I don’t know if you’re one to believe the correlation between dreams and soon-to-be bad experiences. After a few coincidences, I learned that my bad dreams were hints to a friend’s misfortune. At 6AM, I woke up, and the dream that I had just ended wasn’t the happiest. One of my good friends became upset over something and she cried. I was ready to tell her about it in the morning at a more reasonable time, but seeing the news that has spread like a virus seemed to explain it all. Her first love in Hallyu was Kim Jonghyun from SHINee.
SHINee is a Korean boy group created in 2008, the peak of KPOP and the beginning of a new era in terms of image as they embodied the innocent young face filled with talent. At some point when new groups kept debuting and fan wars became more prominent, it was brought to the public attention that KPOP’s least hated group was, in fact, SHINee. If you’re familiar with how fandoms in KPOP work, to be the least hated, in a sense, meant the most loved. This was not a group to incite sour feelings. This was a group who, at some point in our lives, we all listened to. Even without being called a SHAWOL, we can all admit that SHINee had a distinct brand of talent. This was one of the first groups of our time who we were able to stand alongside as they grew as musicians and as people.
Kim Jonghyun is no longer with us.
As the statement sinks in, I think back and regret. I regret slipping away from the fandom I had put years into. I regret letting this music become part of my past instead of blending it in with my future. I used to write while listening to One for Me, and I was infinitely inspired by the voices I heard.
But mostly, I remember something that Jonghyun once said, and it stuck with me because it had to have been the most impactful statement I’d ever heard from an idol.
“I want people to hear my voice and know it was Kim Jonghyun from SHINee.”
Forgive me, I’m typing from a foggy memory.
There are no words to accurately describe the sadness of losing someone. The passing of a dear friend or family member is like a foreign emptiness, and the place that is left vacant in your heart feels like it will forever be so simply because no one could ever replace you. And if the person lost is a musician, an artist, a figure you can only observe from a distance – the feeling is even more confusing to understand because there are no physical memories held with this person to keep close and flip through like a photo album. As fans, we are left with the materials and fantasies we started out with. These are our memories of you.
Losing you, Jonghyun, was like losing a best friend. But… you weren’t that best friend who we spoke to everyday. You were the best friend we always thought of but didn’t worry about until we realized that we should have done more to protect you.
Protecting an idol seems like a courageous job, and it is. However, we cannot truly know the right way to comfort an idol whose presence is ultimately still foreign to us until the end.
The questions and statements I will leave with you are concepts I’d love for you all to respond to in the comments or whatever way you can.
Does a musician whose words are permanently engraved into our memories ever truly leave us?
As international fans, this music is the hand that holds ours when we are alone. These are the shadows on our pillow at night that fill the empty space beside us when the only emotion we have to feel is loneliness. This is the loving embrace wrapping around us when we feel neglected, and this is the warmth on our cheeks when it feels as if we have only known the cold. The sun continues to rise even after his last breath was taken, and new shadows are cascading down the walls.
Rest in peace, Kim Jonghyun. May the moonlight kiss the tears you’ve been hiding away in secrecy until all that’s left is a fond memory of the happiness you’ve given to the world. We can only wish and pray that you knew this –
We heard your voice.
We hope you knew.
We heard your voice in the dark when no one else would listen, and we’ll keep playing your song even after you’re long gone and the seat beside us is cold once more.
We always heard you.
We knew it was you.
The goal you had – you achieved it. We’re so proud of you.
There’s no shame in shedding tears for a musician – for the music they create is simply God’s way of helping you find the emotion you need when no one else can.
Kim Jonghyun April 8, 1990 – December 18, 2017.