Hi guys! This article starts a new feature regarding various Korean music acts, whether pop, hip hop, rock or indie. The first article in this series is on CNBlue, since this is a band that holds a very special place in my heart, since they got me into Kpop in the first place. So here goes:
I entered the world of Korean entertainment in 2012, through Jung Yong Hwa, Heartstrings and its Original Soundtrack. This is how I was introduced to Korean drama, Korean pop music and my most favourite Korean music act: CN Blue. I had wished to write this article for maybe 6 months but they are so precious to me that I’ve been incredibly scared if I can do justice to their awesomeness by my writing.
CNBlue, or 씨엔블루, is a South Korean pop rock band, which was formed in 2009. The original lineup had
- Jung Yong Hwa, the leader, main vocals, rapper and also plays the guitar and keyboard/piano
- Lee Jong Hyun, lead guitarist and vocalist
- Kang Min Hyuk, on drums and occasionally vocals
- Kwon Kwang Jin, on bass, who left in 2009, after the band’s debut. He is currently playing bass for a rap rock band called N. Flying under the same agency as CNBlue, FNC Entertainment
- Lee Jung Shin replaced Kwang Jin as CNBlue’s bassist, and he can occasionally heard rapping in the background of many of their songs
CNBlue debuted in Japan before heading back to their home country, South Korea. Their debut album was titled Now or Never and was released in 2009. It was right after its release that there was a lineup change and I am so happy to know that the change happened when it did because since then the group has stayed together as one till now, and hopefully will for a long, long time.
Coming to the origin of CNBlue’s name, it’s one that makes me cringe because I find it so not innovative. So CN stands for Code Name, and BLUE consists of an acronym for Burning, Lovely, Untouchable and Emotional. Each trait represents one of the members, where Jong Hyun is burning, Min Hyuk is lovely, Jung Shin is untouchable and Yong Hwa is emotional… I still don’t get why they wouldn’t just name the band by the colour blue instead.
However, CNBlue finally debuted in South Korea in January, 2010, with their lead single ‘I’m A Loner’ from their very first Korean album, titled Bluetory. And their fanclub name is Boice, which is an amalgamation of Blue Voice. That is a name I am so very proud of. Blue Voice sounds beautiful and makes me imagine pretty things.
Japanese Debut: 2009
CNBlue’s first ever live performance took place in Tokyo, Japan at Shinjuku Station in early 2009. By June of the same year they were performing on streets and at clubs. The formal debut was in August 2009 with Now or Never. The mini-album was recorded in English and failed on the Oricon Albums Chart. This is when Kwon Kwang Jin departed and Lee Jung Shin was taken up as the new bassist for CNBlue.
Their second extended play was released later the same year, called Voice. This album featured both English and Japanese tracks, ranked at 227 and charted for two weeks.
Korean Debut: 2010
CNBlue debuted in South Korea with Bluetory, which was officially released on 14th January, 2010, and stayed at the top of the Gaon Album Chart for two weeks. CNBlue held the record for achieving number one on South Korea’s music programs in the shortest time since debut, grabbing their first win only 15 days after debuting with “I’m a Loner”. The band had their debut reality show CNBLUEtory, broadcast on Mnet beginning March 10.
On March 20, the band released their first full-length independent album Thank U in Japan, with several tracks co-written and co-composed by Jung Yong Hwa. The album peaked at number 90 on the Oricon Weekly Album Charts.
In April, their official fan club name was announced to be Boice, a combination of “blue” and “voice.”
CNBlue’s next Korean single was ‘Love Light’ on May 10th, while preparing for their next album. On May 19th, their second extended play Bluelove was released. They promoted this album with the single ‘Love’ that did equally well as ‘I’m A Loner’.
The band was back in Japan, where they released the single ‘The Way’ on June 23rd. The second single to be released was ‘I Don’t Know Why’ on September 16th. The band made the top 10 on the Oricon Charts with this song. This led to their first tour across Japan to promote.
This also marked the acting debut of Lee Jong Hyun and Kang Min Hyuk for a film called Acoustic, which had a very unique narrative technique. It’s a must-watch. The two released a song for the movie’s OST on October 7, titled “High Fly”.
Success in Korea and Official Debut in Japan: 2011
On January 9th CNBlue released their third Japanese single ‘Re-maintenance’. They then started their 2011 Japanese tour.
Later in March, they had their first Korean comeback, with the release of their first full length album, First Step and the lead single ‘Intuition’. Winding up promotions for this, they followed it up with promotions for ‘Love Girl’ from their special EP First Step + 1 Thank You, at the end of April.
The same April Jung Yong Hwa and Kang Min Hyuk were cast in MBC’s Heartstrings, alternately known as You’ve Fallen for me, which aired the same summer. Yong Hwa sang three of the OSTs for the drama, ‘You’ve Fallen For Me’, ‘Because I Miss You’ (which was also his own composition), and ‘Comfort Song’. Min Hyuk also sang ‘Star’ for the show. These songs were performed in their BLUESTORM concert on September 17th.
After wrapping up in Korea, CNBlue made a comeback in Japan with their second and last independent album 392. Their major debut in Japan was in October, after having signed up with Warner Music Japan. Their debut single with their new company was ‘ In My Head’, composed by Jung Yong Hwa. It was chosen as the theme song for Supernatural: The Animation.
Acting, Ear Fun, Code Name Blue: 2012
A new single was released in Japan, ‘Where You Are’, composed and co-written by Jung Yong Hwa. The single debuted at number one on the weekly Oricon Singles Chart with 60,398 copies sold in the first week. This made CNBlue the first foreign band to top the Oricon Singles Chart since January 18, 1971 and made CNBlue the fourth South Korean male artist/group to reach number one on Oricon’s weekly singles chart, following TVXQ, JYJ and Jang Keun Suk.
CNBlue and fellow label-mates F.T. Island performed in America for the first time at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theater on March 9.
On March 26, the band released their third Korean mini album, Ear Fun. The single ‘Still in Love’ was released on March 16, and peaked at #3 on the Gaon Singles Chart, while the title song “Hey You” peaked at #1.
Their 3rd Japanese single ‘Come On’ was released. The song was composed by Lee Jong Hyun and written by Jung Yong Hwa in Korean, and translated into Japanese. The release of their Japanese debut album Code Name Blue in August 29 placed number one on both the daily and weekly Oricon Albums Chart. They became the first Korean group to achieve that feat with a debut album.
On September 22, they held their first exclusive concert, CNBlue Live in London at IndigO2 in the UK. On December 19, CNBLUE released their 4th Japanese single “Robot”.
At the end of the year, the band was regarded as the one that had conquered the year-end award ceremonies by their multitude of nominations. Jung Yong Hwa was awarded the ‘Hallyu Star’ award at the APAN Awards for his lead role in Heartstrings the previous year. At the SBS Drama Awards, Lee Jong Hyun was awarded with the ‘New Star’ award for his role in A Gentleman’s Dignity, for which he had written ‘My Love’, featured on the OST.
Re:Blue, Blue Moon World Tour, and What Turns You On?: 2013
CNBlue made their next Korean comeback with their 4th mini album, Re:Blue, on January 14th, marking their third anniversary. The music video for the lead single ‘I’m Sorry’ was released on the same day. ‘I’m Sorry’ was composed and co-written by Jung Yong Hwa, which was the first time that his composition had been kept as the lead single for a comeback by the band.
Re:Blue ranked #1 on the Billboard World Album Chart, and Japan’s Tower Records Chart. The single ‘I’m Sorry’ also ranked #1 in the MYX daily chart in the Philippines
The Blue Moon World Tour marked CNBlue as the first Korean rock band to hold a world tour including stops in China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Europe, Australia, North America, South America, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia.
On April 24th, CNBlue released their fifth Japanese single titled ‘Blind Love’, written and co-composed by Lee Jong Hyun.
On June 17th, the sixth Japanese single titled ‘Lady’ was released.
CNBlue also took part in the annual 2-day Japanese rock festival Summer Sonic 2013 as one of the line-ups, along with their label mate F.T. Island and rock bands like Linkin Park, Metallica, and ONE OK ROCK. This was held at Tokyo and Osaka on August 10 and 11 respectively.
On August 13th, they released the music video for ‘One More Time’, for their upcoming second Japanese studio album, What Turns You On?, which was released on August 28th. It included the three previous singles, ‘Robot’, ‘Blind Love’, and ‘Lady’.
On November 26th, CNBlue released their first ‘best of’ album in Korea, titled PRESENT, for which all members translated their Japanese songs into Korean.
Can’t Stop and Wave: 2014
February 23rd marked the release of their fifth mini album called Can’t Stop, along with the lead single ‘Can’t Stop’.
A new Japanese single was released called ‘Truth’ on April 23rd. The band began their 2014 CNBlue LIVE – Can’t Stop Tour on May 24th. On August 20th, the eighth Japanese single called ‘Go Your Way’ was released.
‘Radio’ was released as a digital single on September 8th, preceding their third Japanese album Wave, which was released on September 17th. The band also had their CNBlue 2014 Arena Tour: Wave around Japan.
On October 4th, the band performed at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
On December 6, CNBLUE was the only Korean artist to participate at the 2015 iQiyi All-Star Carnival in Beijing, China, where they received the ‘Best Asia Group’ award.
Billboard K-Town included the Can’t Stop on their list of the ‘10 Best K-Pop Albums of 2014’ at #9, calling the tracks ‘Can’t Stop’ and ‘Like a Child’ ‘some of the most accessible Korean rock tunes to come out of the scene this year,’ and ‘Cold Love’ a ‘gritty ballad’ and ‘Diamond Girl’ an energetic rock jam.
2gether and Colours: 2015
All CNBlue members pursued solo activities for the first half of 2015. In April, they released their ninth single, ‘White’ in Japan.
CNBlue finally released their second studio album 2gether with the lead single ‘Cinderella’ on Spetember 14th. The album was met with favourable reviews for the use of electronic elements, which has steadily increased in CNBlue’s sound over the years. It is to be noted that despite being a Kpop act, CNBlue has stayed true to their rock music roots. The unique balance that they have been able to achieve is very precarious and has taken a long time for the band to build. They have never shied away from experimenting, even though there have been some minor instances where I have not agreed with the experiment. The fact that they can incorporate a wide variety of genres and instruments into the basic rock sound makes them extremely different from many of the Korean rock acts.
CNBlue released ‘Supernova’ on September 9th as a digital download, right before the release of their fourth Japanese studio album Colours, which was released on September 30th. This was the first time the band had topped the charts after Code Name Blue. The band began their CNBlue 2015 Arena Tour: Be a Supernova.
Blueming and Euphoria: 2016
CNBlue released their sixth mini-album Blueming and its lead single ‘You’re So Fine’, on April 4th. They also released their 10th Japanese single ‘Puzzle’ on May 11th.
The band released their fifth Japanese album Euphoria on October 19th. The band also went on their fifth anniversary arena tour, Our Glory Days in November of the same year.
7°CN and Stay Gold: 2017
The band released 7°CN on March 20th. This was followed by their sixth Japanese studio album Stay Gold released on October 18th.
This traces the entire journey of CNBlue till their present. The individual career of the four men has not been covered in this article. However, I would take this opportunity to express that I have been their fan for the past five years and they have helped me through some of the best and worst of times in my life. From their love songs like Love Light all the way to their angst-ridden songs like I’m Sorry, all have a space in my heart. They stand out among all the Kpop acts and they stand out among all the Korean rock bands. I will continue to be curious about what routes their experimentation will take next. However, army enlistment is fast approaching, as Yonghwa nears the big 3, followed by the rest of the three. I hope that they all go together so that the band’s quality of instrumentation remains the same. If they get session players, or try anything funny like that, CNBlue’s sound will be compromised and that is something I can never accept. Despite these reservations, I wish the men all the best for the rest of their careers, as I await more musical surprises from them.