Thursday, 31 December 2015

SM Tour and Rookies Concert

Memorise these tiny, adolescent faces.
Because in a few years' time, if EXO are anything to go by, and the fact they already have a lot of hardcore fans before they've even debuted, they'll be all you hear about for a long time.

We went to the COEX mall again, because SM were holding a few concerts for their "Rookies". If you're not particularly down with your kpop info, most of the big record labels still live in the 90s golden era of manufactured pop stars. And, despite all the jokes we made (and still make) about it, I think in the case of a lot of these artists, they're a lot better off for it.

They hold auditions to pluck willing and highly-talented (and beautiful) tributes barely out of nappies (okay, slight exaggeration, but they're usually primary school age when they get taken in) from the public sphere and basically put them into Pop Music Hogwarts. Or maybe Fame Academy. Whatever. They live in dormitories, usually with their future group members-to-be, and get trained daily by the best vocal coaches, choreographers, public speakers, models, personal trainers, drama teachers, musicians, etc, to be the perfect pop star.

And to be honest, it pays off. I'll get more into that later, but basically they school these kids until they're "ready" and then pop out a group of ready-made celebrities every few years or so. One of the things that's impressive is how prepared they are for hoards of screaming fans. I suppose it's because they gradually expose them to this most terrifying part of fame throughout their training. We'd seen some of the older Rookies during the SM Town concert as backing dancers and occasionally given a brief set to sing or dance. Presumably, this series of shows was also to get them used to a concert environment as well as gauge popularity, what works, what doesn't, and to generate hype.

SO. Being rather into kpop (in case you couldn't tell), we fought our way to some tickets and headed over to the COEX. We popped into the merchandise shop just to see if there was anything interesting or new, but mostly I was amused by the fact they'll brand ANYTHING. Here's a multipack of snack nuts (called Super Nuts, presumably linked to Super Foods) and someone presumably went "omg, you know what else starts with Super? Super Junior. Slap some faces on it. Boom. Done."

We were actually way too early, so even after looking around we had a lot of time to spare, so we went to look for lunch. The COEX building is actually a cluster of several, all with vast, sprawling interiors that don't really make much sense. So we ended up in a back alley (not sure how that's possible in a shopping mall, but that's what it felt like so I'm calling it that) with a handful of little restaurants and a gym tucked away from all the rest of the shops, which seemed a bit unfair.

Especially considering it was so delicious

We also popped down to the Kakao Store to see what seasonal goods they had. It was summer camping season, so they had everything from hand fans to deck chairs and rubber rings for the pool. All very cute, but also very, very expensive. Sigh.

Not that I'd ever need a rubber ring with Muzi and Con on it.

Anyway, back upstairs in SM Entertainment there was a desk set up with enrollment for the SM Town Passport, which sounds amazing and cute (you get a special stamp at every SM event you go to) but since signing up, we haven't actually had any more information about it and missed on about 8 stamps ㅠㅠ Unfair.

However. We did get a discount ticket for a few things in the Artium building, including the SM Studio Tour. It was already a pretty reasonable price, but with the extra discount and a few hours to spare, it would have been a bit wasteful not to.

We actually ended up getting a private tour, because nobody else arrived to join our slot. Our tour guide spoke great English and was really friendly, which made it even more fun.

Basically, in the Artium building there's a small set of studios where you can buy "experiences" such as vocal coaching, learning a dance, photoshoots, etc. But, not wanting to waste the space, the actual SM Town artists also sometimes do things here, such as rehearsing dances, recording songs, and taking headshots, so that's pretty cool.

The first stop is the dressing room, which is really spacious and bright and full of NARS cosmetics. If you do a photoshoot, they do your makeup and styling here, apparentlywith the same stylists that work on your favourite stars! Very luxury.

We were allowed to take photos in some areas, but I was still a little nervous and didn't want to miss anything our guide was saying, so I wasn't as snap-happy as usual, boo.

Photo studio!
After glancing around a photo studio next door, we were taken to a sort of dressing room, slash wardrobe, slash costume museum. The staff inside asked us who our favourite singers were and showed us the clothes of theirs that they had on display.

TVXQ's spangly jackets
All of the clothes were either from music videos or concerts, so they were quite flashy and recognisable.

I think this is Red Velvet's Ice Cream Cake shoot?
Next, we wound through some corridors lined with awards, and gold, silver, and platinum records for various albums, signed things, all sorts. It was really cool to see and I'm glad they've got it open to the public.

If this room looks familiar, it's because it gets used in a lot of the dance rehearsal videos.
I was initially kind of dubious as to whether or not the artists ever actually went in there or if it was all a clever ploy, but the scale of it all and the quality of the gear in the studios makes me convinced they actually do go in there to record stuff that will make a lot of money, haha.

I wasn't actually allowed to take a photo here, oops. Just as I was getting confident.

There's a chair from a music awards show that I can't remember the name of (haha) but you're allowed to sit in it and take photos like a celebrity. Not that we were dressed at all appropriately, but it was still fun!

We were also taken on a tour of some old sets that they've kept for either historical or cultural purposes, such as some of the props and sets used in the music video for Girl's Generation's song Gee. This was the first kpop song I ever heard, actually. Seeing the mannequin and all the little details was really weird, haha.

There was also a set piece for EXO, and some graffiti.

We were also taken to the photoshoot area on the floor above, where the whole room looks kind of like the showroom part of IKEA. Or like a catalogue that came to life. There's random chunks of different rooms everywhere, and every part of it is really well lit. We were allowed to look around, and were shown photos of the SM Artists that also had a photoshoot on the same sets.

Since two of us bought tickets for the tour, we were each allowed two photos on the Studio Tour polaroid camera, which is a really cool souvenir! We were allowed to choose any of the previous locations to take a picture in, so we went for two upstairs and two downstairs.

The photos are really cute, and they also gave us a little SM Town document holder to keep them safe. It's a really great bundle for such a great price! I'm usually a little 'meh' about a lot of the SM stuff at COEX but I'd definitely recommend it if you're a big SM Entertainment fan.

After the tour, we were just about in time to go in for the Rookies show! We only got to see the boys, because they're closer to debuting. They did all kinds of things like dances and covers of different songs. Ballads, raps, and even some performances where they played their own instruments.

They also had a very cute presentation where each slide had a load of information about each person. Some talents, likes, favourites, as well as home town and full name. I'm quite impressed with how many non-Korean or half-Korean members there are. A couple from the US and Canada, Thailand, China, and maybe Japan? And they're all SO talented. Especially considering the age of some of them. My brain kind of quit when they expected me to be okay with the fact one of them was born in 2004. I was in secondary school in 2004... ㅜㅜ That's way too young to be a pop star hahah.

There was also a sort of raffle where they drew ticket stubs and would take a selfie with the matching person, and give them a gift which was very sweet.

After the show, they asked us to all leave veeery slowly, and not all rush out at once, which turned out to be because there were a few of them at every exit handing out posters that were basically a smaller version of the big one at the top of this post. And some of them were signed! We ended up with two, and one of ours was signed (and doodled on) by Ten, who handed it over with such a big, genuine smile and said "thank you for coming" in English which was really considerate, but confusing because at the same time we were saying thank you in Korean. Hahah.

Ten's poster up on our front door.

As we were leaving (which was late, because I accidentally left my phone in the theatre and we weren't allowed back in for security/privacy reasons, so it took a while for us to be reunited) there was a huge crowd outside, which we took to mean something special was happening. We stuck around just long enough to see the boys all being ushered into cars and saying goodbye before being whisked off to their dorms.

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