post out of respect for the sudden and recent loss felt by family, friends and fans, but I believe it is important to highlight the life and achievements of a beloved musician.
In recent years, Korean music has made its way over to both the UK and USA to enter the mainstream and become the new music playing through everyone’s earphones. Bands like BTS, Exo and, of course, SHINee have propelled the genre of K-pop into the western music chats where it only continues to rise to the top. Jonghyun was a large part of this movement with his work as a vocalist in both SHINee and his participation in the group project S.M. The Ballad.
Jonghyun began his musical career in 2008 when he was chosen to be a member of the boy group, SHINee along with Lee Tae-min, Choi Min-ho, Key and Onew. Jonghyun quickly established his place in the band and by 2009 was writing lyrics and was the lyricist for “Juliette” the group’s fourth Korean single. The translated lyrics (from Korean to English) are a beautiful arrangement of a burning confession of love, unsurprisingly influenced by the classic Romeo and Juliet story. Jonghyun explained he wanted to create something people could relate to and saw the iconic story as something everyone could understand. SHINee, along with Jonghyun, soon began to cause a storm with their fashion trends spreading among students and their music reaching overseas. The band have been highly praised for their insanely synchronized and intricate dance routines as well as being labelled for being one of the best live vocalists in K-pop.
With the success of SHINee behind his back, Jonghyun began development on other projects such as providing vocals for the song ‘Let’s Go’, which was written with the intent of increasing public participation in the 2010 G-20 Seoul summit. Along with this, Jonghyun has been recognised for his support concerning issues that are otherwise frowned upon. For example in 2013, Jonghyun changed his Twitter profile picture to an image that indicated support for the LGBTQ+ community despite receiving negative backlash from a Korean website claiming to be members of the SHINee fanclub. In 2013, Jonghyun also found his talent as a composer with the song ‘A Gloomy Clock’ that was featured in IU’s third Korean album, Modern Times. This led to another piece called ‘Red Candle’ that was composed and written by Jonghyun. In 2014, S.M. The Ballad returned with Jonghyun being the only original member.
By this time, Jonghyun had quite the history, talent and experience behind him and decided to begin working on his own solo album. In January 2015, he released his debut solo album, Base, which was quickly devoured positively by critics. The album peaked at first place on both the Billboard’s World Album Chart as well as the Gaon Album Chart. Jonghyun soon began working alongside other popular artists such as Exo and Lim Kim, acting as a songwriter and composer for both.
After conquering the music world, Jonghyun moved onto new but not completely unknown territory with his experience as a song writer. September 2015 saw the publishing of Skeleton Flower: Things That Have Been Released and Set Free, a book containing Jonghyun’s experiences and inspirations. In October 2015, he was chosen as one of the top five K-pop idols through a survey conducted by forty anonymous music industry officials.
The shocking and emotionally charring news of his passing has left many fans lost and seeking solace in Jonghyun’s music. The very serious issue of depression in the celebrity world is sometimes overshadowed and forgotten until someone else is pushed too far. Jonghyun will be dearly missed by millions but we can hope his death highlights the dangers of ignoring mental illness in ourselves and those around us, and contribute to the world moving forward with a higher state of awareness.
By Skye W. Winwood