There’s a lot of nostalgia in the K-pop community for the original DBSK, but as someone who didn’t fully get into K-pop until the group split in half, I don’t share the same sentiment. I love DBSK, JYJ, and the two-member TVXQ all for different reasons, but TVXQ is easily my favourite.

With DBSK’s strongest vocalists JYJ gone, Changmin and Yunho were left with no choice but to relaunch themselves as a slick performance group, with the focus on their charisma and powerful choreography instead of their voices. It’s also blatantly clear that TVXQ’s overhaul was based on Yunho, the group’s leader, K-pop’s best dancer, and the most charismatic male idol since Rain.

With Yunho’s existing skillset as a blueprint and the beautiful and talented Changmin by his side, SM Entertainment was able to turn TVXQ 2.0 into pop music’s greatest performers and the biggest Korean act in Japan.

I’ve always felt that Changmin and Yunho are more like one person, two halves that fit together to form the perfect pop star, so it never really bothered me that Yunho didn’t get to go solo despite his massive potential.

Yunho, just one year shy of 30, finally enlisted for his mandatory military service this month, which left SM scrambling to rush out as much TVXQ content as possible to tide fans over until the duo returned. This was the catalyst for the long-overdue Yunho solo career, with an EP in Japan earlier this month (‘U Know Y‘) and a TVXQ album in Korea consisting of both group and solo tracks (‘Rise As God‘).

Yunho’s songs across both albums are range from good to incredible, and there’s no doubt in my mind that with proper live promotions he’d be delivering something akin to a Korean Michael Jackson (I say that sincerely).

Sadly that’s not going to happen, at least not for the next two years. Regardless, the sudden flood of solo Yunho music cemented something I’ve always known: Yunho’s the best male K-pop star since Rain, whether he’s alone on stage or sharing the spotlight with Max.

Instead of reviewing U Know Y and the near perfect Rise As God, I’ve selected some of the key Yunho cuts from both albums to highlight.

Champagne

“Champagne” is the jewel of Yunho’s solo singles and one of the strongest K-pop disco tracks in forever (yes, even better than Stellar’s nu-disco jaunt “Vibrato”).

There’s a lot going on in “Champagne” but producers Ryan S. Jhun and August Rigo make it sound seamless. Yunho opens with deliciously nasally talk-rapping then flies into falsetto for the chorus, while the music changes from disco-tinged dance-pop to a twisted trap-like slow grind.

Like “Something” and “Spellbound,” “Champagne” has an MTV style dance-break on the bridge; snares and synths rain down as Yunho performs with a neon pink cane like some techno candy version of Singin’ In The Rain.

It’s one of the best music videos of the year, not to mention the best male solo single too.

Burning Down

Like most pop stars, Yunho’s idol is Michael Jackson, but unlike most pop stars, Yunho is one of the few that does the King any justice.

Most of the tracks from U Know Y are all clearly MJ-inspired, including lead single “Burning Down,” which is surprisingly one of Yunho’s weakers songs. It’s more filler than Thriller, so the main appeal is watching a dapper Yunho bust a move in the music video. The second he whips off his black leather belt and incorporates it into the choreography, you know you’re watching somebody who is an absolute master at their craft.

Tattoos & High Heels

It’s not hit material, but this is the song I would’ve liked to see as the lead single from U Know Y — if only just to see Yunho get his freak on for once.

I ain’t gonna make love to you, unless you beg me to do so,” sings a breathy Yunho over a fat, funky bassline. “Tattoos and high heels, scandalous and dangerous / Tomorrow, we will be strangers.

BRB, off to get a tattoo and a pair of heels.

Komplicated 

Produced by LDN Noise, the team behind SHINee’s euphoric “View,” with help from MonoTree (Stellar’s “Vibrato” and stunning new TVXQ track “Dominus”), “Komplikated” is hands down the second best new Yunho track after “Champagne.”

“View” was a bright, feel-good foray into ’90s house music, but “Komplikated” sits on the other end of the spectrum: it’s chic and dark. Swathed in pulsating house beats, Yunho’s voice echoes like he’s singing from inside a black tunnel. By K-pop standards there isn’t much of a chorus, everything just kind of bleeds into the next thing, much like how one feels when lost on the dance floor at 2am.

I’m bummed that this is the last new TVXQ music I’ll have for two years or more, but on the bright side Rise As God is so strong that I’ll probably still have it on regular rotation by the time their next album drops. It’s just that good.

  • KingBeaArthur

    My Max was played so incredibly hard in terms of his solo tracks vs. Yunho’s (especially when comparing the promo tracks). But the thing is, the songs work overall for the album and prove TVXQ are the top of the top in terms of consistency, quality, and replay value; easily SM’s reigning gods – followed by SHINee.

    It’s going to be a long two years but TVX2 have been, and will always be, worth the wait.

  • orto555

    this article makes it sound as though TVXQ can’t sing, when Changmin is easily one of the strongest vocals of original DBSK (along with Jaejoong and Junsu)

    sorry Yoochun, your vocals are fine, but definitely not the strongest.

    • He’s a great singer of course, even Yunho sings decently, but TVXQ really lost their main vocalists and at the time there was quite a large gap between the vocal talents of Yunho and Changmin (yunho thankfully improved over time) so SM made TVXQ into more of a performance group

    • oneclearnight

      I agree!! Plus Yoochun’s voice just keeps getting worse imo while Changmin’s control has improved with time and now he’s better than ever.

      Changmin was singing Bolero with Kyuhyun and Chen at a recent SMTOWN concert and nailed Yoochun’s parts better than he ever could.

  • That Komplikated song!!! I am loving LDN Noise’s kpop contributions; it’s better than the stuff they did for the Wanted guy. Wished the duo pulled off one last music show performance before heading to the army. Isn’t Changmin signing up in a couple of months too?

  • Duda

    I’m totally in love with Champagne too. I can’t stop replaying it.

  • Nicole Naeun

    To say that Champagne is the better than Vibrato is a little bit of an overstatement lol. Champagne is great though, I love it! My second fave would be the gay anthem of the year that is Komplikated.

    • Vibrato is actually my least fave of the Stellar Sweetune singles, minus Study. I even prefer Fool. But I still stan Vibrato.

  • kpopper

    Yunho is flawless tbh. The king indeed. I would say he gives a totally different vibe from MJ (I love MJ, he’s the best, but I think they’re pretty different, although his solo career does put out a little of MJ’s vibe but mostly just unique.)

  • UJum

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=oMhqIS8ms7c Look at this flawless performance, the king!!

  • Xin Fang

    Yunho’s performance in champagne is really king of king !What’s more , i think people miss his improving in singing after redebut of TVXQ as duo ,such as Tied ship in his solo CD ,love in the ice in Tistory concert .I never thought he can show such deep emotion just with singing ,which makes me cry by listening them .If there are someone doesn’t unpdate his information about Yunho ,don’t comment now plz research his vocals after 2011, i am sure you will be shocked by him !Finally , yunho you are the king of Kpop but you also are king of my life .Thanks always give me power in my life ,come back healthly ,i miss U sooooooo much !

  • NOX

    “King”?? hhhhhh It’s easy to call anyone king those days.
    You’re biased that it’s ridiculous, Yunho couldn’t sing at all before, he was like dancing and talking more than singing, the only good thing he’s ever done when TVXQ was 5 was only the vibrato in Bolero and honestly any other member could do it if not do it better. What happened is that Yunho tried to start signing decently after the split but when there’s no talent you can’t expect much even when you work hard. Yunho is not talented and he tries too hard to sound “good” but he fails miserably and his solos are a big JOKE! For some unknown reason SM is giving much credit to the duo when they do nothing but dance and scream(basically Changmin screams, yunho dances and makes weird sounds that they call “rapping”.) It’s becoming repetitive and annoying and if it’s not for the electronic feel and the choreo and some biased fans who enjoy Changmin’s same scream in every single song, they wouldn’t hold a candle to other rising groups .
    Being a good artist is not “singing solo” or “hitting high notes (basically screaming not even hitting high notes) . It’s maintaining a stable lines and going from one note to another effortlessly and smoothly , it’s having a special distinguishing voice and a great technique. Otherwise we talk about mere “performers”. Specially when everything is set by the company and the idol just follows instructions like a puppet.