With Guckkasten currently in the competition on I Am A Singer 2 Korean Indie’s commentary series continues. In addition to myself the commentary panel consists of Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle, Fabien of Kimchi Popcorn and Widhi of The Wiz of Widz.
I Am A Singer 2 follows the same basic concept as I Am A Singer, inviting (once) popular artists with a long career behind them to compete against one another with covers. In the new version of the show a round lasts for a month, with one singer becoming eliminated and another qualifying for the Super December grand finale. There are twelve singers total that are more or less randomly divided into two groups. The two groups perform on separate Sundays, with the bottom three from group A later competing with the bottom three from group B not to get eliminated and the top three from group A competing with the top three from group B to get to Super December.
Lee Eun Mi Special
Dahee: Lee Eun Mi admits that she’s really happy she got first. Apparently she’s placed first only a few times in her life, so it’s a new experience for her. (How sad is it that so many of these amazingly talented singers have never gained the popularity that they deserve?) And she’s gotten herself a new nickname: Queen of Wigs. Hahaha!
Anna: I’m surprised to learn she hasn’t been winning more, especially considering how much people seem to love her. This show is her first time being an MC too, right? As for the new nickname… I would assume a Queen of Wigs to actually look good in a wig, but last week it wasn’t until after she took it off that her full beauty showed.
Han Young Ae Special
Dahee: Apparently people have avoided mentioning I Am A Singer to her after she got in the bottom three last week, probably out of a desire to avoid offending her. And that kind of reaction is actually more insulting. Man, it must be so stressful for these singers to have people constantly talk about the show and how well (or badly) they’re doing every week.
Anna: Definitely! I imagine it to be even more stressful for these singers than for the typical idol as I assume they never got to experience quite the same pressure and public exposure as the young stars of today.
Artists Arrive & Rehearse
Anna: I don’t know why, but Kim Gun Mo’s golden shoes made me laugh. Lee Eun Mi had Park Mi Kyoung’s dressing room decorated with flowers and encouraging messages, moving Park Mi Kyoung to tears. How lovely!
Dahee: I’m really liking all the song selections this week. They all suit the singers’ styles very well, and there’s a nice mix of ballads with faster songs. And Kim Yeon Woo and Kim Gun Mo are so cute, with their fake rivalry. I love that they even did an interview together, and compare their heights, haha. Is this the new bromance for the show following Kim Kyung Ho and Park Wan Kyu? And what’s the term for the female version? Fromance? Because Lee Eun Mi and Park Mi Kyoung have it. So sweet.
Anna: For some reason I find myself becoming a fan of Kim Gun Mo again. He’s so cute dancing with Kim Yeon Woo and Kim Yeon Woo’s dancers. I’m slightly embarrassed of myself.
Dahee: Yeah, it was cute how Park Myung Soo brought him to the room to stoke the flames of rivalry, but instead the two Kims started dancing together. He cannot conquer the power of the bromance! And I loled at how scared Noh Hong Chul was of Han Young Ae’s ghost outfit. These two have a strange little relationship going on too. She seems a little scared of him and his loud wackiness…
Park Mi Kyoung: “주저하지 말아요” (Kim Hyun Sik cover)
Anna: Seems like Rockstone are still around! Now also with a drummer and keyboardist, they’re helping Park Mi Kyoung to get into some sort of heavy electro rock sound. I’m loving the italo beats, but the arrangement as a whole isn’t all that it could’ve been. In spite of what I’m assuming was supposed to be a very current and now hot music style the song was going for, it actually sounds a bit dated. Both because of the italo elements and that toned down ‘aaah’ scream mixed in occasionally that I recognize so well from some 90’s kpop songs. Those green lasers were fairly annoying too, sending me back to Club Midnight Sunset at GMF where poor work from the light engineers made the lasers constantly hitting the eyes of the visitors. Even so this is the best we’ve heard from Park Mi Kyoung so far.
Fabien: Uh … What is it? It reminds me of all these attempts at techno remixes that abounded in the early 2000s, when it was basically nothing more than an adding layers of electronic beats on the original songs. I feel that nothing goes with the rest. The voice would not be bad if it was taken alone, but it does not fit with the music, and I do not understand why in this arrangement both the electro beats and the drums use the same pattern of rhythm. Not only does it quickly become repetitive, but also annoying. Even if she forces the voice on the end, the climax stays at a very low. The lasers are perhaps the most successful part of the show.
Dahee: For an arrangement that required so much energy, this felt like a rather blah performance. Park Mi Kyoung finally did what I wanted from her, but in the wrong way. She simply didn’t have enough stage presence, maybe because she wasn’t dancing enough. And I hate the arrangement. So repetitive and strange. The laser light show was unnecessary. This entire performance felt messy and, frankly, a little too desperate. She’s a good singer though, I’ll give her that.
Kim Yeon Woo: “호랑나비” (Kim Heung Kook cover)
Anna: Kim Yeon Woo continues with the style of music that characterized the previous episode. I do not approve one bit. The dancers are fun, but I can’t stand the song and I’m sorta hating the way he’s singing it. I’m sorry. I want to keep liking him, but apparently this is not the episode for that.
Fabien: I’m not as definitive about him than Anna, I have on the whole quite liked his performance. It is not at all original, and it does not show great talent. But his staging is fun. The song does not please me either, the lyrics seem very naive. I miss the old days when the songs were chosen by the production and the singers had to deal with it and overcome the difficulties. And I’m starting to worry that the dancing girls begin to appear as frequently.
Dahee: Kim Yeon Woo is SO CUTE I can’t stand it. This is one of those songs that everyone knows and kind of laughs at, and he’s pretty much nailing that vibe. Look at him go! I’ve wanted him to do something like this for a long time now, and I’m so glad he’s finally done it. Look at him imitating Kim Heung Gook’s dance! Oh god, I can’t stop grinning. And that smile at the end! Cuuuuute. XD
Kim Gun Mo: “다행이다” (Lee Juck cover)
Anna: I like this! It’s a fairly plain ballad in the beginning, but the song is very nice and I always enjoyed the sound of Kim Gun Mo’s voice together with a piano. The strings are only making it better. Nothing really outstanding, but I like this a lot.
Dahee: My main thought about this performance is: I really respect Kim Gun Mo. To sing with such ease, with no messy desires or fears getting in the way, just letting himself fall into the music…That’s a real singer, right there. This is one of those songs that has been sung a million times over by a million different people, and thus it’s easy to get sick of it. And the arrangement is a little overly simple. But Kim Gun Mo saves this performance for me with his effortless vocals. Well done.
Fabien: I think despite the interpretation that is really very simple, I could feel many emotions conveyed by his voice. I realize that despite my long disdain for Kim Gun Mo, there is something I respect a lot and finally appreciates in him. It is that he has succeeded in building a true vocal identity. And it’s especially more flagrant in the over-used genre of ballad, in which he manages to realize something that stays unique in the competition only by his own way of singing. Good job, mister Kim!
Lee Young Hyun: “이미 슬픈 사랑” (Yada cover)
Anna: A song from the golden age of Korean rock ballads! I’m kinda disappointed Lee Young Hyun has lost most of that rock feeling, but at least there is a guitar solo. And the point shouldn’t be to mimic the original anyway. She sings very well, but it’s a bit too much of the same thing throughout for me.
Dahee: Lee Young Hyun has been trying for the last few performances to escape from the trap of the one kind of performance that the audience wants from her (powerhouse vocals and overly emotional ballads), but this week she openly admits to going back to that style to avoid elimination. And this was a good performance, with a good song choice. She’s managed to combine her softer side with her power vocals, which was nice to see. She went a little over the top again near the end, but I think this performance shows that she’s learning to add restraint to her performances while still acknowledging what the audience wants from her.
Fabien: For me who is so fond of rock ballads, it makes me feel very sad to see one that undergoes such a transformation. The song loses all its charm! And the rational explanation by Lee Young Hyun does not get any of my compassion. If she thinks that it’s only by singing a safe and conventional interpretation that she can continue to be part of this TV show then she should rather leave the contest. I’m not watching this to listen to what the public expect from them.
Jung In: “내게로” (Jang Hye Jin cover)
Anna: Maybe I was wrong about Jung In’s voice before. To this sort of arrangement it actually works quite well. Although not fully my kind of music, I like this a lot more than anything else I’ve heard from her on this show until now.
Dahee: Aww, this was a nice performance. Great arrangement. I think this shows that Jung In’s starting to have a better grasp of what she’s good at, although I still want her to choose a better song. Something about lost love or heartbreak, not something like this, with a vague uplifting message. It was hard to get into it emotionally because of it, but I still liked the performance overall. Also, she should style herself like this more often. Why a pretty girl like her has been choosing those weird hairstyles all this time is beyond me.
Anna: Talking about her hairstyle I still haven’t gotten over that weird hairdo with she had in some episode last month, where it was all gathered in some kind of cone on the top of her head. I couldn’t look at her without thinking of my old troll dolls.
Han Young Ae: “바람이 분다” (Lee Sora cover)
Anna: It’s a bit weird to hear Han Young Ae sing this song considering how different her voice is from Lee Sora’s. A bit rougher. Even though she’s pretty much just standing still it’s a powerful performance. If I wasn’t already so familiar and fond of the original my reaction would probably have been more similar to that of Lee Young Hyun.
Dahee: I got goosebumps watching this. I adore this song, it’s one of the most played songs on my iPod, actually, and I adore Lee So Ra’s voice. At first I wondered whether Han Young Ae’s singing style really suited the song, and then I realized that she’d reinterpreted it in a unique way, and made it entirely her own. How many singers are so confident in their uniqueness, after all? It felt like a woman recalling her breakup from many years ago, and looking back with fondness on the past pain. Lovely.
Lee Eun Mi – “세상에서 가장 큰 피그미”
Anna: I like that the winner of the previous episode gets to make a special performance in the next. A stunning performance from Lee Eun Mi! It’s a pleasure watching her expressions as she sings.
Dahee: What a beautiful song! And what great vocals! I’m definitely warming up to you, Lee Eun Mi, even if you need to stop wearing towels on stage. I need to go download this song…
Dahee: Kim Yeon Woo is really putting his newfound variety show skills to good use, heh. That butterfly in his hair makes me laugh. Also, it looks like the singers vote for themselves through text messaging, haha!
Anna: 1) Kim Gun Mo, 2) Han Young Ae, 3) Lee Young Hyun, 4) Jung In, 5) Park Mi Kyoung, 6) Kim Yeon Woo
Kim Yeon Woo was easy to place in the bottom considering how much I disliked his performance. Didn’t take much thought to put Park Mi Kyoung second last either, it felt like maybe she was trying too hard. The other four, however, were more difficult. In the end Kim Gun Mo ended up on top since it was something I liked throughout. I contemplated putting Lee Young Hyun second, but it was almost a bit monotonous and Han Young Ae managed to engage more. Maybe I should’ve placed Jung In higher, but I think I need some more time to get used to her voice before I can embrace her fully.
1) Han Young Ae 2) Kim Yeon Woo 3) Lee Young Hyun 4) Kim Gun Mo 5) Jung In 6) Park Mi Kyoung
This was a good week for me, so choosing the rankings was extremely difficult. I liked all of them really, with the exception of Park Mi Kyoung. So placing her in last was easy, but the other five…In the end I was most emotionally affected by Han Young Ae, so I placed her first. I hesitated for a long time between Kim Yeon Woo and Lee Young Hyun, but in the end my bias for Kim Yeon Woo won out and I placed him in second just because he tried something new (i.e. not a ballad) and was so cute while doing it. Kim Gun Mo sang really well, but I felt nothing emotionally from his performance, and the arrangement was a little dull for me. I liked Jung In’s performance, but I want her song choices to improve, and I don’t think she sang as well as Kim Gun Mo did, so she gets fifth. Do I really need to explain why I placed Park Mi Kyoung last?
Fabien: 1) Jung In 2) Kim Gun Mo 3) Han Young Ae 4) Kim Yeon Woo 5) Lee Young Hyun 6) Park Mi Kyoung
Because of the right use of her voice range, and the flawless interpretation, and also to apologize for my previous harsh comment about her, I decided to put Jung In at the top rank. She’s closely followed by Kim Gun Mo and Han Young Ae who were equally satisfying, but I had a slight preference for Kim. Then in the middle pot I could only put Kim Yeon Woo. It wasn’t disappointing, but not so appealing at the same time. Lee Young Hyun is the not-so-innocent victim of my aversion towards Korean ballads, and because I cannot share her opinion about giving to the public what they ask for. But despite all these bad feelings about her, she cannot compete with Park Mi Kyoung when it comes to the last place. That song was nothing more than a pain in my ears.
Top 3: Kim Gun Mo, Lee Young Hyun, Han Young Ae
Anna: Yay! Just the way I wanted it to be.
Dahee: I’m always a little surprised whenever Kim Gun Mo gets in the top three. I guess I just don’t really understand his appeal, even if I respect him as a singer. Still, I’m perfectly fine with these choices, even if I’m a little pouty for Kim Yeon Woo.
Fabien: As always since i started doing these commentaries, i guess it right for two of them and cannot understand the third one.
No. 1: Lee Young Hyun
Anna: She did sing really well, even if the performance itself could’ve been a bit more exciting. Well done!
Dahee: Good for her. Aww, look at her hands shaking! She’s such an emotional person, and seems like a total sweetheart.
Fabien: Ugh. I don’t understand the public.
Eliminated: Park Mi Kyoung
Anna: After that performance I’m not really surprised. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of her on the show, but even so I’m not all that sad to see her go.
Dahee: Poor Park Mi Kyoung. She seemed so stressed out, and to get eliminated after receiving that waiting room decoration and all that snazzy preparation must be tough. She really seemed on the verge of tears after she got in the bottom three. I feel sorry for her, but I’m also not surprised that she’s leaving. She’s shown a lot of her limitations, and I don’t think she’s really right for this show.
Fabien: That’s better for her good sake. And ours, too.