refresh_daemon checking in again with another look at “I Am a Singer” (“나는 가수다”). The tension was high for the final episode of the sixth round of “I Am a Singer” (I’ve been mistakenly calling it the fifth round since I started writing this feature with Anna). This was because the results of this episode would weigh heavily in determining which of the singers would have to go home and the final result was rather shocking. But that wasn’t the only surprising thing about this episode as resident self-deprecating falsetto-singing slow burn crooner Jo Kwanwoo debuts his first non-ballad on the show and three different singers find themselves ranked by the five hundred member audience in very different places than the previous round.
All performances can be watched from Bugs Music’s special 나는 가수다. Click the tab saying “9월 11일 방송” to find the performances discussed below. Share who was your own favorite in the Indieful ROK Facebook poll.
rd: Oops. I’ve been calling this the fifth round the whole time and it’s the sixth round.
Anna: I don’t really get how rounds are counted anyway, with the last one meaning graduation for two artists and that should only happen after seven rounds. And even though this is “6R” the digital releases cover 나는 가수다 8-1 and 8-2.
The Singers Head for the Studio
rd: Jang Hyejin’s done a complete makeover!
Anna: It’s unfamiliar, but I like it.
The Singers Do Their Soundcheck/Rehearsal
rd: Insooni’s decided to go with her plan last episode of using narration over melody in her song. She also talks about her past as a singer and how she used to simply sing for work when she was younger.
rd: Jo Kwanwoo seems to have made good on his disco plans. I’m actually a little excited to see what it will sound like. Kim Shinyoung amusingly teaches him a little dance movement to go along with his singing.
rd: Jaurim’s brought along a mystery rapper or singer to handle the rap part of their song. It’s Kim Yuna’s younger brother! They seemed to have changed their arrangement a lot from their jazzy number in the mid-round performance. They also seem to be coming to understand what kind of songs work with the 나는 가수다 audience.
rd: Bobby Kim worries that he’s not going to be able to really show a new side of himself, unlike both sixth place Jaurim and seventh place Jo Kwanwoo.
rd: Kim Johan seems to be feeling the effects of the pressure of being on the show in his body and has a cold to show for it.
The Performance Order is Decided
rd: Jo Kwanwoo has been practicing dancing with Kim Shinyoung the whole time when MC Yoon Jongshin drops in. Kim Shinyoung explains that they don’t want to be next to Jaurim because both of the have higher energy songs. She plucks a ball and they cheer, having grabbed a 6! Miss lucky hands strikes again.
rd: Park Huisoon makes light of the fact that now Jaurim wants to pick 7th, but when they first came on, they didn’t care which order they were in. Nerves are up and Lee Sunkyu rejects the ball that Park picks and okays a different one. They get #5, the very spot that Jo Kwanwoo was dreading. (The original ball that Park picked up ended up being the #3.)
rd: Bobby picks a ball right away and Kim Taehyun doubts the choice. Bobby thinks it’s right because it seems dirtier. Taehyun picks a different ball and they decide to go with Bobby’s but also open Taehyun’s. Bobby’s is the seven! And there was celebration. Taehyun’s ended up being #1.
rd: Don Spike is brought in for luck for Kim Johan. They want to get #4. Go Youngwook grabs and ball and Don Spike reveals that it’s #3. Not bad considering only the front numbers are left.
rd: Park Myungsoo grabs a ball for Insooni and unveils #2, which Insooni doesn’t seem upset about.
rd: Jang Hyejin and Yoon Minsoo are waiting together and Yoon picks a ball. Jang’s manager, Ji Sangryul offers to trade Jang’s ball for Yoon’s, insisting that he’s holding the #4 ball, which Yoon wants. But Yoon won’t trade. They open their balls and it turns out that Ji was right.
Yoon Minsoo’s “사랑 그 쓸쓸함에 대하여” (양희은)
rd: Before he starts, Song Eunee explains to the other MCs that they dropped a little bit of Brahms into the arrangement. A spare piano starts the arrangement, filling in with strings as Yoon sings with a delicate sad voice. Very dramatic. The music fills up as Yoon’s singing mixes in a little opera, but largely stays in that delicate space. He really does the smokey dramatic voice well on the bridge, moving into a key change, complete with a falsetto wail. The MCs score it pretty well. He holds a long note and maintains the emotive drama well into the delicate finish. I think it was a strong adaptation of the original into his own style. I think the audience will definitely remain impressed with this performance.
Anna: He sounded like he was out of tune on a note in the beginning. I don’t really like his singing style here, although the arrangement suits the song very well. Perhaps there’s a bit too much of it after the chorus joins midway. I liked it a lot better at first.
Insooni’s “서른 즈음에” (김광석)
rd: Again, she walks out with such amazing composure. She starts the song seated. I love the amount of thought she puts into the song. She opens up with a clean even start. She’s got great vocal composure and doesn’t let herself go too deep early on. The music breaks and then continues under Insooni’s narration, which is delivered fantastically, capturing everything that she was expressing about how people change over time and then she goes right back into song, letting herself open more and standing to deliver. Wow, Insooni. Even when you pull the mic away to let the chorus fill, you’re still singing and delivering. She closes softly to ride out the emotion unleashed just moments before. This woman is a marvel.
Anna: Another piano and string arrangement that goes very well with the song. It suits her too. I had expected the narration to come sooner, but it is a fantastic delivery (even if I can barely understand a thing). Like for Yoon Minsoo more is added to the arrangement of the song midway. It could’ve been done with more finesse, but at least Insooni’s singing sounds good.
Kim Johan’s “아름다운 이별” (김건모)
rd: Don Spike is apparently not just a keyboardist, but also the arranger for this performance. Like the previous performers, Kim Johan starts quietly with just a piano. Then the build begins and once the chorus hits some rock ballad elements emerge. He has a strong presence during the performance and manages to make the song his own, spilling his vocals out. A good performance, but I wonder how it will stand out amidst the other balladeers.
Anna: This is supposed to be a difficult arrangement. I already feel like this round it’s more about the arrangements than the singing, and although I quite enjoy it it kinda takes a way from what I thought was the spirit of the show. Kim Johan is quite weak in the beginning, doesn’t sound secure enough to me. This is one of my all time favorite songs so I’m trying hard not to be too harsh in my judgement, but I’m thinking the piano part has been changed a bit too much even though some of it does make it a bit more interesting. The heavy rock ballad like arrangement doesn’t suite the song all that well either. At least Kim Johan sounds better now that he’s backed by the chorus.
Jang Hyejin’s “멀어져간 사람아” (박상민)
rd: A plinking piano introduces the song as Jang takes the song with a ballad style. It’s a slow build to the climax as she mentioned, but once she reaches the chorus the strong rock song reveals itself well. I really like this song on the whole and the electric rock guitar highlights really helps. Jang, being a less bombastic singer seems to have tuned down the performance to fit her range, the result is like the delicate surface of the water. I think the arrangement really worked well for her and manages to keep the song from sounding like the similar song from the last part of this round.
Anna: A super pretty beginning with her voice in the focus. It continues well and for the first time this evening using the extra voices of the chorus is actually suitable. No overly pompous elements this time which means I can enjoy the song throughout.
Jaurim’s “재즈 카페” (신해철)
rd: Like Anna, I’m not really personally fond of the song that the group has to cover, but what they were doing in rehearsal sounded promising. Kim Yuna’s costume is gorgeous, by the way. This is a critical performance for Jaurim since they got sixth. They open up with a jazzy vocal from Kim Yuna, a complete change of pace for audience, which is appropriate considering the nature of the original song. And then they go into a jazzy funk rock as Kim Yuna and her brother bring the rap section and build the groove as Kim Yuna returns to the chorus. And Kim Yuna scats alongside the guitar before the tempo builds and we enter a funk-disco phase of the song with a touch of rock. A very eclectic arrangement that I’m sure will stick in the audience’s minds as it’s so different from everything else yet performed. Surprisingly, the resulting song is very much a Jaurim song in its eclectic form. Very fun and probably their best performance since their debut on the show.
Anna: I like the way they solved the rap part, and the scatting lifts the song. I liked that there’s finally some action after the brass section with Common Ground joins in on the fun. Very well done, even though it wasn’t really my thing. Yoon Jong Shin says something about a 30s movies feeling.
Jo Kwanwoo’s “달의 몰락” (김현철)
rd: Another critical performance and an especially nerve-racking one for the singer as he’s never done a fast song before. But he dons an awesome blazing orange jacket for it. I’m excited to see if he’ll live up to the transformation challenge. The song starts dramatic and in his usual falsetto ballad style, but the horn hits cleverly hint at what’s to come. He builds the song up dramatically and then the song quiets before bringing out the disco chorus and he does his best Barry Gibb and even moves just a little, reminding me of when Kim Bumsoo broke out his funky soul routine, albeit not on the same scale. I love the little “ooh” he throws in. Then the song slows again back to ballad briefly before going back into disco. It’s a fun back and forth and then there’s a key change giving Jo a chance to show off his falsetto, definitely bringing out the Gibb falsetto vibrato. It’s a surprising and fun performance from Jo– and I think one that will possibly revitalize his career. Kim Shinyoung is moved by the transformation herself.
Anna: He does the BeeGee’s style disco funk. And he dances. And his singing sounds as bad as usual. Things improve remarkably when the chorus joins, but he had the audience charmed already with his first dance move.
Bobby Kim’s “너의 결혼식” (윤종신)
rd: After those last two performances, the pressure is on for Bobby Kim. I imagine this will be a tough one for Bobby as his style is either bombastic like the other balladeers nor energetic like the last two performers. Yoon Minsoo introduces the song as the one he sang when he was 24 and now 38 year old Bobby Kim is giving it a shot. It’s an orchestral start to the song. Bobby’s got a voice that can melt butter with its warmth. The song builds giving Bobby the space to open up and let loose, but channeled through his voice, the song is a Bobby Kim tune. It’s a strong performance, but I don’t know if it’ll have the punch to win over the more mainstream audience.
Anna: It’s a very good performance. I don’t really know what else to add.
rd: 1) Insooni, 2) Jaurim, 3) Jo Kwanwoo, 4) Bobby Kim, 5) Jang Hyejin, 6) Yoon Minsoo, 7) Kim Johan
The first three were actually easier for me. Insooni’s thoughtful and emotional performance won me over quickly. And Jaurim’s strength in fusing multiple sounds together into this performance resulted in the most Jaurim sounding song that they’ve performed yet, even overshadowing “Magic Carpet Ride”. Finally, Jo Kwanwoo did manage to surprise me and his catchy BeeGees styled disco song managed to stick in my head the most. I really hope this is a lesson that he can take into his own music overall and dare to try a few new things. The remaining balladeers were harder to choose between as they all had fairly unique qualities to their performances. I ended up picking Bobby Kim fourth as I really liked how he adapted the song into his own. Jang Hyejin also managed a solid performance and I really liked her arrangement, but I don’t think it held onto the underlying drive on the song well enough for me, becoming perhaps too delicate. Yoon Minsoo did a pretty good job with his song as well, but I wasn’t as engaged by his performance. Finally, Kim Johan did an good job with his song, but it also left the most shallow impression overall.
Anna: 1) Jang Hyejin, 2) Jaurim, 3) Bobby Kim, 4) Kim Johan, 5) Insooni, 6) Yoon Minsoo, 7) Jo Kwanwoo
At the end of it all I still think in this episode it was more about the arrangements than the actual singing and few of them went over well with me. Jaurim had done such a good job with theirs though, and the execution was near flawless so the only reason I placed Jang Hyejin higher is that I actually like everything about what she did.
1st Place (20.5% of the vote)
rd: They did it! They did it! Our Jaurim is back in the game! And a deserved 1st place too, with such a strong performance! Kim Yuna seemed utterly surprised.
Anna: While checking out some new releases on Bugs I accidentally learned that Jaurim had won this round before I got a chance to see it myself, but nonetheless I’m relieved over the result. With that performance (and arrangement) there is no doubt that they deserved it.
rd: A powerful performance by a charismatic veteran. No surprise here.
Anna: She is Insooni, after all.
rd: It looks like the audience agreed with me that Jo’s surprise turn of performance was quite convincing. I was definitely impressed by his ability to adapt and I look forward to Jo attempting to stretch and grow further on the show.
Anna: This means somebody I don’t want to see eliminated may have to leave, but even I can give him credit for trying something new.
rd: Jang’s been on the rise since she showed up on the show, and with Jo Kwanwoo, has been having to fight to stay on, but she has been increasingly daring with her arrangements and song choice especially as of late so I’m glad she’s continuing to get recognition for that.
Anna: Perhaps the arrangement was indeed a bit too boring to the audience. I’m glad they didn’t think worse of it.
rd: Yoon’s been surprising since started on this show, while being one of the least known of the performers as well as one of the youngest. But his emotional interpretations reasonably continue to win over the audiences and while I haven’t yet fully warmed up to him myself, I can definitely see why he might have gotten a better response than both Bobby Kim and Kim Johan.
Anna: With this it’s final. I’m far from warmed up to him as well, and I sorta wish he could’ve taken the fall and ended up 7th so that Jo Kwanwoo would be the one leaving.
rd: This is not the greatest consolation, but Bobby stayed out of last place and I thought his performance was good enough to do so. Still, because of both Jaurim and Jo Kwanwoo’s rise to the top three, that means Bobby and Kim Johan are the two that are most likely to leave the show tonight.
Anna: It deserved better, and this means he’ll end up sharing the total bottom score of the round with Kim Johan.
rd: This was admittedly not one of Kim’s strongest performances, even though it was a decent performance. Being seventh place after being fourth in the last round suggests that he’s close to the same amount of total votes as Bobby and it’s not clear who will stay and who will go.
Anna: Even with a cold, Kim Johan is a good singer, so I can’t help but blame the arrangement for this.
The Final Curtain
rd: Both Bobby and Kim Johan have yet to show a great amount of range on the show, although Kim Johan did spark it before by trying a blues rock cover of JYP’s Honey, which he abandoned after seeing YB rock it out in the mid-round. I’d like to see Kim Johan stay if he will really try different things with his arrangements and performances, but otherwise, I’d rather see Bobby stay as he’s yet had the time to really warm up to the show and I’d like to see if Bobby can bring something different to the show. Bobby Kim has a bit more breadth to his music, having performed reggae, rap and soul, but his sound is quite locked with his unique vocalization. Still, not having seen him forced to stretch, I do want to see what he might do should he survive and be forced to have to try to adapt.
Anna: Since I haven’t followed the show for as long I can’t say much about the range they’ve shown, but I would rather see Kim Johan stay since I generally like his vocals more even though I agree Bobby Kim could prove more interesting in the long run.
Eliminated: Kim Johan
rd: Watching Kim Johan on the show has really reopened my appreciation of Solid, but even now I can acknowledge that there wasn’t a lot of breadth to the kind of music that they made and Kim Johan, while an excellent performer in what he does, wasn’t particularly notable for doing much else then. So, it’d be a bittersweet loss to see him go. I will likely be listening to Solid quite a bit for the next week or so in a farewell to Kim Johan from the show.
Anna: To me Solid, as most 90s k-pop for that matter, was never about the vocals so I hadn’t really recognized Kim Johan as a singer before watching this show. I hope this opens up for other opportunities to hear more of him later on.