January was a strong month for K-pop thanks to the surprise rise of AOA, Girl’s Day’s continued domination, and of course, the release of TVXQ’s tenth anniversary album. As expected, TVXQ had the best comeback of the bunch, with their unparalleled live performances giving them the edge over their otherwise flawless girl group competition.
Now it’s March and TVXQ’s back with their repackaged album, and this time they’re up against some far more formidable girl groups: 2NE1 and Girls’ Generation. Definitely not a good time to return if you want to shine bright like a diamond, but you know what? TVXQ WIPED THE FLOOR WITH THESE RAGGEDY ASS BITCHES! I haven’t seen such effortless slayage since “Keep Your Head Down” had the JYJ stans gagging back in 2011.
For their title track, the appropriately-titled “Spellbound,” TVXQ have stayed in the jazzy lane from January’s swing extravaganza “Something,” but shifted it into a more contemporary urban direction with a strong funk’n’b bounce. The saxophone squiggling is more Kenny G than Coltrane, but this is K-pop we’re talking about — the genre’s brand of big band soul is supposed to be impossibly slick and glossy. It’s like being in a cool cabaret lounge listening to the band pay tribute to the legends, rather than listening to the legends themselves, and that’s totally okay.
The current version of TVXQ is often criticized for lacking the vocal prowess that the full five-piece was famous for, but it’s really just time for people to get over the good ol’ days and appreciate what we have now. Yunho’s nasally wailing is distinctive in a sea of samey singers and plays perfectly against Changmin’s boyish crooning. They can sing almost anything between them and pull it all off faultlessly live, so nitpicking at this point is useless.
Following the complex “Something,” which took repeated plays until most people really understood its brilliance, it was smart of TVXQ to return with something as instantly gratifying as “Spellbound.” It’s the kind of song that ropes you in from the first beat, although it definitely becomes more potent when the lyrics are understood — especially where the sexual innuendo is concerned.
“When I see you, this is how I feel,” sings Yunho. “It feels like something is empty, but what’s cool is that when I enter and fill you up, it feels perfect.”
Oppa can fill me up any day of the week, any hour of the day, any second of the hour, any millisecond of the second. Just sayin’.
The dance-in-a-box music video is really what Girls’ Generation’s “Mr.Mr.” video should’ve been, although it would’ve been completely unfair of SM to upstage the Divine Nine in such a humiliating way. As talented as they are, how could you put them –or anyone for that matter– up against TVXQ when it comes to choreography?
Even by TVXQ standards, the “Spellbound” routine is mind-bogglingly good. This kind of one-uppance seems to happen every time TVXQ makes a comeback — you expect that they won’t be able to top their previous release, and then somehow they manage to raise the bar each time to seemingly impossible new levels.
Individually, Yunho and Max have their weak spots, but together they’re utterly indestructible. To put it bluntly, they’re the greatest performers and entertainers in popular music since Michael Jackson.
Yeah, I said it.
Before you vehemently disagree, let me ask you this: Who else is there that can turn it out on stage today like TVXQ can? Beyonce? Hyperactive twerking and weave tossing does not maketh an MJ. Pink? She comes close, but her aerial acrobat act –as spectacular as it is– is a bit of a one-note thing. The truth is that there hasn’t been a pop star on TVXQ’s level in terms of performing and entertaining since Michael, Janet, Paula, and Prince ruled the ’80s.
Insert bad closing pun about being spellbound by TVXQ here.