When I found out Shinee’s Key was going to be in the country’s first pandemic-era K-pop concert, I refused to believe it at first. The Kim Kibum, all-around second-gen idol?
But it was true: He was part of the lineup of the aptly titled “Begin Again” held last May 29 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Headlining the concert were Gen Z faves NCT Dream, fresh off their fun “Glitch Mode” comeback. It was also a chance for Filipino fans to welcome newcomers WEi, who debuted in 2020, and the freshly rebranded Alice (formerly Elris).
Maybe what really surprised me was that I was still a target market despite newer generations of idol groups dominating the past decade. For perspective, back in high school, Shinee’s “Replay” music video used to live in my iPod Nano in 480p; after 14 years, it finally got a 4K remastering last April. Younger idols, Dream included, have performed countless covers of the iconic debut song (both endearing and a reminder of how time really flies).
Back to the concert. Dreamzens came in full force, lighting up the dome in lime green with splashes of Shinee’s pearl aqua in between. But whatever your light stick color, you couldn’t help but cheer for every performer giving their all after over two years of a live show dry spell.
Alice opened with soft pop songs while WEi served upbeat tracks. NCT Dream got the stadium roaring at a higher decibel and surprised fans with their first international performance of “Dive into You” (complete with a sofa!). They also teased their latest single “Beatbox,” now a certified chart-topper.
Key was the last act, and I knew he wouldn’t disappoint with his reputation as a total entertainer. What I did not expect was different fandoms chanting his name.
Sure, second-gen K-pop idols may not have the following that can compete with third- and fourth-gen streaming and hashtag wars. Key showed us how he has kept his star power anyway, and that’s mainly through his unapologetic self-expression and a genuine effort to connect with audiences. Here’s what went down in his performance:
A whole lot of love for “Bad Love”
ICYDK, Key dropped his second solo album “Bad Love” in 2021. By going sci-fi retro in his sound and concept, he set himself apart from K-pop trends and earned critical praise. He kicked off his set with the groovy “Saturday Night,” performed the breathy “Helium,” and finished off with the synthed-out and angsty “Bad Love.” His meticulous self-styling went into his Philippine wardrobe, too: a black-and-white number with padded shoulders, patent leather pants, and a zipper flare detail over his boots. Talk about being the drama.
“Go away Corona”
Key interacted with fans in English so comfortably you wouldn’t think it was his first time in Manila solo. He showed us he’d been learning some Filipino (“It’s ‘mabuhay,’ right?”) and paused to give an air hug when the crowd chanted his name.
He got the crowd hyped up by talking about the other Shinee members wanting to come and rallied everyone to say, “Go away, Corona!” Literal healing took place that night.
Turning the concert into a club
Of his dance pop discography, I did not expect a performance of “This Life,” but he apparently chose right in putting on this 2019 EDM track. It’s a breezy listen with a drop that reminds you of what pre-pandemic parties and festivals were like. Even if it’s one of his lesser-known songs, everyone was entranced.
Yep, we still love “Ring Ding Dong’”
For better or worse, Key allowed us to make song requests. In my defense, our section called for “Replay,” but the “Ring Ding Dong” stans were louder and won out. While he seemed disappointed that we chose this hit that was too catchy for its own good, he went along with it—but not without telling us, “You’re still into this?” Thankfully he heard our pleas for “Replay,” commending us with “What a taste!”
It was like a fever dream, singing the song that got me hooked on Shinee in his very presence. I only know it’s all real because I took videos that are now immortalized on Preen’s TikTok.