Wednesday, April 4, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: Hyun Jin Young Go! Jin Young Go! (4)

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

“Shout out to me.  Speak it out.  Be my side.
I just want you to break me down.  Tell me all about it.  Don’t close your mind.
Look at the world. People live their own lives in their own ways.
I just want you to break me down.  I mean, please look at me now.
Look back on your life and write about it.
Have you spent countless nights with heart aching?
We’re whizzing past life’s tribulations in pursuit of happiness.
Face it. Come close to me.  I just want you to break me down.
Take it out.  Hold out your hand.  You all come out to share.
Go for broke.  Even though I don’t know (the future) ‘cause life keeps on turning.
I just want you to break me down. Don’t surrender no matter what they say.
I know you're worried.  You’re hesitating about which path to choose.
I know you want more freedom.  Do you want to fly higher?”

Lyrics from “Sorichyeobwa” (소리쳐봐) aka “Break Me Down”
(Hyun Jin Young: 2006)

Hyun Jin Young has released three successive autobiographical songs, “Yoram” (요람, “The Cradle”) in 2002, “Sorichyeobwa” (“Shout Out”) aka “Break Me Down” in 2006, and “Paradaiseu” (파라다이스, “Paradise”) in 2007.  His digital single “Paradise” is known as a sequel to “Break Down.”  

Time has not been kind to Hyun.  He has seen many ups and downs and has weathered through the rough times.  His battle with substance addiction nearly cost him his career.  And just like finely aged wine, his voice has gotten better after all these years – it has turned deep, resonant, and masculine.  No one can deride his music merely as cheap dance music, or just as a Korean hip-hop clone.  For it touches our soul so deeply.

[LIVE] Hyun Jin Young: "Paradise" (2007)
MBC's "Show! Music Core" (04/07/2007)

Now I’ll make my dream come true soon.
I’ll dust down my exhausted heart and get into the bright road,
Passing through the suffering and darkness.
I’ll wrench open my lifelong wounds
And tear down my past that’s been staggering in my stomach.
I'm gonna make it (a) Paradise, Paradise I’ve always longed for.
My life’s been a mess.  Only a glass of wine gives me the strength
To persevere through the hopeless times.
In this world, not a single soul can relieve us from this lifelong burden.
People live in tears.  What’s the point of scaring us each and every day?
But soon, I’ll pass through the suffering and darkness
And move on to find a brighter road ahead.
Don't ever hang your head down low,
Despairing over the mean life.
Look at you!  You fell to the ground.
You hang in there.  Be more brave.
The world’s gone mad.  It’s so screwed up.
But baby, however mean our life is,
Bottoms up!  Let’s shout and dance.
Cheer up ‘cause we’re the future.
I'm gonna make it (a) Paradise.

Lyrics from “Paradise” (Hyun Jin Young: 2006)

Some thought Hyun was just pretending to be clean and drug free in an attempt to make a comeback, some thought he was a has-been, and others didn’t even know he was still working.  In other words, he was considered a liar, or a goner, or even invisible.  However mean his life had been and might be though, he chose to hang in there and be braver.

On KBS’s “Bulhue Myeonggok” (불후의 명곡, “Immortal Masterpieces”), aired on January 18, 2009, he revealed that he had ended up in the emergency room for cardiovascular problems caused by his massive weight gain – he weighed 290 pounds at that time.  He said he had intentionally done it to sound better, stronger, and more stable when recording his album.  While repeatedly gaining weight for recording and losing it afterward, his health had been seriously damaged.  He said he’d been trying to stay healthy and fit since then. (He had lost 55 pounds back then.)   On the show, he promised to return with his new studio album as well as with a slimmed down figure in March, 2010.   But to my best knowledge, his sixth album never happened and I don’t know the reason.  Since last year (November, 2011), he's been making occasional appearances on SBS’s talk show, “Jagiya” (자기야, “Honey!”), with his wife, the actress Oh Seo Woon, and last month (03/23/2012), his sister-in-law, Oh’s older sister, was killed in a fire at home.  She used to work with him as a fashion coordinator in the early 2000’s. 

Hyun Jin Young on KBS's "Immortal Songs"
(aired on 01/18/2009)

The above video clip seems to have been uploaded by Hong Jonghwa (홍종화), who wrote all the tracks on Hyun’s first album, “New Dance.”  Hong commented on his Youtube channel:  “In Korea, back then, there existed no such words as “Toggichum” (토끼춤, “the Roger Rabbit”) or Hip Hop.  I had worked for SM as a songwriter of mostly ballads, and then, I broke away from my normal composing style (since I had been interested in funk music) and wrote the bouncy song, “Seulpeun maneking” (슬픈 마네킹, “Sad Mannequin,” 1990).  The album sold 100,000 copies (literally) overnight but unfortunately, the sales of it were banned immediately following Hyun Jin Young’s arrest for smoking marijuana.  All the effort, time, and money me and Lee Soo-Man had invested in Hyun had gone down the drain, not only once but twice.  Had it not been for H.O.T’s success, SM would have been history….”

[LIVE: Lip Sync]  HOT: Candy (1996)
on KBS's "Music Bank"

[MV]  HOT (1996): Jeonsae Huye, "Warrior's Descendant"
aka Pongnyeok Sidae, "The Age of Violence"

I have a friend who is a staunch fan of KBS’s “Yoo Hee-Yeol’s Sketch Book,” and of course, she watched Hyun Jin Young performing on the show that featured all that 90’s singers (03/23/2012).  The next day, she called me and asked if I had watched it too.  So I said, “Yes, and don’t you think Hyun Jin Young’s awesome?  He’s such a great singer and dancer, and now in great shape. I’m happy for him.”  But she wouldn’t agree; she thought just the opposite.  “He’s in horrible shape, which has just put me in despair,” she said.  So I said, “I think I know what you mean.”  I totally understand her reaction ‘cause she saw him as if she had looked at the “then and now” pictures of him.  She had no idea what he’d been through during.  He was just the fallen idol in the eyes of my friend hence in the eyes of most people who never followed up.  On the other hand, I see him as a survivor for I’ve seen him at worst.  And it’s not me but the others he’ll have to convince or persuade with his music to redeem himself.  He’s got a long, long, bumpy road ahead.  And he still seems to have been making a living singing around from nightclub to nightclub.  And I don't know why his sixth album is not happening. 

[LIVE] Hyun Jin Young (2004) sings a medley of  his hits 
on Kim Goo-Ra & Hwang Bong-Al's Internet Radio Show

Mnet’s “Moon Night ‘90” (aired on 10/14/2011) revealed that Hyun Jin Young was the first to review Park Jin Young’s debut song, “Nal Ddeonajima” ( 떠나지마, “Don’t Leave Me”).   In fact, Hyun is a really talented musician, singer and songwriter.  When you pay even a little bit of attention, you'll easily notice a large number of Korean hip hop musicians and rappers have been heavily influenced and inspired by his rapping style as well as his style of music.  But he has completely been underrated as a singer/artist because he became popular first for his great dancing and style of music, and because, despite his incredible talent, his career was marred by drug scandals even before he was able to make his name as a singer.  Yes, one false step in his own life almost ruined an otherwise promising career, but I don't want to call him a wasted talent yet.  Instead, I'm just hoping he’s given yet another chance to rise and shine.  Can somebody help him put out his long overdue, sixth album?  Or producers behind NAGASU or "Naneun Gasuda" ("I'm a Singer") Season 2, can you just cast him for the show already?

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