K-pop is not a genre typically associated with having strong rock roots.
But then again, Kim “Hero” Jaejoong is not an artist known for playing by the rules.
The former TVXQ member famously provoked the wrath of his former record label SM Entertainment, after he, Park “Micky” Yoochun and Kim “Xia” Junsu left their former band and label to form JYJ.
Back in July, SM Entertainment was asked by Korea’s Fair Trade Commission to stop their numerous attempts to sabotage JYJ’s career.
Jaejoong now is poised to launch a solo career (he remains an active member of JYJ), with his first full-length album “WWW,” due out October 29.
“Butterfly, “the debut single off of “WWW,” is a shot in the arm of the South Korean music scene, with a sound that is more headbang than Big Bang.
With soaring electric guitar riffs reminiscent of 1980s axemen like Slash and Randy Rhodes, Jaejoong has offered up four and a half minutes of surprisingly well-executed retro rock.
His vocals are passionate without becoming sickeningly sincere.
In his singing performance, the JYJ vocalist seems to be looking even further back, calling to mind arena legends like Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Company or Steve Perry of Journey.
While no man alive (even Journey’s current sound-alike vocalist) can recreate the power that giants like those two singers achieved in their prime, Jaejoong simply seems content to work some solid rock and roll into the K-pop landscape.
And while there are occasional rhythmic flourishes that resemble a sound a bit too close to the horrid Nu metal sounds of 10 years ago on “Butterfly,” it is a problem mostly confined to the drum set.
With a musician behind the drums more content to simply lay into the pocket (see original Guns N’ Roses drumming powerhouse Steven Adler for an example of this) and a producer devoted to channeling the great rock sounds of years gone by, K-pop could have just found its newest, perhaps even its only, real rock and roller.