News of MBLAQ’s mercurial main vocal heading to the Army broke on Monday, February 15 and to many came as a complete shock and surprise. I was in flight heading back to Chicago when reports of G.O’s enlistment was spreading like wildfire throughout various media posts, and admittedly I was still reveling in the intoxication of spending the evening with him on what was a very windy and chilly Valentine’s Day attending the I.Callist Idol Vocalist Concert in Seoul the night before. I admit I was stunned when I began reading the news and immediately felt the bittersweet aftertaste of the concert realizing that my bias was going to be gone for two years. In retrospect, however, if you paid close attention, the messages leading up to this news were there. They were subtle, but nevertheless, they were there.
About two weeks ago, G.O updated his Instagram account with the above picture from what appeared to be a rehearsal studio. His caption simply read, “Adieu.” You don’t have to have taken two years of high school French to understand what that meant. What I have grown to love about G.O is his penchant for the vague. Indeed scarce in explanation, one word can speak volumes.
If we back up to December when he joined Instagram, which came out of left field and all of a sudden, he immediately began posting pictures of himself, family, Akdoli his alligator and the like. It was as if he was giving us all some remnants and pieces of him to hold on to.
In late December, he appeared on the vocalist singing competition program King of Masked Singer. I remember during Mirror promotions fans urged him to appear on this program and although he balked initially saying the show was for great singers, he ultimately obliged.
After we crossed over into 2016, news broke that he was cast in a minor role in the film 아빠는 딸 [Daddy’s Daughter] opposite veteran actor Yoon Je Moon.
With a couple of dramas and now a film, fans will have something to turn to (in addition to the treasure chest of music he has given us) on any given late night when we are missing him the most and need to see him.
It seems he was giving us so much and so quickly.
In January, G.O’s sister posted a picture of him with his niece and nephews with a message intimating a weekend trip to Busan with Uncle G.O.
Of course, I can be completely speculating. But spending time with the family, and specifically his niece and nephews could potentially add more evidence to my belief that he was subtly telling us he was going away for a while so he was spending time with loved ones who (like us fans) he would be apart from for two years.
Next, there was an OST song release. In that it does not seem that new MBLAQ music will forthcoming, G.O giving the gift of a song before he departs is both thoughtful and romantic. From the Madame Antoine OST Part 2, he released the emotional 사랑무감증 on February 13.
Yes, in my opinion, he was telling us (without blatantly saying it), he would be leaving soon.
Finally, the Valentine’s Day I.Callist Idol Vocalist Concert, which took place on the eve of the news of his enlistment to serve his mandatory military service. Were that I knew it would be the last time I would see him for two years, I think I would have thrown some caution to the wind and screamed his name, like crazy loud, during a moment of pause between songs. Yet, because he brought such a sophistication and elegance to the stage, it would have been somewhat inappropriate. ><
He was the first of four idols (G.O, Hyun Seong (Boyfriend), Chung Ji (Teen Top) and Hwan Hee (Fly To The Sky)) to perform that evening, and was scheduled to sing five songs. Five songs. When is five songs enough from the voice you have tethered your heart to for all eternity? Still, when he walked out onto the stage wearing a long black wool coat over a soft grey turtleneck sweater with black trousers, the number of songs no longer matter. I just wanted to hear his voice, feel his emotion and enjoy spending that segment of the evening with him.
He walked though the parted doors of the stage to the early strains of Yim Jae Bum’s 너를 위해 [For You] and came at us immediately with intensity and emotion. Powerful, emotional, and heartbreaking, I am beginning to believe this song has become one of G.O’s most trusted companions. When an artist connects with a song the way G.O connects with 너를 위해 it makes me believe he has lived every lyric. The lighting and smoke during the song added ambiance, his stage presence, electric.
I have heard G.O sing this song three times now. THIS was his finest interpretation. There was a gentleness about it, even when he unleashed the emotion during the chorus. This song is a flaming arrow to the heart when he sings it. It embeds itself and scorches with every emotion he feels while singing it. G.O’s capacity to transfer his emotion directly to your heart is his special gift. I have not experienced this from any other vocalist ever. He doesn’t control the song, he lets the song control him. 너를 위해 is becoming one of my most favorite songs he has ever sung.
Here is fancam of how he opened the show:
His second song of the evening was John Legend’s All of Me. Sigh.
I jokingly told friends that G.O decided on two songs in English for the evening because he knew I would be there. Hey, a fangirl can have a simple and harmless fantasy or two!^^ You may recall awhile ago some leaked audio of him rehearsing All of Me. There is nothing arbitrary in the songs G.O chooses to sing. In my opinion, there is always depth and reason to why he chooses what he chooses.
My god it was perfect….he was perfect:
Is it the melody? The lyrics? Or a combination of both? Does the song resonate with something that happened or is happening in his life? Does the song challenge him? Does he sing it to improve his vocal ability? So many things I would love to ask him.
Back on February 4 he tweeted what was (and turned out exactly to be) his set list for the show: 너.all.des.사.play. Des was purported to be the Eagles’ 1970’s ballad, Desperado. And, that is exactly what it was. Oh.My.Heart.
When I think of the lyrics to Desperado and G.O, I cannot help but wonder if he feels like the loner cowboy, trudging through life on his own now since the break up of MBLAQ, even though they are still three. The message in this song is almost plaintive in nature. Someone from the outside looking in and watching the lonesome cowboy make his way on his own knowing that ultimately it may perhaps be his undoing, urging him to rethink his path. There is a similar theme going on in Jae Bum’s 너를 위해 [For You]. Both heroes decidedly choosing to walk through life’s hills and valleys alone.
So much depth in the music this man chooses to sing.
I am an Eagles fan from way back, and this song is a particular favorite. When the opening strains of Desperado began, I wasn’t quite sure I would survive it. G.O’s quiet and gentle version is forever etched into my soul. I wish I could have stormed the stage after he was done just to look into his eyes and simply thank him.
Two songs from the west sung in English back to back. Words cannot describe the emotions that were flooding over and through me. And there were still two more songs to go. Oh how I never wanted it to end. I wanted him to commandeer the stage and refuse to leave it!!
The sweet nostalgia of this precious man came through with his fourth song selection of the evening, 사랑은 차가운 유혹 [Love Is A Cold Temptation]. In June 2011, G.O made his first appearance on the singing competition show, Immortal Song 2 and this Yang Soo Kyung song was the first he sang in the competition.
This night was different however. He wasn’t competing to advance to the next level. He was doing what he does best. He was leaving his mark on us. Branding us. Wounding us with a scar so deep that no matter how far away he may go or for however long, the pangs of that wound would hold firm in our memories, he would hold firm in our hearts. G.O sang this song with a combination of tenderness and pathos, something he is so very adept at accomplishing. He manages to find that delicate balance within himself wherein he teeters on complete agony while reminding us that love is still a very tender emotion.
I am going to quote my own tweet from February 14, 2016 at around 8:15PM KST: He is a miracle….♡ #지오.
I knew that when we got to Play That Song that our time with him was almost over. Little did I realize how profound that thought was at the time when I was having it.
The quiet groove of Play That Song is the kind of soulful tune that agrees so very well with G.O’s retro sensibilities. It is his second (and to date, last) digital single he recorded and when he sings it, I just get the feeling he is so very proud of it. And he should be. Neo-classical musician Yiruma, the writer and producer of the song, chose well when he gave it G.O to record. It is the type of song that requires the smooth and honey-laced vocals that G.O delivers time and again with expertise. Yiruma is a pianist and G.O is a vocalist. Both are masters of their respective instruments. Put a couple of masters together and you get magic! I love this song and I love that G.O chose to sing it at the close of his set on Sunday.
After four heartbreaking, emotional and intense ballads, Play That Song was a sweet reprieve. Even though there is a touch a sadness in the song, there is still this message of hope of wanting to return to the happiness there once when listening to a song that was so joyous while in the throngs of love or perhaps simply during good times.
I was unable to find a full fancam of Play That Song, but offer a moment of it here…so sweet and smooth:
G.O knew we would be sad upon hearing the news of his enlistment. However, while he is away, we will indeed be playing his songs without him. Memories will be called back and yes, we will be sad. But just like the love-lorn hero of the song, we will still play his songs, still long to see him, yet find comfort in his voice which will remain our companion until he returns.
In looking back at the evening of February 14th, knowing now that the I.Callist show would be G.O’s last stage prior to entering the military, in some respects it felt like he was actually singing for the last time. He put everything and every part of himself into every song. True it is his nature to do this generally but if you listen and watch him in these five songs, I think you will agree that there was something more going on. I am not sure if he has ever sounded better. This past year has been a difficult one for him. Yet, he has taken all of the heartbreak and grief he endured and has allowed it to churn deep within him. Although it may have been devastatingly painful, it has nevertheless enhanced and elevated his art giving it a richness and depth that only time, experience and even suffering can do. I don’t know if I will ever know another artist who has the kind of strength and courage to be as true and honest to his art, his music, as MBLAQ’s incredible G.O.
Now that you have had some time to absorb the shock of hearing the news of his enlistment, don’t you kind of see that the messages were there all along? Or am I just reading into it too much? I don’t know. Even his partially shaved hair, which is so sexy and stylish on him can even be a clue in and of itself that he is on his way to a complete military buzz cut!^^
Dear lord he looked so handsome that evening, didn’t he? But then, when doesn’t he look handsome?!~♥
According to his agency, J. Tune, G.O is to enlist quietly “without any events or ceremonies” on Thursday, February 18. I will miss him terribly, but honor and respect his decision to go now and begin his service. I will never stop supporting him and will do all that I can to continue to tell the world about him. And, to get them (and myself) ready for his return on February 17, 2018.