Saturday, March 31, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Hyun Jin Young Go! Jin Young Go! (3)

현진영, 그리고 1990년대의 추억
Hurrah for Hyun Jin Young! Hurrah for the 1990’s! 

 Hyun Jin Young poses with his wife,
Oh Seo Woon ( Nov. 2011)

In 1994, Hyun Jin Young wrote (7 out of 8 songs) and produced Gu Bon Seung (구본승)’s second album, Migung (미궁, “Labyrinth”) but in the following year (1995) he was arrested and imprisoned for taking Philopon (methamphetamine) again.   By the time people almost completely forgot he even existed, he once again teamed up with Lee Tak  who wrote “Heurin gieoksoge geudae” (흐린 기억 속의 그대, "Vague Memories of You") for him in 1992 and attempted to make a comeback in 1997.  Together, Hyun and Lee organized a hip hop crew called IWBH, an acronym formed from “International World Beat and Hip-hop,” which was also the title of Hyun’s third album released in 1993.  Much to their frustration, however, the audience reaction to their album was couldn’t have been more apathetic.  In 1998, Hyun was AGAIN arrested and imprisoned for glue sniffing in his car, and his hip-hop crew, IWBH, disbanded.

[MV] IWBH: IWBH (1997)
Bbeodeobwa (뻗어봐)
"I Will Fly Again"
(In case the video buffers, please pause it 
until the entire stream is downloaded and then play it.)

Heurin gieok jeo pyeoneseo (흐린 기억 저편에서)
"On the Other Side of Vague Memories"

Since then, for about four years, Hyun had made his living singing around from nightclub to nightclub, barely making ends meet.  In 2002, he reappeared on the Korean music scene with his fourth album, “Wild Gangster Hip Hop,” and the title track, “Yoram” (요람, “The Cradle”) that featured the actress Oh Seo Woon, the love of his life he had met in 2000.  The song is one of his great masterpieces in which he reflected on his sweet childhood days and the tumultuous ups and downs of his life.

Oh talked him into checking into rehab to fight his drug addiction and fought his way back to music.  (FYI, She appeared in MBC’s 2005 ultra hit, Nae ireumeun Gim Samsun ( 이름은 김삼순, “My Name is Kim San Soon”) as Hyun Bin’s blind date.) Thanks to her devotion, he finally cleaned up.  In a 2002 interview, he said he was learning to cultivate virtuous moderation so was practicing Jeolbane mihak (절반의 미학, “the Art of (Taking Up Half”), for example, he took up just half his rice bowl and filled it with vegetables instead.  By doing that, he knocked off 66 pounds (220 lbs. to 154 lbs.).  In the interview, he chimed in on celebrity and substance abuse; he said, “If you think, ‘I’ll try it just once and never again,’ you’re wrong.  Don’t listen to the voice of the devil.”

[LIVE] Hyun Jin Young: Yoram (요람) "The Cradle"

Hyun also wrote and recorded for OCN’s 2004 made-for-TV-movie, “Dong-sang-i-mong” (동상이몽, “Although They Work Together”) and for a 2005 movie, “Sinderella” (신데렐라, “Cinderella”)  In 2006, he released his fifth album, “Street Jazz in My Soul,” a jazz/hip hop crossover or jazz rap.  With the title track, “Sorichyeobwa” (소리쳐봐, “Shout Out”) aka “Break Me Down,” he not only successfully returned to the Korean music scene, but turned into a confident, mature, and sophisticated musician. 

On SBS’s Gangsimjang (강심장, “The Iron Heart”), aired on February 11, 2012, he revealed how his late father had influenced his music.  His father, Heo Byungchan (허병찬), a pianist who died from congestive heart failure in 2005, was the first electronic jazz organist in Korean music history.  (His mom died when he was 14 (in Korean age, 13 in Western age).  He described his father as “Goejja” (괴짜, “wacky”): While he was serving his time in jail, his father came to see him and asked, “Are you having fun (in there)?

[LIVE] ETN's Muz Stage:  Hyun Jin Young (2006)
"Break Me Down" (2006) & "Love Is" (2005)
(The second song starts at 08:20.)

Hyun said he had longed to learn from his father since he was little; but his father had never given him any music lessons.  In 2004, his father turned quite the contrary when he was preparing for his 2006 album; he tirelessly poured out a stream of critical comments on the songs Hyun had written and recorded.  His father just kept giving his songs a thumbs-down, reprimanding him, “Are you a third-rate Ddanddara?”  (Here, the word “Ddanddara” is a pejorative Korean term for an entertainer.)  So he re-recorded the album and sent it to his father who was in the hospital after congestive heart failure.  His father talked down about the album again referring to it as “Sseuregi” (쓰레기, “Garbage”), which provoked him to say, “Are you insane?  Are you losing it? Not gonna do it again!”  He hung up on his father and that was the last time he talked to him.  His father was declared brain dead the same day and soon passed away.  While going through his late father’s personal belongings, he found a box of cassette tapes labeled “Music Scales Practice to Chord for Hyunseok.”  (FYIHis birth name is Heo Hyunseok.)  He remembered his father had always played music from those cassette tapes for him every morning:  For example, when he needed help playing F chord on piano, his father played music in F.  It was not until then he realized it had been his father’s own methods of teaching him (what is involved in understanding) music.

Hyun's 2006 song, Sorichyeobwa” (“Shout Out”) aka “Break Me Down,” is just brilliant, awesome, hands down!  This very addictive song is one of my most favorite Hyun Jin Young songs but here's warning: The music video uploaded below contains content some viewers may find disturbing.

[MV] Hyun Jin Young: Street Jazz in My Soul (2006)
"Soricheo Bwa" ("Shout Out"), aka "Break Me Down"

Thursday, March 29, 2012


신화, “남자의 자격 (SHINHWA on KBS's "Qualifications of a (Real) Man")

I was almost rolling on the floor laughing my guts out while watching this show featuring SHINHWA.  On the show, aired on March 25, 2012, they had a "Palm Push Game" against NAMJAe JAGYEOK (남자의 자격).  The next episode is scheduled to air coming Sunday (04/01/2012).  (If you want to watch the following video clips in HD full screen, click on the titles on screen or double-click the clips.)

Dalk Ssaum (닭싸움, “Korean Chicken Fight”), a warm-up game, 
starts at 09:00, followed by a Palm Push Game.

Hilarious Moments of SHINHWA, 
playing the Palm Push Game

Preview of Next Week's Episode 
featuring SHINHWA 

[FanCam] SHINHWA:  "How Do I Say"
Yet Another Hilarious Moments of SHINHWA
Caught During the Comeback Concert, "Return"

Monday, March 26, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Hyun Jin Young Go! Jin Young Go! (2)

현진영, 그리고 1990년대의 추억 
Hurrah for Hyun Jin Young! Hurrah for the 1990’s! 

In 1992, Seo Taiji and Boys dominated KBS’s “Gayo Top Ten,” a K-pop chart show, for five weeks in a row respectively from July 1 through Aug. 5 with their debut song, “Nan arayo” (I Know That), and from Oct. 21 through Nov. 18 with “Hwansangsoge geudae” (“You Live in a Fantasy World”).1  At the end of the same year, Hyun Jin Young came back with vengeance to rank first five times on the same chart with “Heurin gieoksoge geudae ("Vague Memories of You") (Dec. 12 and 23 of 1992; Jan. 6, 20 and 27 of 1993).2  As the expression borrowed from Japanese goes, it was not a real sword fight though.

1. KBS’s “Gayo Top Ten” had a rule called Goldeun keop (골든컵, “Golden Cup”).  The rule was introduced in 1983 to retire a song that ranked first for five weeks in a row.  FYI, Cho Yongpil’s 10 week domination (08/18/82~11/03/82) with the song “Mot chatgedda Ggoeggori (못찾겠다 꾀꼬리, “Oriole, Where Are You?”) has triggered such a rule.
2. Taiji Boys won the Golden Cup while Hyun didn’t because 015B’s Aju oraedoen yeonindeul (아주 오래된 연인들, “The (Bored) Longtime Lovers”) put his winning streak on the chart (that lasted three weeks) to rest (01/13/1993).  

[MV] 015B: Aju oraedoen yeonindeul 
"The (Bored) Longtime Lovers"  
From the album "The Third Wave" (1992)
(The actual singing starts at 1:20)

Seo Taiji and Boys and Hyun Jin Young respectively released a new album approximately two months apart in 1993.  Taiji Boys took the inside track to swipe the throne from Kim Jun Seoun (김준선), who is still considered “Biwune cheonjae” (비운의 천재, “The Ill-fated Genius”).  Kim joined the army when he had yet to reach the peak of his career, which many people believed was a kiss of death ; but I think his career was doomed from the get-go due to Taiji Boys who stole his thunder.  Their title track “Hayeoga” (하여가, “The Whatever Song”) topped KBS’s “Gayo Top Ten” chart for four weeks (08/11~09/01) and even though they failed to win the Golden Cup, they became a nationwide phenom.  They were especially praised for their awesome rap/metal/traditional Korean music (“Taepyeongso”) crossover.

[AUDIO] Kim Jun Seoun (Oct.,1992)
Arabian naiteu ("Arabian Nights")

[MV] Seo Taiji and Boys: Hayeoga 
"The Whatever Song" (1993)

In September of 1993 when Taiji Boys were hitting the charts high, Hyun Jin Young made a much anticipated comeback with his third album, “INT. World Beat and Hip-hop of New Dance 3.”  People thought it was worth the wait to witness their face-off.  Much to our disappointment, however, Hyun was arrested (and imprisoned) for taking Philopon, i.e., methamphetamine.  His arrest came just a week after his album was released, and as the album and Hyun himself got banned from TV and radio immediately, he never made the charts.  Interestingly enough, one song from the album, Dugeundugeun kungkung (두근두근 쿵쿵,“Pit-a-pat, Pit-a-pat, Boom, Boom!”), gained popularity among young generations, and at the same time, while in prison, Hyun was accused of stealing the refrain from Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker”3:  “All I wanna do is zoom-zoom-zoom-zoom and a boom-boom. Just shake your rump.” (FYI, legendary Korean pop diva Insuni (인순이) did the entire chorus of the song.)  BTW, Sean of YG's "Jinusean" was among "WaooWa," his backup dancers.

Sean, dancing behind Hyun Jin Young (1993)

[AUDIO] Hyun Jin Young: Dugeundugeun kungkung
"Pit-a-pat, Pit-a-pat, Boom, Boom!" (1993)

[MV] Mnet: Hyun Jin Young: Dugeundugeun kungkung
"Pit-a-pat, Pit-a-pat, Boom, Boom!" (1993)
(This video clip takes awhile to start.
In case the video buffers, please pause it 
until the entire stream is downloaded and then play it.)

[LIVE] Hyun Jin Young, age 39 (07/02/2010)
Hyun Jin Young Go! Jin Young Go! &
Dugeundugeun kungkung (Pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat, thump thump!)

3.  Back then, not a few Korean musicians blatantly and outright stole from other international artists.  When the internet was not yet commercialized thus the world was not as small and as connected as it is now, we hardly had access to information to figure out who stole from whom.  Once the internet was world-widely commercialized starting from 1995, however, life-long music lovers with an enormous amount of knowledge logged onto their PCs and into the online communities to dig up dirt on artists they suspected of plagiarism.  Hyun and Seo Taiji were among those who were criticized there too.  (FYI, Seo Taiji was accused of  plagiarism over “Nan arayo” (“I Know That”), and it’s believed by some that he later admitted he had just rearranged Milli Vanilli's "Girl You Know It's True" (1989), but the song (song and lyrics) was registered as being written by Seo only and he owns the copyright.)

Well, according to Ecclesiastes, there's nothing new under the sun.  And the great artist Pablo Picasso said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal,” which Steve Jobs quoted in 1994 to defend himself from the accusations of stealing from Xerox PARC.  He added, “We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”  In that sense, both J. S. Bach and G. F. Handel are worthy of a pedestal with the greatest artists, i.e., the greatest plagiarists:  Bach is known to have copied (from) the masterpieces of previous generations (such as Vivaldi) and Handel even stole from his contemporaries such as G. B. Bononcini, Johann Mattheson, or J. A. Scheibe.  Even today while I was driving and listening to "Hasta Manana," a song by my immortal beloved – the ABBA, I found myself unwittingly singing "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" to the ABBA song.  Whether intentional or accidental, even the late George Harrison, Beyoncé, or Oasis once found themselves accused of stealing a song from another artist. 

And all these are just the visible part of the iceberg.

The old saying that goes, “imitation is the mother of invention,” might not be the golden rule of creation.  But again, there's nothing new under the sun as the wise man in Ecclesiastes once wrote.  These acts of imitation, sometimes in the name of outright stealing or sometimes in the name of sampling or benchmarking, are still going on somewhere in the world at this very moment. 

I don’t mean to defend plagiarism or anything here, but I think it wouldn’t hurt to be a little forgiving to plagiarists from countries with no or less infrastructures for music.  Because, by imitating other international (American/British/European) artists, all those prototypes for today’s Korean musicians in the 90’s have contributed to the remarkable growth of Korean music hence to the rise of K-pop in the world now; or even before, Korean singers in the 70’s through the 80’s had laid the groundwork for the 90’s musicians by remaking or adapting American/British/European songs (without permission) like “My Way,” “Delilah,” “Blowing in the Wind,” “Zwei Kleine Sterne,” “Waterloo,” Tombe la Neige,” “Pokarekare Ana,”  to name a few.  Michel Polnareff’s “Qui a tué Grand-Maman?” was even remade into an epitomic Korean students’ protest song of the 80’s.

However, if the tables were turned around, i.e., if Andrew Lloyd Webber stole from a poor, unknown artist from a developing country (either economically or musically), it’d be quite another story.  I hope you get what I mean.

The one thing about plagiarism that bothers me most is when an outright plagiarist passes himself/herself off as a genius.  In Korea back then in the 80’s, even when the musicians remade or adapted international songs with no permission, they were conscientious enough at least not to credit the songs to themselves.  They used to specify the songs as Oegukgok (외국곡, “A foreign song”) or list its original title together:

e.g.  슬픈 운명  (Ace of Sorrow)  or,
         슬픈 운명 (Lyrics by 트윈폴리오; Song by Oegukgok (외국곡))

The bottom line is:  Just admit it when you’re not a genius and stop faking it.  When you like someone else’s song, you can remake it (with permission) into a different genre of music, a totally unique interpretation of yours, but don’t say you wrote it.  That way, you can still unlock your own genius.

Frustrated and disheartened by the fall of his own creation (Hyun) and the rise of Taiji Boys, the creation by his former employee, Choi Jinyeol, Lee Soo-Man gave up on Hyun and quit pursuing the genre of hip hop.  And it was Kim Gun Mo (or Kim Geonmo, 김건모) who filled the void left by Hyun.

[MV] Kim Gun Mo: Jam mot deuneun bam bineun naerigo
( 드는 비는 내리고)
“(It’s) Raining on a Sleepless Night”
from 1992 debut album The Kim Gun Mo

[AUDIO] Kim Gun Mo (1992/1993)
Cheodinsang (첫인상)
“Your First Impression”

KOREAN MUSIC: Hyun Jin Young Go! Jin Young Go! (1)

현진영, 그리고 1990년대의 추억 
Hurrah for Hyun Jin Young!  Hurrah for the 1990’s! 

Last Friday (03/23/2012), Hyun Jin Young (현진영)1  opened KBS’s “Yoo Hee-Yeol’s Sketch Book” that featured all that 90’s singers and, at the age of 41, brought the house down with his 90’s mega hit, “Heurin gieoksoge geudae” (흐린 기억 속의 그대, "Vague Memories of You"). Throughout the show, I felt like I was hanging out with old friends.

I think the show's concept was derived from the newly released Korean movie, “Geonchukhak gaeron” (건축학개론, “Architecture 101”)2 in which the flashbacks from the 90’s are intertwined with the present.  The movie’s soundtrack features “Gieoge seupjak” (기억의 습작, “Etude of Memories”), the epitomic 90’s song by Jeollamhoe (전람회, “The Exhibition”).  I think the film cleverly tapped into the emotional goldmine of 90’s nostalgia owned by middle-aged people with the strongest purchasing power in most of Korean markets right now. Likewise, Hyun and the show’s 90’s style presentation of the ultimate 90’s songs itself brought me all the fond memories from the 90's.  Alas, those were the days!

[LIVE] Hyun Jin Young (2012): KBS's "Sketch Book": The 90's Nostalgia
Heurin gieoksoge geudae (흐린 기억 속의 그대), "Vague Memories of You"

[MV] Architecture 101 (released on 03/22/2012)
Featuring Gieoge seupjak (Etude of Memories) by Jeollamhoe (The Exhibition) (1994)

1. Hyun Jin Young was born on February 3, 1971.  His birth name is Heo Hyunseok (허현석)
2. Starring in the film are Eom Tae-Woong as Seungmin (Present), Han Gain as Seoyoen (Present), Lee Je-Hoon as Seungmin (Past), and Suzy as Seoyeon (Past).  It is about an unrequited first love that involved misunderstandings.

Hyun Jin Young is the prototype for later SM idols to come.  Hyun and Lee Juno of TheTaiji Boys or Seo Taiji and the Boys (서태지와 아이들, Seo Taejiwa aideul) had auditioned for Lee Soo-Man (이수만), a founder of the SM Entertainment (SM), in 1988, seven years before the agency was officially founded in 1995.  Lee was specifically looking for those who could do “Toggichum” (토끼춤, “the Roger Rabbit”) that was featured in Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” (1988) and instantly sparked a worldwide craze.  Hyun revealed on SBS’s Gangsimjang (강심장, “The Iron Heart”) (02/03/2012) that he didn’t even think he would pass when auditioning for Lee because he was just a dancer, not a singer.  It turned out it was Lee Juno who didn’t make the cut though.  He quoted Lee as saying later, “I noticed you’ve got a voice of steel that is a distinctive feature of “black” singers.  I thought you were a diamond in a rough that needed refining.”  Just like that, he became the first singer ever signed to SM.

TV promo (1989) prior to Hyun's debut 
featuring relatively young Lee Soo-Man

Two years later in 1990, Hyun released his debut album “New Dance,” a title that shows obvious inspiration from Bobby Brown’s New Edition (methinks).  (Despite what I thought to the contrary, on KBS’s “Bulhue Myeonggok” (불후의 명곡, “Immortal Masterpieces”), aired on January 18, 2009, he said he had never watched Brown’s music video but just knew all the “black” dance moves (including the Roger Rabbit”) since he had learned them while being raised in Gijichon (기지촌, “Village near U.S. Army Base”).)  

The album featured hip-hop/rap songs, arguably for the first time in Korean music history, like “Seulpeun maneking” (슬픈 마네킹, “Sad Mannequin”) and “Yahan yeoja” (야한 여자, “Sexy Girl”).  On stage, he always performed with “WaooWa” (와와), his backup dancers (none other than Goo Jun Yup and Kang Won-rae of “Clon” (1996~2005), then (after Goo and Kang joined the army) Lee Hyun Do and Kim Sung Jae of “Deux” (1993~1995)).  Its sales were mediocre, however, since the songs and Hyun himself just seemed a bit too strange and odd back then when pop ballads by the likes of Kim Kwangseok, Lee Moon Sae, Kim Minwoo, Yoon Sang, Byun Jinsup, or Shin Seunghoon, to name a few, peaked in popularity.  Hyun was arrested and imprisoned for smoking marijuana the following year (1991) and it was the first of many crises he had faced in his career.

[LIVE] Hyun Jin Young (1990)
Seulpeun maneking ("Sad Mannequin")
with WaooWa (Lee Hyun Do and the late Kim Sung Jae)

Lee was too proud to see his first creation wasted, so he endeavored to get Hyun out of prison.  When he was discharged from prison, Yang Hyun Suk (of YG), one of his close friends, was already a super star as Seo Taiji and Boys, a band he belonged to, had become an overnight success.  They dominated Korean charts in the first half of 1992 with three mega hits – “Nan arayo” ( 알아요, “I Know That”), “Hwansangsoge geudae” (환상 속의 그대, “You Live in a Fantasy World”), and “I bami gipeo gajiman” ( 밤이 깊어가지만, “’Though the Night Deepens”).

[Stage Debut: Lip Sync] Seo Taiji and Boys (1992) 
Nan arayo  ("I Kown That")
(from your view point) Yang Hyun Suk (left) - 
Seo Taiji (middle) - Lee Juno (right)

[Audio] Seo Taiji and Boys (1992) 
Hwansangsoge geudae  ("You Live in a Fantasy World")

[Audio] Seo Taiji and Boys (1992) 
I bami gipeo gajiman  ("'Though the Night Deepens")

According to Mnet’s “Moon Night ‘90” (aired on 10/14/2011), Yang pushed Hyun’s pride button by saying, “You’re a falling star and I’m a rising star.”  It was a wake-up call for him.  He pulled himself together and with the help of his boss, Lee Soo-Man, he released his second album, “New Dance 2,” in August of 1992, immediately after Seo Taiji and Boys’ half a year domination of the charts was over.  The album became an instant sensation – especially two title tracks, “Heurin gieoksoge geudae 3 ("Vague Memories of You") and “Neoneun wae?: Hyun Jin Young Go! Jin Young Go!” (너는 현진영 Go, 진영 Go, “Why Did You?”) – and Hyun dominated the Korean music scene in the second half of the year.  When you watch the video clip of his live performance below, you'll immediately notice that the choreography and style of the song, and even his appearances, were heavily influenced by Kris Kross’s “Jump” (1992).  FYI, among his backup dancers, WaooWa, was Sean of YG's "Jinusean" (1997~2004).

"Vague Memories of You" was written by Lee Tak (song & lyrics) of Tagi & Juni (탁이와 준이, “Lee Tak and Goo Jun Yup (of Clon).”  On SBS’s Gangsimjang (강심장, “The Iron Heart”) (10/11/2011), Hyun revealed the song was about their own mothers in vague memories; his mom passed away when he was 12 and Lee Tak’s mom lived apart from him after separating from her husband (Lee’s dad).  He said they cried as they sang the song together, thinking of their mothers.

[Audio] Hyun Jin Young (1992)
Heurin gieoksoge geudae ("Vague Memories of You"")

[LIVE] Hyun Jin Young (1992)
Heurin gieoksoge geudae ("Vague Memories of You")

[AUDIO] Hyun Jin Young (1992)
Neoegeman (너에게만"Only For You")
Written & Produced by Lee Hyun Do (of Deux)

Seo Taiji and Boys released their second album the next year (06/21/1993) that instantly became the first multi-million seller (2.2 million) in Korean music history. With their title song, Hayeoga3 (하여가, “The Whatever Song”), Taiji Boys became the first Korean rap/dance band that ever rocked (rap metal).  About two months later, in September, 1993, Hyun came back with his third album, “INT. World Beat and Hip-hop of New Dance 3.” 

3. The meaning of Hayeoga (하여가, 何如歌):  In the song, hayeo translates to “anyway, whatever” and ga “song,” and combined it means “The Whatever Song” or “The Anyway Song.”  In the ancient Korean poem below, the title shows the author’s intention to say, “Whoever the King is, let’s not care.”  Even though Seo Taiji borrowed the title for his song, it means quite another thing:  “Whatever happens (i.e. If you leave me or not), I don’t care,” which contradicts the narrator's true intentions.  What he really means is, "I'll wait here until the yester-you I used to know and love come back to me."

Hayeoga was originally the title of a poem written and recited by Yi Bangwon (이방원), the fifth son of  Yi Seonggye (이성계) or King Taejo the Great of the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1897).  He became the third king of the dynasty, King Taejong.  He actively helped his father in organizing a coup d'état against the Goryeo Dynasty (918~1392) and founding a new dynasty, Joseon.  Yi Bangwon recited this poem to Jeong Mongju (정몽주), a scholar and minister during the late-Goryeo Dynasty in an attempt to coax him into joining the coup. Jeong turned down his offer by reciting right away a poem (Dansimga, 단심가 (丹心歌)) in response.  The word translates to “red heart” and means “one-heart, single-heartedness, sincerity,” hence the song is about his unchanging loyalty to Goryeo.  Jeong was killed by the assassins soon after Yi instigated the murder of him.

[Hayeoga by Yi Bangwon]

ireondeul eoddeohari, jeoreondeul eoddeohari
Anyway you do it, who cares
Who cares if it’s the King of Goryeo or Yi Seonggye (you serve)

Mansusan deureongchigi eolkyeojindeul eoddeohari
Even if the arrowroots of Mt. Mansu get tangled together, who cares
Who cares if Goryeo becomes Joseon

urido igachi eolkyeojyeo baengnyeonggaji nuririra
We too will mingle together like them and prosper for a hundred years
Let’s enthrone Yi Seonggye and enjoy power and prosperity forever

[Dansimga by Jeong Mongju]

i momi jukgo jugeo ilbaekbeon gochyeo jugeo
Even if I die again and again a hundred times
No matter how many times I die

baekgori jintodoeo neoksirado itgo eopgo
Even when my bones turn to dust with or without soul
Even when my bones turn to dust, my soul vanishes

im hyanghan ilpyeondansimiya gasil juri isseurya
Sincerity towards my sweetheart will never wash out
I'll never turn my back on the King of Goryeo

HyunJin Young Go! Jin Young Go! Hurrah for Hyun Jin Young! Hurrah for the 1990’s! 
Hyun Jin Young Go! Jin Young Go!: Hurrah for Hyun Jin Young! Hurrah forthe 1990’s! 
HyunJin Young Go! Jin Young Go!: Hurrah for Hyun Jin Young! Hurrah for the 1990’s! 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS’s “K-Pop Star” (5)

케이팝 스타이하이 (Lee Hayi, or Lee Ha Yi)

When I first learned that Hayi was going to sing JK Kim Dongwook’s Miryeonhan Sarang (미련한 사랑, “Foolish Love”), I could kinda see why:  JK Kim Dongwook has been always compared to Yim Jaebum (or Yim Jaebeom) ever since he first appeared on the Korean music scene; he was even derided as second-class Yim Jaebum wannabe.  Methinks Hayi might’ve wanted the same glory back that she had had for singing Yim’s Neorul Wihae (너를 위해, “For You”) last February.

Lee Hayi, Top Six:  JK Kim Dongwook’s “Foolish Love”
(aired on 3/25/2012)

If my guess is right, then she obviously made the wrong decision because they don't have the same vocal approaches or do the same genre of music (rock/ballad (Yim) , soul pop ballad (JK)), contrary to popular belief.  In fact, JK’s “Foolish Love” is a soul pop ballad with unhurried yet even danceable mid-tempo groove, which is a lot faster and rhythmic than Yim’s “For You.”  And to top it off, the song was featured on the soundtrack of MBC miniseries (or drama) Wigie Namja (위기의 남자, “A Man in Crisis”) that deals with the midlife-crisis affairs.  Wait a sec, how old are you, Hayi?  Come on!  You’re just fifteen and a half and there’s no way that you can express such grown-up sentiments.  And you said you haven’t even dated a boy yet.

[LIVE] JK Kim Dongwook: “Foolish Love” 
FanCam at Bonghwangdae Concert (07/01/2011)

If you’re wearing a pair of shoes that are too large to fit your feet, it will keep you not only from walking elegantly but from walking itself.  And that’s why Hayi failed to take the stage with confidence, and failed to touch the hearts of the audience, not to mention that she wasn’t able to land the big notes with ease; her singing just wasn’t great tonight. 

For the same reason, I didn’t get it when the judges were ooohing and aaahing over Jimin’s performance last Sunday. Her rendition of Ggume (꿈에, “In Dreams”) (Lena Park aka Park Jung Hyun, 박정현, 2002) was mediocre at best.  Not only couldn’t she sing this song with as much heart-wrenching, aching sorrow, but she couldn’t manage to produce exactly the right notes – many of the notes were out of tune just like Hayi’s were that night.  And that’s why I blogged that the judges had given relatively low marks to Hayi.  I just didn't specify the reason for fear of being misunderstood that I was simply bashing Jimin because I’m openly (rooting for) “Hayi.” But believe me all the contestants are so talented and adorable in my eyes.

Park Jimin, Elite Eight: Lena Park’s “In Dreams” (aired on 3/18/2012)

[LIVE] Lena Park: “In Dreams” (04/01/2009) on MBC's "La-la-la"

Unlike Hayi, Park Jimin went in the totally opposite direction by choosing the age-appropriate song, Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” and won this round.  I think she deserved to win plain and simple but the judges’ overall score – 299 out of 300 – were a joke.  I'm not going to talk more about the scores here but I wonder what if she had sung a Korean song just as good as she did tonight, like Mabeobe Seong (마법의 , “The Magic Castle”), which I think is a Korean equivalent of “Over the Rainbow.”  Would they have given her the same score?  I doubt it.   Here in the US, there’s a joke people learn Latin to show off that they know what their friends don’t know.  Likewise, the judges might’ve wanted to show off that they understand what other ordinary listeners don’t understand.  Ironically, I think, in doing so, the judges counter proved that they don’t know what Papsong (팝송, American/British pop music) is. (I'll blog later about singing Papsong on "K-pop Star" or other Korean singing competition shows.)

Park Jimin, Top Six: Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” (aired on 3/25/2012)

Back to Hayi, I wonder if anything’s getting the better of her lately.  Where’s her daring confidence as if she didn’t care?  Such abandon she used to sing with!  Yet, her presence on stage used to be bewitching yet innocently simple.  Hopefully she redeems herself soon.

Here’s what the judges said:

Park Jin Young (or Park Jinyeong):  Many people said Lee Hayi’s performance didn’t stand up to (their) expectations.  But I definitely see her singing improving every day.

BoA:  (While listening to Hayi’s singing tonight), my heart ached just as much as it did last time (listening to her singing “For You”).  But when she was hitting the high notes, her voice got shaky and it snapped me out of it. But I agree that her singing is absolutely improving.

Yang Hyun Suk (or Yang Hyeonseok): I’ve been to a Jjamppong (Hot and Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup) House near Hongik University, together with Park Jin Young.  Later, Park went there again, by himself that time, but he had to turn around for the restaurant was too crowded (and had no more tables available).  (Note: What Yang implied here is the restaurant is popular because it specializes in serving Jjamppong only.  Thus he emphasized the importance of specialization )  Let me say this:  Lee Hayi’s singing was way better when the live performances haven’t started yet.  Figuratively speaking, stop trying to do Jjajangmyeon or Japchaebap but just do Jjamppong instead.  She’s been trying this and that when she’s got her own specialty genre(s). (Note: He seemed to advise her to stick to her own specialty genre(s).)

The judges gave Hayi a score of 262 out of 300.

Friday, March 23, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: The Showdown between SHINHWA and SHINee (2)

14 신화, 4 샤이니 맞짱뜨다
The Great Showdown between 14-Year-Old SHINHWA and 4-Year-Old SHINee!

Just two days after SHINee’s mini album was released, SHINHWA returned with their tenth studio album “SHINHWA: The Return” after a 4-year hiatus.  FYI, SHINHWA made its stage debut on KMTV’s “Show Music Tank” (03/24/1998), 10 years and 2 months prior to SHINee’s stage debut on SBS’s “Ingi Gayo” (인기가요, “Popular Music”) (05/25/2008).  It’s quite ironic that SHINee first appeared in the K-pop scene around the time SHINHWA disappeared from the scene (into a 4-year break), and now almost simultaneously, both made their much anticipated comebacks.  SHINHWA used to be affiliated with SHINee’s SM Entertainment (SM), thus heavily influenced by the SM style, and they are the longest-running current idol group in Korean music history, with all six original members surviving.  Tomorrow (03/24) is their 14th year anniversary and they’ll celebrate the day and their comeback by having a two-day concert, “The Return,” where they will unveil their new songs and performances “live” in Seoul at the Seoul Olympic Park Gymnasium respectively on March 24 and 25.

SHINee’s two-day long chart domination ended when SHINWHA’s comeback album, “The Return,” and its eleven tracks all made a clean sweep of all real-time charts as soon as it was released.  “Venus,” one of the album’s two title tracks (“Hurts” is the other), ranked number one of course, and previously on March 20, all thirty thousand copies of their limited edition 11-track CD album were sold out in half a day.  An insider of Shinhwa Company, the group’s self-owned label and entertainment agency, said they had poured incredible amounts of money (2 billion won, i.e., 1.760 million dollars) and effort into the album, the music video(s?), and the concert, therefore it’s worth anticipating what SHINHWA would bring to your eyes as well as ears.

Now, here’s my two cents.  The title track, “Venus,” applied “electronic echo effects” that have been continuously used in such songs as DJ DOC’s “Na ireon saramiya” ( 이런 사람이야, “I’m This Kind of Man”), Sistar’s “So Cool,” and Tony An’s “Top Star.”  (FYI, Psy (싸이) wrote DJ DOC’s “I’m This Kind of Man” (song) and Tony An’s “Top Star” (song and lyrics) and DJ DOC featured in Sistar’s “So Cool” MV.)  For that reason, the song sounded quite old (a little déjà vu-ish) even at first listen.  But I’ll have to wait until its music video comes out to see if the song can eventually grow on me.  Don’t get me wrong though.  I didn’t mean that I don’t like the song.  I love all eleven tracks but I just prefer others over "Venus."

After listening to all eleven tracks a few times, I decided SHINHWA came back with “vengeance” to prove they’ve still got "it" and I think they made it.  They are just getting better and deeper with age.  And tell me about the rock-solid bonds among the members!  Only one problem is they have just set the bar too high for other younger generation idol groups to only follow.  Earlier yesterday, Leeteuk of Super Junior (SJ) tweeted, “Shinhwa hyeongnim(deul)! You’re awesome! We will also love and count on each other! Beware! Super Junior is earnestly trying to keep up with you!”  Yes, that’s the spirit!  Honestly. I think SJ's most likely to be the next SHINHWA in many ways - they were kind of second best to TVXQ just like SHINHWA was to HOT before rising to stardom; they seem to get along with and care about each other and themselves really well as SHINHWA has been; and both groups are not projected as straightlaced or clean-cut....

Okay, let’s get back to this showdown between SHINHWA and SHINee.  It’s too early to tell who’s going to win but I'll bet my own money on SHINHWA (even though I love them both). For one, their loyal, die-hard fans for 10+ years are now in their late twenties or thirties (or even forties), ready to open up their wallet to pay for whatever SHINHWA brings to them; and two, it’s just like “Boys Meet Men”… yet.  

Here’s the Youtube link where you can enjoy all eleven tracks of the new SHINHWA album in auto play.

[UPDATE]  SHINHWA released the official music video 
of the title track, "Venus," on March, 28, 2012.

[MV] SHINHWA: Venus (2012) 

[LIVE] SHINHWA: Hurts (2012) 
Mnet's "M! Countdown": First Stage Comeback (03/29/2012)