Genre: Realistic Fiction; Angst; Friendship.
Summary: Four times in which Seunghoon cries. The second time, Seungyoon watches.
Author's Note: This chapter takes place during Seunghoon's elimination. That day, Seunghoon did a performance of "The Show Must Go On", and I used the lyrics he wrote as a basis for this chapter (in this story, the lyrics are bolded and italicized). You can watch the performance here, and you can watch Seunghoon's elimination here. This is Part II of "Four". Read Part I here.
April 15, 2012. SBS KpopStar Semi Finals.
Seungyoon sat on the couch after a long day of dance practice, placing his sore feet into a tub of hot water as he watched the latest episode of KpopStar.
It was an audition program: a show that put all of the skills, creativity and energy of young hopefuls on the line, as they fought against each other to obtain entertainment contracts. A program where talent was treated like some standardized school exam, with YG, SM and JYP being the SKY universities*. It was a program that he was familiar with, as it was similar to the Super Star K program he had once lived through, and that he still did live through – every passing day at the YG trainee center.
“The Show Must Go On.”
It was time for the announcement of results, but Seungyoon found it hard to focus on the actual elimination. All that was echoing through his mind were the lyrics of Lee Seunghoon’s previous performance.
“The Show Must Go On”, he had sang.
“When the stage-light goes off, my heart is stuffy.
When I return home, something bursts inside me without reason.
Even dreaming scares me, so I cannot sleep.”
Lee Seunghoon stood there, smiling a smile of resignation and accepted defeat, of half regret and half relief – the smile of fourth place. The smile that Seungyoon knew all too well.
The show must go off, for Lee Seunghoon.
“I’m scared of the stage, so I cannot come up with new ideas.
I smile while crying. I’m happy but I’m sad.”
So he continued to smile through his tears, as he made his final speech.
Being different came at a cost, and nobody understood that better than Seungyoon did. He was the only trainee here who still stood by his own style, a different style – who would be willing to sing rock songs for monthly evaluations, despite the fact that the evaluations people hated it.
Because Seungyoon didn’t just sing rock songs for the sole purpose of “being different”. He sang them to remind himself that he was still alive; that he was still an individual, with his own brain, his own body, his own ambitions and thoughts and dreams and desires. He still had his own soul, no matter how much of it the trainee life had sucked away.
“Whenever I move forward, my reputation gets worse.
I cannot go up, or down.”
Sometimes Seungyoon could feel his body withering away, sinking under the pressure of expectation, and he didn’t like it at all. He didn’t want to become another slave to the restrictive boundaries set by k-pop entertainment companies. He didn’t want to endure the sleepless nights for a life that may not even be compatible with him.
(So why did he choose this life?)
“It’s potent like the soju that I drink unwillingly.
Every night I think of what I am doing,
But I have to go up the stage again.”
On top of practicing the same repetitive English hip hop songs, and following the same robotic practice schedules under the pressure of the YG trainers, Seungyoon was the only trainee here who still wrote and composed songs on his free time, the only guy around here who attempted to make free time for himself on top of his hectic practice schedule, who still created and improved and reinvented himself based on how he felt.
But maybe that was why he wasn't making any progress, or debuting like he should have, had he chosen another company to sign with – because his talent wasn't practical enough, within the boundaries that had been set for him. He had no focus, and he most definitely didn’t fit in with his company’s style.
Maybe the reason that Kang Seungyoon felt as if he understood Lee Seunghoon so well was because he had a similar problem.
Lee Seunghoon never did fit in with the rest of the KpopStar contestants. He never had enough vocal talent, and because of that, he always had to make up for himself by composing his own lyrics, creating performance concepts, and choreographing insane routines – which altogether, was much more than mindlessly practicing some other powerful, high-note-filled ballad.
Being the least talented, Seunghoon had only his spontaneity to rely on. He was the only one that had to express himself and his unique personality for what it was, rather than for what the judges wanted him to be. Which in Seungyoon’s opinion, took far more skill and courage.
(But of course, he was eliminated in the end. Fourth place, too. Why was it all so familiar?)
“The cogwheel that I used to spin now spins me.
By the speed that I picked up, now I’m strangled.
I’m locked in a cage, my opponent gets bigger.
One punch, two punches… the fists are thrown at me.
If this continues I will eventually fall down."
"The show must go on.”
“Yah. Kang Seungyoon.” Seungyoon heard the door opening, as somebody walked in. One of his dorm mates had returned to the dorm, after another 12 am dinner outing. “What are you doing, watching TV so late when you’re sick?”
“I’m not sick,” Seungyoon mumbled.
(But his body was looking weak these days, thinner than it usually was.)
“Get some sleep, and stop watching that KpopStar show, when you’ve already made it to YG Entertainment. Maybe if you spent more time sleeping and more time dancing, your monthly evaluation today would have gone much better.”
“I know hyung, I know. I’ll go to bed soon,” Seungyoon said softly, not bothering to turn his head around to see which of his dorm-mates was talking to him.
“Who got eliminated today, by the way?”
“It was Lee Seunghoon.” Seungyoon responded.
“About time, really. All the YG trainees are surprised that he’s even made it this far. He was never really talented enough to be an idol. No idea why sajangnim favors him so much. Goodnight,” the other trainee said, as he closed his bedroom door and turned off the hallway light.
“Let’s meet again on the professional stage,” YG sajangnim had said to Lee Seunghoon, while fighting back his own tears. Seungyoon had never seen him tear up before.
(Looks like it’s just a matter of time before another trainee moves into this dorm.)
That night, Seungyoon went to bed, wondering how long it will be until he receives his next fourth place, and wondering whether Lee Seunghoon would be there to see it happen.
*Note: “SKY” is an acronym for Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University: the three most prestigious universities of South Korea. Kinda like Harvard/Yale/Princeton of America.