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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.