Super December continues on I Am A Singer 2. Following up from the opening round, last Sunday the first elimination round happened. In addition to myself Dahee of Dahee’s Plastic Castle and Fabien of Kimchi Popcorn have contributed their opinions to this post. All performances can be streamed from the official site and if you live in the right country chances are you can watch some of them on YouTube too.
JK Kim Dong Wook – “사랑사랑사랑” + “미인” (Kim Hyun Sik + Shin Joong Hyun & The Yup Juns covers)
Anna: Overall I’m skeptical of live mash-ups like this. They need to be really good to be worthwhile, and the opening of this is anything but. JK Kim Dong Wook attempts some sort of “사랑사랑사랑” rap while the house band offers a groovy rock backdrop, before JK Kim Dong Wook turns to singing part of “미인” for the refrain. I appreciate the thought behind it all, but the execution doesn’t do either song justice. It is sorta fun to watch JK Kim Dong Wook on stage during the performance, but it’s not enough to justify slaughter of not just one but two classic songs.
Dahee: I’m…disappointed. While I like that he’s willing to experiment not only with the music and the mash-up but also with his voice, I think that overall, this is an experiment that went awry. I do like his suit and his shades and his hilarious hip gyrations, and I was kind of into it at first…but the more time passed, the more it became evident that this performance wasn’t really going anywhere, and didn’t have anything all that exciting to offer. What’s the point of throwing away your biggest weapon, your deep and melodious voice?
Fabien: Although the combination of these two completely different songs is not at all justified, it does not really bother me. But one thing is certain in any case, it’s that he is not really made for rapping. His voice becomes appreciable again when he sings. I’m glad he is trying to change his musical registry, but here it just seems gimmicky and not really thought through.
So Hyang – “그대는 어디에” (Yim Jae Bum cover)
Anna: This is really beautiful! The moment I saw that digital chandelier I started to focus on other things, but for once So Hyang actually managed to grab my attention anyway. This is the best I’ve ever heard her. And Big Choir behind her? When I first saw them join her on stage I was afraid last week would repeat itself, but the choir merely acts as an additional instrument. Beautiful, I tell you. Beautiful!
Dahee: I’m loving her outfit, and I like the overall mood of this, even if it does sound kind of like something that you’d hear on a weekend drama when the wife decides to get revenge on the husband who has cheated on her. I like that she thought to include a choir, even if you can’t hear them very well. I was actually pretty into this for a while, shocking myself…until she started screaming again. Seriously. You need to stop doing that, So Hyang. Just STOP.
Fabien: Wow, that’s an impressive performance! With less and less screaming, So Hyang becomes more interesting every week. The crescendo of her voice is moderate and with precision it brings more variety to her vocals. The instrumentation and even the choir accompanying remain discrete throughout, which is a great quality for me since it avoids the risk of sounding like a simple drama ballad. I’m really impressed. I think I’ll expect from now So Hyang’s performances with as much excitement as for Guckkasten.
Lee Eun Mi – “365일” (Ali cover)
Anna: The arrangement reminisces a refined late 90’s ballad with the electric guitar, even though the song itself is far more recent. I feel like I should be really into it, but somehow it falls flat.
Dahee: What a boring arrangement. The only reason I didn’t fall asleep during this is because I kept trying to follow along with the lyrics, which tell a story of a woman and her emotions during the one year after a break-up. But even the lyrics are disappointing and cliched in the end. You can do better than this, Lee Eun Mi.
Fabien: Here! I finally found what gives me the impression that she has a pretentious attitude when she sings. She does NEVER look at the audience! Instead, she closes her eyes, or seems to look at herself. To be honest, I do not find the arrangement unique nor bad. But this performance is really going over my head. This is simply yet another common performance in I Am A Singer.
The One – “비상” (Yim Jae Bum cover)
Anna: How will this work out I wonder? Yim Jae Bum’s husky vocals versus The One’s smooth and polished vocals? And kids singing at that? At least the girl opening can actually sing, as opposed to the previous little girl dragged onto this stage some episodes back. Overall the performance works a lot better than I had expected it to do, that is until the Kids Planet choir joins at which point I have to downgrade the entire performance.
Dahee: So basically, that huge drum was brought out just for his narcissistic grand entrance?? I’m sorry, but that made me laugh. Hard. I do like the use of the little girl (who’s a MUCH better singer than the one Park Sang Min brought out earlier in the season), although I question the use of the little kid choir when you can barely hear them and they’re not exactly in tune and need adults to help them along. The opening made me think that this could be interesting, and then he started singing and I was bored all over again. In the end, this wasn’t anywhere near as experimental as it could have been, and the outside elements brought in feel like they’re just there to trick people into thinking this performance is more innovative than it really is.
Fabien: What? The One, you bring Japanese drums on stage, and you do not even use them? I was ready to give him a better appreciation only if the arrangement had operated more percussion, but here, as it was just for his magnificent entrance, it’s nothing more than ridiculous. And then it’s again the usual ballad. I really hate the manipulative use made of these children, it is obvious that he brought them here just to stir the mothers (look, they even have electric candles, this is soooo cute…). Seriously, there is nothing in this performance that I can like.
Guckkasten – “모나리자” (Cho Yong Pil cover)
Anna: Another song we’ve heard on I Am A Singer before and considering that this is Guckkasten we’re talking about, the first verse is quite similar to what we’ve already heard Jang Hye Jin do in the past. After a while we get that characteristic Guckkasten guitar whine while Ha Hyun Woo brings out more of his vocal skills. Towards the end it’s rocking really good and my faith in Guckkasten has been restored.
Dahee: Hmm, Guckkasten doesn’t seem to be as energetic as usual tonight? They all seem kind of tired. Still, it’s great to hear rock after all those ballads, and as usual they’re showing something different and refreshing. I can’t say this is my favourite arrangement of theirs, though, although admittedly the song is a difficult one to arrange. I wonder why I hate So Hyang’s screaming so much, yet I’m perfectly okay with Ha Hyun Woo’s? Maybe because my standards for rock singing are different. Anyway, this was fun, although it was a bit of a letdown.
Fabien: The moody beginning was quite good and then the first part of the song was a strong one, despite being a straight interpretation, with a lack of originality. That sounds very close to the other covers I’ve heard of this song. It seems like they’re trying to keep their energy for later or as if they were reducing their wildness for a better acceptance by the audience.
Park Wan Kyu – “영원” (Sky cover)
Anna: The opening immediately puts me off, but the first guitar solo from Jeremy’s Cho Pil Sung helps reel me back in. Once Park Wang Kyu reaches the refrain the first time I’ve efficiently forgotten what it was that I disliked so much about the beginning. That is until that part of Elgar’s “Pomp And Circumstance” that I just can’t stand makes a return in the end – for some reason it’s always worse when played on electric guitar.
Dahee: As far as I know, several of the Boohwal members were friends with Choi Jin Young (Sky), and Kim Tae Won even wrote a song for him once. And they were acquainted with Choi Jin Shil, too, and it looks like Park Wan Kyu was as well, according to his interview. So this song selection feels more like a personal dedication to a lost soul than anything else. And it is lovely, even if it is a typical 90’s rock ballad. I’m not sure I like the inclusion of “Pomp and Circumstance”, and honestly I was hoping for a tad more emotion from him. But it’s very pretty, even if I did expect something…more.
Fabien: With this performance I’m recalled what made Park Wan Kyu such a frustration for me. I always expect much more from him, both from his selection of the songs and from his vocals. I still see him as one of Boohwal’s former singers, and so I always hope to bring more rock to the show. Nonetheless, it’s not a bad interpretation, and thanks to Dahee, I understand the emotional affectation that made him interpret that song like this. The “Pomp and Circumstance” tidbit is kind of kitschy, but fits with this atmosphere of a 90’s ballad.
Seo Moon Tak – “아리랑” (folk song)
Anna: This is such a dangerous song to pick as it’s one that everybody’s bound to have heard in a hundred versions already. The funky rock version Seo Moon Tak offers with brass band and all is a complete miss in comparison with just about every other version of the song I’ve heard previously. That is until she herself attempts a more traditional fashion of singing. While it makes things more interesting, it’s not enough to salvage the entire performance. Especially not since she’s back to her usual singing style much too soon.
Dahee: Remember Yoon Min Soo‘s awful version of Arirang from the first season? At least it’s not as bad as that. But I was seriously hating this during its beginning. It got better once she went into the traditional type of singing, which definitely made things more interesting. I was fine after that, although the nationalist vibes to this performance are definitely grating. At least she’s not singing a boring ballad…
Fabien: Musically speaking, it’s not a bad performance, if not the obvious way she arranged it (almost all the recent covers go with this kind of funky way of singing). But what makes me feel very awkward is the amount of nationalism added during the performance. It’s not enough for her to cover the unofficial Korean anthem, the one that is so linked to all the struggle the Korean people had to face during the 20th century, no, she had to make it even more obvious by wearing the colors of the South Korean flag, which is actually screened in the background, and suddenly shifting to a method of singing close to the pansori. It’s really the kind of heavy-nationalist performance that I have to endure in my own country sometimes and tends to make me feel that something is wrong with our people. And with the lyrics of the added bridge which are nothing else than an enumeration of Korean symbols and monuments, it’s worse than everything. It’s a pathetic attempt at grabbing votes, and I really despise this strategy.
Anna: 1) Guckkasten, 2) So Hyang, 3) Lee Eun Mi, 4) Park Wan Kyu, 5) The One, 6) Seo Moon Tak, 7) JK Kim Dong Wook
Guckkasten saved the performance with the second half of the song, making it great enough to place them first even though they started out a bit weak. So Hyang surprised me greatly this week with a performance that really moved me, placing her second. The rest of the performances this evening I could’ve done without. Lee Eun Mi gets third because she, with her very forgettable performance, at least didn’t do anything to agitate me. When it comes to Park Wan Kyu and The One both offered things I find extremely bad taste in music with Pomp and Circumstance and a kids choir respectively, although when it comes to the parts they did well I liked Park Wan Kyu more so he gets fourth while The One ends up 5th. Seo Moon Tak and JK Kim Dong Wook both made bad choices in their arrangements and song picks this week, but though I would never again listen to Seo Moon Tak’s “Arirang” voluntarily there’s just no excuse for a singer with a voice like JK Kim Dong Wook to abuse his talent the way he did tonight.
Dahee: 1) Guckkasten 2) So Hyang 3) Park Wan Kyu 4) The One 5) Seo Moon Tak 6) Lee Eun Mi 7) JK Kim Dong Wook
What a disappointing week. I expected so much more from these singers – perhaps more than they deserved. Guckkasten is clearly first, even if they disappointed me a little as well. So Hyang is placed second simply because I didn’t despise her performance like I usually do, even if the screaming kind of made my ears bleed. Park Wan Kyu gets third because he did well overall, despite the inclusion of Pomp and Circumstance. The One gets the upper hand over the other three because he at least pretended to try something different this week, for which he deserves a slight nod of recognition. Seo Moon Tak is ranked higher than Lee Eun Mi just because of that moment of traditional singing. And JK Kim Dong Wook gets last despite being more entertaining than Lee Eun Mi because his arrangement was simply unforgivable.
Fabien: 1) Guckkasten 2) So Hyang 3) Park Wan Kyu 4) Lee Eun Mi 5) JK Kim Dong Wook 6) The One 7) Seo Moon Tak
Now we have to face various strategies to get the favours of the audience. While some of them tried to innovate and to surprise the audience, like JK Kim Dong Wook, some others went for a more usual approach. And two of them almost confessed that were uncertain of their own skills by desperately trying to move the audience: The One with children, and Seo Moon Tak with the patriotic yarn. Both are often employed by candidates for the presidential elections. I hate both of them. While the manipulative use of children is already shameful enough, I think that the like of Seo Moon Tak’s performance should be banned from television. That’s why, in comparison to these two awful examples of what a singer shouldn’t if it values its integrity, the other singers seemed more interesting than usual and JK Kim Dong Wook doesn’t come last even if his mix of two songs was awkward. This week I’m especially thankful to Guckkasten and So Hyang for being humble and having performed by staying true to themselves and without giving too much importance to the public’s taste.
No. 1: Guckkasten
Anna: Well deserved!! Go Guckkasten!!
Dahee: YAY! I love how Ha Hyun Woo says, “We didn’t make this arrangement with number one as our goal. And yet we got first anyway. So imagine what the other arrangements we have planned are like!”
Fabien: Oooh yes! Can’t wait to see what they have in store!
No. 2: So Hyang
Anna: For once I’ll have to agree that she deserves a position this high.
Dahee: Honestly, I think that as long as she continues to incorporate some screaming into her performances, the audience will always give her a ranking this high. And the second she doesn’t, they’ll punish her. Just thinking about it is already making my ears steam.
Fabien: In my opinion, this time the competitors have to be blamed. As long as they don’t do better than this, she’ll stay out of danger. But as I was also impressed by this more moderate vocal performance, I’m glad she gets recognized.
Eliminated: JK Kim Dong Wook
Anna: I hate to see him go, but after that performance I can’t say it’s not fair. Why? Why did he have to do that performance now??
Dahee: NO! Sure, his performance was terribly disappointing this week, but he was one of my favourites, and one of the few who were still willing to experiment and try new things. GAH. This is so upsetting.
Fabien: He should have added the Taegukgi flag and a bunch of cute children and he wouldn’t have been eliminated so easily, as it seems to work pretty well.
Sohyang did brilliant in this episode. She showed great musicality alongwith her usual excellent vocal prowess. The way she handled those triplet scales, quavers and swing notes. were excellent. And the scale during the A major -> B major key change was amazing as well, they way she quickly changed her pitch and floated that C#6. And her colourful playing of dynamics from pianissimo to fortissimo, just excellent. And that F#5 crescendo. Amazing performance as always.