Sunday, September 16, 2012

So you love "Gangnam Style"...

The unprecedented and unexpected success of comedic Korean rapper Psy has certainly been a pleasant shock for fans of Korean music, and we are glad that the rest of the world has had a chance to enjoy this singular artist and performer as we have.

But lest you think that all Korean music is bizarre, self-parodying, and satirical, here are some musical artists that you should check out if Psy's made you (try to) sing along in phoneticized Korean for the first time in your life.

1) Kim Bum Soo

Clear and powerful are good adjectives to describe Kim Bum Soo's voice. An interesting fact is that before Psy and before girl groups like Girls' Generation and the Wonder Girls, it was actually Kim Bum Soo who charted on Billboard, totally out of the blue. This dude's got talent.

The song, "I Miss You", or Bogoshipda in Korean, is from the soundtrack of the drama "Stairway to Heaven"

This song is "I Have A Lover". It's a cover, but Kim Bum Soo makes it all his own.

2) IU

Some people may make fun of me for liking IU because she's so cutesy, but I firmly believe that behind that image, she's got some remarkably substantive talent. She's an able guitarist, writes some of her own songs, and has a good voice.

This is an example of cutesy IU, the version of herself that catapulted her to stardom. I like this song ("You and I") a lot though, especially since it's so different from what we see in American pop music.

I suppose this is an example of a more serious and mature IU. Here, on the music program Sketchbook, she covers Sung Si Kyung's "It Would Be Good".

And here she is on one of her earlier apperances on Sketchbook, doing acoustic covers of K-pop songs. It's pretty amazing how she infuses "Gee", a song that even its biggest fans would concede as pretty mindless, with such musicality. Skip to 1:28 for the music to start.

I loved this song, "Hold My Hand", when I first heard it. I loved it even more when I found out that IU wrote it herself.

3) Ha Dong Kyun

I don't know much about this singer, but I love this song, "Please Love Her". It's about a guy who realizes that his love (who appears to be in a bad relationship) will never love him back, so he's imploring her boyfriend to treat her better.

"Please Love Her"

4) Big Bang

Out of all the major music labels, YG (Psy's label) definitely makes the most accessible pop music that reaches beyond just the fangirl demographic. Even guys like me can un-self-consciously enjoy the music of YG's premier boy band, Big Bang.

This song is "Blue", and it showcases the melancholic, acoustic side of the group, which often dabbles in a host of genres like dance, hip-hop, and rock.

This is "Fantastic Baby", their WTF dance track.

Showing off their rock ballad skills in "Love Song".

Frontman and rapper G-Dragon is the most multi-talented of the group and has had a strong solo career while being in the group. Here is one of his latest hits, "That XX" (the bleeped-out word is "bastard", or "f*cker"). With his songwriting skills, he has a potential after-career as a producer.

5) 2NE1

While other girl groups are guilty pleasures, I feel no embarrassment in declaring that I'm a fan of 2NE1. Like their labelmates Big Bang, 2NE1 dabbles in a lot of different genres, though I like their melodic dance tracks the most.

One of their biggest early hits, "I Don't Care".

"Go Away" always makes me want to get up and dance around in a self-empowering way.

A really cool live-ish version of "Ugly", their rocker song.

6) Taeyeon

Though the fact that she is the main vocalist for Girls' Generation may diminish her musical credentials in the eyes of some, Taeyeon is nevertheless a very good singer and seems to now be the go-to power balladeer for soundtracks.

A very pretty ballad called "If".

7) Yim Jae Bum

In a Korean male musical landscape that sometimes seems to be dominated by well-coiffed pretty boys, Yim Jae Bum brings some raw manly emotion to pop music.

His classic hit, "For You", which is about a self-destructive man who decides to leave his lover for her own good.

His song, "Love", for the big hit drama "City Hunter".

8) Exhibition 

I have no idea who this group is, but after watching the film "Architecture 101", I've been listening to their song, "Etude of Memories", song nonstop.

"Etude of Memories"

9) Park Hyo Shin

One of Korea's most well-known voices, Park Hyo Shin is perhaps most famous for his cover of Japanese artist Mika Nakashima's "Yuki No Hana". His version of the song was the first Korean song that I truly fell in love with.

While it's a cover, Park Hyo Shin's uniquely deep voice practically creates a totally new song, one that is a stark contrast to the delicate femininity of the Japanese original.

10) Leessang

I got to know of Leessang by watching "Running Man", a show that the duo's rapper Gary is a part of. Leessang is an interesting group that mixes hip-hop, pop, and rock.

"Someday", featuring Korean rock legend Yoon Do Hyun.

"Turned Off The TV", a more hip-hop oriented song.