Indie rock favorites Guckkasten are making waves through their participation on hit show I Am A Singer 2 and Korean Indie is covering it through a commentary series. 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, although Widhi unfortunately has had too many other things to take care of this month.
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.
We’ve already covered the performances from group A and group B and saw Park Mi Kyoung get eliminated last week. In the episode that aired on June 24th the Singer of June was determined. All performances can be streamed from the official site.
Park Mi Kyoung Special
Dahee: She says she actually feels like a weight has been lifted from her shoulders thanks to her elimination, but I think she looks rather sad. She acknowledges that she wasn’t able to show her true self during her performances on this show, which is a downright shame. She says being on this show made her go back mentally to her debut days, and she realized how important constant practice is. It also made her realize her faults. I think one of the positive sides of this show is that it makes these veteran singers seek out new challenges and show new sides to them through their music. Let’s hope Park Mi Kyoung does just that.
Guckkasten & Lee Eun Mi Specials
Anna: I still haven’t gotten over just how well received Guckkasten have been. Their videos on the official site have a much, much higher viewer count than the rest. This bodes very well for the future of indie rock in Korea.
Dahee: I’ve noticed a ton of news articles coming out about them on a fairly regular basis, too. I’m so happy for them. And today I read that their management company gifted them with their very own recording studio! The perks of popularity…
Fabien: I think I’ve regularly seen the name of the band in the list of the most searched keywords on Naver during the weekends, so perhaps we are witnessing a new phenomenon in indie music, alongside Rose Motel. And, I must admit, I like both groups much more than 10cm or Busker Busker.
Artists Arrive & Rehearse
Fabien: Han Hyun Woo shows a lot of confidence while briefly introducing the song and the interpretation they will give to it in front of the camera. Of course, the fact of not fearing the risk of elimination this week should free all the candidates. But it also means that I expect even more on their part, as it is the perfect moment to take risks. And from the bits we could hear, it is already on good tracks on the side of Park Sang Min and Guckkasten, far less for Lee Soo Young.
Anna: What is this sound from Guckkasten? Will they be trying something new already? And what is Park Wan Kyu doing there? So it’s finally time for his winning stage now?
Dahee: Apparently this week they’re telling someone they got sixth place as well (naturally they won’t get eliminated though). I think this is a good decision – helps the singers feel more motivated. Park Sang Min even suggests that the person who gets sixth will have to pay for everyone’s meal after filming’s over. And yay, Park Wan Kyu’s back!! I always love watching him bicker playfully with the people behind the camera. Apparently he’s been super busy since he got May Singer, what with his rising levels in popularity. He predicts that Lee Eun Mi will get first today, and maybe Guckkasten.
Dahee: Park Myung Soo makes a pun with Lee Eun Mi’s name, nicknaming her “Silver Beauty.” Hehehe. I actually kind of like her dress today! Amazing. Noh Hong Chul asks Guckkasten how they managed to afford all of those extra instruments, and they joke that they always need a sponsor. They are so cute.
Fabien: At this point, I start to feel like they will do a bungee jump by trying something completely unexpected from the public. And this teases me terribly.
Park Sang Min: “With You” (Wheesung cover)
Anna: Park Sang Min goes for a semi-acoustic version. From the way he talked about it beforehand I’d expected something radically different, but it’s been awhile since I listened to the original and nothing about Park Sang Min’s version struck me as particularly odd or outstanding. Even so he sang it well and it was a nice performance. Not fantastic in any regard, but nice.
Dahee: This was a cute, fun performance. I’m really impressed by the arrangement – it could potentially have become really boring, but the arrangement didn’t fall into that trap, which I appreciate. It wasn’t the typical explosive I Am A Singer performance that the audience wants, but I think the show needs performances like this every once in a while to keep its feet on the ground. And Park Sang Min sang well, as usual. Well done.
Fabien: Well we may say that it is already starting high. I have big concerns as it may not appeal to the public, because we have already witnessed the successive failures of Bobby Kim. Speaking of him, I still retain the feeling that Park Sang Min remains below him on a technical level. He manages to do some nuances in the singing, even if the arrangement is still basic. But i have a great pleasure from watching this episode begin with a singer who seems to truly appreciate what he sings and puts his desires before those of the public.
Guckkasten: “가장 무도회” (Kim Wan Sun cover)
Anna: Ever since watching My Princess I’ve found it hilarious every time someone uses the command verb conjugation (-라) in that fashion. Ha Hyun Woo is a star. Apparently they’ll be going for a psychedelic sound and they’ve invited La Percussion (previously seen on stage with No Brain during Immortal Song 2) for some extra rhythm. This may be the first time I see a berimbau used in popular music. As was hinted from their rehearsals, this is not the kind of Guckkasten that is an instant hit with me, but actually most of their songs have had to grow on me in the past (I still remember my disappointment first listening to what I considered their over hyped debut, but now I love all of those songs) and it seems at least the audience fell for this right away. There’s still those fantastic vocals, and that characteristic guitar slide. They did very well, offering something none of the other singers could get away with. Well played! So funny when Park Myung Soo grabs the 7 statue from Park Sang Min and hands it over to Ha Hyun Woo when they sit down backstage.
Dahee: Guckkasten is the new Jaurim for this show! Except Jaurim were never quite this weird. I wonder how the audience will react to such a…non-mainstream sound? I like it overall, but I felt that at times it was a little too complicated. Like they could have taken out a couple of elements and it would have been even better. Still, great energy, and it’s so refreshing to see something different on this show again.
Fabien: Ha Hyun Woo rushes toward the stage like a superhero from a manga! And their performance seems equally strange, at the crossroads of several influences. They raise my interest from the very first notes of the berimbau, and when the bass notes, accompanied by the percussion, ring out, I am completely won over. I love the puzzled faces of the public, that gradually grow into happy faces. I also immediately think of Jaurim and their psyche-rock version of “Abracadabra”, which had gone rather wrong (with the public only, because me, I was in heaven!). There is only the chorus that I find to be not as powerful as it could have been, and that leaves too fast into a overload of sounds. But I don’t care, because with this delivery, Guckkasten stands out as the participants who play the game the better.
Jung Yup: “난 행복해” (Lee Sora cover)
Anna: I have Au Revoir Michelle’s version from Top Band 2 still ringing in my ears as I listen to this, which unfortunately makes Jung Yup’s version a bit dull. It’s nice and all. He’s singing well. But then when the strings come in, it’s just so… unimaginative. Also coming up with a ballad in this arrangement after Guckkasten is not an easy task. The arrangement would’ve had to be much grander to make that work. Jung Yup licks the 7-statue when he gets it in his hands. Very childish and cute.
Dahee: What, Jung Yup? You too? Why choose a song that’s already been covered on this show? And I never thought I’d say this, but…Gummy did it better. (I know! I’m shocked!) I just feel like she tackled the emotions behind this song more honestly, somehow. And I didn’t like how the arrangement began, although it improved as it went on. Sorry, Jung Yup, you know I love you, and this was very pretty, but I don’t understand why you chose to cover this song…
Fabien: Electronic keyboard, violin, choir, shaky voice …. No, sorry, jebal, please don’t torture me any more! I’m clearly not the target audience for this kind of performance, so please forgive my opinion, but for me this is nothing more than the option of slightest effort. I can only see in Jung Yup at the best an honest karaoke singer. Has he been selected to take the vacant place left by Yoon Min Soo ? At least I recognize the effort made since the last time: he finally settled his clothes.
Lee Eun Mi: “하루” (Kim Bum Soo cover)
Anna: This is very pretty! But just like with Lee Young Hyun last week, it’s a bit too much of the same. I loved the beginning, but it failed to keep my attention all the way through.
Dahee: And yet again Lee Eun Mi chooses a song that’s been covered before! By Jaurim, no less! Does she consider them to be her rivals or something? Why does she keep choosing songs they’ve already covered? And the arrangement is a lot simpler than Jaurim’s was, going for a more stripped-down approach. It’s pretty, and the piano is very nice, but for some reason I can’t get into it emotionally. Lee Eun Mi’s a great singer, but I never seem to feel anything from her ballads. I’m not sure why. I seem to be alone in this sentiment, though, judging by the reactions of the audience and the other singers.
Fabien: Well, I will not discuss the choice of song, I think we are seeing the limits of the freedom of choice given to the singers. The beginning suggests a slightly different approach from the original, with a rhythm two times slower, and for once, an a capella performance. The rest is very similar to the version of Kim Bum Soo, but only with more drama. I can not say I was disappointed, but it’s still too weak if she really hopes to conquer the first position.
JK Kim Dong Wook: “담배가게 아가씨” (Song Chang Sik cover)
Anna: He’s looking good! I’m not really fond of the arrangement though. I’m not fond of it at all. His deep vocals go well with this kind of rock arrangement and he’s great fun to watch, but it’s not enough to compensate for the rest of it. No, as far as I’m concerned he would’ve been better off just asking Chang Kiha to update the original a bit.
Dahee: Wait, didn’t Jung Yup cover this song before, too? What is going on today? But apparently he’s confessing his real feelings for an anonymous someone with this song! Interesting. While I wish the arrangement was better, this was overall still a fun performance, and he was working that stage. He’s so cute in those shades. Everyone keeps wondering who the mystery girl is, but I’m all, “No! Don’t reveal who she is! Don’t pull a Ji Hyun Woo!”.
Fabien: Anna, do not give me false hope to see Chang Kiha lands in this show! I am sure that the bands have a distinct advantage over the solo singers in this competition, because they can better adapt the musical arrangements to themselves. Here, it just gives the impression that the music was created at last minute only to go along his voice. Thankfully he occupies the stage well and has a communicative energy, it saves him from disaster. That and his voice, of course.
Lee Soo Young: “옛 이야기” (Kim Kyu Min cover)
Anna: Finally she’s picked a song and arrangement that actually works with her voice. I think I need those strings to put me in the right mood for her. This would work very well as a drama soundtrack.
Dahee: This is the kind of song that Lee Soo Young does best. The arrangement is standard ballad fare, but it’s very her. She did well. Nothing new or exciting, but she tackled the emotions well, and sang better than she did in her last performance.
Fabien: Oh no, poor little Lee Soo Young, why are you crying on stage? Apart from these fake emotions expressed on her face, it is an interpretation that actually works. She just brushes the limits of her tessitura but every time avoids her voice of breaking. She made efforts at her own level, and it is already not bad. For cons, I must personally admit that her aegyo attitude bothers me at times.
Park Wan Kyu: “소금 인형” (An Chi Hwan cover)
Anna: I’m surprised he chose to sing a cover for his special stage. Did he record this before? Or maybe it was he was going to sing for the June round if he hadn’t already qualified for Super December? Either way it’s beautiful. A great rock ballad of the kind Park Wan Kyu does the very best. And of course he’s gotten Jeremy’s Jo Pil Sung to take care of the arrangement and play the guitar for him as usual.
Dahee: Park Wan Kyu doesn’t have a lot of hits, or even a lot of his own songs that he’s very fond of, so he often sings a lot of covers, even at his concerts. And yes, maybe he’d been preparing this song to sing in June. The original song is amazing, and perfect for his voice. Great song choice. And this is a lovely arrangement that captures the charms of the original well. As always, Park Wan Kyu sings with all his heart, and I eat it up with a spoon. Man, I miss him on this show. But why am I getting the feeling that they edited this performance a little…?
Fabien: Park Wan Kyu fortunately is not in competition in this episode, because I think with this song he would have been able again to clinch victory.
Dahee: They’re all really interested in JK Kim Dong Wook’s mystery lady, but he’s keeping mum, and says he’s not even sure if she’ll be watching the episode. Whoa, Park Sang Min has two daughters?? I had no idea! Park Wan Kyu joins the other singers briefly, and says that he voted for “a beautiful someone.” Lee Eun Mi lets out a little smile, which Noh Hong Chul catches, and teases that she must think he’s talking about her. So cute! Also, what’s up with interviewing the Olympics athletes? The Olympics haven’t even started yet and I’m already sick of them…
Anna: 1) Guckkasten, 2) Lee Eun Mi, 3) Lee Soo Young, 4) Park Sang Min, 5) Jung Yup, 6) JK Kim Dong Wook
To me there wasn’t any really good performance this week, but Guckkasten were clearly ahead of everybody else with their creativity and stage presence. Going just by stage presence I would’ve placed JK Kim Dong Wook second, but this to me was even worse than all those performances in the B episode so I feel like I have to put him last. Lee Soo Young had that dramatic flair I was missing from Lee Eun Mi, but in the end I found Lee Eun Mi’s vocal performance more impressive.
Dahee: 1) Guckkasten 2) Lee Eun Mi 3) JK Kim Dong Wook 4) Park Sang Min 5) Lee Soo Young 6) Jung Yup
I had a really hard time choosing the rankings, mostly because, like Anna, there was nothing I really loved, or even really hated. In the end I placed Guckkasten in first just because they tried something different, and it was so refreshing. I hesitated a lot between Lee Eun Mi and JK Kim Dong Wook, but in the end I decided Lee Eun Mi’s arrangement was better, so she gets second. It was really hard for me to place the bottom three, but ultimately I decided that Park Sang Min’s arrangement was the best of the three, so he gets fourth. And while Lee Soo Young was doing more of the same old, at least she managed to hold on to her style throughout, and I felt that her arrangement and stage presence was better than Jung Yup’s. Which places him in last. I’m sorry!!
Fabien: 1) Guckkasten 2) Park Sang Min 3) Lee Eun Mi 4) Lee Soo Young 5) JK Kim Dong Wook 6) Jung Yup
Again, Guckkasten are far ahead the other. Their performance was not perfect, but they had the nerve to try their experiments already on their second passage. This amount of creativity proves that they have their place in this TV show, which is in this case first. Park Sang Min and Lee Eun Mi competed for the second, but once again I favor the originality, which was definitely not the highlight of Lee Eun Mi who is doing a recap of last year’s season. Lee Soo Young is still below but has displayed realism in the selection and interpretation of the song. JK Kim Dong Wook deserves only his fifth to the even worse performance by Jung Yup. I’m glad, I have found my new whipping boy for this season!
Top 3: JK Kim Dong Wook, Lee Eun Mi, Guckkasten
Anna: At least Guckkasten are getting recognized for a good effort. That’s all I wished for.
Dahee: It was hard for me to pinpoint the top three this week, but it looks like the audience and I had similar reactions.
Fablin : I only got Guckkasten right, but I guess the results must be tight.
No. 6: Park Sang Min
Anna: Acoustic music seems to be all the rage right now, with idol groups adding to the few indie acts that have already made themselves a name with their café friendly music, but even though he was on the right track the execution was wrong. Better luck next time!
Dahee: How sad. As usual, the I Am A Singer audience simply does not appreciate an acoustic sound…
Fabien: Seems like I am the only one who appreciated his song… Or maybe was it the mysterious effect of his shades ?
Singer of June: JK Kim Dong Wook
Anna: He did really well, no point in denying that. It just wasn’t my kind of music. And I’m sorta glad Guckkasten didn’t win this time, since I wanna see so much more of them on this show. Maybe they could place first in their group every month, and wait to qualify for Super December until November? Though I feel like I haven’t seen enough of JK Kim Dong Wook yet either.
Dahee: Aww, I’m happy for him, especially considering how tough things were for him with his sudden departure back in the first season. I laughed when Kim Gun Mo suddenly appeared out of nowhere to snatch the bouquet of flowers away from him. I was worried that Guckkasten would get first and leave too soon, so I’m fine with how things turned out. I’m going to miss JK Kim Dong Wook, though. At least we have his special performance to look forward to.
Fabien: The final choice is debatable, but I’m happy for Guckkasten. We will have two new songs from them next month. Now that they have confirmed to me their full potential, I can not wait to see them again next week.