I Am A Singer 2: June Group A

While Jaurim appeared on the highly popular show I Am A Singer, Indieful ROK had a commentary series going led by refresh_daemon. Now that Guckkasten has joined I Am A Singer 2 time has come to revive the series here on Korean Indie. Unfortunately rd and The Korean from the original panel are both too busy to participate, but I and Widhi both remain although Widhi also ended up too busy to be able to participate right away. New members on the panel are Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle and Fablin of Kimchi Popcorn.

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.

All performances from the episode aired on June 3rd is available on the official site.




Park Wan Kyu to Super December

Anna: I don’t like the new format of I Am A Singer, but considering his performances before the break I think it was very fair to send Park Wan Kyu off to Super December. Of course his performance last week was the best of the bunch too, so he deserved it even with the new standard.

Dahee: I love and adore Park Wan Kyu. I get a little light-headed when I think about him. His performance last week was so moving I nearly started sobbing all over my keyboard. So I was so happy to see him move on to Super December, especially since he totally, totally deserves it. At the same time I’m a little sad we won’t be seeing him again until December. Then again, he totally needs to rest his voice and allow it to recuperate (how sad am I that his voice was never at its full capacity during his stint on this show?). Oh, my conflicted fangirl heart! Also, I’m confused as to why they chose to just chop together a bunch of interviews from previous episodes for his big bow out of the show. No new interview? How boring. Also, I did the math, and realized that he’s now tied with Kim Kyung Ho for records set on the show – if we count his season one performances, then he’s gotten first place four times, and in this season, got first place twice in a row. Why didn’t they highlight that??

Fablin: I’m landing a little unexpectedly without having really followed the previous episodes and it is only thanks to Anna that I can understand the new format of the show, which is quite complex. The previous season was becoming literally monotonic at times, depending on the results of the participants, so it’s not really surprising if they seem to prefer to feature more singers or bands, with a faster pace of qualification and elimination. At least this new formula has the merit to excite my curiosity regarding the future candidates. I will not deny that I’m a big fan of Jaurim and was really pleased by their performances, and how they brought a touch of madness and unpredictability in competition every time. I hope to find the same kind of originality this year. Park Wan Kyu was not really my favorite. I liked him during his first performances during the past season, but he was quickly falling into repetition, and even worse, adopted the trend of the crowd-pleasing ballads, the same symptom that has plagued Kim Kyung Ho.


Group Division

A (June 3)

B (June 10)

New singer 1
Kim Yeon Woo
Park Sang Min
Lee Young Hyun
Park Mi Kyoung
Lee Soo Young
New singer 2
Lee Eun Mi
Kim Gun Mo
JK Kim Dong Wook
Jung In
Jung Yup

Anna: I feel like I don’t know these singers well enough yet to say whether this is good or bad. I haven’t really gotten any favorites yet either, though Kim Gun Mo was my very first introduction to Korean music so before the new singers he’d be my biggest bias.

Dahee: Looks like my biases have been divided up pretty evenly. I’ll have someone to root for every week, which is nice (I’m a Kim Yeon Woo fangirl and adore Jung Yup’s voice). I actually more or less like all of them except Park Mi Kyoung


New Singers: Han Young Ae & Guckkasten

Han Young Ae

Anna: So new people will be those with the longest and shortest careers in music on the show right now! I’m really not all that familiar with Han Young Ae’s solo repertoire, though I suspect I’d recognize a song or two of hers should I hear any anyway. I’m however very fond of Sunflower and that includes the initial quartet incarnation which she was part of. Will be looking forward to seeing her on the show.

Dahee: As Han Young Ae is a legend in Korean music, this is very much a great choice. This woman is just fabulous. She leaks charisma and cool like it’s her goddamn job. I hope she’ll have a more successful run on this show than Insooni did.



Anna: I’m so happy to see Guckkasten join, though it surprises me that they didn’t go for an indie band that has been around longer. There are many of them out there, many more famous than Guckkasten. Though some are already keeping busy with Top Band 2… Even so there should’ve been plenty to choose from. Considering the initial concept of the show I find Guckkasten a poor choice, but at the same time I’m very, very, happy about it since it hints we’ll be likelier to see another indie band on the show later. I really hope they’ll find a tone that speaks to the audience that’ll make them as successful as Jaurim were. And I hope this will help increase interest in the indie scene as a whole, putting more good musicians on TV.

Dahee: I’m also surprised and confused as to why they didn’t choose an older, more famous indie band, but I’m still excited to see them. (And apparently they first formed as a group in 2003, albeit under a different name, so it’s not too different from when they brought Gummy or Tei to the show.) I think that one of the reasons I Am A Singer has been slipping more with time is because the music featured on it is all kind of similar. Korean mainstream music tends to be limited to dance and ballads, but it’s about time that they acknowledged that there are different kinds of music being played in Korea. Guckkasten is sure to bring some freshness and creativity to the show.

Fablin: After the too brief participation of Baekdoosan and the qualification of Park Wan Kyu, I was a little afraid to have only ballad-singers on the show, and this is my first real surprise of the season with the unexpected appearance of Guckkasten. Of all the indie rock groups in recent years, it is among the few that never were disappointing. Their first album remains for me one of the strongest releases Korea has produced recently, and I could enjoy during one of their unplugged concerts their ability to explore a different approach to their music. Will this be enough to convince the public in the long run, I’m not so sure, but, hey, they already represent the best alternative to Jaurim.


Artists Arrive & Rehearse

Dahee: Heh. Guckkasten is amusing me already. I was going all “Aww” at the story of them sharing one package of ramyun between three people and then freezing the soup overnight to drink the next day. And then they cracked me up talking about how they didn’t hesitate one second before accepting the offer to go on I Am A Singer, and how the bassist didn’t fall asleep until 6 a.m. because his heart was beating so fast. How cute. They’re so energetic, confident, and almost TOO honest. Ha Hyun Woo has an entertaining way with words.

Fablin: I really like their candid attitude, they seem to fake not being too involved in the show. They’re probably trying to hide their stress, because they have never been so well exposed on television, but they already throw plenty of funny anecdotes. Obviously, the fact of passing after YB, Jaurim and Baekdoosan gives them even more pressure. The singer noted that the door to the lodge indicates that the group is called “bird” (a pun with “new singer”). Anyway, it’s good to see the best rookie band of 2009 so well highlighted by the editing. One can see from the opinions collected from the public that Guckkasten has already built up a small fan base.


Kim Yeon Woo: “당신만이” (Lee Chi Hyun & But Nim Dul cover)

Anna: He dedicates this song to his wife just like the original. But I always thought this was a Kim Gun Mo song! Kim Yeon Woo’s interpretation is not all that different from Kim Gun Mo’s, which makes it a bit difficult for me since I always liked that version of the song and am now missing his vocals. Still, there’s something about Kim Yeon Woo I find very adorable.

Dahee: Kim Yeon Woo is totally adorable. Every time I see him I want to pinch his cheeks. That being said, this didn’t really work for me. While I respect that he chose to go the soft route instead of the BAMtastic one (which is always a dilemma for singers on this show), I thought this performance was a little boring. And his falsetto is not as pleasing to the ears as his regular voice. I’m sure his wife is happy, though. Oooh, look, it’s Joo Sang Wook in the audience! Why is he there…?

Fablin: The rhythm appears slower to me than the original, the interpretation is honest and well done, but too straight for my taste. I do not know this singer, but this cover does not allow me to attribute any personality to him in comparison to other ballad singers, so that I still prefer the original version of Kim Gun Mo. I find the song in the end rather boring, and I don’t think being able to remember that song by the end of the episode, which is always a bad sign. Yes, my opinion is totally biased, but if I cannot distinguish a singer from the others, it won’t get me more interested.


Lee Young Hyun: “칠갑산” (Joo Byung Sun cover)

Anna: This was a beautiful arrangement and a beautiful stage setting for her. I really like the haegum. Beautiful vocals too. Even though it continues in pretty much the same way throughout it doesn’t get boring. Very nice.

Dahee: First of all: What is with that wacked out floral…thing? And why does she need to sit? I realize she’s trying to be all traditional, but still. Feels gimmicky. That being said, I love her hanbok. And the performance is lovely, and manages to be soft without being boring. She’s singing in a very sincere way, and it’s helping me feel the emotion. I eat this stuff up with a spoon, yo. It probably helps that I love this song.

Fablin: I agree with Dahee on this, the floral decoration seems excessive when there is already a traditional instrument and the hanbok worn by Lee Young Hyun, the unavoidable dress for any trot song. Despite the obvious strategy to appeal to the nostalgic and national fiber of the public, the song is very well served here by the excellent vocal performance. She has a powerful voice, and I appreciate the fact that she preferred a more sober way of singing than the one regularly used for the trot. Emotions seem sincere, and it is perhaps the reason why the teenagers of the public have put the song in second place.


Lee Soo Young: “제3한강교” (Hye Eun Yee cover)

Anna: Her styling makes her look younger than usual this week! I should confess right away I’m not particularly fond of her vocals. Those of her own songs that have become hits in some regard I find absolutely beautiful, but what she’s done with covers on the show so far has not worked for me. This song is no different, and I don’t think inviting MQ to rap a bit offers any additional value.

Dahee: I never knew Lee Soo Young could look so confident! I’m a former Lee Soo Young fan (I own one of her albums), but I agree that what she’s done on this show so far hasn’t been particularly impressive. I feel like she has a rather limited voice, and this song proves it. She has a slight trot way of singing, which can be lovely with the right song, but when it’s not…Well. It’s a cute performance overall, but it wasn’t particularly exciting or fresh, despite the dancing.

Fablin: She does seem to have a too limited range of voice to deal with the Korean pop of the 70’s, which requests to be able to go deeper in the lower notes. I’m not a big fan of the arrangement which appears too timid also to me while there were so many possibilities for reinterpretation. The break with the rap singing is completely anecdotic; it totally doesn’t fit with the rest of the song. But she wins some points by her performance on stage and a few dance moves. And also because she picked a good song (a song from the 70’s is always a good pick for me).


Park Mi Kyoung: “이별” (Patty Kim cover)

Anna: It’s fun to see an old idol take on a more serious image and style of music. I don’t really like the kind of slow tempo jazz sound she’s going for with this performance but she does it well.

Dahee: Park Mi Kyoung confuses me. She’s well-known for being a dance singer, and yet on I Am A Singer 2 she hasn’t shown any of that, and seems to be going for a completely different image. I always expect more dynamism from her than we actually get. This was a good performance, with a good arrangement and great vocals, but it felt a bit like we were watching a singing robot. Where’s the emotion and the stage presence?

Fablin: I am not against the idea of listening to a jazz version of this song, but the small “shooting-star” effect that they throw randomly in the music kills any desire to appreciate this song. For me it remains a pop-friendly version of what could have given wonders with another arrangement.


Guckkasten: “한잔의 추억” (Lee Jang Hee cover)

Anna: Finally, Guckkasten!!! Looks like they have a guest guitarist. Is that the audience clapping along already? I’m surprised they went with an old song like this instead of something instantly recognizable to all age groups of the audience, but they certainly made it sound like one of their own songs. I can barely recall the sound of the original while listening to this! They’re doing very well and the audience looks so happy. And those vocals!! The other singers seem impressed too. A very strong debut.

Dahee: Guckkasten!!! *peeing pants from excitement* I started bopping my head as soon as the song started. But I hate to say…I’m a wee bit disappointed? The arrangement was classic Guckkasten, but it felt a bit too repetitive, and didn’t allow for a real climax. Or rather, I don’t like that lull in the middle where he talks to the audience. The singing more than made up for the slight flaws, though, and this was clearly the most dynamic performance of the episode. The audience loved it!

Fablin: Incredible to see the public so excited just by hearing the name of the band. And not only young people! Apparently, they weren’t expecting to end up here, in front of an already half-won audience. They have not chosen the easy way with such an old song, but they fully updated it, putting much of their distinctive sound into it. It could have been found as a bonus track on one of their albums without being noticed that this is actually a cover. Excellent presence on stage, and they show an impressive confidence for their first appearance, while we’ve seen more experienced singers collapse on stage. I liked that they also left room for a small guitar solo. It’s always good to remind the public that this is above all a band and not just a singer.


Park Sang Min: “불 꺼진 창” (Cho Young Nam cover)

Anna: I’m not familiar with the original and I don’t care all that much for Park Sang Min, but I quite like what he’s doing to this song. Not super good, but I feel like we’re finally getting closer to the level of the original I Am A Singer

Dahee: This is classic Park Sang Min. It was everything I want from him. What marvelous vocals. The arrangement is lovely, too. My only gripe is that I feel like it was placed badly. After the freshness and energy of Guckkasten, Park’s performance felt a lot more like a vintage I Am A Singer type of performance, and kind of…familiar?

Fablin: I like what Park Sang Min does well enough, but perhaps it is just because of his nice look. His performance is strong, although not very original and sinking into ballad. The sounds of guitar and accordion to give a European flavor seem to be just a way to hide a lack of idea on the arrangement. Obviously, I would have preferred something more impressive to finish off this round of songs.



Anna: I’m so happy to see Guckkasten get so much positive attention from audience and singers alike. Perhaps the Korean public can finally get over the Rux incident and find that it has a very vivid indie scene full of fantastic music of all different kinds.

Dahee: Yes, I love that everyone loved them and that most of the other singers say that they think Guckkasten will get first. Not that it isn’t obvious or anything. Even Joo Sang Wook, who came to cheer on Park Sang Min, says that Guckkasten will get first. But Ha Hyun Woo is coming off as almost cocky here, heh. Kim Yeon Woo gives him a couple of digs to bring him down a peg or two, like a scolding older brother. I love it.


Personal Picks

Anna: 1) Guckkasten, 2) Lee Young Hyun, 3) Park Sang Min, 4) Kim Yeon Woo, 5) Park Mi Kyoung, 6) Lee Soo Young
Guckkasten were clearly stronger than everybody else this week so that’s a given. Lee Young Hyun’s number was very beautiful even though it didn’t really wow me, so I’m happy to put it second. Park Sang Min and Kim Yeon Woo were about the same to me, but since I kept wanting Kim Gun Mo during Kim Yeon Woo’s performance I put him behind Park Sang Min. Park Mi Kyoung and Lee Soo Young were clearly in the bottom for me, but though I didn’t appreciate either arrangement much Park Mi Kyoung’s vocals matched her arrangement better.

Dahee: 1) Guckkasten, 2) Lee Young Hyun 3) Park Sang Min, 4) Park Mi Kyoung, 5) Kim Yeon Woo, 6) Lee Soo Young
It’s pretty obvious that Guckkasten deserves the top spot. Lee Young Hyun’s performance was absolutely lovely, and it felt very sincere, so she gets second. Park Sang Min had another good arrangement and great vocals and emotion, so he gets third. Park Mi Kyoung sang very well, and I liked her arrangement this week, although she lacked that emotional factor. I struggled a long time over who to put in last, since I think Kim Yeon Woo’s was more boring, and Lee Soo Young at least had some charisma going on. But Lee Soo Young had bigger vocal problems, so in the end I placed her in last.

Fablin: 1) Guckkasten 2) Lee Young Hyun 3) Park Sang Min 4) Lee Soo Young 5) Kim Yeon Woo 6) Park Mi Kyoung
Guckkasten deserves the top spot for lots of different reasons. They managed to inflame the public despite the stress, and their energetic song managed to give some change to an episode that has been generally rather boring. Lee Young Hyun takes the second spot with her perfectly mastered ​​voice and a restrained arrangement. Park Sang Min gave a performance that is honorable. All others who come after him account for my disappointments. But I still have a slight preference given to Lee Soo Young, who, despite the lack of depth in her voice, took a little more risk than the other two.


The Results

Top 3: Park Sang Min, Guckkasten, Lee Soo Young

Anna: No objections to the first two from my side, and I suppose when it comes to Lee Soo Young it’s as simple as me letting my vocal preferences stand in the way of a fair judgement. Just too bad for Lee Young Hyun. I really liked what she was getting at, but I trust she’s able to do well enough in the elimination round to stay on the show another month.

Dahee: No surprise with the first two, but…Lee Soo Young?? I’m…shocked. I thought for sure that either Lee Young Hyun or Park Mi Kyoung would be there instead. I…I don’t get it…*in a daze*

Fablin: I am also disappointed not to see Lee Young Hyun selected. I guess this time the public has preferred the songs that stood out clearly from the simple ballad, hence the gift they do to Lee Soo Young.


No. 1: Guckkasten

Anna: Utterly well deserved! This is how Jaurim made their entry on the show as well and they lasted long enough to get a statue when it still required 14 good performances instead of just 2. It’s probably much too early to talk about which impact them being on the show might have, but I’m just so excited for them. This makes me wish even more that the old format was still in place so we had a chance to follow Guckkasten for a long time. If they do this well again next time we won’t get to see them until December…

Dahee: YES!!! I’m so, so happy for them! It’s about time I Am A Singer brought this kind of band to the show – now THIS is real diversity. Let’s face it, the singers have mostly been a collection of balladeers up until now, so to see someone play music so different from the mainstream is SO refreshing. I hope they stay on the show for a long time to come! I’m actually a little worried that they’ll get first and leave the show at the end of the month, but hopefully they’ll take it easy and grace us with their presence for longer. That’s selfish of me, isn’t it?

Fablin : They start in the best possible way. But I’m also a bit disappointed that they are likely to be selected as easily, which would mean fewer performances until December. This is the failure with this new format of the show as the best ones momentarily disappear from the competition.

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