Sunday, April 29, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS’s “K-Pop Star” (12)

케이팝 스타: 이하이 (Lee Hayi, or Lee Ha Yi)

I know why Hayi didn’t win the final.  It’s all my fault.  I jinxed her.  Jo Mungeun, John Park, Lee Taekwon, Busker Busker, and Bae Sujeong.  As some of you may know by now, this is a long list of runner-ups at the previous Korean singing competitions and as most of you may not know, I rooted for them to win.  Now Hayi is a new addition to the list. 

But I’ll tell you what. I kind of already knew that Hayi was not going to win as her voice is not cut out for a singing competition where high-pitched, sometimes overpowering voices (or singers’ ability to sing notes in a very high register) are favored and wowed by the viewers and audience.  We’ve already seen it before when the likes of Lee Sora, Jo Gyuchan, and Jeong Yeop were eliminated from the Naneun Gasuda or NAGASU (나는 가수다, “I Am a Singer”) or when Bobby Kim and Lee Hyunwoo were underappreciated by the NAGASU audience and viewers.  All those are more understated singers than others featured on the show.  They all failed to make the viewers’ and audience get goosebumps by hitting overpoweringly high notes. That’s the downside of singing competitions and music is not a competition. So I think it’s already a miracle that Hayi has come this far, that she’s brought us this far spellbound.

And in this vein, I think Hayi chose the wrong song.  I know Roberta Flack is such a great singer and her song, “Killing Me Softly with His Song” (1973) was a number one hit and has been remade so many times until now.  But honestly, I never listen to this song without getting bored to tears.  It's always like the singer's killing me softly with her song (in a negative sense).  I know it's all a matter of personal preference or taste, but it’s obvious it failed to showcase her one-of-a-kind talent tonight especially when Park Jimin chose to sing Lim Jeong Hee’s “Music Is My Life.”  I know there’s no use to say what if's but I wonder what'd have happened if Hayi had chosen a Korean song that touches the Korean audience’s heart to the deepest.  

And here's one more thing:  Given that Lim Jeong Hee’s “Music Is My Life” sampled Diana Ross’s 1970 hit, “Ain't No Mountain High Enough,” all four songs sung by Hayi and Jimin are “Pop Songs” (American/British popular music). Therefore I think it's a legitimate criticism from the show’s fans that they should rename it “Pop Star,” not “K-pop Star.”  It’s like David Cook and David Archuleta singing all Korean songs in the American Idol final.

Even though it’s true that we live in a “Winner-Take-All” world, I don’t think it’s true in this case.  For both Hayi and Jimin can be winners in the long run.  And looking on the bright side, it may indeed be Hayi’s career blessing in disguise.  And I wish her all the best!

Lee Hayi:  "K-Pop Star" Final  (aired on 04/29/2012)
Roberta Flack: "Killing Me Softly with His Song"

Here’s what the judges said:

Park Jin Young (or Park Jinyeong):  I would give Hayi 100 points for (up to) the first 16 bars of the song.  But she lost concentration and emotion in the middle of the song while ad-libbing the part without lyrics (humming along to the tune).  A singer should be able to express emotions without lyrics too, but she failed to do it, which broke her concentration.  So I averaged her points between the best (beginning) part and the worst (ending) part.  (94 out of 100)

BoA:  Hayi’s voice has such a captivating power to it that sweeps over the audience.  Her voice has such a bewitching power but as JYP just commented, if she really wants to be more expressive and wants to thrill the audience with better performances, then she needs to  work more on body language (like hand gestures) and she needs to sing like she means it (just like an actress).  I want her to sing more carried away by enthusiasm. (98 out of 100)

Yang Hyun Suk (or Yang Hyeonseok): Honestly, I like this song the most of all songs Hayi has picked so far for she didn’t really need to sing high notes that she’s been having trouble with.  The Korean audience has a tendency to consider a person with high-pitched voice a good singer, but the reason why we, all three judges, keep praising Hayi is….  I wonder who else, I mean, among any professional singers in Korea, can sing this song as well as her.  I felt really great (listening to her singing) and I told you I would be very generous with the scoring today. I don’t care if I get bashed (for this).  (99 out of 100)

Lee Hayi:  "K-Pop Star" Final (aired on 04/29/2012)
Adele: "Rolling in the Deep"

Yang Hyun Suk (or Yang Hyeonseok):  I didn’t wear headphones while other two judges wore them to hear everything, so I might be wrong.  But Hayi amazed me with this rearrangement of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” that created a style that was strictly her own and also with her perfect rendition of the song, including such numerous ad-libs, totally in tune from the beginning till the end.  On the other hand, Park Jimin demonstrated off-key flubbing here and there singing Lim Jeong Hee’s “Music Is my Life.”  Well, again, I might have heard it wrong, but any way, I really appreciate her singing.  I didn’t know (until now) Adele’s song could be interpreted and rendered this way.   (99 out of 100)

Park Jin Young (or Park Jinyeong):  This time, Hayi expressed definitely more of her feelings in this song and didn’t lose it all along.  I really appreciated it.  But we don’t always need to hit the high notes to get to the climax of the song; we can build to a climax by expressing emotions or changing tones. Just like Hayi and me did while practicing together to use different types of tones for the song, “Mercy.”  This is the problem that lies ahead of her.  She has to solve it by practicing; she needs to learn how to reach the climax of the song and how to create a thrilling sensation for the song.  (96 out of 100)

BoA:  I coached Jimin when she was practicing this song (for the competition).  When I heard Hayi was going to sing this song, I expected she would sing just like Adele because their vocal tones are quite similar.  While listening to her singing the song, however, I was never reminded of the original singer, not to mention Jimin.  And I never thought Hayi would nail the high notes this solidly.  Today is the final and I think she deserves this score. (100 out of 100)

Finally, here’s Hayi’s final runner-up’s speech:  I feel so good ‘cause I don’t need to feel under pressure any more.  I also have felt like crying but tried really hard to hold back my tears.  At last it all ended, so I’m feeling bittersweet.  I feel so relieved.

Yang Hyun Suk (or Yang Hyeonseok):  Even though Hayi placed second tonight, she’s the number one in my heart.  Cheer up, Hayi!

Post-Final Backstage Picture: Hayi gets a bear hug from Jimin's mom.
(Picture from SBS's K-pop Star Webpage)

Friday, April 27, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Son Seungyeon of Mnet’s “The Voice of Korea” (3)

보이스코리아: 손승연 (Son Seungyeon, or Sohn Seungyeon)

Son Seungyeon now looks like the Korean pop diva, Shin Hyobeom!

She did it again.  This time with a song by Boohwal (부활, “The Reincarnation” aka “Born Again”), one of my most favorite Korean rock bands. And the song, Biwa Dangsine Iyagi (비와 당신의 이야기, “The Story of (Dearest) You and the Rain,” 1986) is one of my most favorite Boohwal songs.  Prior to her performance tonight, Son Seungyeon said she would dedicate the song to her mom who had once dreamed of being a singer (but to no avail as her father disapproved).

Son’s repertoire featured on “The Voice of Korea” so far includes 2NE1’s “Go Away” (dance rock/electro pop), Bubble Sisters’ “It’s Raining Men” (dance pop), and BMK's Muldeureo, “I'm Stained (With Your Love)" (soul). She’s quite versatile, isn’t she?  And it’s no wonder it was just a piece of cake for her to nail this rock number as she is a former “Top Band” contestant (KBS).  She brought the house down with a powerhouse rendition of the song; two weeks in a row, the judges were on their feet and the audience had risen with their jaws dropped in amazement.

I like Son’s singing because of her powerhouse voice with a penetrating solidity. She hardly sings off key no matter what; her voice is always in tune whether she sings high or low, forte or piano. Six plus years of her efforts to attain completely satisfying vocal techniques appear to be paying off now (Click for details.) and I wish her nothing but the very best.  

Son Seungyeon: Mnet's "The Voice of Korea"
Biwa Dangsine Iyagi (The Story of You and the Rain)
(Aired on 04/27/2012)

What do you think?  What an explosive live performance past midnight!  Even though I still love Boohwal’s original version of the song better, I think the world is waiting for her.

ORIGINAL VERSION: Boohwal (Reincarnation, 1986)
Biwa Dangsine Iyagi (The Story of You and the Rain)
Vocal by Lee Seungcheol/Chorus by Kim Taewon
Song & Lyrics by Kim Taewon

As the rapper and host of the show, Kim Jinpyo, suitably put it, she is probably a Cheonjae Diba (천재디바, “genius diva”), one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.  Now, here’s the judges’ praise.

Baek Ji-Young:  Her singing was no joke.  I mean it.  It just gave me goosebumps. Really.  Truly.  (To Seungyeon) What have you done to me? (Which I think means “Your singing won me over.”)   I really think highly of her singing tonight as it showcased her ability to control (her emotions and the pitch between forte and piano).  She sang calmly and reservedly at the beginning of the song, which made me feel even more absorbed in the later part of it. I really liked it.

Gil (of LeeSsang):  (While listening to her song) it came across to me as a mixture of Maggeolli (막걸리, “traditional Korean rice wine”) and Champaign.  In other words, when Son, basically a pop ballad singer, was rendering a rock number, it was nonsensically great.  I think I’d better use a glass of Maggeolli-Champaign mixture tonight.  I really enjoyed it.  (To Seungyeon) (You’re) the best!  I admit it!

Shin Seung-hun (or Shin Seung Hoon):  When other three judges rose (to give a standing O to her performance), I stayed seated ‘cause I wanted to pull myself together (as I’m her coach). I think we hit the Jack pot.  I told her to mix rock and ballad while practicing and Gil said he really felt like it.  This means we made it.  She made it.  I’m so proud of her as her coach.  (To Seungyeon) Son Seungyeon, you did great!

KOREAN MUSIC: Son Seungyeon of Mnet’s “The Voice of Korea” (1)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ZILLY TALKZ: Create A Rainbow On Your Plates!

Red Bell Pepper
Red Onions
Red Potatoes
Red Cabbage
Red Apples
Red Grapes

Ellagic Acid

Lower Blood Pressure
Reduce the Risk of Prostate Cancer
Prevent/Reduce Tumor Growth
Reduce Bad Cholesterol Levels
Fight Harmful Free-Radicals
Butternut Squash
Orange Bell Pepper
Sweet Potatoes

Vitamin C
Beta Carotene

Reduce the Risk of Prostate Cancer
Promote Collagen Formation
Encourage Alkaline Balance
Promote Healthy Joints
Acorn Squash/
Winter Squash
Summer Squash
Yellow Tomatoes
Yellow Potatoes
Yellow Pepper
Yellow Beets
Yellow Pears
Yellow Kiwi
Yellow Apples
Fight Harmful Free-Radicals
Lower Blood Pressure
Reduce Bad Cholesterol Levels
Slow Aging
Help Build Healthy Bones
Mustard Greens
Brussels Sprouts
Green Bell Pepper
Green Beans
Collard Greens
Napa Cabbage
Honeydew Melon
Green Grapes
Green Apples

Dietary Fiber
Folic Acid
Vitamin C

Boost Immune System
Support Retinal Health/Vision
Prevent Some Cancers
Lower Blood Pressure
Reduce Bad Cholesterol Levels
Fight Harmful Free-Radicals
Purple Bell Pepper
Purple Cabbage
Purple Potatoes
Purple Carrots
Purple Kohlrabi
Black Currants
Purple Grapes

Vitamin C
Ellagic Acid

Boost Immune System
Support Retinal Health/Vision
Prevent/Reduce Tumor Growth
Fight Inflammation
Reduce Cancer Cell Growth
Support Digestion
Improve Calcium Absorption
Improve Absorption of Minerals

Green onions
White Peaches
White nectarine
White Pear

Allyl Sulfides
Sec Diglucoside
Epigallocatechin Gallate

Prevent Colon, Breast & Prostate Cancer
Balance Hormone Levels
Prevent Hormone-Related Cancer
Boost Immune System

KOREAN RECIPES: Korean Burdock Root Dishes (3)

3.  Dried Seaweed Rolls with Korean Burdock Roots (Ueong Gimbap, 우엉김밥)

Colorful Gimbap moons served with Ggakdugi (Korean white radish Kimchi)

Gimbap (김밥), dried seaweed rolls, means so much more to many Koreans than just food.  Personally, for me, nothing epitomizes the idea of a perfect school picnic or conjures up my fond memories of childhood outdoor family gatherings like Gimbap.  Even now, when I think of Gimbap, or when I hear someone say the word “Gimbap” in any context, or when I smell the dish’s unique aroma, a pungent odor of dried seaweed mixed with sesame seed oil, it still makes my heart go aflutter as if I was a little kid again all excited the night before the school picnic; or it makes me feel like I'm hearing my mom, beautiful and young again, chopping on wooden cutting board on the early morning of the school picnic.

Besides being the epitome of Korean picnic food, Gimbap, along with Ddeokboggi (떡볶이) and Sundae (순대, Picture), is the most common and popular snack or fast food for lunch in Korea.  Just like Japchae or Bibimbap, the dish comes with a rainbow of vegetables; all these three dishes use similar types of vegetables prepared and cooked in similar ways – julienned (thinly sliced) and sautéd (stir fried).  Today, I’ll introduce you to Ueong Gimbap (우엉김밥, “Dried Seaweed Rolls with Korean Burdock Roots”).  In this ovo-vegetarian recipe, you’ll use burdock roots, eggs, carrots, cucumbers, pickled Daikon radish, Dubu (aka, tofu), and Pyogo mushrooms. If you prefer, you may of course add some meat (either chicken breasts or beef sirloin) to the dish or substitute for Dubu (tofu). 

INGREDIENTS:  ● 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
     (4 rolls)        ● ½ LB Ueong Jorim (Braised Korean burdock roots)
                            (Click for the recipe.) 
                         ● 5 dried (or fresh) Pyogo* mushrooms, reconstituted and sliced
                         ● 2 baby cucumbers, julienned
                         ● ½ LB beef sirloin, sliced (optional)
                         ● 2 eggs, beaten with pinch of salt to taste
                         ● 1 package (18 oz.) extra firm Dubu (tofu), drained**
                          4 strips of pickled Daikon radish*
                         ● 2 cups short grain white rice
                         ● 4 sheets of Gim (aka, Nori, dried seaweed)*
                         ● sesame seed oil
                         ● toasted sesame seeds

                         [Seasoning for Dubu]
                         ● 1 TBSP soy sauce
                         ● 1 TBSP brown or dark brown sugar
                         ● 1 TBSP water
                         ● 1 TBSP sesame seed oil

                         [Seasoning for Pyogo mushrooms]
                         ● 1 TBSP soy sauce
                         ● 1 TBSP brown or dark brown sugar
                         ● 1 TBSP water
                         ● 1 TBSP sesame seed oil

                         [Seasoning for beef sirloin]                                     
                         ● 1 TBSP soy sauce
                         ● 1 TBSP brown or dark brown sugar
                         ● 1 TBSP water
                         ● 1 tsp minced garlic
                         ● 1 TBSP sesame seed oil
                         ● ½ tsp toasted sesame seeds
                         ● ground black pepper to taste

                         * You can find the ingredients in your local Korean markets.
                        ** You can substitute (or just add) thinly sliced beef sirloin for Dubu.


1.  Julienne a carrot and cucumbers (2~2.5” lengths).  Before you julienne cucumbers, cut each in halves width wise, then slice thin slices lengthwise down the cucumber using a knife or a vegetable peeler.

Baby cucumbers
A step-by-step how to
julienne cucumbers

2.  Cut just a quarter of the tofu horizontally (slicing parallel to work surface) and drain.

3.  Crack open two eggs in a small mixing bowl and beat with a pinch of salt.


1.  Place a large frying pan over medium heat and pour enough grape seed oil to generously coat the pan.  Sauté cucumbers and carrots separately with a pinch of salt to taste.   Remove from heat and transfer into a plate.  Let cool.
2.  Sauté the Pyogo mushroom slices. Pour seasoning over sautéd mushrooms and braise until lightly caramelized. Remove from heat and transfer into the plate.  Let cool.
3.  Sauté Dubu (tofu) until both sides are golden brown. Pour seasoning over sautéd Dubu and braise until both sides are nicely caramelized. Remove from heat and transfer into the plate.  Let cool.  Cut into eighth lengthwise.

 Sauté Dubu (tofu) until both sides are golden brown.
Braise until both sides are nicely caramelized.

4.  Pour the egg mixture in the pan and spread over the surface. Cook it until half done and roll the egg toward the bottom side.  Remove from heat and transfer into the plate.  Let cool.  Cut into quarters lengthwise.

Roll the egg toward the bottom side.
Cut into quarters lengthwise.

5.  In case you use beef meat, add I TBSP grape seed oil in the frying pan and stir fry the marinated beef over medium-high heat until fully cooked. Remove from heat and transfer into the plate.  Let cool.

Gimbap fillings are ready.  Pyogo mushrooms and beef meat are minused here.

6.  Mix cooked rice very carefully and gently with 1 TBSP of sesame seed oil, ½ tsp of salt, and 1 TBSP of toasted sesame seeds.


1.  Place a sheet of Gim (Nori, dried seaweed) on Gimbal (bamboo rolling mat) with the rough side facing upwards.

2.  Spread about a half cup of seasoned rice, creating a layer of rice covering almost the entire sheet leaving about 1½ inch of margin uncovered at the top.
3.  Place a generous portion of each filling horizontally across the middle of the rice layer.

4.  Lift up the closer edge of Gim and Gimbal altogether and roll forward.  Make sure to cover the entire filling at first roll(ing) and to lift the end of the mat so it doesn’t get tangled into the roll.  As you roll forward, keep the mat tight with every move until you reach the end of Gim.  Voilà!  Now you have a cylinder-shaped Gimbap.  (Once you get used to rolling, it'll take just two moves to complete a roll: The first rolling will cover the entire filling and the second rolling will create a cylinder.)
5.  Slice the roll into about ½ inch circles using a wet, sharp knife, yielding about 6 to 8 circles per roll.  You’d better wipe and wet the knife per half a roll or even per every cut.  (Let all your rolls sit for awhile before cutting (about 5 minutes), with seals facing downwards. This makes it easier to cut the roll as the moisture from the rice softens the seaweed.)

A rainbow of vegetables (and eggs) in Gimbap moons