SM Town returned to the United States on May 20, 2012 on the west coast in Anaheim, CA. Anaheim is about 30 minutes outside Los Angeles and is home to Disney Land. SM Town first came to the United Sates at theStaples Center in Los Angeles in 2010. A year later SMTown returned to the United States in October of 2011 in New York City at the Madison Square Garden.
At SM Town LA 2012, SM Entertainment brought it’s usual main line-up of performers and groups, Super Junior, Girls Generation, TVXQ, BoA, Shinee, and f(x). The main difference in the line-up of performance between SM Town LA 2012 and SM Town NYC 2011 was the presence of the new SMent group call Exo and the absence of Kangta.
The stage platform had a different layout from SMTown NYC 2011. There were essentially three stages, a rear stage which was more of the main stage, the middle or center stage, and the front stage. Behind the rear stage were the large big screens, and the display board filled with blinking lights. One of the ways SM Town NYC 2011 surpassed SMTown LA 2012 was the lack of pyrotechnics at Anaheim. SMTown at Madison Square Garden went all out with huge fireballs, sparks flying, smoke, confetti and balloons. At Anaheim the main flare to the show was the water fountains or geysers that were at the center stage area. At the end of any performance where the fountains were used, the stage had to be mopped up by the arena staff. The size of the center stage, which was a little cozy, coupled with a half-wet floor, may have restricted some of the larger groups in their choreagraphy. Another major flare to the show in NYC not featured in Anaheim, was the rigging of the performers onto overhead platforms and hoisting them over the crowd. Nothing compares to the energy that ripped through the crowd last October in New York, when TVXQ were hoisted unto the stage for their first song about half way through the concert.
Super Junior showed up in Anaheim with eight members out of the potential ten current members, as they did in NYC. Siwon did not attend, again. Super Junior brought along again their awesome style, confidence, choreography and energy. In total they performed 8 songs and had two collaborations. They performed,Superman, Don’t Don, Bonamana, Oppa Oppa, Sorry Sorry, Acha, Dancing Out, and their last song of the concert was Mr. Simple. For their first performances of the night, Super Junior wore black tuxedos with gold trimmings to perform Superman and Don’t Don. Although, Don’t Don had a rock music feel to it, it still hadmelodic components and did not prevent them from executing some well choreagraphed steps.
Super Junior later performed a Bonamana remix. The remix was fine, but it did not allow them to do the full original choreapraphy, including the leap they do at the beginning of the chorus and this was a bit of a disappointment. During the performance for Sorry Sorry the guys had on white suits, except for Eunhyuk who had on a grey jacket over black pants. Sorry Sorry was performed on the main stage. When the guys came out next they performed Acha on the middle stage in the white suits. The water fountains were utilized in this performance, and the overall effect was complementary to the awesome choreagraphy the guys displayed. Due to the coziness of the stage the guys had to stay in a tight formation, which worked really well because the dance moves are not as energetic as they get in their other songs.
TVXQ of all SMent groups at SMTownLA 2012 were the most energetic and disciplined. Their performances were very impressive, and Yunho was just awesome. TVXQ performed 5 times and also had one collaboration. They performed The Way You Are, Mirotic, Maximum, Keep Your Head Down, and Rising Sun. Their dancing can be described as martial, vibrant, precise and crisp. Yunho’s dancing was incredible, and his movements were really strong yet fluid. He has totally kicked his dancing into high gear. This was very much on display in their performance of Rising Sun. He seems to have beefed up a bit, and has probably become more energetic as a result. It’s so odd to see the usually calm and serene Yunho dancing with such vim. Whoever is in charge of TVXQ is doing an amazing job, and the same goes for their backup dancers. Finally, TVXQ fans are so passionate and loyal and the fact that their color is red is so appropriate.
Girls’ Generation also showed up to SMTownLA 2012 with less than a full crew. Only 7 members could make it, which initially was a bit of concern to some of the fans. Yuri and Yoona were filming their very popular Korean dramas and so could not make it. This did not however stop the girls from giving really good performances. Girls’ Generation is generally considered the light hearted and cute SM group. What they do is bring smiles and cheerfulness to SM fans, with members like Sunny who is the queen of aegyo, which means cuteness in Korean, and Tiffany with her “eye smiles”. As they’ve grown older it is clear that there have been internal discussions in SMent as to how long they can keep this up. This is probably how The Boys came about. The Boys, both in song and choreography is an acknowledgement that the girls are growing up. It is important though that they don’t lose the light heartedness and cheerfulness that characterizes Girls’ Generation.
BoA is such a good dancer, and has such a cool dancing style. She performed five songs; Look Who’s Talking, Energetic, One Dream with Key of Shinee and Kris of Exo, I did it For Love with Key, and Hurricane Venus. She’s a tireless young lady. She had just flown into LA a few hours before the concert and performed all five songs one after the other without missing a beat. Although, when she introduced herself you could sense she was a bit tired. Also, she did not let that stop her from giving the SMent management a lighthearted request for a new English album. It seems BoA and Key have some good chemistry. On the other hand since Kris is one of the new kids on the block they seemed like perfect strangers, but that’s okay.
Shinee performed seven times and did three collaborations. They performed way too many rock remixes, and some of them were really not that good. For instance in Ring Ding Dong, the rock beats drowned out the vocals. Also, they didn’t and couldn’t do the choreography steps at the chorus, which for SMent should be a big no-no. This is because it appears part of SMent’s competitive advantage is its unique choreography and dance steps. From observing the faces of some of the Shinee members, it’s possible Key was not too thrilled by the rock remixes and corresponding head banging. It will be interesting to understand where the rock influence is coming from within SMent. Could it be that SMent is trying to make Shinee more appealing to the Japanese market? Another major disappointment was that Shinee did not perform Stand By Me, the ballad from the immensely popular Korean drama Boys Before Flowers. The whole Shinee appearance was not a wash at Anaheim, because their performance of Love Like Oxygen was awesome. From the choreography of this song, it seems SMent may not be maximizing the dance potential of these guys. Both the song and the choreography has a very strong Michael Jackson feel to it. Those doing choreography forTVXQ and Super Junior may need to give pointers to those who do choreography for Shinee and especially the new group Exo.
f(x) performed three songs and had three collaborations. They performed Pinocchio (Danger) and had on really cute outfits, Hot Summer and Nu Abo. As a group f(x) was really crisp, seemed well rested, happy and bright on stage.
Throughout the night there were several collaborations among the “SM Family”. The most popular was theBruno Mars cover done by Changmin of TVXQ and Kyuhyun of Super Junior, where a lucky fan-girl was sitted on stage and serenaded by both guys. Other collaborations included Onew of Shinee and Luna of f(x) singing Can I Have This Dance, Jessica of Girls’ Generation again joined with her sister Krystal of f(x) to sing a cover of Kate Perry’s California Girls. Super Junior also joined together with f(x) for Oops. Victoria had on an really cute dress for this performance.
SMTown will not be complete without the SM Entertainment commercials, which some fans refer to as propaganda. One of the commercials was titled SM Music. The commercial starts by talking about men and women living on two separate planets and then peering at each other. Suddenly it makes a transition into the formation of SMTown as a result of a union of these two planets. Although it’s a little hard to make such a transition, with a stretch of the imagination SMent is probably making a reference to the Korean cultural nuance where men and women have traditionally operated in separate settings and now they can operate asone family under SMent. The message was however expressed beautifully.
The SMTown finale is one of the highlights of the show. All the performing artists gather on the main stage singing Hope, which is an original of H.O.T. an early SMent group, and then they pair up and walk to the front stage. Two things stood out during the finale. The first is that BoA walked down alone, and this is something she’s talk about before. She has sometimes talked about how lonely her American debut was, because she is a solo artists unlike for instance Girls’ Generation. Also, as she starts walking down singing, a lot of the other performers turn around to watch her. It appears they hold her in high regard. The other thing that really stood out was that Leeteuk the leader for Super Junior said a really long goodbye, and he was the last to leave the stage. He stood in the middle of the stage at the center stage and yelled “I love SM Town”looking in the same direction that BoA had look when she made her plea regarding an English album. Initially, it was a curious sight, because could it be an indication that Super Junior may be winding down it’s activities with SMent, possibly as a result of the introduction of the new twelve member Exo? A few weeks after the concert, it became clear why Leeteuk had done his long goodbye. At the end of the year he will be joining the Korean military for his mandatory two-years service required of all Korean males. Therefore as he serves his country, at best his future as an active member of Super Junior will be a little in question, at worst his future as part of SMent may be what will be in question. It remains to be seen of the Super Junior members in the military, if after completing their service will be able to seemlessly rejoin the group.
After the show, we got the feedback of a fan-girl who had come from San Francisco. In her opinion TVXQhad the strongest performances of the night, Shinee had too many remixes and actually she felt her head starting hurting abit. She wished they would have had more ballads during the concert. Although she is a fan of Onew’s, she did not like the Luna and Onew combo because she felt Nuna’s voice dominated his. She also said that f(x) looked really bright, probably because they have the lightest schedule.
Super Junior by far had the most varied wardrobe. The Girls’ Generation wardrobe was not very varied. The simplicity of the white tops over blue jeans the girls wore is epitome of cuteness and beauty, but their wardrobe budget could not have come close to Super Juniors’. It is possible though that an outfit for one of the girl‘s is many times more expensive than that for one of the guy’s. If that’s the case, then the wardrobe budget for The Boys is multiples of the wardrobe budget for Mr Simple. Furthermore, could it be that the wardrobe budget for each group is based on their profit margin. It’s interesting that while Super Junior embarked on a semi-world tour with Super Show 4 and probably generating significant revenue for SMent, Girls Generation in contrast embarked on an expensive U.S. debut that may have eviscerated their overall net profit. If then that the budget for each group is based on their respective profit margin, then the more profitable a group is per season the more money they have to spend. If that’s the case Super Junior has been very profitable for SMent this season. Of course, this can all be verified by reading SM Entertainment’s annual report since it is a public company.
It seems as the indivual performers and group members grow older they have more discretion towards their actions on stage. Take for instance that on two separate occasions a member of Super Junior and then Girls’ Generation broke ranks to attend to a minor but potentially serious irritation. The Super Junior member tied his shoe laces in the middle of a performance, and a Girls Generation member broke ranks to throw off a loose piece of clothing. Some may say this is a sign of waning discipline at SMent, but it could simply be that the artists are growing older and hence cant be treated like kids anymore. In the past, quite shockingly some SMent performers have refused to break ranks even when one of their co-member was in the middle of a potentially life-threatening crisis. Krystal of f(x) once collapsed on stage, but at least one of the girls kept dancing before they stopped to attend to their lifeless member. Then a quite funny episode occurred with Girls’ Generation when a man got on stage in front of everyone and attempted to kidnap Taeyeon. OnlySunny, the rebel, had the presence of mind to break rank and grab unto Teayeon as she was being dragged off stage screaming.
When will SMTown be back in the U.S.? Based on the track record, SMTown may either come back to New York City at the end of 2012 or sometime in 2013. It may not be held at Madison Square Garden as occurred in 2011, due to the high cost and the increasing amount of Kpop events being held on the east coast at less expensive venues like the Prudential Center and NJ PAC across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Finally, willGirls’ Generation continue to pursue the U.S. market? And can Kpop in all its variations make significant inroads into the U.S. market? It appears Girls’ Generation may not have had a significant amount of success in there U.S. debut, and it may have been too costly for SMent. Therefore it’s possible they may have cooled a bit towards the U.S. market. It does seem that SMent’s strategy, with the recent global auditions in several American and Canadian cities, is to form new groups that can have that mainstream-America appeal. The other day the Mcdonalds at Times Square in New York City was streaming Taeyang’s Wedding Dress in the middle of the day, so there is hope.