Wednesday, May 9, 2012

KOREAN SHOWS: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (1)

Naneun Gasuda (나는 가수다) or NAGASU (나가수)

The first night of MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (5/6/2012) was expectedly underwhelming to me on the whole compared to that of its first season.  The show’s first season started with the A ~ A+-list singers (or bands) like Lee Sora, YB, Kim Gunmo, Lena Park, Kim Bumsu, Baek Jiyoung, and Jeong Yeop and ended in anticlimax; and last Sunday, its second season took its first step with a new system of competition and elimination totally different from last season. I think only the performances delivered by Lee Eunmi and JK Kim Dongwook were worth watching.  Let’s first watch JK Kim Dongwook’s rendition of Myeongtae (명태, “A Pollock”) and its original version by Kang Sane.

  JK Kim Dongwook: "A Pollack"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/6/2012)

Original Version: Kang Sane on MBC's "Lalala" (Air Date: Unknown)
"A Pollack" (2002), Song & Lyrics by Kang Sane

The show was originally created by Kim Younghee, legendary entertainment/comedy show producer and its title was conceived by singer Lee Sora, host and competitor of the show in the first season.  Its first season started with a relatively simple rule of competition: Seven singers (or bands) were invited to compete and the bottom with the fewest votes from the live 500-person studio audience was to be eliminated every week; a new singer (or band) was to be invited to compete the following week. The audience could cast only one vote for their favorite performance. In the very first round of the season (3/20/2011), Kim Gunmo ranked at the bottom and was supposed to head home as promised to the viewers. 

The original concept of the show was focused on entertainment, not music, even though Kim Younghee also wanted to launch it to revive other music genres than K-pop.  It was no wonder, considering Kim has only produced entertainment/comedy shows, not (TV) music shows.  And Kim Gunmo, long-time friend of Kim Younghee, understood his intention too well and carried out his performance rather comically, faithful to the show’s concept.  It was, however, ill-received by the studio audience and led him to placing at the bottom of the pack.  One thing Kim Younghee et al. failed to notice was that the studio audience and TV viewers seriously considered it a real singing competition.  So when they chose to keep Kim (Gunmo) longer on the show in the name of “retry,” it was as if they had shot themselves in the foot.  The decision caused a heated controversy among the Korean music fans and eventually dragged Kim Younghee and Kim Gunmo down.

The show returned after approx. one month and a half hiatus (5/1/2011) with a new competition system and also a new producer, Shin Jeongsu, who was forced to quit his so far extremely successful show, Nolleowa (놀러와, “Come to Play”) and replace NAGASU’s previous producer, Kim Younghee.  Since then, Nolleowa, the once-unbeatable Monday night show on MBC has been falling downhill and is now being beaten by the rival shows on KBS and SBS.  Furthermore, Shin became the target of false accusations made by the zealous Korean music fans who had been frustrated by the downfall of NAGASU.  I think these all showcased Kim Jae Chul’s (current MBC CEO) incompetence in management.  Back to the topic, the competition system was revised that the singers (or bands) competed in the first round, then had a week break to prepare for the next round, and competed again.  And the live 500-person audience could cast multiple votes for their three favorite performances in each round.  1,000 votes (500 each per round) were tallied to determine the lowest ranked singer (to be eliminated).  And then, a new singer (or band) was invited to compete the following week.  

After the show ended its controversial first season (2/12/2012), Kim Younghee came back in his producer’s chair and last Sunday, it started its second season with another new competition system.  Firstly, the show broadcasts live.  Secondly, the scoring process for the live performances is weighted 60 percent to the viewers’ votes and 40 percent to the live studio audience’s votes. This means the viewers’ votes have more impact than the live studio audience’s votes.  This scoring process was introduced to resolve the controversy stirred in the first season that it was a high-pitch contest.  Thirdly, 12 singers (or bands) are invited and divided into two groups to compete on the show.  In the first round, 6 singers in Group A compete and the top three advance to the “Singer of the Month” round; and the bottom three head to the elimination round.  In the second round, the top three and the bottom three are sorted out from Group B through the same competition process.  On the third week, six singers (or bands), the bottom three from each group, compete in the third round and the one with the fewest votes is eliminated.  On the fourth week, six singers (or bands), the top three from each group, compete to determine the overall winner, i.e., the singer of the month, who graduates with honor. A total of 10 singers (or bands) ranked in between remain on the show to keep competing and two more new singers (or bands) are invited to compete the following week.

Again, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the first night of the show was quite underwhelming to me on the whole, except for Lee Eunmi’s and JK Kim Dongwook’s stellar performances. However, I'm looking forward to the next round which looks promisingly more fun as it will feature the singers in Group B - Kim Gunmo, Park Wankyu, Kim Yunwoo, Jeong Yeop, and Jeong In.  

(Methinks) Two of the most noteworthy improvements made to the show are: As it broadcasts live, (i) the show is now more entertaining and fun to watch especially as it’s free of “fix” controversy; and (ii) unlike in the first season, none of the performances are cut short and edited or interrupted by fluff pieces or short interviews with singers – the great advantage of live broadcast, oh yay!  Now, here comes Lee Eunmi’s amazing performance that really lived up to her reputation, followed by its original version by Park Hyoshin.

[STUDIO VERSION] Lee Eunmi: "A Good Person"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 5/6/2012)

Original Version:
[MV] Park Hyoshin: "A Good Person" (2002)

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