Watching MBLAQ perform, it is difficult to believe that they only have been performing for a little over two years.
They do not miss a single step or note; actually they are excellent dancers and singers. They have the power and the charisma that drive audiences wild. Everything about the five men _ Cheondung, G.O., Joon, Mir and Seungho _ belies the brevity of the group’s history.
Maybe it is thanks to their relative maturity _ three of them are now aged 24 and the other two just a year or two younger _ and the longer years spent training as hard as any other K-pop stars in the making, but their natural talent is undeniable. They have what it takes to be a star.
And that X factor manifested itself overseas first. Pitted against so many other boy band competitors since their debut, they initially found success, but no one could consider them No. 1 in the domestic market. Though handpicked and trained by one of Korea’s pop superstars Rain (stage name of singer-actor Jung Ji-hoon), that association could not propel them to the top of the charts right away. Meanwhile, thanks to the social networks and YouTube, fans started popping up all over the world, from East Asia to as far as Europe and Latin America.
MBLAQ members show what they’ve got on stage at a fan-only event in February. / Courtesy of J. Tune Camp
Google the band’s name: the Italian fan site shows up near the top. When they visited Brazil as part of a cover dance festival, over 3,000 fans showed up to the airport and 5,000 more at the hotel. They made the national TV news. When G.O. and Mir participated in a social service project in Peru last year, they came across a little girl who knew the words to their hit “Mona Lisa.”
As a response to such a high level of popularity, they are embarking on their first overseas tour this weekend, starting with Indonesia Saturday and continuing to Korea, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan.
Seungho (Photo: The Korean Times)
“It is our first overseas tour although we have done more gigs than we can count, here or abroad,” said Seungho, vocalist. “Nowadays it feels like we’re flying to foreign cities more than Busan … Maybe this tour will be our stepping stone to other places, too, hopefully America.”
They were candid with their worries about overexposure _ “We’ve shown ourselves so frequently and so much that we should take a step back some time,” said Seungho _ but such concerns only motivated them even further to dig deeper and bring something new to the plate.
Mir (Photo: The Korean Times)
Their lips were mostly sealed about the set list, but it was apparent that they were dying to talk about their solo segments, some new and others revamped materials.
“We’ll only show them to the fans who come to the show,” said G.O., vocalist, whose duet with rapper bandmate Mir will be released right before the tour. “It’s gonna be special.”
Joon (Photo: The Korean Times)
“My solo track will be unveiled (during the performance) as well,” said Cheondung, rapper and vocalist. “There’s both emotional lyrics and earsplitting beats. It’ll sound great and look great, too.” Jun, vocalist and formally-trained dancer, was rather reticent during the interview but chose to share that his solo number will showcase his best asset, his jawdropping moves.
With so much talent in every member _ and each of them openly acknowledging it _ do they feel, even at 2.5 years into their career, that they have already outgrown the group? Certainly not, they said.
Cheon Dung (Photo: The Korean Times)
“People talk about the downsides of being an idol (rather than a musician), but we feel it’s a blessing,” said G.O. “People know that our songs are difficult to perform. They can see that even as idols we can sing well.”
“I tend to look from a fan’s, an ordinary listener’s eyes,” said Seungho, who also blends this perspective with an open admiration for heavy metal. “We should also try to make songs that are easy to sing along, I feel.”
“Whatever opportunity comes my way, I want to try it,” said Cheondung. “I did my first solo photoshoot this time, which was a little awkward, but it felt new. I wrote my first song this time, and that’s really meaningful to me. I want to do this until the day I die.”
G.O. (Photo: The Korean Times)