Another special event for the eight round of “I Am a Singer” as the singers now have to perform duets! Although I think both Anna and I agree that the result wasn’t quite what we were hoping for, I still think that a lot of good performances came out of these collaborations.
Click behind the jump to see what Anna and I have to say about the show and leave your thoughts and picks in the comments!
All performances can be watched from Bugs Music’s special 나는 가수다 site. Click the tab saying “10월 9일 방송” to find the performances discussed below.
The New Singer
rd: We get a quick glimpse of the new singer after Yoon Jongshin pokes around his room and Anna was no doubt excited to find out that it’s Cho Kyuchan! I had a listen to some of the tracks from his ninth album after Anna recommended it and he makes some rather nice pop ballad music. Cho, talks a little about his 22 year career.
Anna: 22 years – that’s impressive! To imagine it was only this year that I found out how fantastic he is. I obviously need to get a peak into his back catalogue, which from what I understand is actually getting re-released right now.
Round 8 Special Challenge: Duets
rd: We learned briefly at the end of the last episode that this episode’s first part will be a duet challenge, where the singers must recruit duet partners for their chosen cover song. This is a pretty fun change for the show and I think it could give a chance to create more exposure for many singers that aren’t featured on the show. Plus, the chemistry both required and provided by duets could really spice up the performances and provide additional challenges for the singers.
rd: Kim Kyungho has selected show alum, Kim Yeonwoo, a valued friend as his singing partner. Both coincidentally dressed in red, I’m curious to see how this rocker and ballad singer will be able to share a song together. They will be performing “사랑과 우정 사이” (I’m guessing the ‘90’s song by Pinocchio).
rd: Insooni’s partner is Kim Dohyang, another veteran performer who debuted in the 70’s, who has a rather long lasting legacy of songs. I’m familiar with some of his more folk oriented work and with two long-lived veterans on stage, I’m sure it’s going to be an impressive performance. On the other hand, I worry that the audience will just be impressed by getting two such huge names together on one stage and will vote just on that.
rd: Yoon Minsoo recruited Lee Younghyun, who I’m not familiar with, but appears to be an R&B and pop ballad singer. Yoon notes that she has a great propensity to spill her emotions into her music too, but that just makes me worry that we’re going to see Yoon Minsoo and her do what he normally does, but simply bigger.
Anna: Lee Younghyun is from Big Mama. I never listened much to them, but have great respect for the voices of all three. This should be a good mix.
rd: Jang Hyejin also recruits a former I Am a Singer alum in none other than Kim Johan! Jang felt really bad when he left the show and asked him if he would do a duet with her, so here he is.
Anna: He’s back! Though he wasn’t one of my very favorites I was sad to see him go. Hopefully this’ll be more successful.
rd: One the most exciting moments for me of the night is that Jaurim has gotten none other than Uhuhboo Project’s Baik Hyunjhin as a duet partner! Uhuhboo Project was one of the first Korean indie bands that I ever got into, so Baik has a special place in my heart. However, since his profile was always quite indie, no one else seems to know who he is. He’s an amazing singer, however, although I wonder if his unique style will be able to mesh well together with Kim Yuna’s.
Anna: I shouldn’t be surprised about Baik’s name being unknown, but still I am. From my perspective he’s one of the biggest. With Uhuhboo Project he’s also been able to take his music out into the world performing in more countries than I imagine most of the other singers on the show have. This combo could turn out amazing.
rd: A performance that’s certain to be exciting is Bobby Kim’s “duet”, where he’s recruited his bandmates of Buga Kingz (Juvie Train and Gan-D). We have yet to see some proper hip hop on I Am a Singer and this trio produces some very flavorful and unique tunes, so I wonder what song they will cover and how it will turn out!
Anna: This should prove fun.
rd: As mentioned, Kim Kyungho and Kim Yeonwoo are performing Pinocchio’s “사랑과 우정사이”. I do think I’ve heard this one before, but don’t know it well. It’s a ballad, but I think it could definitely be transformed into a more rock-styled ballad that would work with Kim Kyungho, if that’s what he’s thinking.
Anna: This song is so good. Very curious to hear what they’ve made of it.
rd: The Buga Kingz reunited will be performing a rendition of Jo Youngnam’s “물레방아 인생”, itself a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”, which I’m sure is getting a Buga Kingz makeover to give it some bumping flow. Still, I can’t really imagine what they’re going to do with the song, so I wait with some expectation here.
rd: Jaurim and Baik Hyunjhin will be performing Shim Soobong’s “사랑밖엔 난 몰라”, which is a Korean style 80’s pop ballad. Baik’s unique vocals should be able to create quite an interesting song out of this, but I’m wondering how Jaurim will be handling the arrangement of the song, as a subdued arrangement is likely to shine a light on the duet singers, but that might not come across that impressive.
Anna: The song is an interesting pick. Very exciting, but I do hope it’ll sound more like Jaurim than Baik Hyunjhin.
rd: Insooni and Kim Dohyang are playing it closer to the vest and performing one of Kim’s own songs, “바보처럼 살았군요”, which is a song I know well, since it was popular with my parents. I know that Insooni will really be able to work the song, but since Kim already knows this song well, I wonder if they’ll be able to really make the song new enough to impress the audience on the show.
Anna: I don’t think I know it, but from the sound of the original song this performance could be a real killer.
rd: Jang Hyejin and Kim Johan choose the first song that was originally a duet, the pop ballad “이별이야기” by Lee Moonsae and Go Eunee. I think this kind of music has always been popular with Korean audiences, so I think it will go over well with the audience, but since the song is pretty straightforward and I don’t expect any arrangement trickery from these two, I wonder if their performance will be able to elevate it beyond the potentially more interesting choices made.
rd: Yoon Minsoo and Lee Younghyun are going to perform Lee Younghyun’s own “체념”, in another safe choice tonight. I have to extend my concerns that I had with Insooni as well as with Jang Hyejin to these two as it seems to combine both their potential difficulties.
rd: Finally Cho Kyuchan has recruited balladeer/jazz singer Park Kiyoung (who I recognize as having been recruited to Fluxus in the last couple years), a talented singer, but more interestingly is the song choice of Yim Jaebum’s “이 밤이 지나면”, which has a Michael McDonald-style R&B feel to it, instantly quite a different sound to the other ballads presented and should provide a good contrast.
Anna: I wish I could recognize this song, but I trust that I’ll be able to enjoy the performance a great deal anyway, my bias for Cho Kyuchan and all.
Performance Order Selection
rd: Lee Younghyun picks the ball for her and Yoon Minsoo, hoping for the fifth spot, but they get the third.
rd: Ji Sangryul picks the fourth spot for Jang Hyejin and Kim Johan.
rd: Park Myungsoo asks Kim Dohyang to pick the sixth spot and Kim casually grabs a ball, the first spot. I think this is a pretty good spot for the two, since they will make the biggest impression just by having two legends share a stage together and I don’t know if any of the following duet partners will have the same shock factor.
rd: Kim Yuna wants the sixth spot and Park Huisoon quickly grabs the ball containing the second spot. This puts Jaurim and Baik right after Insooni and Kim Dohyang, which means that the least visible duet partner will be following the most. I’m hoping that the performance makes up for the awareness of the audience!
rd: Upon hearing that only the fifth and sixth spots are left, Bobby and the Buga Kingz get excited and Kim Kyungho is at ease since both are spots he’d be happy with. Kim Yeonwoo picks the sixth spot for their pairing leaving the Buga Kingz with the fifth spot.
Insooni and Kim Dohyang’s “바보처럼 살았군요”
rd: Insooni walks with such swagger. In the clip before they start singing, Insooni explains how she wants to tell her story with her performance and him to tell his, and while they both tell stories of the paths of their lives, that by performing together it’s clear that it’s the single path of life they are singing out. I love how much thought Insooni puts into all of her songs. The pair begin sitting as the piano intro starts. Insooni starts singing and the song is given a slightly jazzy arrangement. Kim takes the next part of the voice, husky voice and all, conjuring up some real combo of soul and jazz. They start singing together in harmony, it’s quite lovely and filled in with gospel choir backing. And the song slows before the cymbal gets hit and the two stand up! The music gets bright, horns are added, it’s time for some energetic soul. Since they’re both singing, they’re both given room to riff on each other. It’s a really fun performance and the two of them really work well together. There’s a key change and the chorus repeats, clearly getting the audience engaged. I do wonder if the lyrics match the vibe of the song, but this is easily a successful venture for the two. They return to the quiet soulful approach at the sound, giving each an opportunity to solo the title lyric. I think Insooni did push her last solo a little out of where the music was going, but it was a good performance otherwise.
Anna: So apparently Kim Dohyang is the original Korean soul singer with a career of more than 40 years. An impressive duo, but to me their voices don’t match quite as well as I had wished, unlike Insooni Kim sounds his age. I’m not really fond of the aged sound of the song as it gets going a bit. It’s not until the 바보처럼 part towards the end that it actually works for me. Still, it’s fun to hear Insooni sing a bit different from usual.
Jaurim and Baik Hyunjhin’s “사랑밖엔 난 몰라”
rd: The audience has no reaction to Baik, although manager Park is quick to explain to the other managers that Uhuhboo Project is one of the pioneers of the whole Hongdae indie scene. On the plus side, the song does manage to draw some cheers, so there’s hope here. Kim Yuna’s smiling face comes out accompanied by the sunglasses bearing nonchalant Baik. The music opens with a dramatic piano and cello combo, instantly a different sound from the original and Kim Yuna joins in the song with her lounge torch styled vocals and accordion adding some spice. The band starts joining in as the arrangement takes a European style as Baik takes his verse with his signature vocal. When they come in together, it’s not quite a smooth harmony with Baik taking lead melody and Kim trying to match under it, but they even out towards the end of their shared park. Baik’s second verse is pretty wild! The music slows out of the march beat as the duo take turns with each other and while Kim is borderline overpowering, Baik’s vocals are really something. The music takes a Latinesque beat changing up the sound again, giving both singers an opportunity to sing again and the two really take to it, performing admirably. This is the kind of diversity that Jaurim brings to the show. It’s pretty fun, although I do think that the performance did get a little wild and unwieldy at times, but while that was really fun for me, I don’t know how the audience is going to react to it, although they did clap right after Baik’s first solo, so they must have been impressed, as I’ve always been, by his definite vocals. I’d always thought that Baik would be a wild addition to the show and seeing him here proves me right.
Anna: I like Kim Yuna’s pretty, half-jazzy vocals but I can’t help but wonder what it is she’s wearing. Oh, and they’ve asked DOT’s Lee Jungyoon to help out with the drums! As I had feared the arrangement is more on the Baik side. It would’ve been interesting to have him as a regular contestant of the show, but this time I would’ve rather heard Jaurim. The flamenco style tounge role from Kim is more like what I wanted to hear. I hope they won’t have to suffer from low votes because the audience fails to understand the music. Baik is funny: “Bling Bling Spectacle”. And he likes it.
Yoon Minsoo and Lee Younghyun’s “체념”
rd: Ah, the classic ballad piano opening with a guitar starts the show, leading into Yoon’s first solo and he’s doing what he normally does. Perhaps because of overexposure, it’s not quite affecting me as much this time, but there is a lovely string arrangement behind it all. He seems to go on through the whole first chorus. The music moves along leading into Lee, who has a lovely voice and matches well with Yoon as they start singing together. But I feel like I’ve heard songs like this too many times, so I’m still cold to it. A key change raises the singing stakes and there is an interesting burst-like staccato element to the arrangement that goes along with both singers spilling their emotions into the song, leading into a long power section before the song goes quiet again to let the two close out the song. I have no doubt that this was probably an impressive performance, but after watching so many more powerful performances and having developed an immunity to Yoon’s usual style, I can’t help but wonder if they could’ve taken the song to another level somehow. They do get a great response from the audience and the managers.
Anna: This is probably really good, but it’s not the least bit engaging to me. At least the audience and Lee Younghyun seem moved.
Jang Hyejin and Kim Johan’s “이별 이야기”
rd: Ooh, a really delicate opening with a clarinet and harp instantly make this a different sound from the usual piano arrangement, so I have some hope here. Jang starts with the harp handling the arpeggios and Kim jumps in quickly on the second line, their performances going along really well with arrangement as strings start to fill in the sound. It’s a wonderfully spare sound so their solid harmony is apparent the instant they sing together. The band comes in for the second verse and they continue as before and I really find their musical chemistry to be quite strong. I also love the choir joining into back them leading into the final choruses. Really, if you’re going to do a standard Korean style pop ballad, this is how you do it on the show. They added a unique color to the arrangement with the atypical instrumentation and their voices complement each other well and is performed well with good chemistry. I really liked this performance. A highlight for both Jang and Kim’s performances on the show.
Anna: I’m liking this from the very beginning. Their harmonizing is beautiful. Their voices suit well together. Jang gets to put some power behind her vocals and it all sounds very good.
The Buga Kingz’ “물레방아 인생”
rd: This song, by virtue of being a Buga Kingz hip-hop performance is going to be the most unique performance on the show, I expect for the time being and based on the comments and the original song, I expect this to be the one truly high energy performance this time as well. Clearly, the audience isn’t as familiar with Bobby’s group as they are with the song from the reception to Yoon Jongshin’s announcement, but here they go. It starts with a bluesy guitar leading into Bobby’s soulful take on the classic tune. It might be slow right now, but Bobby’s got a great grasp of the song. Awesome, he actually calls for the chorus and they join in, echoing him on the chorus. The intro ends with the cymbals being hit and the horns coming in, leading into a funky groove as Juvie Train starts his high flow rap handing it over to Gan-D for his slightly broader rap before handing it back to Bobby for the chorus and then trading back to the emcees, building up to a climax and then it seems like the song is over, but the continuing piano shows that it’s not, having Bobby go back into the bluesy verse before going back into the high energy chorus. It’s nowhere near as hip hop as I thought it’d be, nor as Buga Kingz as I thought it be, but a rather straightfoward cover, with the exception of Bobby’s unique singing style and the raps from his partners. On the other hand, they brought the kind of high energy to the show that hasn’t been seen in an episode or two, so that was really nice and the cover was well executed. I just wish I’d seen a little more Buga Kingz in the performance.
Anna: As Buga Kingz enters it turns into a 90s kpop style “hiphop” song with a bit of soul on top. The mix between slow and fast sections of the song doesn’t work for me, but I do enjoy the dance at the end.
Kim Kyungho and Kim Yeonwoo’s “사랑과 우정 사이”
rd: Watching Kim Kyungho walk down the hall in his long black jacket with a slight bit of red showing and his pale face makes him look a little like a vampire. A very nervous vampire. What an odd couple. The piano leds into the orchestra and Kim Yeonwoo starts the song with his soft touch vocals, which strikes a contrast with Kim Kyungho’s rocker vocals, but it strangely works and Kim Kyungho handles the straight ballad well. After the first verse and chorus, they lose their mic stands and you can hear a touch of the electric guitar crunching, hinting at Kim Kyungho’s background, before going right back into the chorus. Then there’s the key change, which is pretty expected for these ballads now. There’s something about the contrast between the two singers that works surprisingly well, elevating the song beyond it’s potential for just one of them singing solo. Kim Yeonwoo gets in a nice long and high note towards the end before letting Kim Kyungho closes it out and going together on the last “whoa”. Wow, that worked out a lot better than I thought it would. They look so happy about their performance too; it’s cute.
Anna: This should be a good song for Kim Kyungho’s style. And odd combination of voices, too. I find it weird that Kim Yeonwoo opens the song. As expected the song works well for Kim Kyungho, but I didn’t like the duet arrangement.
Cho Kyuchan and Park Kiyoung’s “이 밤이 지나면”
rd: Here comes the new singer. Apparently, Cho doesn’t come out on television much, but they still get some applause coming in. Cho has a wonderfully calm temperament and I think that will be a nice personality to have on the show. They’re quite a classy looking pair, with Cho in a white jacket with tails. The music begins in earnest and it looks like Cho very slightly misses his beat, but Park jumps in and they start in strong harmony. Cho goes for the first verse and has a very clean, bright voice, very unlike Yim’s, so it’s immediately distinguishable. It’s a nice, textured arrangement and a really comfortable performance, although after the excitement of the last few performances, I wonder if it’s going to stand out. The choir helps with the chorus before Cho goes back into the verse. There’s a bit of fun for the two on the bridge and a little ad-libbing on the instrumental bridge. And there’s the key change. It actually sounds perfect to close out the show, because of its cooler vibe, but on the other hand, that’s never the showcase song for any set, so I think this one might get buried under the more potent performances. But it was a really clean performance, so I liked it, but I don’t think it will have the punch to make the upper tiers in the voting.
Anna: There’s this very nice and comforting Cho Kyu Chan feeling to the song right away. It’s a light, adult pop arrangement. Park Kiyoung has a very nice voice. Cho is good at picking his duet partners on album and he’s succeeded well for this as well. It is a modest performance, but still among the best duets of the evening.
rd: 1) Jaurim & Baik Hyunjhin 2) Jang Hyejin & Kim Johan 3) Insooni & Kim Dohyang 4) Cho Kyuchan & Park Kiyoung 5) Kim Kyungho & Kim Yeonwoo 6) Buga Kingz 7) Yoon Minsoo & Lee Younghyun
This was an exceptionally difficult set to rank, because the duets added so much to each performance and some performances that I didn’t expect much from managed to surprise me simply by force of performance. In fact, the main reason why Yoon Minsoo & Lee Younghyun got last for me was simply because they were the only ones that didn’t surprise me or bring anything new or unexpected. And I really hate to put Buga Kingz in second to last place, especially since their cover was high energy and excellently performed, but their cover just felt too straight. I really liked it a lot, but it didn’t really feel like a Bobby Kim or a Buga Kingz piece and that’s the only reason why I ranked such a solid performance so low. Kim Kyungho and Kim Yeonwoo really surprised me, because I thought theirs would be an awkward mismatch but somehow, these two really sold their song and ended up with quite a strong performance. However, like Buga Kingz, I wasn’t completely sold on how well the Kims really made it their own song and I felt that Kim Kyungho’s uniqueness was a little lost in the otherwise straightforward ballad. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Cho’s first performance on the show, but I was surprised by how clean his and Park’s performance was and the arrangement really helped their voices shine, further helped in my memory by being the final song. It was a lovely performance, but a touch safe. It’s really hard to keep Insooni down, especially when paired with Kim Dohyang. I was really worried that it would just be a simple rehash of his song, but they managed to put some real verve into the song and really make it something different with a strong performance. In a surprise for me, I’ve ended up placing Jang and Kim’s performance second, because it happens to do everything right when it comes to covering a Korean pop ballad, especially aided by a lovely and noticeable arrangement and great chemistry in the vocals both with each other and with the arrangement. It wasn’t the biggest performance of the night, but it had the most individual elements that worked in concert to win me over. Finally my heavy bias for Baik Hyunjin results in Jaurim taking the top spot. While I found the arrangement and performances to be a little on the wild side, I was definitely taken by the singing and the multi-part arrangement, even if it wasn’t the strongest of Jaurim’s. I fully admit they are on top because of my own bias. Ultimately, with this round, I have to say that the only performer that definitely takes a place for me is Yoon Minsoo, because he still has yet to prove any versatility as the more I listen to him, the more his music all sounds the same, which was my problem with Jo Kwanwoo before his last minute change. As for the rest, I could reorder this list and still find it satisfactory as it was a really great set of performances overall and I ended up with a pretty specific criterion of really showing something new with these covers that helped guide my ranking.
Anna: 1) Cho Kyuchan & Park Kiyoung, 2) Jang Hyejin & Kim Johan, 3) Jaurim & Baik Hyunjhin. 4) Kim Kyungho & Kim Yeonwoo, 5) Insooni & Kim Dohyang, 6) Buga Kingz, 7) Yoon Minsoo & Lee Younghyun
To me this round was quite disappointing. I loved the idea of a duet round, but am having mixed feelings about it now. The top three for me was really easy this time. I love Cho Kyuchan’s voice and this was exactly what I wanted to hear from him. Jang Hyejin and Kim Johan both did an excellent job, as did Jaurim and Baik Hyunjhin. The bottom three were easy as well: Yoon Minsoo and Lee Younghyun failing to draw my attention; Buga Kingz making something I didn’t like; Insooni putting on her worst performance so far. That leaves Kim Kyungho in the middle.
The Results of Voting
1st Place (with 23.2% of the vote)
rd: I’m not at all surprised, because the Buga Kingz really went up and entertained the crowd like no one else tonight, easily distinguishing themselves with their high energy performance. Even if I felt like the cover was too straight, they earned a first place, so I feel happy for Bobby and the Buga Kingz here. Anna: Can’t say I’m surprised either, even though I didn’t like it much myself. Remember Jo Kwanwoo’s disco performance some weeks back, the audience seems to respond well to some dance moves.
rd: Again, despite my ranking, I’m happy with this placement because the two Kims really outdid themselves in selling their seemingly mismatched performance and making a great song out of it.
Anna: I don’t mind the result either. And the song itself is a really nice one.
rd: I can see what the audience likes about Yoon and his earnestness and he is quite a strong performer. But this time, I just don’t think it was as strong as before and while he was helped by having Lee Younghyun alongside him, the performance seemed to just be a means of spilling out as much emotion as possible between the two. Granted, I think that’s what he was going for and perhaps that’s all that was needed to convince the audience.
Anna: To me this ranking is definitely more thanks to Lee Younghyun than anything else.
rd: I have to admit, I am really surprised by this result as I’d pegged the wildness of the performance and Baik’s obscurity to handicap the band in voting and place them last or sixth. However, I think perhaps the diversity within the performance and the energy of it won over enough of the audience for them to manage fourth.
Anna: I too am surprised they did so well. Shows I shouldn’t underestimate the audience too much.
rd: I’m really surprised that Insooni would land so low, especially having such a similarly big duet partner and an energetic take on their song. I wonder if it was too much of an oldie or perhaps the performance was too comfortable. That said, even if I placed them higher, this result feels fine.
Anna: My guess is neither the duet partner nor song arrangement was enough to appeal to the younger part of the audience with this competition. And at least to me, it wasn’t very good either.
rd: The subtleties that made this cover work so well for me probably faded next to the brighter and more vibrant performances of the other artists this round. I’m sad to see Jang ranked so low again, but this set of performances in particular were quite strong, so even with the effort of Jang and Kim, a sixth was altogether possible.
Anna: She deserved much better than this.
rd: It’s really hard to get seventh place your first time on the show and Cho happens to be the new singer to start at the bottom. I think this competition will be quite tough for Cho because of his clean style having to brush up against such diverse artists and I see Cho and Jang in particular in a similar space as the most straightforward of the remaining pop balladeers. I really like Cho from his first performance, but he’s got his work cut out for him in order to differentiate himself, either in pure performance charisma, which his technical skill overshadows at the moment, or in taking himself into adventurous musical territory to pull himself ahead of the pack, like Jang has been able to do for so long.
Anna: I’m actually very surprised he ended up last. Even my husband, that just barely tolerated my month of repeated listening to Cho Kyuchan’s 9th album, had this as his favorite performance this round. I really hope Cho will be better liked next time around. It’d be too sad to see him go after just one round.