There's one song in particular that fueled me to re-write and re-analyze their vocals - Tonight off their second album Rising Sun. It's a very difficult song to sing, especially the verses, because of all the vocal gymnastics you'd think the song entails when it's actually harder to sing the melody than scream like there's no tomorrow. These guys have to try and focus on just singing the actual melody while thinking of what to do next - the song gives them the freedom to adlib all they want at certain parts but it constricts them because one wrong note and everyone after you will self-destruct.
People think that the measure of a singer's ability is how many high notes he/she can hit the longest or the highest or the loudest or the quickest. I'll tell you flat out now that it's most definitely not. So what if the guys can hit a High HIGH Si/Ti, can they hit it properly? It's just like running before you know how to walk - you can't do that. No matter how good people say you are at the 'screaming your head off like you're gonna die if you don't' stuff and no matter how nice your voice is, you can't do something bigger than you.
Putting Tonight on their second album was a gamble and even to this day performing it is precarious - they only recently learned how to properly sing it.
Tonight I think taught them control. There's a time to let loose and literally scream your head off but there's a part where they just have to sing the melody and not make any mistakes there. It taught them the importance of getting the melody straight before starting to hit high notes left and right and I think that helped make them good singers. Yes, even Yunho.
The adlib part of this song was brilliantly orchestrated - each member takes pitch from the one before them, they have to learn how to depend on each other and not let any one member down because it's game over once that happens. The whole song will literally fall apart if just one of them doesn't hit a note. It's like that so no one goes all-out and does anything they're not supposed to be doing, which brings us back to the 'walking before you can run' thing - you need to lay down a solid foundation before you go and do all these crazy things.
As I'm writing this now I'm listening to the recorded version - performed in a controlled environment, processed, mixed and mastered. They sound fantastic and it seems like they can really pull off the song.
So let's take it part by part, starting with the adlibs at the beginning. In the recorded version Junsu starts singing a whole+half note (6 counts total) and Changmin bursts in with a haphazardly-hit whole note. Junsu sounds brilliant but Changmin, even on the recorded version that note was bad.
The verses are pretty well-delivered in the recorded version, to tell you the truth. They're on pitch, on key and sound fantastic. BUT, the one thing I noticed was that Jaejoong gets no parts during the verses which is very strange since he's lead vocals. My best guess is that he can't sing it, that simple, but we'll get to Jaejoong later.
The chorus is very, very simple and there's little problem there because Junsu's the one doing the adlibs most of the time and the guy lives for that. The middle 8 between Junsu and Jaejoong is decent as well because duh, it's Jaejoong and Junsu - if that part wasn't flawless I would've given up on DBSK.
Then the first set of adlibs. I rest my case that Changmin is the screamer in DBSK. He is. He screams real high, it's shrill and it hurts my ears at higher registers. Then Jaejoong shows him how it's done and delivers his first set of adlibs before launching into singing the top parts of the chorus and straight into another round of belting. Junsu + Yunho sound good, Jaejoong goes, Yoochun freaks out and Changmin bursts eardrums for the nth time. Then, it comes.
JAEJOONG'S FALSETTO. If there's one piece of technique that Jaejoong knew at the time, it's this. Perfectly delivered, somehow overlooked because the other 4 come in again but brilliant in every sense of the word.
That's the glorious recorded version and I'm sorry to ruin your mood but the 5 guys weren't really able to sing this well live until 2008 and even then the performance was overdubbed. Below are 5 different live performances - in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and late 2008/2009. None of them were mimed but just to show you the difference, the first video is of them miming the song a day before the video below it. Just so you know the difference. (note that there's text after all these videos so if you've seen all of these, just scroll down and get back to reading. Hahah.)
(November 12, 2005)
(November 12, 2005)
NOT MIMED performances:
November 13, 2005
November 25, 2005
(but they sang 'Purple Line' in the same concert so I'm guessing this was in 2008 as well)
As you can see and hear, it took a lot of time for them to learn how to sing the song - THREE YEARS. To tell you the truth, the 2007 performance of this was really painful to listen to. I'm not joking - I was cringing every few seconds because they just couldn't sing the damn song. Their 2008 performance wasn't perfect but it was competent enough to do justice to the recording.
One thing I have to raise though is the issue about Jaejoong's super high note at the end. I personally think he mimes that note about 95% of the time (see: performances in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009) because you watch the 2008 performance and he didn't hit the note. If he could do it before, why not then? It's mimed, that's the only logical answer.
I think there's a reason why they keep on performing this year in and year out and it's not just because of the parade of high notes.
Tonight not only taught them this and that and whatever, it shows us how the five have grown vocally. They weren't the best singers, they didn't all know how to sing, they may have had nice, high voices and wide ranges but Tonight is a song that documented how their vocals have matured and how they've learned to actually sing.
Now, what the effin' crap am I trying to say? DBSK weren't as good as they were being promoted at the beginning (all lead singer material? dream team? I think not.) but I think the fact that they were being pushed as insanely brilliant singers better than anyone else in their generation actually made them become some of the best in Asia - they had no choice. At a time when singing wasn't this good in idol bands, it was pretty ground-breaking.