Song Review: Kim Jaejoong – Tender Love

Kim Jaejoong’s most recent Korean album was released around the time The Bias List was launched in early 2016. Since then, he’s enlisted, released Japanese music and been active on variety and in dramas. I can still remember when he made his solo debut back in 2013. I had only been a K-pop fan for a year or so at the time, and knew little of him beyond his involvement with TVXQ. That solo mini album, I, sold out in just a couple weeks – a huge deal at the time. Commercially and creatively, he seemed like a K-pop god.

That’s all still true, but Jaejoong’s long musical hiatus seems to have dulled the excitement around the release of Tender Love (여리디여린 사랑을). As K-pop’s international fan base has grown over the past few years, a newer generation of listeners have adopted their own K-pop gods. And unfortunately, a ballad like Tender Love is unlikely to convince them of just what a powerhouse Jaejoong can be. The song is an oddly hushed comeback, putting the spotlight on Jaejoong’s voice at the expense of musical imagination.

That will be enough for those who already adore his vocals. He’s in fine form here, offering an understated, but powerfully emotive performance. The instrumental echoes this, supplying a slow build toward a cathartic, electric guitar-powered climax. All of the expected OST ballad ingredients are here, and Jaejoong sells the drama. However, I long for a more idiosyncratic melody. I feel like I’ve heard this exact song a million times before, especially given Korea’s love for overwrought balladry. Jaejoong elevates it somewhat, but there’s only so much individuality that can be brought to the tried-and-true structure and arrangement.

 Hooks 7
 Production 7
 Longevity 7
 Bias 7

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9 thoughts on “Song Review: Kim Jaejoong – Tender Love

  1. I haven’t really listened to much TVXQ besides the top few big hits. Sometimes the appeal completely mystifies me the in same cultural way the the asian candy section (or the fish section, or the meat section) in the local asia market can be mystifying for foreigners like me. What is this candy, is it sweet or savory, or strangely both, and does it have secret squid in it. That is what “Love in the Ice” does to me.

    (I’ve done whole anatomy lessons to my kids in the asian market meat section. Fun fact: pigs hearts are closest to human hearts anatomically.)

    This song fits squarely in the crosshairs of Standard Model Korean OST ballad-style, which is to say I agree that it will be lost on most of the recently joined kpop fans. Except for the stunning visuals, they will be like who is this old guy and why are they all … oh look what V did today, lets all tweet about that …

    Actually, to be more precise, it is Korean OST crossed with the emotional frisson of Park Hyo Shin but without the discipline. I really really wanted him to go above hitting a solid A4 note at 3:02. I really really wanted to hear B4. Park Hyo Shin would have done B4. And then PHS would have changed the key up yet another note to C4 for the last minute, or cried, or both.


    • He’s not even in the MV for this, I’m guessing because he wanted the focus to be on his vocals. So yeah, beyond his name recognition there’s not much that sets this release apart from the other 382927 k-ballads which drop every week.


      • Sorry if I sound like an annoyed cassie (cuz I am), but TVXQ are the greatest k-pop artists ever. You should check them out MYMAGOOGLE. And SPECTRALES, while I agree with you, this is a well-shot MV. And finally there is one difference between this and the 382927 ballads. Jaejoong’s vocals are amongst the best in kpop. But I must admit that while I like this song, I am horribly biased and still admit that it is flawed


        • As a hardcore Shawol I know how you feel; Onew and Jonghyun have released their fair share of average ballads which wouldn’t normally do much for me if it weren’t for the qualities of their voices and how much I enjoy the way they perform them. Jaejoong has a similar ability to elevate anything he sings even if the material is so-so, and I enjoy his voice. Still though, I can admit when something disappoints me and when I desire something much more interesting from them.

          Junsu is actually my TVXQ bias because I can just connect so easily with his dramatic, powerful releases like Tarantellegra, Flower, Rock This World, etc. That’s what I’m looking for when I hear a member of *TVXQ*, one of the greatest groups of all time, has dropped something new….a statement. An impact! I’d love for Jaejoong to come out with something awe-inspiring next, now that he’s got the more typical Korean-style ballad out of the way.


        • Believe me I have tried. Every time I hear the nth cover of Hug, I go back and listen to the original, and Triangle, and Purple line, and all the rest, and it is a flavor that is just not for me.

          But this isn’t unique to TVXQ, it is that whole mid-00’s SM gestalt. CSJH The Grace, same thing. I am an ELF, and I can’t do that early SuJu sound either (U, Don’t Don). I don’t even own U, though I have 128 other SuJu + subgroup songs plus 50-some solo releases.

          I do have “Rising Sun” in heavy rotation on the workout list, and Mirotic is on my short list of classic all time kpop songs.


  2. Okay, I am both a hardcore Shawol and ELF as well. Junsu is also my TVXQ bias but I find all members talented. SPECTRALES, I remember geeking out at Jonghyun’s “so goodbye” from city hunter (despite being generic, city hunter had some awesome OSTs).

    Kinda strange that you don’t like the SMP sound MYMAGOOGLE, in fact, it is my favorite SM sound. But even then, check out TVXQ’s AVEX material such as Doushite or Bolero. Also, try listening to together, way u are, and hi ya ya of their korean material.



    • What can I say, I gravitate towards the more bonkers kitschy song structures for my pop fix. My most played Shinee is probably “Why So Serious” , followed closely by twelve-way tie of others. SuJu .. hard to say … so many .. how could I pick … how to HEY Mamacita nega ay ya yay yay yay.
      I also have a soft spot for serious singers, which sometimes intersects with the OST’s, although sometimes OST’s are too schmaltzy (stating the obvious here).


  3. I love Jaejoong and his voice suit ballad but I think WWW album was more unique. I mean with Just another Girl MV, the song, lyric, music were all best. Not like any kpop song, I mean its rarely kpop has such rock genre. Tender love is a good song but it just like any other ballad song, not so special. Expect that MV really touching 👍


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