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”

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