Sunday, July 1, 2012

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC’s “I AM a Singer” Season 2 (7)

Naneun Gasuda (나는 가수다) or NAGASU (나가수)

Park Mikyung was voted off NAGASU and sent home on the third night of its second round (6/17/2012).  On the other hand, Lee Younghyun, Han Young-ae, and Kim Gunmo made it into the top three and Lee placed first.  Here, I’m going to write about Han’s and Kim’s performance only.

I think Han’s choice of the song was terrific; she chose to sing Lee Sora’s Barami Bunda (바람이 분다, “The Wind Blows”).  Lee hosted NAGASU season one until she was eliminated and this was the song she chose to sing herself on the very first night of the show last year. (Click to watch Lee perform on NAGASU.) In her pre-performance package, Han said she hadn’t heard it before until her arranger Lee Byunghoon suggested it.  She said, “I wasn’t familiar with the song but it captured my heart right away.  Last night before bed, I thought about it again and went, ‘I really, really like it.’  I hope I really do the song justice.  I’ll have to have it reverberate in each and every cell of mine.  I hope the audience vibes to it.”

Han performed with such abandon yet with so much charisma and personality but drew mixed reaction from the audience.  There are two extreme views on her rendition of the song: Some loved it and others hated it.  Some who know her and understand her style of singing were blown away while others who prefer Lee’s more restrained, poetic style of singing were repulsed.  But I think it's like comparing apples and oranges. Or more specifically speaking, it’s like comparing Janis Joplin and a fusion of Sade Adu/Annie Lennox/Sinead O'Connor.  But as much as I love Janis Joplin, I love Sade, Lennox, and O'Connor; and just like that, I love Han and Lee both.  (FYI, Han has been often compared to Joplin for her versatility as well as for her peculiar singing voice, timbre, and style of singing.  Just like Joplin, Han is a versatile vocalist transcending genres (blues rock, soul, and jazz blues to name a few).)  

[AUDIO ONLY] Han Young-ae: "The Wind Blows"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 6/17/2012)

Lyrics:  “The Wind Blows”

The wind blows.
Into my sorrowful heart
Blows the empty scenery.
On my way back home after a haircut,
I burst into a flood of tears
I’ve been holding in all the time.

The sky gets wet.
Onto the dark streets
Fall the cold raindrops.
In groups, the raindrops chase me
But they seem far away from me.
They seem to have stopped already.

The world is the same as yesterday,
Time is flowing,
And I'm the only one that has changed like this.
My empty wishes that were scattered to the wind
Are painfully vanishing away.

The wind blows.
Feeling cold chills, I turn back time.
You were standing near the end of summer,
Turning your back against me.
And your back seemed cold as I recall.
I think I know it all now.

All those sleepless nights over you
Were precious to me
But were no different to you than now.
Love is a tragedy.
You are not me.
No two memories are written the same.

You’re breaking up with me
Even without saying farewell.

The world is the same as yesterday,
Time is flowing,
And I'm the only one that has changed like this.
Over my head that used to contain golden memories
Blows the wind.

The tears fall down.

The song was featured on Lee Sora’s sixth album released in 2004; it was composed by Lee Seunghwan (aka, The Story) and its lyrics were written by Lee herself. (Note the singer Lee Seunghwan is a completely different person with the same name.)  Lee wrote about a woman experiencing a sense of emptiness and existential vacuum after a breakup. Most people say, “When love is gone, there's just the memories” but in her case, she realizes the precious memories were, are, and will be there only for her. 

Official Poster of the 2004 Korean Film, Yeoja, Jeonghye
"A Woman, Jeonghye" aka, "This Charming Girl"

The song was also featured on the soundtrack of the 2005 Korean film, Yeoja, Jeonghye (여자, 정혜, “A Woman, Jeonghye”) and its music video was made using scenes from the movie for the sake of promoting it.  It is a story about a woman named Junghye who was raped as a child by an adult man, her uncle.  It was such a traumatic experience that has haunted her ever since.  At the end of the movie, she takes one step forward to overcome her emotional and psychological ordeal.  Given its theme and tone, I think its English title, “This Charming Girl,” is not quite appropriate.  (Click to watch the movie with English subtitles.  Note that part 2 & 3 have the audio out of sync with the video.)  Now, here’s the music video of the song featuring scenes from the movie.

Original Version: Lee Sora [MV]
Barami Bunda "The Wind Blows" (2004)

Kim Gunmo, who’s still a child at heart, chose to sing a 2007 mega hit, Dahaeng-ida (다행이다, “I’m Fortunate”) by Lee Jeok, an arch enemy of all ordinary Korean husbands. (Just joking!)  About two years ago (11/22/2010), Lee appeared on MBC’s Nolleowa (놀러와, “Come to Play”) and revealed the story behind the making of the song.  He said, “I dated my now wife for about 6 years and never threw her any surprise event.  So I wrote a poem for her first and then put music to it.  It was meant to be a pleasant surprise for her who was studying ballet in New York at that time.”  He added that his friends also really loved it and he somehow wound up officially releasing it.  The singer/rapper Gil (of LeeSsang) chimed in, adding, “Their wedding was really romantic.  In the middle of their ceremony, he sang the song for his bride and all the female guests were moved to tears.”

Kim Gunmo said in his pre-performance package that he would sing the song for his future wife.  The song was simply arranged so its warm, deep, reflective, and subtle nuance would not be lost.  Throughout his performance, he maintained a warm, gentle, and unpretentious demeanor while showcasing his musical prowess.  It was simply brilliant!  Bravo!  

[AUDIO ONLY] Kim Gunmo: "I'm Fortunate"
on MBC's NAGASU (aired on 6/17/2012)

Lyrics:  “I’m Fortunate”

Since I met you, I can touch your hair.
Since I met you, I can breathe looking at you.
Holding you, I can shed tears when I’m weary so I’m fortunate.
For the beautiful world called you is here.

(Refrain) Even in rough winds or under a wet roof,
I’m not abandoned or alone.
Tiring daily life and gruesome survival
Will never possibly be meaningless
Thanks to the amazing you
Who have always stood by me.

Since I met you, I can cook to share with you.
Since I met you, I can hold your hand when it’s numb.
Holding you, I can comfort you even if it doesn’t help so I’m fortunate.
For the beautiful world called you is here.


Since I met you, I can touch your hair, so….

Original Version : Lee Jeok
Dahaeng-ida "I'm Fortunate" (2007)
MV featuring On Juwan and Jeong Aeyeon

KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (8)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (6)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (5)
KOREAN MUSIC: MBC's "I Am a Singer" Season 2 (4)


  1. Interesting that both songs were sung in Kpop Star!
    Ha Ha.
    Thanks as always.

    I am not familiar with Han Youngae and I don't mind that style of singing. But I guess the thing that bothers me the most is not even the sometimes off pitch tones.. it's that she looks very happy singing that sad song. LOL. If I wasn't reading the lyrics I would not have known it was a sad song.

    Kim Gunmo is flawless as always. I don't know about anyone else but whenever I hear that song I'm reminded of Kim Su Hwan. I was completely touched by his rendition.

  2. Wahyimo, maybe it's just me but she looks sad in a contemplative way singing the song... honestly.

    BTW, she's noted for her singing close to flat but still in pitch. But I noticed her age is getting in the way of her singing in tune lately.

  3. She did look and sound melancholic the first half, and then for me the last third she totally broke free of that sorrow. Instead of someone who's heart broken, she looks and sound like she is a wise woman who has learnt what life is. To put it dramatically, it's as if she's saying to me "This is what love is, it is a tragedy.. let it go"

    The more I listen to it the more it's enjoyable, even if it's not as sad.

    What do you think about Lee Young Hyun ? It's very hard to find Nagasu's performance in utube. I am probably using the wrong keywords?

  4. Wahyimo, I think your interpretation is much better than mine and am glad she's growing on you. :)

    About Lee Younghyun... Hmmmm..... Honestly, I'm beginning to think she's been quite overrated. When she performed as part of Big Mama,I couldn't pinpoint her weaknesses but they really stand out now when she sings solo on NAGASU. She's definitely got a powerhouse voice but that's pretty much it. Her low/mid register notes are wobbly/unstable and accordingly her intro hardly draws my attention whenever she sings. At least not the way Whitney Houston made me instantly carried away when I heard just two words, "If I," come out of her mouth whenever she sang "Always Love You," for instance.

  5. Ironically, while searching for her Nagasu's performances on youtube, I came across that song "I will always love you", and didn't click on it.

    I just listened to it after you've mentioned it. The reason I didn't click on it was that that song is so identical with Whitney in my mind that I rarely can fully enjoy listening to it being sung by anybody else. I agree with you on those points about her not being as captivating.

    I haven't really paid attention about those vocal weak points you mentioned, I will listen to some more and see if I can notice them.

    My favorite among the Big Mama was actually Lee Ji Young, but somehow I don't like her new solo song.

  6. You're so right, Wahyimo. I'm doubtful of Lee Younghyun's ability to select songs as (i) the song is Whitney's signature anthem and no one can sing better than her and no one ever will - as you just mentioned and (ii) as this number is one of the most overused songs, covered by so many artists in the world.


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