I Am A Singer 2: July Group B

I Am A Singer 2 continues with Guckkasten in competition. Last week they got to take on a foreign song and this week we find out who more will be their competition to get to Super December. As our I Am A Singer 2 commentary series continues, Fabien of Kimchi Popcorn, Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle and myself all offer our thoughts on this episode. A special thank you this week to Fabien for get the commentary started in my absence. All performances can be streamed from the official site.


New Singer: So Hyang

Fabien: I have very little information about her, except that she operates in the limited world of contemporary Christian music. Despite the Korean society being impregnated with proselytism for Christian religions (as any walk into the streets of Myung-do would teach you), So Hyang remains an unknown for the majority of the public. At least we can not blame MBC not to cast a wide net to select their guests among Korean singers.

Dahee: As I have zero interest in Christian music, I’m not all that familiar with her. She is a name I recognize, though, thanks to some of her rare collaborations with mainstream artists, like when she released that song with Lee Young Hyun and Park Jung Hyun, or when she did that duet with Park Wan Kyu. I know she has a big voice, and they must be hoping that she’ll be the next Park Jung Hyun for the show. I doubt she’ll be all that interesting musically, though.

Anna: I was completely unaware of her until her appearance on this show. I was very surprised MBC would go for a CCM singer before inviting one of the big trot names, but working with other I Am A Singer artists might explain it. From the clips it sounds like she definitely knows how to sing, and I would love to have a new Lena Park on the show. They sound almost the same when talking and even look kinda similar!


Audience Check & Rehearsals

Dahee: It makes me sad that apparently so few people are looking forward to Han Young Ae’s performance. Also, Kim Yeon Woo is so cute when he blurts out, “All By Myself! Number five!”. Tee hee. And apparently So Hyang’s a cancer survivor?

Fabien: Again many foreigners, but this time we are shown only perfect miguk saram (“Americans”). There are also faces that have already been seen in the previous episode. I remain skeptical.

Dahee: How unfair is it that other people have to wait a whole year to watch this live, and some of these foreigners get to go see the show twice in a row?

Anna: And many of the foreigners state the song they’ll likely vote for rather than the artist. Whether it’s simply because they couldn’t remember the name of the artist singing it or not I couldn’t say of course, or maybe they were just asked the wrong question, but it doesn’t look good.


Backstage Shots

Dahee: Looks like Kim Gun Mo and Park Sang Min are in a playful rival mood today. Apparently they tied for anticipation votes, and Kim Gun Mo guesses it right away, making Park Myung Soo hilariously ask him if he can predict the future. Also, Han Young Ae is so cute! She’s really enthusiastically going for this faux relationship thing she has with Noh Hong Chul. Hehe.

Anna: So Hyang can sing spanning 4 octaves? That’s very impressive.


Jung Yup: “Hound Dog” (Big Mama Thornton cover)

Fabien: He decided to remain absolutely faithful to the most popular version of this song, and he even mimics Elvis Presley and dances the twist like him. In terms of voice it’s not bad, but again, this is nothing more than mere imitation. His English pronunciation is also a bit hazardous.This looks to please the public.

Dahee: Warning: Blatant fangirling ahead. You have been warned. *ahem* OMG this was SO CUTE. My god. I can’t get over it. Jung Yup’s really starting to reinvent himself for the show, and I love it. I love the use of piano in the arrangement, and his dancing! So awkwardly adorable, haha! This was really fun. I want to poke his hips. …Okay, I take it back, that just sounded weird.

Anna: He’s cute and all, but the performance isn’t really doing it for me. Part of it is the song, that I could never really get into, but it’s also his vocal style this time. He may be re-inventing himself, but it’s not helping him gain a new fan in my. I was actually hoping it was all over when the song slowed down after two minutes…


Park Sang Min: “When A Man Loves A Woman” (Percy Sledge cover)

Fabien: And yet another crooner. And again, it’s a carbon copy of the original one. So far, I have been truly disappointed by all the missed opportunities for these singers to try something new. Although he’s himself a copy of Bobby Kim, I kind of like Park Sang Min. But this song sounds exactly like the one I can hear as performed in a karaoke place late on an early Sunday…

Dahee: Eh. This was kinda dull. It’s very him, and he sings very well, but the arrangement shows no imagination. It’s basically what he’s done almost every week, just in English this time. I want to see something new from him.

Anna: I failed to be excited over this as well. There’s a lot that can be done with this song, but this sounds too familiar and very, very boring.. Why is it that no artist but Guckkasten has showed any originality with these foreign songs? Are all the people behind the arrangements somehow intimidated by the songs not being Korean?


Han Young Ae: “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (Bob Dylan cover)

Fabien: Again, the arrangement sticks closely to the original version. But this time it was through the vocal color that comes a bit of freshness. Music and choral arrangement remain discreet, and this voice is fascinating. It operates alone in its own universe. Okay, and then there’s this electric guitar that saturates, and I am personally always a fan of saturating instruments .

Dahee: The thing about Han Young Ae is, her singing style is very old school Korean (and even unique for that), so I suspect it’s hard for the younger audience (or the foreign one, for that matter) to appreciate her. The beginning was a little strange, but I liked that she took a risk, and the arrangement got better and better as it went along. She has this wonderful charisma about her. I can’t say this is my favourite of her performances, but I think she nailed what this song was going for.

Anna: From the rehearsal clips, this is the cover I’ve been looking forward to the most. I agree her vocals in the opening were a bit weird, but as soon as she started singing it’s just what I had anticipated. And there’s Han Sang Won playing the guitar for her again. I thought her voice suited this arrangement extremely well. The foreigners in the audience seemed to dig this as well.


Kim Gun Mo: “I Can Wait Forever” (Air Supply cover)

Fabien: Again, Kim Gun Mo gives us a voice raw and pure, without unnecessary embellishment. There is no more originality in the arrangement than with the others, but an excellent mastery of his voice, and with an arrangement provided in part by himself. My only complaint comes from the rest of the instrumentation that covers too easily the piano sound.

Dahee: Oh, this was beautiful. Kim Gun Mo isn’t really my type of singer, and he’s done this kind of thing on the show before, but there’s no doubt that he’s an amazing vocalist. There’s this strange pull and power to his voice that no one can deny. This is simple and effective. No frills, no embellishments, just a singer singing his heart out. Bravo!

Anna: Kim Gun Mo! I always loved hearing him sing in English and this is no different. It’s just like the mid-to-late-90’s Kim Gun Mo that made me fall in love with Korean music to begin with. Nothing over the top with the arrangement (when will we finally get to see that resurrected in I Am A Singer 2, I wonder?), but it is beautiful.


Kim Yeon Woo: “All By Myself” (Eric Carmen cover)

Fabien: Okay, I must admit he has been able to choose a song that fits pretty well to his voice. At the same time, this one is already so well known that the public won’t ask him anything more than simply reproduce the version they already love. I have not been carried by this interpretation (if I dare call it that), and I felt he too quickly reached his limits.

Dahee: Lovely. This is the kind of thing Kim Yeon Woo does best, and I suspect the audience is eating it up. There was that one moment when he didn’t quite nail that high note, but who cares? It’s a rare slip-up for him. He’s an amazing vocalist. The ending gave me goosebumps.

Anna: Another very standard cover, but in his favor this is a song I’ve always liked so I don’t mind it much. The ending was beautiful, but it is so also in the original version. Kim Yeon Woo did well.


So Hyang: “I Have Nothing” (Whitney Houston cover)

Fabien: I think that doubt is not possible, she completely buries all her competitors. Her voice reaches high peaks with impressive ease. She covers this song three or four tones higher than Whitney Houston did. The arrangement couldn’t be more conventional, with the usual army of violins to reinforce feelings. During all this performing, the audience was shown to react to her stunning skills. It is now clear that So Hyang is selected for this month’s final.

Dahee: She was clearly very nervous, but as the song went on she seemed to become more comfortable and even smile. The arrangement was a little too safe (which is something I’m worried will be a consistent thing with her), and I wish she’d shown a little more restraint in the high parts, but there’s no doubt that she has a great voice. Good first performance.

Anna: She sings very, very well, but I too would’ve wanted something more out of the arrangement. I can totally see how the audience would love this though. I hope she does become the new Lena Park on the show.



Dahee: Jung Yup says that if he gets in the top three, he’ll do even crazier dances for the audience. C’mon, man, you can do that whether you get in the top three or not! I wanna see your dance repertoire. It would make my life. The singers vote on who they think will get first, and Han Young Ae gets three votes, and everyone except Kim Yeon Woo gets at least one vote. Aww, poor cutie. However, in the results of the foreigners vote, Han Young Ae comes last. This makes me pouty, but I guess her voice was just too alien for them.

Anna: Considering how they showed something like four foreigners saying they’d probably vote for “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” before seeing the performances, finding that only two or three out of fifty actually did cast their vote for Han Young Ae surprises me a bit.


Personal Picks

Fabien: 1) Han Young Ae 2) So Hyang 3) Kim Gun Mo 4) Kim Yeon Woo 5) Jung Yup 6) Park Sang Min

I hesitated between Han Hae Young and So Hyang, because both have particularly pleased me, but in two different areas. But ultimately, I got much more moved by Knockin’on Heaven’s Door than I Have Nothing, at first for the song itself, but also by that original vocal attempt on a very famous song. The rest of the list was much easier to establish for me, with Kim Gun Mo  and Kim Yeon Woo who naturally come respectively third and fourth, as they were rather average and I do expect more from them than these too safe choices. Park Sang Min comes last for a very simple reason: by the end of the airing time, I totally forgot which song he had performed, which is a pretty bad sign.

Dahee: 1) Kim Gun Mo 2) Kim Yeon Woo 3) Han Young Ae 4) So Hyang 5) Jung Yup 6) Park Sang Min

This was really difficult for me. The top three are at pretty much the same level for me. But in the end, I felt that Kim Gun Mo’s vocal performance was most impressive, so he gets first. And Kim Yeon Woo’s back to doing what I love watching him do, and he did it very well, so he gets second. It pains me to place Han Young Ae so low as third, especially since I think her arrangement was the riskiest of the three, but there were a couple of moments when I felt she went a little over the top, so sadly she gets third. So Hyang did very well, but I admit I winced a little at those high notes – I wanted her to show more restraint, because otherwise, she could end up being another Yoon Min Soo for me. But she definitely did better than Jung Yup or Park Sang Min. Jung Yup gets fifth because he was adorable and at least tried something different from the norm for him, whereas Park Sang Min stuck to the familiar a little too closely.


Anna: 1) Kim Gun Mo, 2) Han Young Ae, 3) So Hyang, 4) Kim Yeon Woo, 5) Jung Yup, 6) Park Sang Min

Kim Gun Mo was the obvious first choice for me, if only for being the Kim Gun Mo I was once such a big fan of. Picking between Han Young Ae, So Hyang and Kim Yeon Woo was difficult, but in the end I chose to put Han Young Ae second because her performance felt if only a little more original. So Hyang gets to win over Kim Yeon Woo for a better vocal performance, which ultimately is what I Am A Singer should be about. I really liked Park Sang Min more than Jung Yup this week, but Jung Yup gets point for at least trying to do something different.


The Results

Top 3 : So Hyang, Han Young Ae, Kim Yeon Woo

Dahee: Not surprising. Actually, I’m a tad surprised Kim Gun Mo isn’t up there, but I guess the audience is punishing him for a too familiar arrangement.

Fabien: As expected, So Hyang and Han Young Ae take the lead. I am not disappointed this time, while also surprised Kim Gun Mo didn’t make it. Are people getting bored of him? Or maybe they just fell in love with the romantic side of Kim Yeon Woo who wanted to bring the atmosphere of a romantic movie.

Anna: I’m glad Han Young Ae got to be in the top 3 this time, but I too am somewhat surprised to not see Kim Gun Mo there.

N° 1 : So Hyang

Fabien: Great start for her, but also for us indie music lovers. I know, I know, I cannot compare, she’s not coming from an underground avenue in Hongdae, stinking of alcohol and sweat. But still, it’s good to see the production being rewarded for its risk-taking, once more after the amazing success of Guckkasten. I hope they will go on bringing unknown singers to this show.

Dahee: Yeah, it is nice to see more unknown singers join, but I wish it was someone with a more interesting musical track record. = (Er…do I sound biased against CCM? But even her work outside of the CCM world has been very Whitney-esque, which for me equals boring.) Anyway, I’m happy for her, and hopefully she’ll prove that all my fears are unfounded.

Anna: This is nice, gives us another month to see what she’s really capable of. Whitney-esque is fine with me, but there has to be some variation to keep it interesting.

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