Top Band 2 Episode 17: Top 8 Group A

For the second time the Top 8 bands on KBS2 survival show Top Band 2 are facing each other, and this time it’s for real. Episode 17 was broadcast live on September 15th with the TV audience helping to decide which two out of the first four bands would remain in competition. KBS offers VOD to anyone with a KBS account if you want to watch the full episode. Daum does not allow video embeds, but if you click the song titles below the full performances are available for viewing.

In addition to myself the Top Band 2 commentary panel consists of Lightinthemind of Korean rock is real, Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle,  Sangha of strangeseasons and Fabien of Kimchi Popcorn, Ranya of K-Underground Sweden and Xtian aka drowningn00b. This week we’re all shocked by a couple of the judges.


 

Jury Members

Kim Jong Seo
Chung Won Young
Song Hong Seob
Jang Hye Jin
Kim Se Hwang

Anna: Jang Hye Jin!!! I don’t know how much worthwhile she’s got to say about rock bands, but I’ve missed seeing her since I Am A Singer. Good to see Chung Won Young make a return for this season as well, because the other three names worry me greatly after last week’s judging. At least the public wield the same power this time, so hopefully the damage won’t be too big.

Dahee: Yeah, it’s definitely good to see her again. I’m just glad that there’s a female judge here. And she can provide feedback on vocals and have more of an outsider opinion than the other judges.

Sangha: Kim Se Hwang again, uh oh.

Fabien: I am also very worried to see some of them coming back from the last episode. I really hate it when a judge gives high scores only to the style of music he favors. It’s not an easy task to be part of a jury, so they shouldn’t pick just any musician who agrees to do it. But I’m glad to see Jang Hye Jin. She was not the best singer in I Am A Singer, but I could have a glimpse of her taste and I hope she’ll bring more fairness to Top Band. But I completely disagree with the public’s votes, as it’s based only on the audience’s SMS ! And the consequence is that around 6’000 votes were already received before Monni started their performance…

 

Monni

Anna: Monni are going for sad songs and Kim Sini brings up “소나기” that they’ve already played earlier on the show. It’s by far my favorite Monni song, and I really wish I could understand more of what he’s saying.

Dahee: He says he fell in love at 20, but the girl rejected his advances, and three months later she died. The Shin Sung Woo song they’re covering reminded him of this past, and he used to listen to it a lot back then.

Sangha: Monni seems to be taking a more personal approach with this performance! I like it. I much prefer this sentimental side than the more upbeat side they’ve tried to show us in the past.

Lightinthemind: As the mission is called ‘my story my song’ I think Monni chose the right approach.

Fabien: I thought the mission would be for each of the bands to pick a song from a singer or band that had a lot of influence to them, but it seems now to be more about sad feelings and nostalgia. Does this mean many ballad songs ?

슬픔이 올때” (Shin Sung Woo cover)

Anna: Oh the strings! I’ve criticized Monni and other bands for bringing sessions players to this show before, but now we’re talking a different level. Will Top Band now stop searching for the top band and instead go after whoever manages to put on the more persuasive performance à la Immortal Song 2? I’m loving it, but at the same time feel like we’ve gotten even further away from what Top Band was supposed to be. Sounds alot like Monni, though at the end I felt like it got kind of monotonous.

Dahee: This was very Monni-esque. They weren’t kidding when they said they’d go back to their roots. The strings immediately reminded me of their coach, but I think they were a bit of a miss. They used them in the beginning, but as the song went on I could barely hear them at times, and in the end they seemed unnecessary. But man does Kim Sini ever have a great voice! Awesome vocal performance from him. And the arrangement was very pretty, if kind of ordinary. Like most of Monni’s work…

Sangha: I’m not digging the strings as much, they really needed a bigger ensemble than that if they wanted to use it to their full advantage. Other than that, I love this arrangement!

Lightinthemind: Monni being Monni, not much though… I can bearly stand that amount of sweetness they bring to the stage. And somehow I have the feeling that because of the sadness they lost a lot of any additional energy that usually makes Kim Sini’s voice sound brighter and breathtaking.

Fabien: Monni goes orchestral ! I too don’t know if this fits what the TV show is supposed to be. I’m always afraid of the strings after watching so many dramatic and romantic movies, as it’s the so obvious way to convey sad feelings. And it’s what it does. They never have their own score, they just follow the tune… So, in my opinion, it’s just useless. Aside from this, this a good performance, but nothing that could wow me.

Scores

Kim Jong Seo: 90
Chung Won Young: 85
Song Hong Seob: 70
Jang Hye Jin: 85
Kim Se Hwang: 80
Sub-total: 410

Anna: Wow, we finally get to hear what all of the jury members got to say! Pretty good score so far in spite of Song Hong Seob failing to understand today’s music.

Dahee: Agreed, good scores. Is it really a good idea to have Kim Jong Seo on the jury, considering that he once helped to coach Monni…? Anyway, I’m glad Song Hong Seob pointed out that Monni need to be more creative in their arrangements.

 

Rose Motel

Anna: They actually get to meet Lee Kwang Cho? That’s so precious!

Lightinthemind: So kind and thoughtful of them to show the arrangement to him and ask opinion!

오늘 같은 밤” (Lee Kwang Cho cover)

Anna: I don’t particularly like this arrangement. I know there is definitely an audience for this style of music, but it’s not with a Top Band audience. What’s worse is they don’t display that charm and those stage antics that made Rose Motel so appealing to begin with. I’m afraid their time on Top Band is up.

Dahee: I like that they’re taking risks with their arrangement, and that they’ve gone back to their smoother, more buttery days. I also like that the session players are wearing corsages too. But they could’ve used a tad more energy, and some moments felt a bit unbalanced. Still, they continue to show lots of potential.

Sangha: This kinda fell flat. And the whole performance kinda felt all over the place… It started out pretty awesome though. Not their best, for sure.

Lightinthemind: I have a strong feeling that everything wasn’t polished down to the details and Rose Motel were not coordinated with the session musicians. Also there is smth about the disco/funk approach that doesn’t go well with trumpets and sux. As if vocals are not loud enough to have harmony with this instruments. But I am sure that on the small stage this version will go pretty well.

Fabien: For me the worst with this performance is that I didn’t feel the same energy than in their early apparitions in Top Band 2. It’s as if they had become tired of doing this. I would still favor them for their originality and for them always trying something different. But I just didn’t find any fun watching them this time.

Scores

Kim Jong Seo: 80
Chung Won Young: 95
Song Hong Seob: 65
Jang Hye Jin: 90
Kim Se Hwang: 60
Sub-total: 390

Anna: A very low score from Kim Se Hwang, but I could feel where he’s coming from. This is getting sad.

Dahee: What is with the incredibly nasty remarks from Song Hong Seob and Kim Se Hwang?  Kim Se Hwang smilingly says, “I’m good friends with the guitarist, but the guitar solo sucked. I hated it.” OUCH. And that moment when Song tells Yook Joong Wan that his voice and singing style is incapable of touching anyone’s heart is just…wow. Yook just stands there listening to this, mouth open. Well, SCREW YOU, Song Hong Seob. I happen to like Yook Joong Wan’s voice the best in this band. A POX ON YOUR BOTTOM.

Anna: Yes, that smile on Kim Se Hwang. I want to like him, because he’s Kim Se Hwang and all, but that smile of his just seems so fake when he says all those things.

Sangha: DRAMAAA. I can sense a shitstorm coming this way. Kim Se Hwang is so frank, and Salt Song is just doing his thing. I can see where Kim Se Hwang is coming from with the criticisms, but with that nasty smirk on his face? Kinda makes me feel uncomfortable. It feels like he’s ridiculing them, instead of giving them serious criticism.

Fabien: There were many things to criticize in them tonight, but Kim Se Hwang and Song Hong Seob only went with biased opinions about some minor aspects without giving any advice on how to improve.

 

Achtung

Anna: Yay for Kim Kyung Ho and his coaching!

Dahee: FINALLY, we get to see this! I love how detailed he is, and how he’s trying to get the vocalist to understand stage mannerisms.

Sangha: I really wish we could’ve seen more coaching from the coaches. This is awesome though, Kim Kyung Ho points out some really good things!

Fabien: Kim Kyung Ho is cruel but right. Achtung must have greatly benefited from his expertise.

I Want To Break Free” (Queen cover)

Anna: Starting off with a bit of “We Will Rock You”, it actually sounds better than I had expected. Same thing when it moves over to the actual “I Want To Break Free” even though it’s far from my kind of music – I imagine part of it being that I’m already so used to hearing Queen songs remade in styles that do not appeal to me the least. I’m actually enjoying that psychedelic flute part though, but that’s all Kwon Byung Ho’s doing so Achtung can only take credit for having the good taste of inviting him to perform with them. Once the performance proceeds to “We Are The Champions” and Kwon Byung Ho is instead playing the accordion, that’s the first time I actually enjoy their performance. But it only lasts so long since I can’t appreciate the vocals. Maybe I should try harder not to come off as such an Achtung hater, but I’ve tried years to get into them already and even with the progress they’ve made on this show their sound just isn’t working for me.

Dahee: Like Kim Jong Seo, I don’t understand why Achtung mashed together three Queen songs into one. They’re not singing “I Want To Break Free”, they’re singing a medley. I wonder whether Kim Kyung Ho suggested it, since he sings a Queen medley at every concert? At any rate, I feel like it’s out of place here. Still, they continue to improve, arrangement-wise, and I like that they’re also taking risks and experimenting. And like their coach, I want them to be more confident. I frowned during certain moments of this song, but there were others when I was really into it. Overall a conflicting performance.

Sangha: This is the night of disappointing performances! I really don’t see why they had to mash three songs together, this was a real mess. It lacked energy, and there was no real climax or a point that really stood out. The bass sounded awesome as usual though.

Lightinthemind: My teeth…my poor teeth… I suffered to get to the end of their part and it occurred to me that what I liked the most was not Achtung as a band, but the flute and accordion, of course the bass, and some moments of the arrangement.I definitely can’t put  this band and Queen in one bowl, they are on different sides of the earth.

Fabien: I can’t stand this poor vibrato anymore. And I can’t understand why they can’t stay with only one song and try to cover it properly. By doing it this way, they don’t have any climax, and it doesn’t have the interest of a medley, it’s just a plain review of a few famous songs by Queen. This time, the arrangement is excellent, especially with the bass, and session musician isn’t just gimmicky. If it was only for the music, I would put them first among the four bands.

Scores

Kim Jong Seo: 80
Chung Won Young: 85
Song Hong Seob: 75
Jang Hye Jin: 80
Kim Se Hwang: 40
Sub-total: 360

Anna: Ok, I might not be Achtung’s biggest fan, but that was really unnecessary of Kim Se Hwang! As much as I dislike their sound these guys do know how to work their instruments and deserve at least some respect.

Dahee: Okay, who pooped in Kim Se Hwang’s porridge? My god. And why does he keep talking to Kim Kyung Ho like that? Are they friends? “When your coach sings Queen songs, his pronunciation is very good.” Uh…no, it isn’t. Kim Kyung Ho’s English pronunciation is awful. I can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic or if he’s hitting on him. In other news, I was annoyed when Song Hong Seob breezily said, “There’s a problem with your vocals. I don’t know what it is, but fix it.” And then Jang Hye Jin swooped in and said that the reason the vocals are a problem is because he doesn’t use any lower notes at all. She suggests that he try to sing in a lower register at times. Now THAT’S constructive criticism.

Anna: I had been hoping to get Lee Sang Eun back from the first season, but this alone is enough to justify Jang Hye Jin’s appearance in the jury.

Sangha: And Jang Hye Jin remains the only helpful judge on the panel. Seriously, Song Se Hwang is just really annoying with his vague criticisms (see: his comment for Rose Motel) that are filled with “I don’t know what’s wrong but…”. And Kim Se Hwang. Did you guys see those dramatic shrugs he kept doing with that smile when the other judges were saying their comments? You can’t possibly look so natural doing such a ridiculous shrug without practice. And his comments… Oh, Kim Se Hwang, if you wrote a critical essay, you’d get a 40/100 for not giving your reasons. He’s proving to be the funniest thing to grace this show since the beginning of this season though! Those gestures! Those smirks! Those comments! Simply ridiculous.

Dahee: Yes, those dramatic shrugs! SO ridiculous. And that picture represents them perfectly, LMAO!

Fabien: It’s just becoming stupid. Giving such a low score is like already condemning the band to be eliminated, only with the opinion of ONE judge! And one cannot be serious when giving this score to a band who manage  its music so well. I can hate the voice, but it’s no reason to punish the two other members for this.

 

Transfixion

Anna: For some reason I love seeing Haerang put on his makeup and prepare his eyebrows.

Dahee: ME TOO. And apparently he’s experienced racism because people assume that he’s a foreigner?? That’s just too sad.

Fabien: I think it’s just stupid. He “looks” German, so what?

Anna: It has to be those eyebrows. I never thought of it before, but now I wonder what he’d look like if he let them grow.

Sangha: He’s so dedicated to his makeup. And those circle lenses. I don’t think I’ve seen him without them in recent times.

Dahee: But circle lenses are so bad for your eyes! If I were his optometrist, I’d spank him.

Tubthumping” (Chumbawamba cover)

Anna: Soundtrack songstress Park Eun Woo provides the female lines from the original song. It’s a fairly straightforward cover that doesn’t really do much for Transfixion. It’s not bad, but I end up feeling annoyed that they didn’t do more with it. Or picked another song altogether.

Dahee: This is one of those songs that was played on the radio like every ten minutes a few years back, so whenever I hear it I feel this odd desire to twitch and sing along at the same time. Transfixion is not doing itself any favours by barely rearranging the song, and the lack of harmony with the female vocalist was really, really grating. Overall I’m bored, and hoping they’ll leave this week.

Sangha: This is terrible. Oh lord. I couldn’t tell what this was supposed to be. And Park Eun Woo! What was she supposed to be? A backup vocal? A featured singer? I couldn’t tell, because I feel like she sang so much more (and horribly, too.) than Haerang. And Haerang’s parts weren’t all that good either. They didn’t blend well together at all. As always, their arrangement is boring once again. This is awfully disappointing.

Lightinthemind:  Oh god… what an arrangement? Or should I say lack of any arrangement? Standing on the stage with this output aren’t they embarrassed? As if they are performing at school. The one particularly strong thing was hiring the voice of Eun Woo, but a big gap was to absolutely not coordinate the singing. So many mistakes, but for their energy they’d probably get some scores.

Fabien: Why didn’t they went on with the notes of electro sound heard at the beginning ? It would have been a more interesting arrangement than this mess. It’s a fun mess, yes, but it’s only because the song was already fun in the beginning. They even bring another vocalist to try to get closer to the original song. Haerang is not even trying to sing, while Eun Woo is hopelessly trying to accord with him. But there is the energy that Monni and Rose Motel lacked…

Scores

Kim Jong Seo: 70
Chung Won Young: 75
Song Hong Seob: 70
Jang Hye Jin: 82
Kim Se Hwang: 80
Sub-total: 377

Anna: They get the scores they deserve.

Dahee: Kim Se Hwang says: “Minus ten points for the bad female singer. Another minus ten points for your lack of skill in recruiting singers.” OUCH. Is she listening to this?? And does he not care at all that they barely rearranged the song? How can he give them an 80, while Achtung gets a 40? I just…I can’t even. WTF, man. At least Song Hong Seob criticizes them for barely rearranging the song.

Sangha: Kim Se Hwang, what are you?! When he was giving his comments I thought he was going to give them really bad scores but… 80? So are you saying that if it wasn’t for the female singer, it would have been perfect? Because I disagree. Haerang sounded awful, too. I sensed bias playing into it when he gave Transfixion such high scores last week, and I see that he’s really biased. I’m wondering why though? I know Devin and Kim Se Hwang were both in NEXT at one point (not sure if they ever played together though), but is that why?

Fabien: Ok, I may have argued about Top Band in the past, but now I really think the competition is spoiled by some of the judges. Kim Se Hwang, have you been bought by Transfixion or what? There is no way for them to get a special treatment like this from him after he had bashed all the other ones. No way!

 

Special Stage: Boohwal – “1982

Anna: I’ll have to confess I’m not at all familiar with Boohwal’s latest material, but this sounds pretty good. Standard K-rock the way it should be done. It’s the first time I heard Jeong Dong Ha sing with Boohwal too, but I like what I’m hearing and imagine he also does a really good job with the Boohwal classics.

Dahee: YES! I was so fangirly over this, you wouldn’t believe it. I’m a tad disappointed that they chose to go with “1982”, and not, say, the harder “Head Up”. But I guess it is the more mainstream song of the two, and besides, I’m just happy to see them on Top Band! That’s more than enough.

 

The Results

Anna: I’d been under the impression that the public votes could also bring 500 points per band, but it seems it was just 500 points total. Roughly 32,000 people must be considered pretty good, especially considering that it’s broadcast late Saturday evening and that even I Am A Singer 2 and the Korean TV audience doesn’t seem as used to televoting as audiences in other country.

 

Monni vs. Achtung

Monni
Jury: 410
Public: 135
Total: 545
Achtung
Jury: 360
Public: 112
Total: 472

Anna: Aw, Achtung! Not that it was much of a surprise that they were out when put against Monni. As happy as I am to see Monni stay on, I feel like it’d been better for the integrity of the show had Achtung made it to the Top 4.

Dahee: I can’t help feeling that this is unfair…And yet fair at the same time. Achtung suffered for the choice of performing a Queen medley, and yet I want to give them more points for experimenting and taking risks, which is something Monni definitely did not do. Not that Monni did badly, it’s just…I feel like they got rewarded for playing it safe, which is annoying.

Sangha: This episode is turning out to be really predictable now. I feel kinda bad for Achtung, especially after that awful score from Kim Se Hwang…

Lightinthemind: In this case I don’t really know how to react. Since Monni has a strong fanbase and experience of course they have more support from the jury and audience. But as for Achtung, they are not such a famous band and that one needs to have chance…

Fabien: It’s quite fair to promote Monni, but I can’t help thinking that Achtung has been stopped by the opinion of a single judge and their lack of a strong fan-base, which is absolutely opposite to the idea of Top Band to help rookie bands get a name. I’m really disappointed by the turn of events.

 

Rose Motel vs. Transfixion

Rose Motel
Jury: 390
Public: 107
Total: 497
Transfixion
Jury: 377
Public: 147
Total: 524

Anna: And this is a complete failure on behalf of Top Band 2. Rose Motel was the only true rookie band to make it this far in the competition and they have to find themselves eliminated in favor of the biggest of the pro bands on the show. Granted I thought both offered sub-standard performances, yet Transfixion had already been eliminated once so it stings extra hard. I suspect this outcome very much depends on the size and dedication of Transfixion’s fan club. Good for them. I’ll try not to be too bitter about it.

Dahee: NO!! Not Rose Motel!! :( Dammit!! Sure, their playing wasn’t as good as Transfixion’s, but the arrangement was SO much more interesting. This is so damn unfair. I’ve never *liked* Transfixion, but this show is making me outright DISlike them. It sure says a lot when their own coach admits that he hadn’t expected them to move on to the next round.

Sangha: I came in as a casual fan of Transfixion but they’ve been so disappointing on the show, and I’m not that happy to see them move on, especially after that awful performance today. I really thought theirs was the weakest. Now I’m really scared for next week’s rounds – I’m fearing for Romantic Punch, mostly! I really want them to move on!

Lightinthemind: The audience voted higher for Transfixion? I thought Rose Motel gained a lot of popularity since the beginning of Top Band. And they really are that ‘sensation’ to keep following and having on the show. So for now we end the show with professionals. I’m trying to imagine if it would be boring or if it would be a masterpiece.

Fabien: And now it’s even more unfair !!! Rose Motel would have made it without the huge crowd of fan base ready to spend thousands of wons in sending these SMS whatever performance they do. With this system, Transfixion could win the competition without even performing. So I can already give you a spoiler by saying without much doubt that Pia and SuperKidd will win the round.

 

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