I Am A Singer 2: Singer of July

Before I Am A Singer 2 went on a hiatus prompted by the London Olympics, Guckkasten were up for singer of July together with five other talented singers. Who actually made it to Super December was revealed through the episode broadcast on July 22nd. Fabien of Kimchi Popcorn, Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle and myself offer our opinions on how things went down. All performances can be streamed from the official site.




Artists Arrive & Rehearse

Dahee: I’m liking these song choices! Han Young Ae has chosen the perfect song for her voice, and I’m very fond of that trot song that Lee Young Hyun picked. I also love So Hyang‘s song, although I’m iffy about popera. While choosing the order of performances, they ask Ha Hyun Woo why he hasn’t changed into his performance clothes, and Kim Yeon Woo pats him on the shoulder and says, “This is what I looked like ten years ago.” HAHAHAHAHA! Okay, that made me laugh way too hard. Ha says that he wants to get first today, and again Kim replies with, “It isn’t that easy.” OMG I kind of love this relationship. And awww, apparently the woman JK Kim Dong Wook confessed to already has a boyfriend. Too bad. Also: soldiers now? I don’t get it, what are they promoting? And wouldn’t they be biased towards the female singers?

Fabien: Producers start to freewheel! Each week, they will find a new group to be part of the audience. Last week, the candidates for Miss Korea could have favored the romantic male singers, but now is the turn of the military to make their appearance in uniform (I wonder how they could justify their presence to their superior). There is little doubt that this is not the vocal performances that they will be responsive to.


Backstage Shots

Dahee: It’s Kim Yeon Woo’s birthday! Happy Birthday to him! Han Young Ae’s makeup both appeals to me and scares me at the same time. Apparently Guckkasten’s been making some money lately, and Ha Hyun Woo hilariously says, “I didn’t know my body was worth so much.” Hahahahaha! Why am I cracking up so much this episode?


Han Young Ae: “미지의 세계” (Cho Yong Pil cover)

Fabien: Again, the voice of Han Young Ae is the main strength of this performance. Interpretation is also good, but the instrumentation seemed far too weak. And I still can not stand for these additional voices which, mostly, merely ruin the quality of the whole song. Beyond that, it’s not a song that I particularly liked. And I don’t think it’s a song people will keep in mind until the end of all the performances.

Dahee: What a great song choice, and a great arrangement that really gets the song and its strengths. I kind of wish that she’d gone for the arrangement from the beginning throughout the entire song (I thought it was the most interesting part, and also the part that suited her voice the most), but I was impressed nonetheless. She made me smile. She’s so awesome.

Anna: Contrary to Dahee I did not particularly like the beginning and was wondering what she’d been thinking. When I thought it finally sounded ok, it didn’t take long before that guitar came and ruined it all. I mean I want to like it. It’s a Cho Yong Pil song performed by Han Young Ae! But something about the arrangement keeps distracting me.


Kim Yeon Woo: “사랑했지만” (Kim Kwang Soo cover)

Fabien: I did not feel involved in this song. But at least the voice was at the level of ambition of Kim Yeon Woo. If I were more in a romantic mood today, probably that this performance would have won me over. The arrangement also appeared quite good to me. But again, it is sorely lacking of impact in order to claim the top rank of this month.

Dahee: Oh, this was beautiful. Just lovely. This is the most sincere that Kim Yeon Woo has ever been on this show. I love the emphasis that he’s placing on the lyrics, and how he isn’t trying to show off or wow the audience. He’s just asking us to listen to his story. Exquisite. It reminds me of the kind of atmosphere that Lee So Ra used to bring out of her performances. Or, for a better example, Bobby Kim when he sang Sanullim’s “Memory” in the first season.

Anna: This is very lovely, but I can’t get over the feeling that it’s because of the song rather than the performance itself. Kim Yeon Woo does sing very well though. And I love that he just sits there singing rather than trying to capture the viewers with grand gestures exaggerating the feelings of the song.


Guckkasten: “어서 말을 해” (Sunflower cover)

Fabien: Oh, Guckkasten! When will you cease to amaze me every time? With this song coming from the late 80s, which is defending freedom of speech, they made me discover a new favorite song. Ha Hyun Woo said he was able to phone Lee Joo Ho from the band Sunflower, who explained that the meaning of words is not easy understandable for someone from nowadays. They decided to leave pre-eminently the words to express themselves above the instruments. The voice at the beginning takes the form of a strange and tortured sound, with a vaguely psychedelic guitar. There is a sense of rhythm perfectly balanced in this interpretation, with many shades in the volume and instrumentation, and a powerful final climax. This is an absolute flawless performance! Guckkasten, you’re fabulous! (I watched this performance four times in a row.) As Lee Young Hyun said, goodbye Guckkasten !

Dahee: Awesome, awesome, awesome!! What a perfect arrangement! All of their worrying over the meaning of the song really paid off. What a cathartic ending! Gahhh, I love it! They’re not going too over the top, and they’re not being too soft. It’s just right. I LOVE THEM!

Anna: I absolutely love Sunflower, so to learn that Guckkasten would be covering them made me very, very happy. Han Joo Ho mentioned this very song in my interview with him years back as an example of how he wrote lyrics to avoid censorship, and it somehow makes me proud of Guckkasten that they thought to consider this as well. With this arrangement I think Guckkasten might have even outdone themselves. It’s very, very Guckkasten but not without a bit of variation and it just gets better the closer they get to the end of it. And as always Ha Hyun Woo’s vocals are amazing. Like Fabien I had to re-watch this multiple times.


So Hyang: “꽃밭에서” (Jeong Hoon Hee cover)

Dahee: So Hyang is wearing a Disney princess dress, and she’s come out with a Disney arrangement. Rather boring, with the only remotely exciting moments being her voice hitting those high notes. But I already know she can hit those notes so I’m not particularly impressed. Sure, she’s a great singer, but I want more than this. I need something more interesting. No more Disney next time, okay?

Anna: It all seems so effortless to her even at the high notes. I can’t help but be in awe. She’s no doubt an amazing vocalist, but overall it was indeed very Disney. Maybe now that she’s done it once she can try something a little more exciting next time.

Fabien: Now that Dahee compared this performance to Disney, I can not take it away from my mind. It is true that it is all full of good sentiments. So Hyang is once again doing a demonstration of incredible vocal power, this time singing in Korean. I can see that she has learned the true techniques of singing, with the way she opens her mouth wide to optimize the volume and pronunciation. Other than that, it’s still a performance without surprise. What makes it even worse that it comes right after Guckkasten.


Lee Young Hyun: “찰랑찰랑” (Lee Ja Yeon cover)

Dahee: And now it’s time for Dreamgirls! This was cute, although not particularly impressive in terms of originality or arrangement. But Lee Young Hyun is working those vocals (even while dancing, which is something that Gummy could have learned from her in the first season) and that stage, and having a blast while she’s doing it. I wasn’t impressed per se, but I smiled at her cuteness throughout.

Anna: I like how she’s taken a trot song and made more a show tune out of it. The arrangement and performance as such is not really to my liking though, but it’s still very entertaining to watch because of Lee Young Hyun’s on stage persona.

Fabien: It was quite funny to watch, but neither the voice nor the arrangement did really affect me. And by the end of the episode I’ll totally forget what she did.


Lee Eun Mi: “아웃사이더” (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter cover)

Dahee: Eh. I don’t like this arrangement. It goes for a metal sound, and yet it feels dated somehow, like she doesn’t really know what current metal sounds like. And it’s so repetitive and there’s nothing particularly exciting about it. She’s working that stage, all right, but other than that, I’m not wowed.

Anna: As already pointed out by Dahee the arrangement is quite repetitive, but at least in part I think it could be blamed on the original song (which I was never a fan of). I don’t think we get her sing as well as usual, but at least she’s trying something a bit different.

Fabien: My problem with this performance is that I feel that Lee Eun Mi tries too much to do “cool” stuff. That old metal feeling seems to be the case precisely because it is just a generic color of metal applied to a random song. There is no subtlety in this interpretation. The only purpose seems to be to impress the public just before the voting phase.


JK Kim Dong Wook: “Higher”

Dahee: I had no idea that JK Kim Dong Wook sang songs in this genre too! Interesting. For the first time I’m thinking that maybe I should go and check out his albums. But what’s with this editing? They totally edited out a big chunk of the song, you can just tell. HMPH.

Anna: With lyrics from Cho Jung Chi and Gom PD? I’d been told JK Kim Dong Wook was fairly close to the indie realm, but it’s always nice to get some extra confirmation. Apparently this song is only a couple of weeks old (and apparently we should be writing his name JK Kim Dong Uk), but I’d sort of wanted to hear one of his old standout songs instead since I feel like I have yet to get to know him like I should. And yeah, there’s definitely some part missing! Wonder why they’d do that.

Fabien: Really nice! Makes me also want to discover more of this singer’s repertoire.



Dahee: Oh, I didn’t know that Kim Yeon Woo has been Lee Young Hyun’s vocal coach for twelve years! Or if I did know, I’d forgotten. As expected, the soldiers vote for So Hyang. Ha Hyun Woo says the soldiers probably felt close to Lee Eun Mi because of how short her hair is, hahaha!


Personal Picks

Dahee: 1) Guckkasten 2) Kim Yeon Woo 3) Han Young Ae 4) Lee Eun Mi 5) Lee Young Hyun 6) So Hyang

This was a great episode! Guckkasten were clearly first for me, with an awesome arrangement and their focus on doing the song justice and making good music. Kim Yeon Woo’s arrangement may not have been all that innovative, but I feel like with a song like this, there’s no need for innovation, just sincerity, and he showed spades of that and moved me in a way that few I Am A Singer 2 performances have done so far. Han Young Ae’s arrangement really impressed me, and I feel like she’s found something that really suits her. Lee Eun Mi at least had more energy and excitement to her arrangement than Lee Young Hyun or So Hyang, both of whom were a little too Disney Channel for me. But Lee Young Hyun has the upper hand because I at least thought she was cute, whereas So Hyang’s performance just kind of annoyed me with its sugary sweetness.

Anna: 1) Guckkasten, 2) Kim Yeon Woo, 3) So Hyang, 4) Han Young Ae, 5) Lee Eun Mi, 6) Lee Young Hyun

As far as I’m concerned Guckkasten had no real competition this episode. Out of the rest Kim Yeon Woo was the only one to offer a performance I actually liked, so placing him second was a simple choice too. So Hyang let us hear more of her impressive vocal range, so even though the performance as a whole didn’t really suit me I’m putting her third. Han Young Ae gets fourth for at least being a bit interesting. I found Lee Eun Mi and Lee Young Hyun equally displeasing this week, but while Lee Young Hyun was very sweet I liked that Lee Eun Mi acted out a bit more.

Fabien: 1) Guckkasten 2) So Hyang 3) Kim Yeon Woo 4) Han Young Ae 5) Lee Eun Mi 6) Lee Young Hyun

Guckkasten was so far beyond any competition in this episode that I could have just as well put all other participants to sixth in my personal ranking. Then please consider the bottom of the ranking starting from second place. So Hyang and Kim Yeon Woo are very very close, thanks to their vocal qualities in this episode. I had some difficulty choosing the better one. Han Young Ae comes off a little from the rest by a successful originality, while that of Lee Eun Mi failed. Then there’s Lee Young Hyun at the bottom, but perhaps also because her aegyo behavior is really starting to annoy me.


The Results

The Military’s Top 3 : So Hyang, Lee Eun Mi, Guckkasten

Fabien: It is the same than the general top 3 with Lee Eun Mi and Guckkasten, except that So Hyang, the youngest among the female singers, steals the first. How surprising!

Dahee: Are we really surprised, though? These are male soldiers we’re talking about, after all.

No. 6: Han Young Ae

Dahee: I’m so sad that Han Young Ae got sixth. She did not deserve it!!

Anna: She’s spent too much time at the bottom already. At least this time she’s safe till next round.

Fabien: It was the best moment to try something unusual without fearing the elimination, and she did so. But it’s still sad that no one seems to understand her music.

Top 2: Guckkasten, Lee Eun Mi

Dahee: Yay for Guckkasten! Although now I’m worried that they’ll get first…

Fabien: It’s not a surprise from Lee Eun Mi as she closed today’s competition with an energic song. Guckkasten has a lot of merit for them, as they performed third, and were not among the favorites.

Singer of July: Lee Eun Mi

Dahee: Phew! I was so worried that Guckkasten would get first and leave. Thank goodness Lee Eun Mi won! Although I’m a tad surprised that she did, since I was wondering whether her arrangement would go down well with people who aren’t used to metal.

Anna: There used to be quite a lot of Korean metal some decades ago, so maybe that’s where she got her points. I’m surprised too, but at the same time very happy as it means at least another month with Guckkasten.

Fabien: And also we won’t have to always listen to the usual Lee Eun Mi. I’m very glad that Guckkasten will have two more occasions to amaze me.

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