We continue to catch up on the August episodes of I Am A Singer 2 for our commentary series. Yesterday we share our thoughts on the performances from the first group and today we continue with the performances from the second group of singers. Again many, many thanks to my fellow members on the I Am A Singer 2 commentary panel–Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle and Fabien of Kimchi Popcorn–for preparing the post in my absence. All performances can be streamed from the official site.
New Singer: Byun Jin Sub
Dahee: I once went through a Byun Jin Sub fangirl phase for a few months, listening to everything of his I could get my hands on and daydreaming of having the ability to lovingly pet his voice. That phase is (thankfully) over, but I still have a soft spot for him, and it’s true that he’s a big part of Korea’s music (ballad, really) history. So he’s a great fit for the show, although I do wonder if we really need yet another balladeer. Still, I’m excited to see what he’ll do. Hopefully he’ll be amazing and all my fangirling will return in full force. Although that, er, may not be entirely healthy.
Anna: I’m glad they could finally get another singer worth the name on the show. I haven’t listened to his music excessively, but did look up quite a bit of his back catalogue several years back and am still very fond of several of his songs. Will definitely look forward to seeing him for the next month and more.
Fabien: I have absolutely no idea who is he. Which can be seen as a good start as I won’t have any expectation from him.
New Singer: Younha
Dahee: I admit that while I’ve always known vaguely of Younha and heard a few of her songs, I always thought she was just another pop princess trying to push a singer-songwriter image. And she’s very young, which is why I was shocked when it was announced that she’d joined the show, even though I had heard of the rumours before the official announcement. Although thinking about it, she’s been around for eight years already. She just started her career younger than most. I admit I’m worried, though. I’m not really familiar with her songwriting skills, or with just how powerful her voice is, really, and I wonder if she’ll be able to handle the pressures of the show. Fingers crossed!
Anna: I was surprised to learn that she would join as well. I listened to her when she first came out, but haven’t kept track of her activities for many years. Will definitely be nice to get to know her a bit better again. I think she’s the most idol-like of any singer previously on the show so for that reason too it’ll be very interesting to see her on the show.
Fabien: I cannot really see her as an usual idol. The legend tells that no Korean record company wanted of her because of her face too far from the standards of beauty. She would have therefore decided to start a career in Japan, where she did eventually break thanks to some opening songs of anime. After this, she made a true “come-back” to Korea and managed to put some of her songs quite high in the charts, but has never been a successful singer and had some difficulties with her production company. So she’s a very special case among Korean idols, and it may become very interesting if she can liberate herself and making some experiments.
Fabien: As Korean music was much more difficult to access from my far-away country at that time in contrast to the Japanese culture, she was one of the first Korean pop singers I’ve ever known. But I’ve never been a big fan of her songs. I see her like IU, a singer who can do some very good covers of well-known songs, but fails when it comes to propose songs of her own creation.
Seo Moon Tak: “사랑비” (Rain of Love) (Kim Tae Woo cover)
Dahee: This was very…busy. The stage felt very crowded, and while Seo‘s vocals never wavered, I kept getting distracted from her voice to look at everything else that was going on. It was cute and sweet, but it’s not what I want from her, and the performance art actually took away from the music and the power of her voice. She’s trying to do something different, but she’s approaching it all wrong.
Anna: I didn’t like this at all. Not like I actually hate it, but just that it felt very show-y. As if people would be taking a break in their dining to have a look at her on stage, before getting back to their plates and continue eating. Not the quality expected for I Am A Singer and not at all something I would ever put on on my own.
Fabien: Exactly what I thought. It is nothing more than a performance worthy of a variety show undemanding. The musical side is very easy to listen to, the voice is at no time put to the test. Even the visual part disappointed me because it distracts too much of attention for a unsatisfying result. Seo Moon Tak is doing the musical equivalent to fast food: quickly heard, quickly forgotten
Younha: “먼 훗날에” (In The Distant Future) (Park Jeong Woon cover)
Dahee: This was lovely, and exceeded all my expectations. I didn’t know she could hit such high notes! I really like the arrangement, too, even if it’s nothing particularly original. It’s pretty, though, and the gradual climax was a really good choice. And her voice! Maybe this performance benefited from the element of surprise for me, but I’m proud of her.
Anna: I really like this song, and she’s doing very well. At first I was afraid was sounding too sweet to be able to bring anything strong enough to this, but her voice can handle a lot more than I had thought.
Fabien: As I said, she had already impressed me with previous covers (like “Azalea Tree” by Maya) so I was surprised than both of you. I was a little bit disappointed by her choice of song, but she totally made it up by this very well-built crescendo all along the performance and the strength she put in the final climax.
Jung Yup: “총 맞은 것처럼” (Like Being Hit By a Gun) (Baek Ji Young cover)
Dahee: What a great arrangement! I’m not a fan of this song, but this arrangement made it much more palatable for me. Seriously, I’m in love with it. And is Jung Yup crying?? He seemed rather emotional, at any rate, and I loved the way he approached the singing in the beginning. I think the choice to go for falsetto at the end was a miss, though. It made the lyrics harder to hear, and while a bit of falsetto here and there would have been fine, having all of it like that made it a little hard on the ears. It reminded me of Jo Kwan Woo‘s performances in the first season, except Jo Kwan Woo has always done the falsetto thing better than Jung Yup.
Anna: It is a very good arrangement. Very easy to listen to and enjoy, until the falsetto at least. Falsetto, if it has to be used at all, should be used with the uttermost care and that was not the case here.
Fabien: I actually like and hate this song at the same time. It came up while I was staying in Seoul, which means I had to live each day with this song (and “Nobody”) broadcasted everywhere, on TV, in the restaurants, in the streets… I don’t want to like it, but it brings back to many memories. Anyway, the arrangement is good and catchy, and the voice was not bad. Which makes it all the more shocking and disturbing when he suddenly changes for that awful falsetto.
Kim Yeon Woo: “Rain” (Lee Juck cover)
Dahee: Eh. It’s another Kim Yeon Woo-esque performance, but his voice is clearly not in top form today, and the arrangement isn’t really the type to snag me. It’s fine, he did well, but there are no real emotions here, and nothing original or creative. I want more from you, Kim Yeon Woo!
Anna: This wasn’t particularly exciting. It makes for pretty decent background music, but is nothing I’d put on when I’d actually want to listen to something. I agree it’s fine though. There’s nothing specific about Kim Yeon Woo’s performance to dislike, but there’s certainly nothing to wow me either.
Fabien: When doing this kind of arrangement, one must be very confident in his skills, or it may just fall into the bottomless pit of boredness. There is nothing here interesting, nothing that could make me remember this song instead of any other one of the same style. For me, this is just another generic ballad song with a bluesy feeling, as I could find many other ones as soundtracks for Korean dramas.
Park Sang Min: “MaMa” (Bobby Kim cover)
Dahee: I love and adore this Bobby Kim song (I love that entire album, really), so I was wondering how Park Sang Min would approach it. He doesn’t do much to the arrangement, just making it a tad more dramatic, and just stands there and sings his heart out. And yes, I totally cried watching him. The lyrics are just…man. And he was so emotional…Yeah. I cried. I admit it. I’m a baby. I’m gonna go call my mom now and ask how she’s doing.
Anna: I can’t really connect with this song and can’t understand the lyrics well enough to have them touch me emotionally, but I’ll still recognize that this was a very emotional performance. At first I thought it’d be another of the many disappointments offered in this episode, but after a while the arrangement shaped up and became far more enjoyable.
Fabien: Park Sang Min sure knows how to make people cry!! Actually, he is very good in putting emphasis along the lyrics. I could understand them, and I can also understand why it has such an effect on the audience. I don’t feel affected by them, but that was anyway a good performance. Not very original, but with some emotion at least.
Byun Jin Sub: “비와 당신” (The Rain and You) (No Brain cover)
Fabien: OMG, I love this song SO MUCH !!!! One of my very first entries into Korean indie music was through that pretty and heartrending film that is Radio Star, in which a former rock star turns up to become a DJ for a local radio station in a small town and meet a local punk band which is none other than No Brain. It deals with many themes, but the most prominent one is the state of the music industry in Korea and especially the desperation around rock music. This song is supposed to have been composed by this old rockstar in his heydey, so it conveys a lot of feelings every time it is heard throughout the film. (And if you are still not interested by this film, let me tell you that it’s starring the magnificent Ahn Seung-gi and Park Min-soo for the first time after their Chilsoo and Mansoo in 1988). You can give up all hope to see me absolutely objective with this performance. There is not much difference with the original version, except maybe in the rhythm. But it is already an amazing song as it is, and Byun Jin Sub managed quite well all the different progressions needed for the vocal part. Maybe he could have use more his guitar, but I’m glad enough with this performance.
Dahee: Count me in as another huge fan of Radio Star (I love most of Lee Joon-Ik’s films, actually, and I love the Ahn Sung Ki and Park Joong Hoon duo). And I’m probably biased, but…Great first performance! I love and adore this song, too, and listen to it pretty much every time it rains, so I’m kind of glad that he didn’t change it too much with the arrangement. I really like that he started off by playing the guitar, although the guitar did seem to become a bit of an impediment as the song continued. But it immediately gave him the image of a musician rather than just a singer, which I liked. Great vocal performance, too, with his 25 years of experience seeping off of him in waves. Is my fangirliness going to come back for him?
Anna: I’m loving this already by the first chord. This is a great song, no doubt, and it’s such a treat to hear Byun Jin Sub sing it. There’s something very comforting about his vocals. And this performances, it just grows and grows. Very, very nice. I’ll need to go listen to some more Byun Jin Sub!
Dahee: 1) Park Sang Min 2) Younha 3) Byun Jin Sub 4) Jung Yup 5) Kim Yeon Woo 6) Seo Moon Tak
Park Sang Min gets first for the simple reason that he made me cry like a little bitch. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish, so I give him props…yo. I wasn’t expecting much from Younha, and while I still think she needs to show more creativity, I loved her arrangement and her voice exceeded all my expectations, so she gets second. Byun Jin Sub was professional and every inch a musician, but the awkward guitar performance places him in third. I loved Jung Yup’s arrangement even if I wasn’t a fan of the falsetto, and I was not a fan of Kim Yeon Woo’s arrangement, so Jung Yup gets fourth. Seo Moon Tak was very clearly in the bottom for me this week. Let’s try to be less gimmicky next time, m’kay?
Anna: 1) Byun Jin Sub, 2) Park Sang Min, 3) Younha, 4) Jung Yup, 5) Kim Yeon Woo, 6) Seo Moon Tak
Byun Jin Sub offered a very, very nice first performance that I loved from beginning to end, so putting him first was an easy choice. Though dull at first Park Sang Min’s performance shaped up really nicely. Younha did really well too and since Jung Yup had to ruin his performance with that falsetto at the end I’m putting her before him. Kim Yeon Woo I suppose wasn’t too bad, but he wasn’t very memorable either. And Seo Moon Tak I do remember, but only because she was that bad.
Fabien: 1) Byun Jin Sub 2) Younha 3) Park Sang Min 4) Jung Yup 5) Kim Yeon Woo 6) Seo Moon Tak
So this time I’ve got a personnal pick that is very close to Anna’s one, sorry. But Byun Jin Sub cannot have any other rank than first, and Jung Yup, Kim Yeon Woo and Seo Moon Tak all gave different examples for me of what should be avoided when doing a musical performance, the worse being of course that “Total Art” show. Does someone now remember anything from that performance except the cube-headed guys spattering painting? No? Then it deserves to come last. My only difficult choice was between Younha and Park Sang Min. Both did well and had some good vocal parts, but it lacks of interesting and original arrangement.
Top 3: Byun Jin Sub, Park Sang Min, Younha
Anna: Nice picks, all. Younha was so ultra cute both while waiting for the result and after getting it! I can’t help but be completely charmed by it and now I’m almost rooting for her to get first instead…
Fabien: For once, this is a perfect job from the audience.
No. 1: Byun Jin Sub
Anna: Very well deserved! And a nice welcome for Byun Jin Sub on I Am A Singer 2.
Dahee: This makes me so happy. Hurrah for him!