SM Entertainment’s “Culture Humanity” Online Concert Review: An Impressive and Endearing Escape
This review originally appeared on 17caratkpop.weebly.com.
After the animated gates opened up to show an animated castle bearing the crest of each artist on the lineup, a video of Lee Soo-Man (the founder of SM Entertainment) played. In it, he stressed the importance of his company’s motto: “Be kind, be humble, [and] be the love.” With that, viewers escaped into the SM Entertainment Cinematic Universe, a welcoming and positive world full of high-energy performances with larger-than-life backgrounds and a message behind which everyone can get.
Performances were interspersed with artists sharing words of encouragement and appreciation with fans, words that embodied the “Be kind, be humble, [and] be the love” motto in a way that felt natural. Red Velvet’s Seulgi expressed anticipation for the day when mask-wearing in public is no longer needed, so she can smile brightly at others and see them smile back. Several members of NCT playfully scolded viewers who might have been watching the show with friends, telling them to stay home and stay safe. Mark used his time on stage during SuperM’s performance to thank TIME magazine for acknowledging the band’s music. Compassion and gratitude were present in the artists’ words and expressions in ways that did not feel forced.
The Stage Presences
Similarly admirable was how each artist channeled a unique stage persona or otherwise highlighted a signature trait of theirs. From Taemin taking on the role of the alter-ego that is central to his music video storyline to Taeyeon reminding viewers of her powerhouse vocals, each act seamlessly switched between casual and dramatic stage presences while reminding fans why their duality led them to have fans in the first place.
The “SM Magic”
Viewers who tuned in for only certain artists likely ended the night as new fans of the other artists. By adding a touch of SM Magic to each performance, viewers who tuned in just for NCT, for example, could remain interested during the other acts, gaining appreciation for more SM Entertainment artists in the process. It was captivating to watch remixes (namely AESPA’s Winter on a remix of “Yours”), AR technology (TVXQ performed below 3-D flames and helicopters), and premieres of new material (Kangta debuted a smooth new R&B song during his set) while waiting for a favorite act to appear. Viewers who came for one act stayed for them all.
The event did have some flaws: certain choreography was less in-sync than it used to be, the presence of backing tracks was obvious at times, and the transitions between stages were abrupt. Yet these flaws made “Culture Humanity” all the more, well, human. The year 2020 was filled with disorder and unpredictability, making it fitting to end the year in that same manner. The seemingly last-minute stitching-together of the performances and the moments that were a bit unpolished were endearing rather than annoying. Seeing how even the brightest of stars related to the nature of this past year and were also suddenly expected to adapt to all things virtual was a reminder that KPop artists and their fans can feel like they are all in this together.
The show concluded with a video montage of the artists singing together, the chemistry among them obvious. What might have looked cheesy any other year was a lovely way to start 2021, with a Disney-esque wholesomeness that tied back to the night’s opening remarks. From start to finish, “Culture Humanity” turned its flaws into its charms.
Watching “Culture Humanity” was a delightful way to start the new year. The ultimate source of joy that is music was gifted to fans in the form of live performances, new-to-them music, and friendly reminders to look out for one another. By adding refreshing and unexpected twists to performances of classic SM Entertainment songs, this company proved why it deserves its status as both marketing-savvy and a home for mesmerizing performers worth supporting. By engaging viewers and listeners of different SM Entertainment artists in the same settings and adding “SM Magic,” this event had the potential to draw in new fans while keeping long-timeones engaged and delighted. There was a reason for every viewer to be pleased with the “Culture Humanity” viewing experience, making it simultaneously smart marketing and necessary encouragement wrapped in an admirable message.