Last weekend Korean Indie launched its I Am A Singer 2 commentary series as Guckkasten has joined the competing artists. 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.
Anna: Almost 6 minutes spent solely on Guckkasten! I get all happy from watching this.
Dahee: I was surprised to see so much time spent on them, but I was happy about it, too. The way they express their happiness over getting first is just too cute. “It felt like my heart landed in my pocket! It was beating in this pocket, and in this one, too!” Hahaha! And they talk about how grateful they were when the older people in the audience clapped along and cheered for them. They realized that people were ready to open up to them, and that, in fact, it had been them who had closed themselves off from the audience, and not the other way around. That’s sweet.
Fabien : A popular program that celebrates an indie band solely for its music, it feels so good! Guckkasten are no longer newbies in music, of course, and it’s not their first appearance on a TV show, but this one probably makes more good to the whole Korean indie scene, than, let’s say, Top Band 2. It is interesting to see how the latter seeks to increase its audience by highlighting the already relatively famous bands and slaughtering the performances of the others. While at the same time I Am a Singer opens with a long recalling and talking with the least known participants so far of the entire program.
Han Young Ae Focus
Dahee: Haha, everyone’s scared of her, and also curious about her at the same time. Apparently she was a big influence for Jung Yup.
Fabien : I admit I do not know her, sorry Jung Yup. But her songs are not totally unknown to me. I must have heard them in a movie or at a noraebang, my two main sources for discovering older Korean songs.
Singers Arrive & Rehearse
Dahee: Don’t you love seeing how many of them peek into Han Young Ae’s dressing room hoping to see her there? They’re like fans trying to meet their idol. As for Han Young Ae herself, I’m fangirling just watching her interview. She’s just so COOL. She has this gentle way of speaking, but she’s still full of confidence and a youthful passion. For example, when she’s asked why she decided to join the show, she shrugs and says, “It’s a good game. Why not? I’m a singer.” Squee!
Anna: Guckkasten are back today?
Dahee: Yes, apparently they’ve added a new rule where the person who gets first gets to do a special performance. Or maybe for this week it’s just to introduce the new band. I’m not sure. At any rate, I think it means that we might get to see Park Wan Kyu again sooner than we thought, too.
Fabien: I think this is primarily to finally present to the public the band with one of their own songs, but also to celebrate their victory. Probably also the buzz on internet that followed the previous episode prompted MBC to offer us more. It will be interesting to see if Guckkasten will rise in the charts these coming weeks.
Anna: I’ve already seen their old songs rise on the indie charts. And their videos on the official site have so many more views compared to the rest – there’s a factor 5 between them and the second most popular video from last week, well over 400,000 views total!
Han Young Ae: “이별의 종착역” (Lee Sohn cover)
Anna: The audience sounds super ecstatic as soon as they see her. That’s Han Sang Won playing the guitar on stage with her! And Lee Byung Hun did the arrangement! Unfortunately I can’t say I enjoy it much, this sort of blues stuff was never anything I could enjoy. The entire performance still manages to impress me, and the audience sure seems to approve. Next time I want to hear her sing something different.
Dahee: This was classic Han Young Ae. There was something about it that was so charming. Maybe just the sight of a woman of her age dripping with so much cool and charisma and enjoying the stage for all it’s worth was appealing to me. Sure, it felt dated, but who cares when it’s Han Young Ae? I want to be her when I grow up.
Fabien: As for me, despite my young age, I like blues casually, I wouldn’t listen to it exclusively. But as long as there is some good electric guitar and brass instruments, it’s enough to let my foot stamp to the rhythm. She does not take much risk by entering the competition with this interpretation, but it would be a shame not to use such a voice for what its made for. The shift in the middle of the song sounds like old popular music played at a village fair (which is not really my cup of tea). I would have went well without it, but I remain convinced by the general performance.
JK Kim Dong Wook: “행복의 나라로” (Hahn Dae Soo cover)
Anna: Oh his voice! I love hearing him talk. He’s got that deep, smooth voice I could just listened to forever. It’s a shame he has to use that husky tone whenever he sings. And why can’t he just use his standard voice when talking in the song? It’s all beautiful though. Great vocals, good choice of song and nice arrangement on top. I may have a new bias in JK Kim Dong Wook.
Dahee: Oh man. I love everything about this arrangement. So beautiful! And what a gorgeous voice he has! Ahhhhh! I agree with Park Myung Soo that it had shades of a pastor preaching to a church congregation. My only complaint is that he could’ve worked on his stage presence a little more, and looked at the audience more, but that’s a minor detail, really.
Fabin: Wow! I didn’t know this guy yet, but I really think it was a mistake of mine. All in simplicity and vocal talent. His voice is very attractive, and with so much power, it makes it easily the most technically accomplished performance of these two last weeks. His apparent effortless mastery should allow him to explore other styles with much ease. A safe bet for the rest of the program, definitely.
Jung Yup: “보이네” (Nami cover)
Anna: I really don’t like the beginning of this song. Too much soul. It doesn’t get much better with the funk bass. Really not an arrangement for my taste. And I’m sorta hating his outfit. That aside, trying to focus on his vocals rather than the rest he’s doing it well. And those moves are actually quite smooth. I’ll hope for a different style from him too next time.
Dahee: I hate his outfit, too. But my god, he is still SO CUTE. I can’t handle it. XD It’s so good to see Jung Yup try something new like this. He’s still a little awkward, but the awkwardness is what makes it so cute and charming. I like the arrangement, too. And I think he’s found a way to work with the limitations of his voice. I hope he finally gets in the top three! I feel sorry for him for always being in the bottom, I ain’t gonna lie.
Fabien: Sorry, I had considerable difficulty in listening to this. The song quickly becomes repetitive, and I was not able to concentrate longer on it. But it is perhaps more the fault of the song. I recognize the smart choice that best suits his voice, but this arrangement is really not for me. At least I’m thankful to him for not having made a straight ballad.
Lee Eun Mi: “한동안 뜸했었지 + 얘기할 수 없어요” (Love And Peace covers)
Anna: What’s with the arrangements tonight? She’s going for something on the funk side, and that’s another of those genres I can’t really stand listening to. I’m actually missing the plain ballads… Kim Gun Mo looks cute dancing in his room. I like her a lot more after switching to a more rock oriented take on “얘기할 수 없어요”, but it’s still not quite for me. Very strong stage presence throughout. But I can decide whether it’s liberating to see a woman her age run around like that and wear those clothes or whether she simply looks too old to pull it off. Either way the ahjumma’s in the audience seem to love it and I probably would too if only I didn’t think myself too old already to do the same thing myself.
Dahee: Yeah, why is everyone doing an upbeat funk thing this episode? Not that I really mind funk, but I wish there were a couple more ballads to make things feel more even. But wow, Lee Eun Mi‘s on FIRE! She’s really throwing herself into it! And while I don’t like that she chose to mash together two songs, and songs, furthermore, that have been covered on this show already (by Bobby Kim and Jaurim), I do think that her stage presence and voice more than made up for everything. I loved it when she took off that terrible wig. She sure got the crowd riled up!
Fabien: On the contrary, I am very glad that we get rid of all these ballads for an episode ! But it is also true that if they’re all doing their songs in the same style they might just as easily bore the audience. But at least that does not seem to happen with Lee Eun Mi. I’m not fond of her way of singing during the first part, but she makes up for this with the second half. She does fit better with rock music. She plays with her voice without worry, and puts all her guts into it. But that’s not enough to make me forget Jaurim’s version of the same song. I feel sorry for her as she has to go on introducing the following singers while she is now in sweat.
Kim Gun Mo: “내 마음 당신 곁으로” (Kim Jeong Soo And An Express cover)
Anna: Et tu, Kim Gun Mo? Ah, at least he still sounds like the Kim Gun Mo I used to love and come to think of it it’s not the first time I hear him like this. Perhaps that’s why I can be more forgiving of this arrangement than the rest on this episode. That outfit with the dotted pants is fantastic btw. I just don’t see the use of having those dancers on stage all the time. I kept expecting them to pull off those yellow see-through veils around their hips that were so unflattering
Dahee: I’ve never been a huge fan of Kim Gun Mo or his voice. I dunno, I found this a little boring. He was a little TOO mellow throughout, despite the dancing. It felt dated. And the female dancers and their obvious sex appeal annoyed me, although the men in the audience apparently loved it.
Fabien: This episode sounds vintage, and for once it does not displease me. Kim Gun Mo still has a special voice that does not please me much, but it fits really well with the music’s style. It is just a standard performance coming from him, without surprise, but he does it well. His suit and the dancers bring a nice glamorous side to the performance, that i find quite funny.
Jung In: “불티” (Jun Young Rok cover)
Anna: I can’t really stand her voice, but she’s fun to watch and the rock arrangement is one of the better this episode. Seo Young Do did the arrangement and plays the bass for her as well.
Dahee: I, on the other hand, love her voice. Hehe. However, I feel like Jung In is starting to fall into the same trap that Gummy did last season – trying to reinvent herself in all the wrong ways. I’m sorry, Jung In, but you are not a rocker, and you never will be. I do like the little sexy touches to the vocals, but I dislike the performance overall, and I don’t think she has the kind of charisma and power necessary for this kind of arrangement. What a shame, because I think she can be so charming with the right song and atmosphere. Do a ballad next time, please!
Fabien: I also immediately thought of Gummy, and in a not very flattering way. She lacks credibility in her disguise as a punk rocker, but she plays along by singing like a sexy naughty girl. I’m not a fan of her voice, that gets completely lost in those of the additional singers during the chorus. Please stop adding them all the time! But still, she’s the one who showed the highest ambition among the six participants.
Anna: So that’s why they were there! They really are awesome! I’ve been playing Guckkasten Shake too much so I feel like I know this song far too well, but even so it doesn’t get boring. It’s really great to see the audience respond so well to this kind of music. And some even know the lyrics!
Dahee: I’ve listened to this song like five million times, but this performance is still so charming. I love how much the audience seems to be into it. I’m definitely going to miss them in the next episode.
Anna: That kid rooting for JK Kim Dong Wook making a heart over his head — so cute!
Dahee: It was nice to see a veteran actress like Kim Mi Sook there, but I wonder why they’ve started inviting celebrities to come watch the performances every week. Just for the sake of interviewing them? For promotional purposes? At any rate, I’m not a fan of this, especially when I think that that extra seat could have been given to a non-celebrity who applied to be in the audience (apparently the wait time for getting to be there is six months!).
Anna: 1) JK Kim Dong Wook, 2) Kim Gun Mo, 3) Jung In, 4) Jung Yup, 5) Lee Eun Mi, 6) Han Young Ae
This was a difficult episode. JK Kim Dong Wook was clearly in the top for me, being the only performance I could actually enjoy. I’m probably more forgiving towards Kim Gun Mo than I should be, but even though I didn’t like the arrangement he did sound like the Kim Gun Mo I remember. The rest, tough call. Jung In gets third simply because I didn’t hate the arrangement as much as the others. Jung Yup gets fourth because of his moves, and he did sing really well. And as much as it pains me to put a legend last, in her very first episode at that, I really disliked Han Young Ae’s performance the most leaving Lee Eun Mi second last.
Dahee: 1) Lee Eun Mi 2) JK Kim Dong Wook 3) Han Young Ae 4) Jung Yup 5) Kim Gun Mo 6) Jung In
While I loved JK Kim Dong Wook’s arrangement the most, I felt that Lee Eun Mi had better stage presence and made up for the flaws with impressive energy and outstanding vocals. So she gets first, and JK Kim Dong Wook gets second. I recognize that Han Young Ae’s performance had its flaws, and I struggled over whether to place Jung Yup in this place instead, but in the end her charisma and my admiration of her won out over Jung Yup’s awkward cuteness. I didn’t like Kim Gun Mo’s performance at all, but I felt he was more assured than Jung In was, so he gets fifth. That places Jung In last. Sorry, girl, you know I like you, but this just wasn’t your week.
Fabien: 1) JK Kim Dong Wook 2) Lee Eun Mi 3) Han Young Ae 4) Jung In 5) Kim Gun Mo 6) Jung Yup
I prefer the simple but successful performance of JK Kim Dong Wook rather than the exciting stage presence of Lee Eun-mi, because I still don’t understand the concept of mixing these two songs. I was quite pleased by Han Young Ae and Jung In on two different levels, respectively the vocal skills and the assurance. Kim Gun Mo and Jung Yup come to the last positions as I didn’t really care about their performances. Overall, I think it was a stronger competition than the one we saw last week. During this episode, the singer of Guckkasten expressed how lucky they were not to have been put in the Group B, and I agree with them.
Top 3: Lee Eun Mi, JK Kim Dong Wook, Jung Yup
Anna: At least I got JK Kim Dong Wook, which was all I really cared about. This simply wasn’t my episode.
Dahee: I was expecting the first two, but was completely shocked that Jung Yup got in the Top 3. Poor Han Young Ae – what a contrast between her first performance and Guckkasten’s. I guess the audience approved of Jung Yup’s risk-taking, and I suspect that there were some sympathy votes mixed in there as well. Aww, he got a little teary. Poor guy’s been having it rough on this show.
Fablin: I got two of them, but I guess that they expected too much of Han Young Ae and ended up disappointed, which i can totally understand. But Jung Yup, really? Ok, at least the audience made someone really happy.
No.1: Lee Eun Mi
Anna: This really wasn’t my episode.
Dahee: Totally expected. She came to get first, and she got what she wanted. Good for her. I just hope her song choice will be better next time.
Fabin: (*brood, brood*) Jaurim didn’t get the first place with their own “얘기할 수 없어요”.