When TVXQ split in half, the opposing sides went in dramatically different directions. JYJ excelled at dramatic, self-composed vocal ballads, while HoMin proved that they were the charismatic masters of the stage with their bulletproof uptempos and slick R&B. JYJ have attempted to do more than just power balladry, delving into dance-pop and even collaborating with Kanye West at one point, but truth be told, most of their non-ballads have sucked harder than Dara did to get her record deal. (not surprising when HoMin have access to SM’s best resources, while JYJ, well, don’t.)
JYJ’s Junsu is determined to turn the tide by proving that he can serve up some uptempo fierceness just as well as Yunho with “TARANTALLEGRA”, the first single from his debut solo album of the same name.
When I first heard the title “TARANTALLEGRA”, I assumed that it was some nonsensical Engrish word Junsu invented because it sounded cool, but a quick Google search told me otherwise. Tarantallegra is the name of a dancing spell from Harry Potter of all places, so the bulk of the song’s lyrics are about the power of music and expression. It’s all very Brown Eyed Girls “Sixth Sense”, with a lot of interesting lines that fans are going to love interpreting. The line “music is all the same everywhere” could be about breaking down language barriers, while “now aren’t you tired of the world controlled by them” seems like an obvious dig at SM.
The song’s production, courtesy of Junsu and his brother JUNO, is the kind of sizzling hot urban-pop that died out after dance music took over. The thumping tempo remains the same for virtually the entire song, with an ominous orchestral line over the top and the occasional flourishes of electronica. With its solid pace, there’s no room for a big flashy hook, with the verse simply bleeding into a hypnotic, autotuned chant from Junsu and a repetitious rap from Asian-American Hip-Hopper FLOWSIK. It’s super dark and sexy, like the kind of song Michael Jackson might have done in the past decade if he were still young and full of swag.
To fit in with his new style, Junsu completely reigns in his big voice, delivering most of “TARANTALLEGRA” through sexy whispers and restrained singing. He lets go towards the end, but pulls back before giving too much. Everybody knows that Junsu can outsing almost any male vocalist out today, so I like how he’s tried something different and not relied on the safeguard that is his voice.
“TARANTALLEGRA” is definitely a banger that grows with each subsequent listen, but as hot as the song is, the music video is where it’s really at. As David Bowie and Prince taught us, if you do androgyny then you better own it, and Junsu does and then some. The 25-year-old rocks a wardrobe that Adam Lambert would kill for, sporting heavy jewellery, guyliner, an ever-changing hair color, and baring his chest at every possible opportunity. He even briefly dresses up as the female version of himself at once point, which is just as bizarre and bold as it is awesome. His eccentric wardrobe all ties in with the video’s highly-sexualised Gothic concept, which was reportedly inspired by the Viennese musical Elisabeth.
Junsu really sells his dramatic new image with some of the most badass choreography I’ve seen all year. The moves are unique and edgy, and Junsu’s execution is tight and fiercely professional. Sex was clearly running through the choreographer’s mind when he created the routine, so Junsu ends up coming across like a male Janet Jackson as he thrusts and humps the air in unison with his small army of backup dancers. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy do pussy pops this good — whenever they try, they either look too sleazy like Chris Brown, or too hideously effeminate. Junsu looks perfect, and I never found him even slightly attractive until seeing this clip.
Rihanna / HyunA / RaNia / Beyonce WHO?
The whole thing is totally X-rated by Korean standards, but Junsu knows that TV won’t play the video anyway thanks to SM, so he’s just gone ‘fuck it’ and gone all out, and I love it.
With a song this good, an artist this talented, and choreography this bold, it’s all the more of a crime that Junsu won’t get to perform on music programs with everybody else. At least Junsu can comfort himself by knowing that he served up one of the hottest K-Pop tunes of the year, and he didn’t need to blow Lee Soo Man to do it!