Now that White Day is over and all the commemorative confections have been bought clean off the shelves, you would think the romantic festivities in Korea would dwindle down. Leave it to the ever so amorous singing group 4Men to throw a 3-day "White Day After Party" to keep the love celebration going.
Contrary to their group name, 4Men is actually a trio, widely popular for their moving ballads and R&B tracks. The group originally debuted in 1998 with four members and continually changed teammates until a decade later, the current three members, Shin Yongjae, Kim Yeongjae and Kim Wonju, came together to carry out the official activities of 4Men. Many of their tracks are featured in popular Korean dramas and sitcoms such as Bad Guy (나쁜 남자) and Family's Honor (가문의 영광), as well as recent reigning drama Secret Garden.
Simply speaking, 4Men is an incredibly powerful vocal group and enough reason to stay current in the ever-changing Korean music scene. With firm, yet flexible control over their intonations, dynamism and harmony, their live-performance potential puts them on a completely different level from other popular Korean groups. When they opened the show with "U" and "Vision of Love (너의 웃음 고마워)" their vocals completely blew me away. Their booming voices just echoed throughout the venue, taking you by the heart and shaking your core. I didn't even realize I was in a daze until after they finished the song.
The Woori Art Hall is an excellent venue for this sort of heart-grabbing vocal performance as it provides such an intimate setting, immersing the audience into the music as it reverberates between the closely spaced walls.
On top of their impressive vocal ability, 4Men showed the audience their down-to-earth side with their cheesy humor and heaps of fan service. Chatting with the audience, the group casually joked with comments like "So who received candy for White Day? All of you? [pause] You know, your dad and brother don't count." and "Why are there a few empty seats? Those couples must be out on a date… probably didn't hear about our after party or something…"
Lightening up the mood, 4Men moved into a medley of upbeat love songs including "Knock Knock Knock (똑똑똑)" and "My Girlfriend (내 여친)." The band began with very light instrumentals, only featuring the drums; the focus was solely placed on 4Men's voices carrying the soft, lilting melody. Once they reached the lyrics "I'll wake up every morning and make you breakfast," the group put on some aprons and went out into the crowd, singing and passing out candy. However as soon as they finished, they quickly noted, "Please enjoy the candy, but wait until you're outside because you can't eat it in here" -- evoking laughter.
A clever transition during the show was when 4Men played a video of a staged radio segment in which they invited a couple onstage and it turned out to be an actual marriage proposal. As the man began his speech to his girlfriend, the instrumentals trickled in, and the group re-entered the stage singing an appropriate track "Confession (고백)" around the couple. Each wearing grey, pink and red cardigans over long sleeved collared button ups, 4Men had changed into bright Valentine's Day themed clothing to fit the romantic mood. What better way to commemorate love during a concert than to throw in a real live marriage proposal? (and yes, she accepted!)
No love celebratory concert can go on without bringing a few girls onto stage for a sweet serenade. As all three invited girls answered they were single, lead vocalist Yongjae said "Then for the next 5 minutes, we will be your boyfriends" and they proceeded to sing their famous classic "Baby Baby." Throughout the song, they provided some high quality fan service, pulling everything out of the book -- from handholding, hair petting, face stroking, hugging, to photo taking. Getting close and personal, Yongjae even sat on his "girlfriend." I wouldn't exactly call that romantic, but silly enough to be noted.
Out of their amazing set of roughly 20 songs, "Reason (이유)" was one of the most well-received songs. Featured on the Secret Garden soundtrack, it was a track that everybody was familiar with. As the ballad is about a man coming to terms with his feelings and deciding to confess and fully devote himself to his lover, the song is filled with many emotional dips and rises, as well as prolonged impressive notes. Moreover, 4Men's delivery showed fine attention, matching their vocal strength to the dynamic changes of the song, never going overboard.
Another personal favorite of the night was "It Won't Do (안되는데)." The song started off soft and slow as Yongjae eased in, and then Yeongjae and Wonju picked up the pace, volume and intensity with the band following suit. The highlight of the performance was the group's smooth and effortless interweaving of vocals in time with the pacing and progression of the song. The quick passing of the focal singing role between the members was seamless and displayed the desperation and fear of losing a lover. Also when the vocals collided and eventually intertwined at the peak, the release back down toward the end of the song was just as powerful as the climb, providing a deep, vibrant texture to the performance.
It was absolutely incredible that the group literally belted one song after the other with only the shortest of one-minute breaks in between (as a short video clip played). Without even breaking a sweat, their graceful, yet passionate performances were simply awe-inspiring. What's more, 4Men really let their vocals carry them through the show because honestly, they don't really need stage tricks to captivate the audience.
However, at some point, the group wanted to mix things up and show off their dance "skills" as well. To liven things up, they performed a cover of of Psy's "Champion" and "Right Now," bringing the audience to their feet as they bound around stage. Although Yongjae and Yeongjae faded in and out of the choreography, all eyes were on Wonju as he attempted to follow all the dance steps and got really into the moves. 4Men is by no means a dancing group, but how often does anybody ever get to see them have a good time, attempting to do it? As the audience was stunned in their seats from all their vocally remarkable songs, these fun dance numbers jolted some life back into the crowd as everyone danced along.
The 2-hour show also featured two guests, Mi and Lim Jeong Hee. Each performing a track from their recent releases, Mi sang a sweet, smooth song "Darling, I Love You (자기야 사랑)" and Lim Jeong Hee with catchy, upbeat track "Golden Lady." Both artists also performed duets with 4Men, and by bringing in fellow top female vocalists, the show covered all the bases, incorporating the female counterpart aspect to their love-centric show. In particular, the duet performed by Yongjae and Mi singing "That Man, That Woman (그 남자, 그 여자)" left me with tingles. The lighting played an instrumental role in supporting the song, as the lights were evenly split for each singer, one side in blue, the other in red. As the lights continually crossed paths throughout the piece, the lights would blend together at their meeting point, as their voices came together, creating a stronger visual affect to accompany the heartrending duet.
Of course, all good things must come to an end as 4Men closed the show appropriately with "I Love You (사랑해)" Bright white lights beamed down onto each member in honor of the White Day After Party theme, and they crooned "I can show you my everything," reaching and holding high notes like nobody's business. The requisite encore was a performance of "I Can't (못해)," during which the entire audience swayed in sync and sang along to the lyrics that were projected from a large screen. This last moment brought the artist and audience together before reluctantly parting.
Now that the White Day After Party is over, I'm not sure if I can get over this fluttery feeling from the show, or if I'll ever see any other concert that can vocally compare. From sweet love songs and heart wrenching tracks, 4Men really are connoisseurs at playing on heartstrings. After a show like this, what other way is there to celebrate White Day now?