Korean singer Se7en makes a comeback with his latest album which bears influences of the time he spent in the US
Three years ago, Korean singer Se7en was one of the biggest singers in the business, second only to superstar singer-actor Rain. But he gave it all up to pursue a career in the United States.
Fast forward to the present and the singer, whose real name is Choi Dong Wook, is holding court in Singapore to promote his new mini album of seven tracks, which includes a duet with Korean rapper T.O.P of the immensely popular boyband Big Bang.
While in Los Angeles, Se7en did not have the breakthrough that most artists hoped for.
He recorded three English songs including one, Girls, which featured American rapper Lil' Kim, but they did not make it to the American Billboard charts. There was a plan to record and release a full album in the US but the album release was postponed.
But at the press conference, the 26-year-old singer did not come across as bitter about his lack of success in the US. He said: 'I really liked it in the States and I would want to go back if there is an opportunity.'
'There were a lot of good times. The basic difference was the culture. I really liked working there. I never felt that it was work as it was fun and the music came out very naturally. Work in Korea just feels like work.'
It seems that his fans have not forgotten him.
The mini-album, Digital Bounce, peaked at No. 2 in Korea last year. Singers in Korea release mini albums, which introduce fans to their new music, to test the market.
Se7en, who is known for his powerful vocals and ballads, decided to go down the electronic and hip-hop path with Digital Bounce, which bears influences of the time he spent in the US.
He said in fairly fluent English: 'I made this album for my comeback in Korea and it's different from my other albums. When I was in the States, I learnt from really good producers, dancers and singers.'
Some of the musicians he worked with, besides Lil' Kim, include Grammy-award winning record producer Rich Harrison who has worked with Jennifer Lopez, and songwriter Rodney 'Darkchild' Jerkins. He said that since his return to Korea, he has been inundated with acting offers.
His last acting project was in the television drama Goong S, where he played a commoner-turned-prince who struggles to find his place in the royal family.
Se7en makes it clear that he wants to focus on his music and plans to start recording for his next album after promotions for Digital Bounce are done. 'If a role fits me, I will think about it. I just want to make good music.'
The Korean hunk might not have made it big in the US but at least he left with a good command of the English language. He answered most of the questions at the press conference in a language that he picked up only three years ago.
Reported by Rachel Boon for The Straits Time (Singapore) [accessible to paying subscribers only]
SE7EN'S LOVE STORY
Nine years on, the Korean pop star is still very much in love with his girlfriend Park Han Byul
KOREAN pop star Se7en has truly fallen in love.
And, well, he went on to fall on stage too.
The singer glowed at the press conference at Orchard Hotel on Saturday when he spoke of his most recent Valentine's Day.
This was just before he took a tumble during his hour-long showcase at St. James Powerhouse, during which he tripped over his back-up dancer's foot.
But luckily, the nimble singer with the killer dance moves wasn't hurt.
Se7en, whose real name is Choi Dong Wook, recovered quickly and put on a superb show for his local fans.
The 27-year-old heart-throb had come out two years ago to the Korean media about his relationship with sexy Korean actress-model Park Han Byul.
This was after private pictures of them - rumoured to be in their undergarments - were circulated on the Internet as a result of a successful hack into Park's blog.
The couple has been dating for nine years.
Said Se7en, with a cheeky grin, in English: 'Do you know that on Valentine's Day in Korea, men do nothing and only the women do all the work?
'They give, like, chocolates and stuff to the men. But on March 14, it's the White Day. On this day, it's the men's turn to romance the women.'
While Se7en was coy and wouldn't disclose what Park had given him, he said that he had received a lot of chocolates from friends and fans.
So what will he give to his lady love in return on White Day next month?
'I give her back some candy?' he replied to laughter from the media.
Se7en was in town over the weekend to promote his latest album Digital Bounce.
This marks his return to the Asian entertainment industry after having slugged it out in the US market over the last few years.
While Se7en has taken the K-pop industry by storm with his excellent vocals since his debut in 2003, his girlfriend is famed for her acting career.
The two were born just a few days apart, and Park, also 27, is best known for the 2003 horror film, Wishing Stairs.
Last year, she starred in Se7en's music video for his hit single, I'm Going Crazy.
In 2009, Se7en broke his silence about Park with an entry on his 'minihompy'.
A minihompy is an apartment-like space on Cyworld, a Korean social network service which allows its members to blog, upload pictures and interact with one another.
Wrote Se7en: 'I, Choi Dong Wook, have been in a relationship with Park Han Byul for seven years now.
'We started out as close friends during high school and (then became) lovers, supporting each other. Watching other stars' public break-ups, I felt it was right to keep my life private for her sake.
'Now I apologise for denying the prevalent rumours by claiming our love to be a mere friendship.
'I did not want to publicise our love in this unwilling way.
'However, from now on, I will be free of guilt and the uncomfortable thoughts of hiding my love for a woman while performing in front of masses.'
As for the private pictures that were circulated in cyberspace, Se7en explained to the Korean media: 'Park and I made a secret room in Park's blog to share photos and letters while I was away in the US for a long time.'
So, has coming clean about his relationship made him a happier man?
Se7en told the local media: 'Even though we've been together for so long, we're still the same people.
'We're just normal people living in Korea. But we're still not comfortable going out together.'
As proof of his loyalty to Park, he was quick to stress that he and Korean superstar BoA - who had also gone to the US a few years ago to forge a music career there - were merely good friends.
He added that the reason why they bonded was because they were both away from home in a foreign land.
If only Se7en wasn't so protective of his belle. He would then have heard that the actual question fielded by the media was actually about the hardships that he and BoA had faced while trying to make it in the US.
Having made his return to Asia, Se7en said that he didn't feel threatened by the possibility of his labelmates surpassing him in terms of popularity during his absence.
'I'm proud that they are making it big.'
But the difference between the US and Korea, he conceded, was that because work never felt like work in the US, 'the music came out naturally'.
Calling it 'chilling', Se7en admitted that in contrast, 'work feels very much like work' in Korea.
But what fans really want to know is, has their idol found his wallet yet?
Just last month, Se7en lost his wallet at a cafe in Seoul and went on his Twitter account to ask if anyone had found it.
He tweeted: 'I lost my wallet near the Cheongdamdong area near a cafe called Java City. It's a brown Louis Vuitton money clip wallet.
'It has credit cards and my identification card with the name Choi Dong Wook. I will be grateful to whoever finds it.'
He even offered the reward of a one-on-one fan meeting with the person who returned his wallet and joked that if he or she didn't like him, he would just thank them.
Unfortunately, his proposal hit a dead end.
Se7en updated the local media: 'No, I'm sorry, I haven't found my wallet. I received a lot of tweets that said they had it but none of them were true.'
He revealed that he may have lost something precious to him in that wallet but wouldn't say what it was.
Well, if fans couldn't get alone time with Se7en, at least they did manage to get up close and personal with him when he signed their CDs on Sunday at IMM's Garden Plaza.
A few hundred screaming fans had attended the autograph session which lasted half an hour.
The icing on the cake was when they were told by the emcee that they could tell Se7en their names and he would make out the autograph to them.
These fans also had a blast at his showcase on Saturday.
The 800-strong mostly female crowd, who had paid either $70 or $170 to watch him, didn't leave disappointed.
Se7en dazzled through all five hit songs and was spectacular during his powerhouse renditions of I'm Going Crazy and Digital Bounce.
But when he slipped and fell during a dance move, his adoring supporters had the shock of their lives.
So, what better way to calm them down?
Said Se7en: 'I love you guys. See you soon.'
Reported by Charlene Chua for The New Paper
Anyone who went for the show spotted ahjummas? I saw a few senior citizens at Super Junior's Super Show 3 in Singapore XD