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In Commemoration of M’s Comeback, Lee Min Woo’s Solo 10-year History

In Commemoration of M’s Comeback, Lee Min Woo’s Solo 10-year History
By Park Su-Jeong, 22nd Jan 2014

Singer Lee Min Woo is making a comeback not as the group Shinhwa but as the soloist M. 2014 marks Shinhwa’s 16th anniversary and his 10th anniversary (actually 11th) as a soloist, and Lee Min Woo is releasing a special album ‘M+TEN’ in commemoration of his 10-year anniversary. This “Solo 10-Year History” is prepared in commemoration with the comeback of Lee Min Woo, who is a pioneer amongst idols.

If you mention Shinhwa’s Lee Min Woo, you can’t help but think about dance. From their debut song ‘Problem Solver’ to the voguing dance for ‘This Love’ in 2013 which generated a lot of interest, Lee Min Woo has always personally taken an active role in the dance choreography. But Lee Min Woo is a member who has also made rapid improvement in his vocal skills. Being in charge of the strong (vocal) part in Shinhwa’s 2nd album “T.O.P”’s opening introduction as well as being in charge of the climax of the bridge in “Perfect Man” in the 5th album, his own vocal capability slowly unveiled itself. Furthermore, he had a strong musical desire to write songs to be included in Shinhwa albums. To Lee Min Woo, who has shown to excel in everything - dance, music and even production, a solo album was a very good opportunity to best showcase his capabilities. If we thoroughly analyze the solo albums that he released, we can see for ourselves his true musical ability.

# Start of M’s Solo Activities: :2003 Un-touch-able

Album cover of Lee Min Woo’s First Album

Lee Min Woo picked “Just One Night” as his title song for his first solo album. Oh Yoon-Ah, then more famous as a racing model than an actress, featured in the music video and her kiss scene with Lee Min Woo generated a lot of interest. ‘Just One Night’ is a song which reveals Lee Min Woo’s strong voice. All this while, he was known for Shinhwa’s powerful group dance and strong image. On the contrary, the jazzy feel of the R&B song “Just One Night” completely stood out with Lee Min Woo’s smooth, albeit thin, sweet voice.  Actually Lee Min Woo’s voice which gently melts women’s hearts can be heard in the opening introduction for 'I Pray 4 U’ in Shinhwa’s 5th album but in “Just One Night” that sweet voice was even more distinct. To Lee Min Woo who was starting out as the soloist ’M’, “Just One Night” was without a doubt a good choice which revealed the charms of his voice. “Biya”, his follow-up song was a song which had “Just One Night”’s tenderness but with a hip-hop style. Having revealed that he has always liked “black” music, this was a song which reflected his musical taste.

# The Puppy-bong underneath his cool-water exterior, reversal charms : 2005 If You…’

Cover of Lee Min Woo’s Single ‘If You’

If you felt the jazzy smoothness from “Just One Night” then the single “If You”, released in 2005, will without a doubt make you feel his cute tenderness. Especially in the music video, where he portrayed a man who is in love, Min Woo showed all of his adorable charms including his eye-smile. In “If You”, Min Woo showed his cute side for the first time, a complete change from his known image (cool guy) which was one of the secrets of his popularity, and received much cheers from fans. In particular, one of Lee Min Woo’s nicknames, 'Puppy-Bong’, a combination of the English word 'puppy’ and 'Bong’ from his other nickame 'Lee Min Bong’, is about his cute image. Through the music video for “If You” where he played with the popular dog mascot Sangeun from KBS2 Happy Sunday’s 2 Days 1 Night, “Puppy-Bong” was well-received.

# M who is ahead of his time : 2005 '2nd Winds’, 2007 'Explore M’

Lee Min Woo’s 2nd album cover (left) and 3rd album cover

His 2nd album and 3rd album was a transition period which simultaneously established his own musical identity, something which was truly “Lee Min Woo”. The title song “Bump” from the 2nd album and the title song “Stomp” from his 3rd album was of an uncommon genre in the music industry then. “Bump” which has a notably intense hip-hop beat was a song which Min Woo was inspired to write in only 10 minutes. Lee Min Woo achieved #1 in music shows and also became a singer-songwriter through “Bump”, and with the 3rd album, he firmly reinforced his musical style of pursuing an “intense sound” even more. However his 3rd album “Explore M” was unable to generate the same level of interest as the previous two albums. This was the side effect of Lee Min Woo having a sense (of music) which was far ahead of his time as compared to others. On the 20th, Lee Min Woo related the birth story of the title song for his solo 10th anniversary album, “TAXI”. He explained that “TAXI” was a song made 5 years ago but he wondered then if it was too far ahead of its time and seeing the response to the 2007 song “The M Style” after 3 years, he decided not to reveal “TAXI”. Lee Min Woo loves the intense style of “black music” but he needed to read the trends.

# Starting to read the trends : 2008 ’M Rizing’, 2009 'Minnovation’

Lee Min Woo’s 4th album cover (left) and 4.5th album cover

His effort at beginning to read the trends was revealed in 2008. “Don’t Trust Men”, the title song for his 4th full album “M RIZING” was a product which reflected the trend then. “Don’t Trust Men” was made by well-known composers Brave Brothers, but Lee Min Woo who completed his 2nd and 3rd album by himself began to find a compromise while working with other producers.  Something which appears to be more well-received by the public than the previous albums. But the tendency to make sudden changes was rather confusing. Lee Min Woo did not have a distinct style of his own. Via trial and error, through his 4.5th album, Lee Min Woo again began to strongly reveal his individual style.  He combined electronic sound, the then-trend, with his own style of an intense hip-hop beat. Here, Lee Min Woo put his whole heart into delivering the best performance. Lee Min Woo then prepared to complete his music to include both the current trend as well as the M Style and in order to express his determined resolution to brush off the weaknesses of his original work, he made a complete change including removing his name.

# 10-year veteran’s energy : 2014 ’M+TEN’

Lee Min Woo ‘TAXI’ Music Video Filming Site

Lee Min Woo is again in charge of the production of his solo album this time, 5 years since “Minnovation”. This album is the result of an accumulation of the solo singer’s know-how acquired over the past 10 years. It’s been 5 years since “Taxi” was preciously stored away for being too ahead of its time and it is now being revealed. Lee Min Woo is no longer restricted by his own musical style. He is only certain of the goal. Wanting music which allows him to breathe as one with the audience. He is someone who tends to think about the type of performance (to present) while listening to the music. Revealing his personal thoughts, when thinking about the performance, while insisting that the stage must be made with the music in mind, the “most important point is his desire to be breathing as one with the audience”. Will the wisdom acquired through his 10 years of experience, or rather 16 years as Shinhwa, shine through? The result will be revealed on February 6th.

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Article by Park Su-Jeong
Pictures by Paeng Hyeon-Jun
Photos provided by LiveWorks
Translation by Minnovated @ Twitter
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    'THE HEIRS' Cast | Winners from 2013 SBS Drama Awards.

NEW STARS: Kang Min Hyuk, Kim Ji Won, Choi Jin Hyuk.
BEST COUPLE: Lee Min Ho & Park Shin Hye
TEEN STARS: Park Shin Hye, Kim Woo Bin, Lee Min Ho