To say that Park Jin-young aka JYP is Korea’s Michael Jackson would be unfair to fans in the rest of the world. Any of Park’s music videos or even ones produced by him for one of his creations — the Wonder Girls among them — instantly establishes him as a first-magnitude talent.
“A superstar is born when you keep hustling after you become a star,” Park told an interviewer. “How are you going to stop yourself from partying every night, drinking, living that crazy life after you become a star? That’s when desperation is needed… Desperation makes terrible singers sing great, desperation makes the worst dancers into the most amazing dancers.”
Park was talking about Rain, the backup dancer he discovered in 2000 and groomed into a big enough pop superstar to fill Madison Square Garden in May of 2006. But he might as well have been talking about himself.
At the age of 38 Park not only retains his mojo as Korea’s most talented singer/songwriter/dancer/choreographer but is emerging as one of the world’s most dynamic music producers. That’s evidenced not only by the success of his namesake JYP Entertainment as a business with about $40 mil. a year in revenues but the caché of his U.S. projects with partners like TV producer Lawrence Bender and the Jonas Brothers and his songwriting and producing of albums for Will Smith, Mase, R. Kelly and Cassie. Park even landed on the cover of Billboard magazine in August of 2007, a first for an Asia-based producer.
Park’s determination to attain superstar status became apparent in July 2007 when — after a six-year hiatus from his own performing career to build JYPE into a global entertainment firm — Park announced his comeback as a singer.
“I will come back as singer Park Jin-young with songs that the fans can enjoy and sympathize with,” he told Chosun Daily soon after the opening of JYPE’s New York City office on 31st Street. By then Park had already written and produced 30 songs to be included in his new album while working full time as JYPE’s globetrotting CEO.
All of Park’s successes spring from his monster talent. He owns the closest thing most will ever see to Michael Jackson’s id-fueled, spring-loaded moves. Park’s singing voice oozes angst and speaks to everyman’s demons. But Park’s true power resides deep inside where his creative juices spring. That creative intensity is reflected in a face that evokes the dark, maniacal and compellingly charismatic mugs of, say, Jack Nicholson, Frankenstein and the green god Loki in The Mask. Park’s demeanor ranges from bored lounge lizard to conscience-racked cannibal. One look at Park’s face tells audiences that this man digs deep beneath conventional pop sentiments to claw at those unspeakable urges that rarely see the light of day.
As a producer Park shows remarkable fluency with imagery. Tears crystalize on his cheek as he’s being caressed on a crowded harem bed to suggest ritual grief at the eternal conflict between love and desire in his “No Love No More” music video (whose release roughly coincided with his March 2009 divorce from his wife of 10 years). In the Wonder Girls’ witty U.S.-debut music video “Nobody” (2009), in a bit of self-parody, Park plays an ego-centric star stuck in a toilet before a big show.
In short, Park is the antidote to the sterile prettiness of most pop artists. It’s doubtful that even Park’s own JYPE Academy could have created a Park Jin-young.
Park Jin-young was born in Seoul, Korea on January 13, 1972. From an early age he showed himself to be a maverick, an artist, an oddball — in keeping with his AB blood type, his fans might opine. His misfit personality got him into so many fistfights that he recalls being covered with bruises during the entire three years of junior high. He also had his own way of studying. As a high school senior he slacked until the last 100 days before his college entrance exam, then slept three hours a night while cramming. It worked well enough to get Park into Yonsei University, about like Korea’s Columbia.
At Yonsei Park recognized that his lifelong love of music and dance was taking precedence over his studies. He decided to be a singer-dancer who attended Yonsei and not a geologist who can sing and dance. For two of his college years Park lived with a composer/producer who helped shape his raw talent into an album released in 1994 under the title Blue City. Its sexy and provocative lyrics scandalized some. The slick dance moves Park worked into his stage performances helped turn the single “Don’t Leave Me” into one of the year’s top hits. Next