Monday, March 26, 2012

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! 

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