What is it about Rain? The answer: ‘Abmosphere’
K-pop superstar Rain entertained Jeju last Saturday on his ‘Best Show Tour’
What is it about Rain?
He’s more than a triple-threat singer/dancer/actor. He is a known force in Korea and outside of it. As Ailbhe O’Donnell, a Jeju English teacher, puts it, his name is not simply Rain. It is “The International Pop Superstar Rain.”
What is it about him that makes professed feminists scream in high-pitched voices to rip his shirt off during concerts? How did a Korean pop star make it onto Time’s 100 most influential people who shape our world in 2006, top of the list in 2007 and again this year? How has he managed to stay around in a music industry that is famous for it’s two-year turn over? How, with his music and movies and television shows, and touring, and production company and clothing company, does he ever sleep?
All these questions jettisoned out of mind on Saturday at his concert in Seogwipo when the lights went down. The bass began thumping so loudly my body became a drum. The curtain dropped and the crowd collectively gasped, then screamed at top volume.
Rain appeared in blue silhouette on a lift.
I was surrounded by grandmothers, young children, mothers and teens. Men seemed to be there of their own volition. All of them went crazy. Every able body was standing on a seat or rushing the isles, to the chagrin of security.
“I’ve never seen this before,” said Sarah Ranco, an Epik English teaching and long time K-pop fan. “Even at the SHINee concert they all stayed in their seats.”
Rain wore an Asian-styled black tank with gold bars that caught the stage lights, making him a small sun.
I was immediately struck with the image of a younger Michael Jackson. Throughout the concert he pulled several signature MJ moves. At one point he stood over an air vent that shot plumes of dry ice smoke two stories up as he doubled over the microphone and sang with closed eyes. Classic Jackson.
Rain knew exactly how to work his fans. His presence was so magnetic that just a glance towards a general slice of the crowd elicited loud screams in hopes of more attention. His other fan favorite moves were pelvic thrusts and making like he was about to take his shirt off.
The beginning of Rain’s career was road blocked by his eyes. The production companies thought he was talented, but just not good looking enough — read no double eyelids. At one point he even had a plastic surgery appointment scheduled, but vetoed it.
Eventually he was recognized as an incredibly hard worker and was picked up by JYP Entertainment.
His work ethic is famous. On his website he posts his motto: “Endless effort, endless endeavor, endless modesty.”
Endless abs, one might add.
I asked concert attendee Dani Carisse why she has been listening to Rain’s music for over nine years.
“Because his music is good and he has great abmosphere,” was her reply.
“His voice is like sexy chocolate,” her friend Sarah Ranco added.
When asked about what their favorite part of the concert was, they said without hesitation that is was when, after hours of teasing, he finally ripped off his shirt and stood under a two-story shower of rain.
It seems there must be more than Rain’s sexual chemistry keeping “clouds,” as his fans call themselves, coming back for more year after year.
His work ethic may be the answer to his staying power.
When he is not working on a new album, he is filming a new movie or television series, or unveiling a clothing line. Unlike most K-pop stars, he has had very little bad press or gossip. And even more incredible is his popularity overseas. Before I knew much about Korea, I knew about Rain.
His work ethic was evident in his concert. The three hours were filled with non-stop entertainment. Some of it was quite bizarre, but all of it interesting.
Though there were enough pyrotechnics to keep even the most match-happy pyro satisfied. There were also: Korean men wearing disco wigs dancing in roller skates, stripper poles, a black light disembodied hands and face laser show, a large gold throne, ghost masks, blaring heavy metal costume change interludes, a final impromptu dance party and three pauses to talk with the crowd for over ten minutes each time.
Is this normal? I asked Ranco, concert attendee.
She assured me that it is usual for K-pop bands to stop the music and talk with their fans because the bands are so short lived and they want to make a lasting connection.
“They have really good showmanship here and connection with the crowd. It’s an element that’s not in North America,” Ranco said.
“You’ve been spoiled by this being your first K-pop show,” she warned me.
To the “clouds” I spoke with, the concert was indeed The Best Show.
I can’t say, not having seen U2 or Michael Jackson, but I can say that the next day the world did seem a bit dreary for not having an impromptu dance party to LMFOA’s “Party Rock Anthem” featuring Rain’s abmosphere.