I Am A Singer 2: August Group A

As Guckkasten still haven’t qualified for I Am A Singer 2’s Super December they’re still in competition and so our I Am A Singer 2 commentary series continues. MBC’s Sunday entertainment I Am A Singer 2 went on a quick break for the London Olympics, but because of a lack of Internet on my part it took a while to get it started. 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 putting down their thoughts on this episode way before I myself had the chance. All performances can be streamed from the official site.




Lee Eun Mi to Super December

Dahee: Congrats to Lee Eun Mi. Everyone was expecting her to leave much sooner than this, so this is good for her pride, at least. She talks about how tiring the show was, but how she already misses the audience, which she says is a very special one, since they concentrate very hard on the performances and engage themselves with the music 100%. That’s one of the reasons I like I Am A Singer – it forces people to take music seriously, and to discover its boundless potential and power.


New Singer: Kai

Dahee: I admit that I’m very confused by the addition of Kai to the I Am A Singer family. I had no idea who he was, and when I searched his name on Naver I was shocked by how recently his first single had come out (2010. His first full-length album came out last year). But watching him talk about his career now, it becomes evident that he’s been around longer than it seems, singing overseas and doing collaborations with respected opera singer Jo Sumi. It appears that he was originally strictly classical, but ventured into the popera realm fairly recently. He’s also very active in the musical scene. I’m still confused, though, and wonder if the audience will accept this kind of genre on what is, quite frankly, a very mainstream show. I guess only time will tell.

Fabien: Actually, that’s precisely because the production invite an unknown but talented singer to a mainstream stage that I find it a very interesting addition. I really like how there is now a very wide range of singers, with each one of them having its own strengths and flaws. And with such a powerful voice, Kai may realize amazing performances lurking to other styles of music than the ones he usually does.

Anna: I only learned of the existence of Kai after Dahee told me on Twitter and I too am very confused as to why they’d add him. Are they really having such a problem recruiting new, big names or are they hoping some more diversity will improve the now so low ratings? Even so it will be interesting to see what he’ll do on the show. Hopefully with his musical background he will not only bring an amazing voice but also some more flair and extravagance to the show.


Guckkasten, Kim Gun Mo and So Hyang Focus

Dahee: Oh, I love that we finally get to see these artists outside the walls of the MBC Dream Centre again! Guckkasten is so entertaining, all the time. So is Kim Gun Mo, for that matter. And So Hyang’s newlywed house is very…er…feminine.

Fabien: Thumbs up to the production and the editing team to let us see these artists rehearse. Guckkasten talk about their difficult times when they had to rehearse in worse conditions. Poor Kim Gun Mo who thinks that whatever he’ll sing, he won’t make it to this month’s final episode. As for So Hyang, they spend more time visiting her apartment than showing her rehearse. But I think, as opposite to Kim Gun Mo, she’ll make it whatever she sings and however she’ll interpret it.


Artists Arrive & Rehearse

Fabien: Lol at Kim Gun Mo who spent the whole night watching the Olympics. Guckkasten’s members confess that they tried five different arrangements the day before and feel not so confident. Most of the candidates are afraid of Guckkasten as they have never ended up in the lower part of the ranking.

Dahee: Who knew that that Panic song is so difficult to arrange? Now I’m worried for them…


Backstage Shots

Fabien: And now, let’s welcome the Law Students. (It’s cracking me up, it’s getting so random.) So Hyang talks of giving a “punk rock” feeling to her song, and Lee Young Hyun is looking for a “metal rock” sound… I’m kind of doubtful. Haha, Ha Hyun Woo is asking some girl from the audience what she thinks of the arrangement, and she answers that it’s quite unexpected from them. Sounds promising to me, but Ha Hyun Woo is now sure that they will fail. Given the survey made beforehand, So Hyang should come first, and Guckkasten second. The new singer, Kai, would take the last seat. And as we know that So Hyang will perform last, there is no more doubt about which rank she’ll get.

Dahee: Yeah, I’m starting to wonder which group they’ll drag in next. Prison inmates? Hey, they’d be more interesting than these law students, at any rate…

Fabien: Be it law students or prison inmates, they would end up favoring So Hyang for obvious reasons that don’t necessarily include vocal talent.


Lee Young Hyun: “Tears” (So Chan Whee cover)

Dahee: Lee Young Hyun’s back to her power performances. This was really entertaining and her voice was amazing, as usual. I don’t really see a strong metal connection, though (but maybe it just wasn’t hard enough for me), and I found the arrangement to be rather safe and sticking close to the original song – a song I’ve never been a huge fan of. Still, it was fun, and her confidence was so nice to see.

Fabien: I have to agree with Dahee this time, the vocal performance was strong enough, and she showed a lot of confidence. However, the arrangement was more like the tight application of a Metal 101 class. The most convincing part of it was maybe her make-up. Even the guitar solo sounded bland.

Anna: I think this is more like 80’s hair metal than anything I would label metal today and she did offer some vocals of that kind as well. It was fun to see her do something a bit different from usual and I actually kind of liked the arrangement.


Kim Gun Mo: “서른 즈음에” (Around Thirty Years of Age) (Kim Gwang Seok cover)

Dahee: Oh, this was beautiful. I was worried for him, since Insooni had already covered this song very well in the first season, but he goes for a completely different approach, very soft and acoustic. The arrangement is just beautiful, and I guess it helps that the original composer is there to help him. He sings simply, without frills, and with apparently zero desire to vault himself to first place. The ranking doesn’t seem to matter much to him this week. I really respect that. And the way he approached the song was so heartfelt that I found myself tearing up a little by the end. If he can win over a huge Kim Gwang Seok fan like me, then I know he’s done his job.

Fabien: Same here. A very simple (in a good way) and moving interpretation, that sounded so different from Insooni’s one that it didn’t strike me that this song had already been performed last year. Kim Gun Mo always seems true when it comes to singing. It’s so different from Lee Young Hyun’s performance full of gimmicks.

Anna: This was very, very beautiful. Kim Gun Mo singing, a piano, an acoustic guitar, a harmonica and some soft sweeping on a drum. So tranquil and lovely. The audience seemed to respond really well, too.


Han Young Ae: “옛사랑” (Past Love) (Lee Moon Sae cover)

Dahee: And after Kim Gun Mo’s performance, I found myself tearing up yet again with this. This was AMAZING. Han Young Ae‘s best performance to date. It’s a very stripped down arrangement, focusing completely on her vocals and the poetic lyrics, and yet she adds those little interesting bits, like that huge drum, and makes it experimental while still holding on to simplicity. Exquisite! And so heartrending. Respect!!

Fabien: That voice fits so perfectly with the mood conveyed by the music. I totally understand you, Dahee, as it’s difficult not to feel emotive with such a well-made interpretation. Again, it’s a very simple arrangement, but awesomely crafted and rendered. She suddenly made me think of the French singer Barbara, who was well-known for this kind of unvarnished performances.

Anna: I can only agree with Dahee and Fabien. It’s nothing grand or extravagant, yet so captivating. I already like this song in original, but this cover made me like it even more. Exquisite was the word.


Guckkasten: “달팽이” (Snail) (Panic cover)

Dahee: I’ve been worried that Guckkasten would fall into the trap of doing similar arrangements on this show, but they made all those worries disappear with this performance. It’s stripped down for them, and softer than most of what we’ve seen them do on this show so far, and probably the most optimistic(?) song they’ve covered. They were worried about the arrangement, but I think they did a great job of making this entertaining, touching, and hopeful.  I did, however, have some small quips about Ha Hyun Woo’s vocals this week. He sang too softly at the beginning, and then became too powerful near the end. He could learn a thing or two from Kim Gun Mo.

Fabien: Oh, I love Panic and I love this song. But it’s true that this arrangement was unexpected. I’m not really won over, as it seems to me that they sticked to much to the original song. Ha Hyun Woo’s voice was only okay this time. But I like some tiny attentions, like the intonations he gives when he says “파도소리”.The shift of rhythm seemed too forced and unnecessary. At least, they tried something absolutely new to them.

Anna: I like that they get cheers of encouragement from the audience before getting started. I can understand why they would worry about the arrangement, this being the least Guckkasten-like arrangement they’ve treated us to so far, but even so I really like the beginning of it. I’m not too fond of the shift of rhythm either, but I do think it was required for Ha Hyun Woo to really bring out those vocals that make Guckkasten such a good fit for this show. Not bad at all!


Kai: “대답없는 너” (You Who Won’t Reply) (Kim Jong Seo cover)

Dahee: This was very much like a musical. Seriously, I felt like I was watching Phantom of the Opera. I can’t decide whether this is a good thing or not. I do love musicals, but a part of me can’t help but think that it seems very out of place here, and rather cheesy too. Well, it is nice to have some variety, and I thought they did the arrangement well. I never knew this song was so dark, haha. But Kai’s shaking hand really distracted me, and it felt like he was acting more than showing any sincerity. Let’s hope he shows some real emotions next time. Besides nervousness, I mean.

Fabien: Out of place, yes, but it’s really exciting to have this performance in the middle of these pop songs. It may bring some fresh air. He gave a lot of this serious attitude that only classic singers have. The arrangement was nice, and I could feel the efforts made to take profit of his amazing voice while making it easy to enjoy for the audience. But I also got that cheesy feeling that most Korean classic singers or musicians have… I’ll wait for his next performance to make my own opinion.

Anna: Very Phantom of the Opera. I don’t mind musicals at all and I’m really liking this arrangement, but I’d rather see it somewhere outside of  I Am A Singer. Even though the audience seemed to respond very well I hope he’ll try something different next time.


So Hyang: “하늘을 달리다” (Run Through the Sky) (Lee Juck cover)

Dahee: I can’t help getting the feeling that this song doesn’t really suit her voice? Like I felt at the beginning that it was a little shaky with those lower notes. But once it got going in earnest she found her voice again and wowed the crowd with those high notes. And she certainly had fun, and the arrangement wasn’t bad, although it wasn’t really original, either. All in all, an okay performance.

Fabien: An enjoyable performance, and the arrangement was good, but nothing memorable. I’m glad she finally tries something a bit different. The vocals are still strong but not amazing.

Anna: It’s not bad, but I’m not really feeling this either. The arrangement feels dated and I have the feeling that I’ve heard something similar for too many times before. It also really bothered me when she shouted “Shin Jiho” to introduce the pianist. We’ve heard So Hyang put her voice to much better use earlier on the show.


Personal Picks

Dahee: 1) Han Young Ae 2) Kim Gun Mo 3) Guckkasten 4) Lee Young Hyun 5) Kai 6) So Hyang

This was a really great week for me, so deciding the placements was kind of torturous. Han Young Ae was definitely in first place for me, though. Watching her made me want to weep from the beauty of it all. Kim Gun Mo also touched me, but not as much as Han Young Ae (plus she was more interesting, arrangement-wise), so he gets second. Guckkasten didn’t really wow me this week, but it was nice to see them try something different. Lee Young Hyun did the same old thing, but she was entertaining at least, and I was impressed by her vocals. Kai gets the upper hand over So Hyang simply because it felt like we were watching something new, at least, while I thought So Hyang had some vocal problems in the beginning. So she gets last…although I’m not entirely sure she deserves last…
Fabien: 1) Han Young Ae 2) Kim Gun Mo 3) Kai 4) Guckkasten 5) So Hyang 6) Lee Young Hyun

Han Young Ae impressed me more than any other contestant. She was shining of confidence while providing us once more with her particular voice. Kim Gun Mo, Guckkasten and So Hyang are very close, with strong vocals but the arrangements weren’t interesting. But as Kim Gun Mo kept it at its simplest in a moving performance, he takes the second. Lee Young Hyun comes last, but she was better than many other of her performances. Had it been one the precedent rounds which were globally weaker, I would have probably ranked her higher.
Anna: 1) Kim Gun Mo, 2) Han Young Ae, 3) Guckkasten, 4) Lee Young Hyun, 5) Kai, 6) So Hyang

Han Young Ae did really, really well but I have a terrible bias for Kim Gun Mo and truly loved his performance this week. Guckkasten gets points from me too for trying something different. As for the bottom three, I actually enjoyed Kai’s performance the most, but I thought Lee Young Hyun a better fit for the show. So Hyang I couldn’t really get into this time.


The Results

The Law Students’ Top 3 : So Hyang, Guckkasten, Han Young Ae

Dahee: Everyone loves So Hyang, and I just don’t understand it…I approve of their other two choices, though.

Fabien: Nothing can stop the fame of a young and feminine smile.

Anna: Yay for Guckkasten! And Han Young Ae, too.

Top 3: So Hyang, Lee Young Hyun, Kim Gun Mo

Dahee: I was a little shocked that Kim Gun Mo made it to the top three, but it seems he touched more people than I expected he would. Congrats to him! I am, however, crushed that Han Young Ae is yet again in the bottom three. People just don’t understand her, it seems…and perhaps they don’t want to understand her.

Fabien: If even with such performance she cannot make it to the top 3, I think there is no more hope for her. The audience is sometimes very annoying. Bravo to Lee Young Ae who managed to deny the statistics by being selected though she had to perform first!

Anna: I’m very happy for Kim Gun Mo, but where is Guckkasten? I trust them not to get eliminated just for getting in the bottom three, but I’d like to see them rewarded for trying something so different. Han Young Ae more than anyone really should’ve been here.

Top 2: So Hyang, Kim Gun Mo

Dahee: Please let Kim Gun Mo win, please let Kim Gun Mo win…

Fabien: Such suspense…

No. 1: So Hyang

Dahee: Dammit!! I think this is another case of the person who performs sixth getting more votes…

Fabien: She would have won anyway ^^

Dahee: Now that’s just depressing.

Anna: I’m not liking the direction this show has taken. No doubt she sings well, but so do the others and they were all more interesting this week.


Open Audition For New Singers

Dahee: Okay. Rant Time. Why on EARTH is I Am A Singer doing an open audition for new singers for September?? WHY? Apparently as long as you’ve released an album or two, you’re eligible to try out. And the results will be shown at the end of the month. WHY? Are they finding it that difficult to recruit new singers? They call this show the “singing festival of the gods”. Do you normally call newbie singers “singing gods”? If they’re doing this because they don’t have much knowledge of accomplished and respected singers who haven’t had a chance to be in the limelight, then I’m even more disgusted. Shouldn’t they like, have advisors who are experts in Korea’s music scene and can give them recommendations on new singers? Hell, I’M not an expert, and yet I can already name ten singers off the top of my head who are eligible for this show, and who would probably accept an invitation to join in a heartbeat. GAH. This show is heading downhill, and fast…

Fabien: So they’re broadcasting this announcement as if many god singers were watching this TV show…. I’m not against the idea of recruiting newbies, but what’ll the selection process be? And why don’t they simply ask the singing contestants to recommend other singers? Or they can just hire the Korean Indie’s commenting team to help them.

Dahee: We would get this show in tip top shape in NO TIME.

Anna: Word.

1 Comment I Am A Singer 2: August Group A

  1. hoi

    why you guys dislike sohyang so much is beyond my understanding ^^’ i understand her style can be overbearing for many people, but her vocal skill is seriously the best i can find in asia. i personally like her performance here too (ofc being the biased fan i am) and her (extremely well technically controlled) screaming seems justifiable in this song. i’m honestly not surprised she took the win though personally, i love han young ae’s performance the most. i saw her vocal in new light after this performance. not a fan of kim gunmo or lee younghyun, so i didn’t really pay attention before and too lazy to look up their performance again.. haha. on the other hand, i felt like ha hyunwoo’s vocal was really lacking in this performance… he’s really unstable in the beginning (he cracked when he started sang “onjenga..”), but thankfully the second half is amazing.

    and of course, you can never go wrong with lee juck’s songs and college students. lol.


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