Hi everyone, refresh_daemon of Init_Music here for a new feature for Indieful ROK. As many of you might know, MBC’s Korean variety competition show, I Am a Singer (나는 가수다) has been quite popular since it debuted in March this year and when it started, it featured one artist that some readers of Indieful ROK would be interested in, popular rock band YB. More recently, and of greater interest to followers of Indieful ROK, Jaurim (자우림) joined the lineup in the fourth round on 31 July with a tremendous performance of Song Changshik’s (송장식) “고래사냥”, filling a space vacated by Ok Juhyun. At the conclusion of the fourth round, YB lost in the overall vote and did not get to graduate with the other two artists that had been on the show since the beginning, Lena Park (박정현) and Kim Bumsoo (김범수).
That brings us to the fifth round, seeing that an indie favorite is now on the show, Anna and I decided to watch the episodes and respond to them as we watch. The result sits somewhere between a recap of each episode and a dialog following what we see. You can see how we respond to the episode on 21 August 2011 after the jump. Let us know if you like the new feature and we’ll keep it up!
All performances can be watched from Bugs Music’s special 나는 가수다. Click the tab saying “8월 21일 방송” to find the performances discussed below.
rd: The show begins with an honorary graduation for Kim Bumsoo and Park Junghyun (Lena Park), who come out at the very start to reflect on their experience with the show. I’m sad that YB can’t be there, having been eliminated in the last round. I ended up buying up YB’s discography in part due to this show.
Anna: I hadn’t watched this at all before Jaurim joined and didn’t particularly like what I got to see of YB, but can’t help feeling bad for YDH (Yoon Dohyun) anyway being eliminated rather than graduating after so many weeks. After that look back at Kim Bumsoo’s participation in the show I’m not sure why he managed to stay on for so long.
rd: Ooh, they get a nice little statue for graduating. KBS (Kim Bumsoo) noticed that the three 7 round runners all ended with the same rankings as they got during their first performances. Lena Park probably had the best run of all the musicians on I Am a Singer so far, ranking in the top three almost every week.
Anna: I was surprised by how sweet and charming she came off. While I’ve “always” been aware of Lena Park, I haven’t really listened to her beyond the English recordings of old Korean songs on the Kayo album many years ago. She was my favorite for the two episodes I got to see her compete in, so I feel kinda sad not to get to see more of her. Might have to look up some of her own music after this.
rd: A duet for the two honorary graduates. I think this is the duet that they performed before for the singers in the mid-round performance. I also think Lena Park sang this with Im Jaebum long ago. They fit well together both being R&B influenced vocalists.With them gone, is it up to Kim Johan to carry the R&B torch?
Anna: I figured the same. It is a good song that one. Lena Park and Kim Bumsoo perform it well with some good harmonizing.
rd: The PDs are discussing the new singers–with YB eliminated and Lena and KBS graduated, they need three of them.
rd: There’s Insooni! She decided to come onto the show because she didn’t want to regret missing her chance to perform on it. She’s the veteran of the bunch and also covers R&B style too.
Anna: Only ever heard of her as a diva, but it’s good to get to see a more human version of her. A 34 year long career is very impressive. And that clip from her debut hilarious.
rd: Bobby Kim is next! A soul man and a bit less mainstream than some of the other singers. He’s also a rapper and is the show’s first rapper. I like his music, but I worry that his style might suffer the same challenges that jazz vocalist BMK (Big Mama King) did on the show previously.
Anna: Was surprised to learn he’d been around for 18 years already. I knew about Buga Kingz but had never even heard of Dr. Reggae before. Only time I’ve ever really listened to him must’ve been during the Bros time.
rd: And now for Yoon Minsoo who I’m not particularly familiar. The PDs note that he’s also an R&B singer and formerly of the vocal group Vibe (and 4Men). He seems to be aware that people might not know who he is. Vibe is the group responsible for Jang Hyejin’s song that sent her to #2, “술이야”.
Anna: Although I had heard of Vibe, I didn’t know I had actually heard them until they played some of their hit songs. For some reason I had thought Vibe was a boyband so I had expected Yoon Minsoo to be an idol type guy. I was wrong.
The Singers See the Songlist
rd: Yoon Minsoo brought along a fellow Vibe member as his arranger for the show.
rd: Jo Kwanwoo’s self-deprecation is funny again, probably since he did pretty well last round. He pegs Insooni for big time staying power.
rd: It’s a nice change of pace to see that all the singers are going to sing their own original songs again, instead of opening up with a cover. I am really interested in seeing if any of the artists bring anything new to their standards.
Anna: I was quite disappointed to learn this was the case, but perhaps it’s good to hear them do their old songs anew.
rd: It’s going to be fun to see Kim Johan bring back “천생연분”, an uptempo Solid classic. And Jaurim’s doing “Magic Carpet Ride”… hmm… it will definitely stand out amidst the ballads. Despite being a Jaurim supporter, I’m most psyched for Insooni’s performance!
Anna: A favorite among Solid songs for me, but I could never really get into Magic Carpet Ride.
The New Manager Assignments
rd: Insooni’s funny. She definitely saw Park Myungsoo’s tirade from the first episode and stops in front of his door, but ends up walking into So Eunee’s office… for a hug? Tricky lady. Haha, now she’s slamming on Park’s door and picks him. Heheh.
rd: Poor So Eunee, Bobby Kim dropped by but picked Kim Taehyun instead.
rd: That leave Yoon Minsoo to So Eunee.
rd: Haha, Insooni, still being funny, is insisting on calling Park oppa.
rd: Looks like Bobby Kim and the PDs have the same concern that I did.
rd: Insooni even when she is just doing a practice round is giving me goosebumps. I predict a winner for 1st place.
rd: Kim Taehyun is hosting? I guess it’s pretty stressful to have a singer also be the emcee. Oh, I see, the managers will introduce their own singers. I wonder if this is a long term format change.
Anna: I think I’m gonna like this. Seemed a bit weird to have one of the singers handle all the introductions to me before.
rd: Looks like there’s a format change in the post-performance room too. All the singers will gather together with the MC’s after their performances.
Anna: This I’m not so sure about. Even though I can’t really understand much I could see more potential from the previous arrangement. Especially with the comedians having their rating boards and all..
Bobby Kim’s “사랑… 그 놈”
rd: Bobby Kim’s father told him that since people don’t really know the song he’s going to sing, that he shouldn’t overdo it. I’ve never heard this song before–surprising that it’s part sing-talk. Hmm… it does seem pretty low key, I think my fears are right that Bobby’s gonna get overshadowed by more dramatic songs. His big hit “고래의 꿈” might have been a better first pick? The audience seems to like this one tho.
Anna: New song to me as well and the part sing-talk doesn’t go well over with me. Pretty boring ballad that never really takes off.
Jang Hyejin’s “아름다운 날들”
rd: Jang Sangryul is there to introduce. I don’t know Jang Hyejin’s music very well, so I don’t have any expectations here. She’s really pretty tho. Apparently this song comes from her sixth album, which she helped produce and was released before she left for overseas study, taking a hiatus in her career. Hmm, this isn’t a particularly bombastic song either, so it should spar well with Bobby Kim’s.
Anna: She’s singing beautifully with good clarity. It’s pretty, but a bit boring too.
Kim Johan’s “천생연분”
rd: And here’s Go Youngwook to introduce Kim Johan. And he’s wearing shades. Ha! The audience is really looking forward to this one!
Anna: It’s Solid. They should be.
rd: Ooh, it starts out all jazzy. And then gets upbeat.
Anna: “hip hop jazz gospel style”. Lost me already, unfortunately.
rd: He gets the audience involved right away! But keeps the music swinging. Guest rappers seem to do all right.
Anna: Good to see Common Ground backing there as well.
rd: And he beatboxes! This is a unique arrangement of the song–that might help it stand out, although the jazzy take does take a bit of the energy out of the song.
Anna: Not as good as the original, that’s for sure. Still it’s fun that he actually changed the song a bit. And my own objections to the arrangement aside he performed it very well.
rd: Heh. Kim Yuna loves it! The other singers seem to have appreciated it too.
Yoon Minsoo’s “그남자 그여자 + 술이야”
rd: Here’s So Eunee to introduce. It’s going to be a medley of two songs! You know, his grey hair makes him look older than you’d think. It’s going to be hard for him since he was mainly a part of a group, rather than a solo singer. Jungyup didn’t do too well on the show and he even had some notable solo work.
rd: He’s definitely got the expressive side down–I’m imagining he’s battling with Insooni and Jo Kwanwoo for the same kind of emotional ballad appreciation from the audience.
Anna: I kinda recognize the songs, but there no strong feelings from my side. The delivery is good, but again it’s a bit on the boring side.
rd: Okay, there are plenty of R&B singers now and Yoon Minsoo doesn’t do too bad considering he’s got a nice husky voice to help him stand out. Not a bad gamble on the PDs part.
Jo Kwanwoo’s “사라했으므로”
rd: There’s our Kim Shinyoung to introduce. I’m still not particularly familiar with Jo’s music, but he does have a rather distinct falsetto style, so it’s easy to pick up what his music’s going to be like. He says that it’s among his saddest songs. It definitely fits the dramatic niche.
Anna: Jo Kwanwoo is one of those artists whose name I’ve always been aware of though I never actually listened to his music. I’m not sold on his vocal style. It’s like Jeong Cha Sik in Rainy Sun, but without the same edge. Not nearly as good a style for ballads as it is in an experimental rock setting.
rd: Good performance. No one yet has really made a huge splash though.
Anna: His vocals distract me too much. I couldn’t even hear the song.
Jaurim’s “Magic Carpet Ride”
rd: Park Hwesoon to introduce. Hmm, I’m starting to feel like we really just need one set emcee for the show. It’s a little dizzying to have so many voices coming up. I like the colorful dress on Kim Yuna.
Anna: Looking very good.
rd: And Kim Yuna comes on with a lot of energy and charisma. It’s hard not to love her.
Anna: If I didn’t already know, or had no idea how long she’s been making music I would’ve never been able to guess her age.
rd: High energy is good and Kim Yuna continues to play with the vocal melody, although she definitely pulls a little wind out of her performance with sing-talking, which doesn’t give the audience the air to sing along well. Still a lot of fun. And I loved Lee Sungyu’s shout at the start.
Anna: Common Ground backing again. It is energetic, but not too different from how I remember it.
rd: And now they’re getting the audience involved for the bridge! Kim Yuna definitely has the highest energy stage presence. She puts Kim Johan’s emcees to shame. They band looks like they’re having a good time.
Anna: Fun to hear the audience so engaged. They put on a really good show.
rd: And there’s Park Myungsoo, the other manager who stuck around to watch his singer graduate, introducing the woman who has the largest chance of doing the same.
rd: Now, I’m not super familiar with Insooni’s music, but Park says this song is from her seventeenth album. That’s right, this woman is perhaps the most legendary of all the performers to be on this program. It starts with a monologue set to synth. She seems so self-possessed and confident. I like the arrangement already, with the piano opening.
Anna: It’s strong and beautiful. I can’t understand what she’s saying, but nonetheless it’s moving.
rd: She’s got the husky in her voice. Wow. Wow. Wow. The audience is misty eyed.
Anna: So am I.
rd: She’s got great stage presence. And the pipes to compete with everyone else.
Anna: Very powerful voice.
rd: Oh wow. I think she’s a clear winner. It’s almost unfair to have that kind of a legend on the show. The reaction in the MC/singers room is totally moved. MCs were crying. They had to pause before they reacted.
Anna: “Korea’s Whitney Houston”? Sure, why not.
rd: And she walks off like it’s no thing. She’s so pro.
The Voting Begins and the Singers Debrief
rd: The 500 member audience still picks their top three choices (unweighted).
rd: Hahaha. Park Myungsoo explains how on the first episode, when Insooni’s name was mentioned, he was pretending to leave out of protest and then Insooni cheekily explains that she was going to “cut” him this episode. That gets everybody cheering. And then she explains that she picked him as her manager to have him suffer ‘til the end. More cheers.
rd: 1) Insooni, 2) Kim Johan, 3) Jaurim, 4) Yoon Minsoo, 5) Bobby Kim, 6) Jang Hyejin, 7) Jo Kwanwoo
For me, 1 and 2 were easy picks, but the other five were really difficult to rank. I sort of selected them based on how much I remembered them. I have a bias for Jaurim, obviously. ;)
Anna: 1) Insooni, 2) Jaurim, 3) Kim Johan, 4) Yoon Minsoo, 5) Jang Hyejin, 6) Bobby Kim, 7) Jo Kwanwoo
For me the first three and the last one were all clear.. Something that moves me so much must be #1. Jaurim provided the most entertaining performance of the evening. Kim Johan, although not really for me did do something different and did do it well. And I have a feeling I’ll keep putting Jo Kwanwoo last until somebody else does really bad.
And the results of the voting.
1st Place (with 27.7% of the vote!)
rd: I don’t think surprised anyone, except maybe Insooni. And everyone cheers. And Insooni throws another jab at her manager, Park.
Anna: Utterly well deserved. Really looking forward to hearing her singing something totally different.
rd: It’s an upset! What a surprise! Granted, he picked his songs well and “술이야” was also the song that led Jang Hyejin to second place before. But I thought he did well enough to vote him fourth place too.
rd: Not too surprising, considering he picked a real crowdpleaser of a song.
rd: Well done, Jo Kwanwoo. You’ve doubly broken your pickle curse (5th place is called oh-uiee, which is a homonym for pickle).
rd: He didn’t have to worry too much after all, although he’ll have to figure out some way of stepping it up for the second round where he’ll have to cover someone else’s song.
Anna: Hearing him cover someone else’s song will be more fun, I hope. Perhaps he was just trying to play it safe now.
rd: I’m kind of glad that she didn’t get seventh place because it was a song that she personally was involved the making of. This is a tough show to be on, because even with your personal best songs, there are six other strong performers doing the same. Jang, for whatever reason, managed to capture a little favor from me since she started on the show, so I’m hoping she continues to do well.
Anna: There’s something about her that instantly got my sympathies.
rd: =’( But I’m actually not surprised. As I noted before, the performance didn’t seem to grip that well and part of me thinks that “Magic Carpet Ride” wasn’t exactly the best pick for this audience, especially if Jaurim could choose from any of their songs. A more focused song might have worked better, like maybe a take on the ever popular “파애” or the crying of “망향”. Either way, picking a more potent song that takes advantage of the kind of power a band brings to the table would probably have been a more prudent choice. I still love you tho, Jaurim! I hope you do well with the next cover!
Anna: Indeed, 망향 is what I wished for as well. As long as they do covers while still sounding like Jaurim they should do ok, I think.