DBSK's Vocal Prowess

Vocal strength is probably the single most important skill a vocal group (West)/Idol group (Korea and Japan, so I've heard) can have. Without the ability to sing damn good (especially for boy bands) there will be no ballads for fan girls to swoon over or cry their hearts out on and believe me, fan girls need their insanely corny ballads to survive. And besides, vocals are the one thing you can have to make you as credible as you can possibly be in the industry. If you don't write your own songs (because you don't know how to or because you're being controlled by some evil master guy *AHEM* Soo Man *AHEM*) or play any instruments, the one thing you can do to be musically credible is sing your head off and hope you hit some long, high notes here and there. Dancing and performing is second nature - to be a good performer you need strong live vocals and that's pretty hard.
As I've said on Twitter and even here numerous times, DBSK are probably the most vocally outstanding boyband I have ever heard. But then again I came from a Westlife addiction and the only ones who could ACTUALLY sing were Shane, Mark and formerly Brian but even Mark was a bit too much. So let me take the time to properly explain to you guys exactly what I think of their voices.

One point I have to raise before I start is that most of them (apart from Yoochun and sometimes Yunho) sound almost exactly the same live as they do recorded - I'd say about 95% on an average. So that's a start - they can actually, actually sing. What a surprise. Hahah.

I've ranked the guys from what I think is worse to best. OK? OK.

U-Know Yunho
Named the dancer in the band (though I've began to doubt that since a friend told me Junsu was better but then again, what the crap do I know about dancing?) aside from being the leader of this whole operation we call DBSK, Yunho has been known to have visits to the doctor like a gazillion times a year because his throat swelled up really big just before DBSK debuted. Apparently before that happened he had a gorgeous voice but obviously I don't know because I haven't seen any footage of him singing prior to the incident - all his audition clips on YouTube are of him dancing, not singing.

What does his voice sound like now? There's a term for that in my native tongue - ipit (pronounced ee-pit with accent on the 'ee'). It's like his vocal cords being stretched, pushed against each other and something to that extent. If his voice before is what people say it was then the strange-ish sound of his voice now may be a result of his nice timbre being damaged (naipit in Filipino). Still, I have to say that it's better than Nicky and Kian Westlife's voices will ever be.

One of his performances as a rapper before he debuted in DBSK. He's rapping (duh) so I don't really know what his singing sounded like back then.

Max Changmin
Almost everyone in DBSK has a role - Yunho's the dancer, Yoochun's the rapper, Jaejoong the one with insanely brilliant vocals and Junsu's the other vocal guy. So what's Changmin? Well I have a theory/nickname for him - he's the guy who just HAS to scream every single time. No really, he screams in Mirotic, Rising Sun (like a million times), Tonight, O and every possible DBSK song you could ever imagine. Some screams may be more obvious than others(*AHEM* Rising Sun *AHEM*) but trust me, they're there. If he keeps on screaming that most probably means Soo Man thinks he has a high voice (he can't do falsettos like Jaejoong does though) - high enough to keep up all that screaming.

His singing voice is not bad but it's like Yunho mixed with Jaejoong with a lot more Yunho and about 1/4 shrillness to add to his mad range. The guy can sing, everyone in DBSK can, and if he was in a band like Super Junior or Blue or Westlife he'd probably be one of the best. However, these guys are just really, really good.

Although you gotta hand it to the guy, the fact that he can sing AND scream his head off within around 5 minutes during a live performance is pretty impressive.

fanvid with some of his screaming parts:

Rising Sun, the infamous video/song where Changmin screams way too many times to count.

Micky Yoochun
The guy writes lyrics (don't care much for them but whatever.) and came from America (people make a big deal about that but he doesn't actually speak English very well) but he does have a nice voice, to a certain extent. Recorded his voice sounds great - nice timbre, a bit husky and fits well on an R&B number but whatever you do, DO NOT let the guy loose live. He's not like Mark Westlife to the point where your ear drums explode but he does tend to scream and make all these unnecessary and unidentified growling sounds if he gets a moderately high but not too high part - it annoys the heck out of me. (proof is all the way at the bottom of the post.)

Speaking of his live performances, they sound strange - a lot more nasal and air-y than the recorded versions. If that's the case then their record producer must know a very good sound engineer to successfully auto-tune but not make it sound like it's auto-tuned all his singing parts and make it seem like hardly anything but the necessary was done.

Xiah Junsu
Everyone's gushing about this guy's voice - I disagree about 40% of the time. Yes, the guy's better than the other three but he only sounds really good when he's not screaming his head off. And if his vocals are auto-tuned, they sound extra good which can be a bad thing because then his voice would only sound good auto-tuned like Taeyeang Big Bang. Nice timbre, nice range, his recorded stuff sound about 96% the same live and vocal gymnastics are like child's play to him. Needless to say, the guy's good but not as good as someone we know (we'll get to him later).

Another problem I've had with this guy is something I noticed from the very beginning - like a lot of other bands, he's the guy with the way too excessive voice. No really, it can get too much at times and he has little control over what comes out of his mouth. He can't let loose like Changmin either because he's not the screamer and he doesn't have the shrillness that Changmin also has so he's really overdoing it.

However he does have his moments.

Now on to the guy I've been calling the GOD of vocals in DBSK,
Hero Jaejoong
(!!!!)
Not everyone knows this as a solid fact (I think, it's not listed on wiki) but Jaejoong is DBSK's lead vocalist (if you weren't around during my K-pop special and you're not reading PRN because of K-pop, Korean bands have all sorts of 'positions' - lead dancer, lead vocalist, leader, lead rapper. It's not what we're used to in the West but what can we do? hahah) . But before I delve into his vocals alone, can I just say that Jaejoong is a musical quadruple threat? Yes, you heard me right - quadruple. The guy sings (like duh), plays the piano and guitar, writes (as in composes) songs and RAPS. Yes, he RAPS (Wrong Number - he takes the first rap part) and yes, he COMPOSES (His room in Korea is a mini recording studio. I've seen pictures) and HE HAS THE BEST VOICE IN SM ENTERTAINMENT. No really, I'm not kidding.

You obviously know the phrase "he can sing the phonebook/alphabet/anything else that you never attempt to sing and it would still sound damn good". Well I think it was created for this guy. He can do R&B, ballads, serious DBSK world domination songs, and ROCK. Who's ever heard of a guy who makes his band members' voices sound boring and one-dimensional when they do a rock remix of one of their hits? And it's smooth, SO DAMN SMOOTH.

His vocals first caught me when I heard O - the semi-middle 8 he did with Junsu (the one talking about the universe and trust and trees) is to this day one of the most brilliant song parts EVER. And he has this mad range (see an early single of theirs: Tonight. It was on the Rising Sun review I did a while back.) - he can sing comfortably in a woman's range! (see: his and Yoochun's tribute to legendary Japanese rapper m-flo.)

EDIT: Although, his vocals at the beginning Purple Line stands as one of the most annoying parts ever - I actually thought he sucked when I first heard it. But everyone except Junsu had a really crap part on that! Great song though, if I may add. END EDIT

Proof that the guy can sing rock? Here:

The rock remix I was talking about where Jaejoong made the rest of DBSK sound boring and crappy. This is also the performance that proved to me that Yoochun should never be let loose live.

But whatever bad things I say about the other members' vocals, they sound damn good together. When you do watch this, please make sure not to faint when Jaejoong hits that high note just before the last chorus - you have to read the last part! See:

Which leads me to an issue/a point I've wanted to talk about for a long time now (yes, this post has a hidden agenda) - DBSK are most probably not only SM's biggest Asian earners but the most vocally talented boy band in the company. Lee Soo Man will never find another band like them who are as talented apart as they are together and have the chemistry that these five guys have. I promise you, SHINee are a completely different band and they may excel in the genre they're going for (now) but DBSK are in a league of their own - the quality of the vocals is just so different and they're really, really strong performers.

Soo Man should really cling to these guys for dear life because frankly they're the best he has and he probably will ever get, no joke. They write their own stuff, sing damn good, their fanclub is the biggest in the world and they're (most of the time) loyal to him - the guy couldn't ask for more.

With this lawsuit going on I'm honestly really scared about their future but if Soo Man is really the businessman that he says he is, he'd at least keep these guys for the money they bring in. As long as they keep on giving us good music I don't care what reason SM has for keeping them - I know what they can do and the rest of their fan base does. That's enough.

33 comments:

  1. I disagree. Most people talk about how Jaejoong sings like a god while less talk about Junsu. Jaejoong doesn't rap well and he doesn't play guitar(where did you hear that? if he did, it's not good I'm sure). You seem pretty biased to Jaejoong but you don't seem to know much about DBSK. What do you mean Junsu has little control over his voice? He can control and adjust it to a low tone to fit the song, he can make it perfectly harmonized with other singers, and he can make any tone sound like it was the original. I love Yoochun the most but I agree, his lives are different when he goes high. But his voice is definitely not altered in the songs. When he sings in a quiet place with less audience, he sounds pretty much the same. I guess it is your opinion, and a lot of people agree Jaejoong is the best, but you sound like you've eliminated the other member's because you like Jaejoong's voice so much.

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  2. Your opinion, it's fine.

    But don't you dare tell me I don't know what I'm talking about. Don't you even try. I do my research - I'm not stupid, thank you very much. You're entitled to your own opinion but telling me I don't know anything is crossing the line.

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  3. I said nothing about you not knowing what you're talking about. I only said that you don't SEEM to know MUCH about DBSK.

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  4. Hello, I don't get the DBSK thingy going on but I gotta agree with you with the Hero being the best singer there. I think you posted DBSK's Why Did I Fall In Love With You MV in the past before and I think he really sound fantastic in that song. =)
    Oh, suggestion, how about a round up of SNSD and SuJu next? LOL. I'm all for Tiffany and Kyuhyun. LOL.

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  5. FINALLY! Hahah. Someone agrees with me.

    That sounds like a very, VERY good idea. Although I might have to split the posts because there are way too many of them! Hahah.

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  6. my god, that was massively comprehensive!! (says the blogger who cannot do a short post to save his life!) Very interesting read - you examine people's vocal abilities the same way I examine piano in a pop song; because you know what you're talking about! I'm not vocally proficient, but I know some mean and technically proficient and amazing piano work when I hear it!

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  7. Hahah. I was going for comprehensive!

    Thanks for the defense (if it was a defense.. hahah.) and I didn't know you play the piano! I stopped after a few years and went over to singing in a choir and music blogging! hahah.

    And who do you think has the best voice? I wanna know.

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  8. Oh sorry, I meant to say, I'm totally with you on Hero. Absolutely :)

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  9. I wrote a response to your post here: http://mrckdexter.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/response-dbsks-vocal-prowess/
    Would you mind taking a look?

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  10. Hey, I just recently stumbled upon your blog and I really enjoy reading your perspective on Pop Culture. :P You made some good points on each of these guys, and as I was reading your entree, DBSK's "Bolero" kept coming to mind, which I think is another great song to refer to since it showcases not only all the member's voices, but what you think of them individually as well. Good review, and you have a nice line-up for the rest of your 'Vocal Commentary Special'. :D

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  11. MrCKDexter - Love it! hahah.

    mcroth - Thanks, glad you like it! 'Bolero' really is one of their strongest songs - the production on it is SO Japanese and the vocals are really just wow. Hahah.

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  12. i have to agree that jaejoong has got to be the strongest in terms of vocal prowess amongst the 5. but i would just like to point out a few things.. first, yoochun actually sounds better live but yes, only if he is in his best condition. second, yunho does not sound "ipit" to me. if you've listened to the acapellas and ofc, some of their lives he has a full voice but it's never stable. changmin, on the other hand, i have got to agree with you for a bit. he screams and he can not actually hit low notes as well as the other guys. junsu, yes, does not have very good control of his overly-vibrato-ed voice. and it actually takes time before you can get used to the shrillness of it. yes, i've used shrillness on junsu and not changmin, cos that's what i hear. jaejoong stumbles once in a while but nevertheless, most cassies would agree that he has the best vocals. what's the lead vocal title for in the first place, eh?

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  13. I would have found this post generally credible if not for the over JJ biasness -.-"
    Also ur reaction to soymilk's reply is a tiny bit extreme XD
    You should have just focused on the vocals cos mentioning stuff like quadruple threats when they ALL can play piano (especially when he's not outstanding compared to them), ALL compose and also the fact that he doesn't actually play guitar -.-" and that he's not much of a rapper is eh... o.O
    In fact the only one in DBSK that hasn't rapped live in a dbsk song is changmin.
    I've no idea how you got the impression that people don't know JJ is supposed to be the main vocalist...
    ALL Cassie knows, unfortunately for him however most still consider Junsu as the better vocalist, along with other artists and critics. Its beause of this reason that over time reporters and non fans begin to think of Junsu as the main vocalist ^^"
    Frankly their debut concept was there be NO main vocalist that it changes depending on the song so i've no idea why you think the idea of him "supposed" to be main vocals means anything by abilty o.O
    i have more to say but there's no point arguing since its mostly opninionative and with ur mindset i don't think it'd be very productive...

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  14. Seriously, I love you.

    I do because you just speak my mind in a much more well put way than I can ever manage to.

    I do because you know your stuffs and do let your feelings intervene *ahem too much ahem* into your comments.

    Even though my love is with Jaejoong, I agree more with your 2.0 version though. Techniques make a HUGE DIFFERENCE on junsu's part. He is the best singer now - not that JJ takes any less space in my heart.

    Still I love you. If you happen to be a girl, well, we can be like JJ and yunho. ^.^ But seriously if one day JJ comes and confesses to me, you are out ok, awesome as you are.

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  15. Forgot to mention. High five on the purple opening by JJ. That part really reduced his manliness in my eyes by 0.000000376% (and that proves how crazily bad it is!)

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  16. Some of the videos are broken ;-;

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  17. About the Yoochun thing. I think he is best suited for second voice. If you will listen to Kiss Mashita Sayonara, when he sings the "naite" part, you will discover that he shines when his voice is on the background. He is also well-suited for RnB, and maybe not much of ballad. It actually depends on the genre. And the nasal or airy thing is a technique. Actually, Jaejoong's singing voice is nasal.
    Junsu, is meant for ballad. And for ballad only, since he shines there.
    Well, Jaejoong, I admire the guy for his versatility. He is my favorite DBSK singer.
    The thing about Yoochun is, he carries the group's harmonization. The members have already mentioned that when Yoochun writes a song, he knows fully well the range of the member's voice.
    And if you'll listen to Unforgettable and My Little Princess, I think you'll admire him there. I think he changed his voice technique. During the My Little Princess days, his voice was not of the airy, nasal type.
    And one more thing about Yoochun is, when he sings you can feel the sorrow and the happiness of the the song. There is a definite emotion on it.
    Well, DBSK's the best vocal group in Korea, I guess. :)
    Most of the things you said, I agree to it. :) Thumbs up.

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  18. Hi! I loved your post; and I agree with most parts, but I think that Junsu's also a good singer! Although Jaejoong has crazy-good voice, but Junsu also has an amazingly good voice. He got voted as the #1 best idol singer out of all the groups by vocal trainers in Korea, and he got second place this year, while Jaejoong (unfortunately ㅠㅠ) was not on the list. And I know it's your opinion, but...I don't think that part's true :[

    Also, Yoochun's voice is really good at times, but sometimes he just sings at a slightly off-pitch...but he always tries his best like the other members, and that counts the most. And anyways, all the DB5K members have their own personal talents and their voices are all good ^^

    And poor Yunho, he must feel so uncomfortable sometimes...and I agree with the screaming Changmin thing, he screams so many times...
    I sometimes think that SM should give Changmin shorter scream parts...'cause honestly, I'M the one feeling stressed sometimes when Changmin does his scream :P

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  19. well, though there are some points that I disagree with you, it's a great post actually. it's one of the rarest post i've seen about dbsk which talk about both their good and bad sides. thanks for sharing on the net! :)

    PS: have u ever listened to "Remember"? it's one of their greatest ballad (for me) beside bolero. what do u think?

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  20. Heeya came across your blog on McRoth's Residence and really like it so far^_^
    I think your ranking is really accurate even if I know heck about music, as long as I can enjoy it it's okay for me. I like Junsu voice, but I think Jae have a little something that carry emotion better than XIA can do.

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  21. I like your opinion but if i were to put worst to best, i would go:
    5. Yunho
    4.Yoochun
    3.Changmin
    2.Jaejoong
    1.Junsu

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  22. Oh well, write a ver2 if you have time. Thanks ^^. i will never leave a comment in this post if u don't claim you are TVXQ's fan tbh.

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  23. Sadly I know DBSK way too late... I read that DBSK name everywhere since like years ago but never really mind to take a peek on them since I was totally blinded by SuJu and I regret it now.
    I know only a little about those guys but I def agree. They're the best performers EVER!!! I saw some of their live performance and was like W.O.W!!!! I was awed by their awesomeness!! They can seriously sing!! All of them!!! Even in N Sync who I used to think the greatest boyband ever, only JC and Justin can really sing. Dbsk dance like crazy while singing and their vocal are still stable as hell. Krazee! And JaeJoong, I knew him from tv serial and was like, hahaha he's too gorgeous, impossible that he can sing, later on he shut my big mouth with his great great great wonderful voice. I also looooove Junsu's voice, I think it's quite unique but he reminds me of bruno mars a little bit. TOO TOO TOO BAD they split up...

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  24. I read dbsk dbsk tvxq tvxq everywhere and I heard people say that group's name but never really mind to take a peek at them until a few days ago and when I watch their video I was... Rather speechless.. Don't mean to exaggerate but they SERIOUSLY ARE great!! I def agree with you about JJ. When I first saw him on his drama series, I was like "he's too gorgeous there's no way he can sing.. This is a joke that he's in a band" but then, JJ is the last one to laugh.. He successfully shut my mouth with his brilliant live performance. Very strong vocal ability I must say. And its also crazy that all of them yes ALL of them can really sing and all of them are great in performing live and I also agree, they sound 95% percent the same like the recorded ones..
    It's a mourn that they split up.. They were incredibly awesome together.

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  25. actually junsu is the main vocal of tvxq. which is better than lead singer.

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  26. All in all, great review. You were objective about their abilities. But I can't help but feel you're a little biased towards Jaejoong. I once heard someone said that Jaejoong was only a mediocre singer because he had and I quote "Bad technique. Mediocre postures while singing ruining his support and co-ordination. Nasal placement but not good to be called nasal resonance."

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  27. i would say the whole post is pretty good and its honest but i believe the jae-biased really ruins your whole chance of presenting an objective view. i mean, saying that jae is the best vocalist in SM is kinda... erm... yaknow... >.< and godness no jae's raps are so awkward XD but his rocks are fucking sexy. MINE is like *O*

    n chun is quite ok at singing live if u ask me. i like his different live singing a lot personally. but i was kinda uncomfortable at the start too :P

    i do agree with your ranking tho.

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  28. in my opinion actually junsu is the best among them..he has excellent technique and his voice is really good..

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  29. Hi, I just wanted to input my own opinion. I'm not afraid to say I'm also biased towards Jaejoong and his voice always sounds the best to me, I heard 'Why did i fall in love with you' first and his voice blew me away. However I'd like to say that the reason they were a group of 5 and they were so successful was because they all sounded good TOGETHER. Changmins screams add an element of power, yunho's voice adds a little bit of mystery, yoochuns voice adds sexiness, junsu's voice adds emotion and to me, jaejoongs voice adds beauty. I guess what is attractive to different people decides their own preferences. I've watched their lives countless times and I still believe they have the best live vocals I've ever heard by a long stretch. I hope they have a wonderful long musical career so that we're lucky enough to keep hearing their beautiful voices. ^^

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  30. Stumbled upon your blog 4 years later and yes... i super agree with your ranking!!!! :D I love JYJ

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  31. Is this based on order of their vocals, or your personal preference?

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  32. Many people (And vocal trainer) say that Junsu is the best singer and Jaejoong is the best voice. I agree with that. Doesn't mean I hate or dislike one of them. I do like all of them. Just say that Junsu can't copy jaejoong voice and Jaejoong can't sing like Junsu does ^_^

    even Junsu admit that Jaejoong voice make his voice become much much Good.
    So they complete each other and compete each other. and the result of course EQUAL.

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