SHINee's Jonghyun Passed Away

SHINee's Jonghyun Passed Away

The K-pop world mourns the loss of the beloved singer.

It's no longer news that the K-pop group SHINee's leader Jonghyun has passed. An apparent suicide, fans of the group and Jonghyun had known of the struggles he faced for years. He was open about his deteriorating mental health in interviews, but the news still shocked and saddened fans.

Some news outlets have turned to shining a light on South Korea's mental health problems, and it's certainly a conversation worth having. Jonghyun's death didn't just impact South Korea. SHINee had fans and followers all over the world, and K-pop is more popular now than ever before.

But I'm sitting here trying to parse through my thoughts and figure out how to approach this article that hits close to home, and I don't exactly know which direction it should go.

For those of you who don't know Jonghyun or SHINee, the group debuted in 2008 under SM Entertainment, a massive music label known for many other artists including Girl's Generation, Super Junior, BoA, Exo and many more.

They were one of the most popular and influential K-pop groups, with a long list of accolades and awards under their belts over the course of their near-10-year-long career. They've even earned the nickname, "Princes of K-pop." Their powerful vocals, unique aesthetic and impressive dance routines cemented them as favorites in the hearts of K-pop fans everywhere.

And when we consider a group like BTS taking the world by storm, it was musicians like those in SHINee that busted open that door and helped spread K-pop across the globe. Their massive popularity in Korea and abroad was highlighted by five world tours, with "SHINee World V" landing two performances in the United States.

SHINee was one of the first K-pop groups I ever enjoyed. Songs like "Ayo" and "Replay" revealed to me a world of music I had never fully appreciated.

It was Jonghyun's voice that had me hooked. With so many artists and singers in the K-pop realm, many voices ended up sounding the same and every new group would start to blend together. SHINee was different and it was thanks to Jonghyun.

His voice stood out among the rest and was always recognizable. His passion on stage during the group's live performances was inspiring. Just watch this video of the boys performing "Replay" at one of their stops on their fourth world tour. Jonghyun is the blonde one crying at the end as the crowd sings along.

It's hard not to admire a group so talented and so in love with their fans and art.

SHINee will remain one of the best and most influential K-pop groups in my heart for years to come. They were one of the first groups that brought me in to the world of Korean pop culture and showed me a side of Korea I didn't know existed.

I'm hurt.

I'm sad.

Rest in peace, Jonghyun.

Cover Image Credit: AllKpop

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Dear Shondaland, You Made A Mistake Because April Kepner Deserves Better

"April Kepner... you're not average"

I'll admit from the first time we were introduced to April in Season 6, I didn't like her so much. I mean we hated the "Mercy Westers" in the first place, so how could we see the potential in the annoying, know-it-all resident that was trying to compete with our beloved Lexie Grey.

But then, we saw her come face-to-face with a killer and thought maybe she had potential.

We then saw her surprise everyone when she proved to be the next trauma surgeon in the making and we were intrigued.

Notice how none of these stories had anything to do with Jackson Avery. Not that we didn't love her with Jackson, but for whatever reason you've chosen to end their very popular relationship. Suddenly, you think that April is not worth further exploration but you've forgotten one simple thing. We fell in love with her before "Japril" was ever in the picture.

We love her because her story was unlike the others and she had one of the best character developments on the show. She wasn't damaged like Meredith Grey or Alex Karev who have been on their journey to become all whole and healed, but she still had to fight hard to be taken seriously. Her story has so much potential for future development, but you've decided to throw it all away for "creative reasons."

I'm sorry, but there's nothing creative about doing the exact same thing you've done to all the other characters who have left the show. We've endured the loss of many beloved characters when you chose to write off George, Henry, Mark, and Lexie. We even took it when you did the unthinkable and wrote McDreamy out of the show - killing off one half of the leading couple. (WHO DOES THAT???)

But April Kepner? Are you kidding me?

She may no longer be with Jackson, but she was so much more than half of Japril. While most of us hate that Jackson and April are over, we probably could have dealt with it if April was still on the show. Now they're done and you think there aren't any more stories to tell about her character. Why? Because she'll just get in the way of Jackson and Maggie?

How could you not see that she was way more than Jackson's love interest?

She's so much more than you imagined her to be. April is the headstrong, talented trauma surgeon no one saw coming. The farmer's daughter started off an ugly duckling who became a soldier because she needed to be one and turned into one big beautiful swan who constantly has to fight for her coworkers and family to see her as such.

She's proven to be a soldier and swan on many occasions. Just take giving birth to her daughter in a storm on a kitchen table during an emergency c-section without any numbing or pain medication as an example. If she wasn't a soldier or a swan before, how could she not be after that?

Yet, you - the ones who created her - still see her as the ugly duckling of a character because she always had to take the backseat to everyone else's story and was never allowed to really be seen.

But we see her.

She's the youngest of her sisters who still think of her as the embarrassing little Ducky no matter how much she's grown.

This swan of a resident got fired for one mistake but came back fighting to prove she belongs. Not only did April Kepner belong there, but it was her talent, her kindness, her strength that made her Chief Resident. This simply wasn't enough for Dr. Bailey or her other residents so she fought harder.

She endured the pressure but always ended up being a joke to the others. When she was fired yet again, your girl came back a little shaken. She doubted herself, but how could she not when everyone was against her.

Despite everyone telling her she couldn't, she did rise and no one saw her coming because she remained in the background. She went off to Jordan broken and came back a pretty risky trauma surgeon.

We've watched for years as she was handed promising stories that we never got to see fully develop because she was in the background. We never got to see her rise. We get the beginning and the end, but hardly ever the middle.

I thought we were finally going to have an amazing story arc in season 11 when she loses Samuel, but what did we really get? Two or three episodes of her coming to terms with the loss of her baby and then April's disappearance from the show while she's grieving off screen so that Dr. Amelia Shepherd can shine her first season on the show. Where is April's life-changing surgeries? What does April get? She's background music.

Now what?

It's season 14 and we finally get the story we've been waiting 9 years for! We get Dark April and her crisis of faith. A story arc all Christians can appreciate. Here's the chance for real character development in the foreground, but wait...

Before her story is even wrapped up, you announce that this season will be her last. So we're forced to realize that the only reason we're getting this story now is that you're writing her off.

No matter how you end it, it's not going to do her story justice. If you kill her off to end her crisis of faith story, you're not reaching the many Christians who watch the show. If you have her leaving Seattle and taking Harriet with her, you didn't know April. If you have her leaving Seattle and abandoning Harriet, you really didn't know April. So anyway you choose to end her story, you lost out on one great character.

You messed up.

Both April Kepner and Sarah Drew deserved better.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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'Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild' Reminds Me Why I Play Video Games

The newest title in the "Legend of Zelda" franchise is worthy of all the praise.

Video games are a kind of art, whether you agree or not. They have visuals, music, a story (most of the time), and have countless hours of hard work put into them by their creators, testers, critics, lovers, and haters alike. There are bad games, and there are good games. That line is blurred more often than you think, and there are very, very few games in the world (in my opinion) that are objectively bad or good. What does this have to do with anything, though, right? Why am I saying these things?

"Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is a game that came out last year for the brand-new Nintendo Switch as a launch title, and it had been hyped for quite a while by fans and gamers alike. Personally, there were two things wrong with my view on the game itself. One, I was never a big fan of the LOZ series and formula, and two, I dislike hype. I've been disappointed by and had friends be disappointed by things that had false hype to be good but then ended up either being mediocre or just completely flopping altogether. So, the real question is: "Does BOTW live up to its hype?"

"Legend of Zelda" is one of the most beloved franchises in video game history, and first started back in 1986 on the NES and was created by video game superstar and Nintendo elite Shigeru Miyamoto, and has since evolved into a franchise spanning almost double-digit consoles and around 25 official games. The games are all different in some way but follow the same basic plotline: You play as Link, a green-clad young man who seeks to save the country of Hyrule from Ganon, an evil being created by malice and hatred incarnating in the shape of a man. You are helped by the equally-famous Princess Zelda, the daughter of the king of Hyrule, who uses her mastery of magic to assist Link in his quests. She occasionally needs saving, but sometimes she's kicking butt by his side. This formula is decades-old but is still loved and cherished today.

BOTW follows this formula almost to a T, actually. You wake up as a young man in some kind of chamber, where you find out that you are Link, the royal knight, and protector of Princess Zelda. You find out as well that you have been asleep for the past 100 years, and that you only just awoke from the injuries that you suffered. Next, you are tasked with finding and reclaiming the four Divine Beasts, great mechanical animals that were controlled by four of Princess Zelda's champions, and then to defeat Calamity Ganon in Hyrule Castle. The only problem with that? You are missing your amazing weapon of old: the Master Sword, a straight sword that uses the power of light to banish evil. You are also being dropped into a world full of perils that you have to overcome and learn from in order to succeed. You must find your sword, free the beasts, and defeat Ganon to save Hyrule and the Princess.

BOTW is an open-world game with so much to do that I could probably write a novel about it. Besides the main quests, there are countless extra things to do and people to meet and help that I can't even begin to go into detail. You'd need a guide to make sure you had seen everything. The world is beautiful and intricate, like a huge watercolor painting, almost. While BOTW doesn't have as good of "graphics" as other open-world favorites like "Skyrim" and "The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt", the game is stylized and perfect in its own way and doesn't need to necessarily look realistic to be considered excellent.

The characters are the most realistic part of the game, with many races and people besides the Hylian human-like people. There are the Zora, people who are essentially anthropomorphic sharks and squids, the Rito, who are feathered bird-people, the Urbosa, a tribe of desert-dwelling women who live in a sheltered society that drives away all men, and the Gorons, large, roundish creatures that are very durable, and who roll to move. Each of these tribe has their own culture and customs, and while the Gorons are very hospitable to you, you may find yourself at the spearpoint of an Urbosa guard if you make a mistake. Each of the champions, those who controlled the four beasts, are one from each of the tribes.

The music is stellar, and I often find myself wanting to boot up the game again just to hear it. The soundtrack is very piano-heavy, but it makes excellent use of this versatile instrument to denote peace, stillness, and tranquility, as well as danger, peril, and excitement. One of my favorite experiences playing the game was walking in the field minding my own business and hearing the beautiful, light piano flit by, when all of a sudden my ears are assaulted by high-pitched, fluctuating notes, indicating the presence of a Guardian, a gigantic, robot-like enemy that presented a real danger, as it can easily kill you early-game. The emotions that I felt from just the music alone were incredible, and that is just one example.

The story is come-and-go like I said before, but it's still amazing. One task you are given is to find all of the locations of the pictures on your Sheikah Slate, a piece of technology that is not unlike the Nintendo Switch gamepad, that takes pictures and scans enemies for you, along with many other things. When you find these places and remember these scenes, you are given fully-voiced scenes that bring clarity to the whole situation you're in, and you get to witness why the Princess did what she did for you, and it heightens your sense of urgency to defeat Ganon. I'm choosing not to talk about a lot for the sake of spoilers, but rest assured that the developers took extra time and care to craft such a unique and moving tale.

The gameplay is where I'm most concerned, and where I have some complaints. The game flows well and is beautiful, and most of the gameplay involves you solving puzzles and defeating enemies by using weapons or your bow. But unlike other Zelda games, you can't keep a weapon very long because they break. Before I played the game, I was disgusted by something like that, as I figured that a weapon I liked so much had no right to break, but it's not too bad, actually. Sure, it gets annoying having to switch weapons constantly because that spear you were using broke, but there are weapons literally everywhere.

The second issue I have is that the first few hours of the game can be brutal, particularly if you wander somewhere you technically aren't "supposed" to be in. There's really not a lot of balancing in this game, which is something that most open-world games have to account for. If you're low-level, only low-level enemies appear until you get to a certain point, but in this game, if you go somewhere that is technically "late-game", you may find yourself struggling. My final issue with the game is the stamina bar, which is consumed when you run, attack, and climb. I hate this feature in all games, but in this one, it's particularly obnoxious. You are expected to traverse and make your way through the area, and climb towers to unlock parts of the map for that area, but how can you do that when the stamina bar is so terrible? It runs out way too quick, in my opinion. You can make it bigger, but you have to choose between increasing stamina or health in this game when you have the item to do so, and it's almost always better to pick health. Climbing is also obnoxious, as the game punishes you for trying to get to the top faster by jumping. You also can't climb very well when it's raining, which is more often than you think.

Next, there are various shrines that you have to complete puzzles and challenges to get spirit orbs, which you can trade four of for another heart of health, or a quarter of a stamina wheel. These shrine challenges range from fun and interesting to just plain frustrating, especially the ones where you have to pick up the Switch or Wii U gamepad to move a ball through a maze. I was playing on a Switch Pro-controller (looks like an Xbox controller, and is the correct way to play a game), and I had to physically get up, break my immersion, and use the gamepad to navigate the stupid little ball inside the hole. It was obnoxious and honestly stupid, in my opinion.

While there are some annoyances in gameplay, there are plenty of mechanics that are cool and well-made. You can tame horses and ride them throughout the land, and there's a whole library of things you can cook over a fire to make food so that you can restore your health. The amount of consumable items is incredible and gives you a lot of freedom in crafting. I had some of the most fun seeing what I could make if I mixed an apple, a banana, rice, meat, and piece of fish in a skillet together. While it sounds gross, you could be surprised how tasty your finished product will look!

You'll be a master chef in no time, honestly.

In conclusion, "Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" is an amazing game that is definitely worthy of a lot of the praise it gets, but I personally think that many critics and players overlook the obnoxious game design choices because they have nostalgia-goggles on. LOZ fans, like many fans, can be disillusioned about the most recent game because they hold their favorite series in such high esteem. This is true of almost any fan of a franchise, though. It's certainly rampant with "Pokémon" fans, that's for sure. Still, BOTW is absolutely worth playing if you can get your hands on it.


+ Unique and beautiful aesthetic that sets it apart from other open-world games

+ Mesmerizing soundtrack that conveys every emotion under the sun at just the right time

+ Great writing and characters that will make you laugh out loud or even tear up a little

+ There are many layers of complexity to the game, like sneaking mechanics and the amount of food you can cook and armor you can find

+ A great story that makes you want to play it again and again


- Some of the shrine puzzles are just plain obnoxious and unfun

- Has a lack of balancing, where you may run into late-game enemies if you wander too far away

- The stamina wheel is poorly-designed and breaks immersion

Final Verdict: 8.5/10

Cover Image Credit: Nintendo

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