I find the Korean main stream music scene is very interesting. For starters, there are very few singers over the age of 30. Most Korean bands will make their debut at the age of 19, and sometimes even younger. Currently there is Boy Band called “Shinee”. One of its members is only fourteen years old. Most main stream careers are over age twenty-six or twenty-seven.
The music is generally divided in to five groupings. The groupings are K-Pop, Hip-Hop and RAP, Rock, R&B and Soul, and lastly, Ballads. I will give a quick overview of five well known K-Pop groups.
Super Junior is a thirteen members, yes thirteen, member group. Why they have 13 members is beyond me. The large number of members make is sound like the songs have been cut up to give ever member a line to sing. Some members seem to be in the group purely for their rapping and dancing skills.
DBSK is a six member group and goes by more than one name. They are known as Dong Bang Shin Gi in Korea, Tohoshinki in Japan and their CDs are released under the name TVXQ. DBSK was the first Korean group to have a number one hit on Japan’s Oricon Chart with the song Purple Line. The Oricon chart is the Billboards Chart of Japan. The song was released in both Japanese and in Korean.
SS501, a five member boy band, also finished a stint in Japan. Although they returned to Korea and recorded the single Déjà vu, I believe they will be going back to Japan later this year.
Shinhwa. This is one of the few bands that are still going strong even with all the members approaching their 30s. The group will be taking a two years break because most of the members are starting their military service, but their leader stated that when everyone is finished with the military, Shinhwa will be back. There are no sings of this bunch calling it quits.
SNSD is, in my opinion, the best girl group in the country. Nine members is a lot, but I at least all of the girls are decent singers. Despite their singing talents I feel that they should stay away from RAP. They tried it and it was not worth it. Most of the girls have also partnered with other artists like Kangta, Shingdong of Super Junior and Epik High.
Rap and Hip-Hop
Have you ever heard of rappers or singers for hire? If neither you nor anyone else in your group can rap, then you just “rent” a rapper from another group. Can’t sing? That not a problem at all. All you need to do is “rent” a vocalist. The first rent-a-rapper that jumps to mind for me is Gummy. She did a song called “I’m Sorry”. The rap was done by TOP of Big Bang, but interestingly, nearly every time she does a live performance the rap part of the song is cut out. Where rap is a big issue, the vocalists are often kept in the background. Epik High, an all boy band, did the song “One” with a female vocalist.
Bigbang is supposed to fall in to this group, but to me their music sounds more Pop/Rap. Two of the five guys, G-Dragon and TOP, rap. Whereas G-Dragon is also a vocalist, TOP sends to stick to the RAP.
2008 has so far been the year for Epik High. They have recently realest their fifth album called “Pieces, Part One”. What I like about this group is that they are always saying something with their music. They don’t do just listen-for-the –heck-of-it music. They also join Shinwha as one of the older groups. Tablo, the leader of the group is turning twenty eight this year, Mithra twenty four and DJ Tukutz will be turning twenty seven. Mithra and Tablo are the writers of the group.
Often in Korean music English lyrics seem to be mashed in just to make the song sound cool. The English and the Korean does not seem to have any correlation. Here is where Epic High have something going for them in that Tablo’s English is so good that the English lyrics actually fit in with the Korean lyrics.
There is so much more to say about Korean music, but I will save it for another time. I hope that the little bit that I put down here will show you that Korean music is not as shallow as some people like to believe. (Otto’s note: That would be a *cough*, subtle reference to me.)
*I would like to thank Aska, the KM Lover, for writing this post. I hope you will make it a regular thing.