Vogue Korea, Sept 2011: I Am A Legend

Writer and critic Kang Myung-Suk (who has interviewed Taeyang in the past, most recently here) outlined his hypothetical “I Am A Singer” dream team for Vogue.  We are also including some performance videos of the singers he names in case some of them may be unfamiliar to some readers.  Original article here.



The chatter about I Am A Singer is endless.  It’s now time to imagine something different.  With the original members about to graduate with honor, here is a hypothetical scenario to make it a show with more substance.

By Kang Myung-Suk (10Asia)

There’s a saying, “[So-and-so is] a Legend, not a Jeonseol.”  While it’s a play on the Korean and English words of the same meaning, it’s not merely a play on words.  “Jeonseol” is, as the characters imply, just that – Jeonseol. But a “Legend” is someone who has achieved greatness in a particular area.  Seon Dong-Yeol is a baseball legend.  Hong Myung-Bo is a soccer legend.  But in the music scene, a “legend” is like an item that is “almost sold out” in home shopping – it sounds rare, but really it can be attached to just about anything.  On MBC’s Our Sunday: I Am A Singer, Im Jae-Bum, Lee So-Ra, Cho Kwan-Woo, Park Jung-Hyun… all the singers appearing on the show are “legends.”  The show’s captions tell you so, and the fans agree.

But while Jang Hae-Jin is a good singer, to call her a legend is a stretch.  It’s just as strange to call Jung-Yeob a legend when he only debuted in 2003.  Of course, such inflation may be necessary in the music scene.  The singers on the show face stiff competition, and every time someone is eliminated they console one another that “ranking is meaningless in this competition.”  Because they are already “legends,” they are not subject to evaluation.  In an age when veteran singers have been pushed aside by idols regardless of ability, the term “legend” is the armor necessary for them to reestablish their place in the music market.  I Am A Singer essentially is a new promoter that has granted skilled singers the title of “legend” and matched them up against each other.  For the show to remain vital, it is time to search for new singers suitable for the title.  No matter how many times you call the newer cast members like Jang Hae-Jin, Cho Kwan-Woo and Kim Jo-Han legends, there’s a limit to their appeal.

The first button has been well buttoned. [Ed: The first step has been well placed.]  Following Bobby Kim’s casting, Insooni was recently confirmed as the next cast member.  Insooni is basically the ideal singer for I Am A Singer.  Her rich tone, powerful voice and endless range will appeal to the audience/jury no matter what she sings.  With her vocal strength, she has the ability to make any song her own.  After all, there is a reason Carnival’s “The Goose’s Dream” has become better known as Insooni’s song.  And she still has that sense of rhythm to successfully remake Shinee’s “Ring Ding Dong.”  Insooni position will be like the Queen of I Am A Singer.

Insooni’s Ring Ding Dong

Insooni’s A Goose’s Dream


However, one cannot have a show based on just the Queen and her [lowly] competitors.  Then how about Lee Seung-Hwan?  He may not be able to sing every song as well as Insooni, but he has the ability to arrange any song to suit himself.  Throughout his career, he has collaborated with countless and diverse musicians.  In concerts, he takes songs of complex sound and arranges them for a rock band.  Though he was famous in the past for ballads like “For A Thousand Days,” in concert he continues to lean more and more toward an intense punk or heavy metal style of singing.  On the other hand, in an acoustic setting, he can sing in a relaxed and clean style.  If Lee Seung-Hwan were to appear on I Am A Singer he can show us what a really extraordinary remake/cover is.

Lee Seung Hwan –  A Thousand Days

With Insooni and Lee Seung-Hwan taking the role of vocalist and arranger extraordinaire, respectively, what we also need is someone with the sensitivity to bring a sense of candor and simplicity to the fancy show.  Yoon Sang’s vocals are extraordinary in the way they can convey moments of the past like they are paintings passing in front of you.  However, as anyone can see, his vocals are too serene and composed for the I Am A Singer stage.  How about Lee Juck then?  Lee Juck can bring the needed sensitivity while still accommodating the basic demands of I Am A Singer.  In recent albums, he has increasingly favored a rock band sound that can be performed live.  In other words, he will be able to fully display his music on the show.  He’s no longer the twenty year old who sang about the inner yearning and anxiety of youth in “Snail,” yet he hasn’t lost his ability to comfort the youth.  Moreover, his voice is the complete opposite of the thick, rich tone of vocalists like Insooni and Kim Bum-Soo.  It is somewhat thin and wavers on occasion, but when he pulls up dynamically from low to high register, that roughness conveys a certain passion and urgency.

Lee Juck – Waiting

Lee Juck – Racing the Sky

Lee Juck – It’s Fortunate

Lee Juck (As a member of Panic) – Snail

Had I Am A Singer’s PD, Shin Jung-Soo, snagged Lee Seung-Hwan (who went to MBC’s The Birth of a Star) and Lee Juck (who took the role of music director for High Kick 3: The Counterattack of Short Legs), he may have been able to compete with KBS’s hit show, Happy Sunday – 1 Night, 2 Days.  Of course, there is still a chance… He just has to snag Naul.  Naul is the card that can replace Im Jae-Bum.  His vocal ability was verified the moment “Already One Year” was released to the world, and because he rarely appears in public he is already perceived as something of a legend only a decade into his career.  And it is not simply because of the good tone or wide range or powerful appeal of his voice.  Naul can sing “Already One Year” and “With Coffee,” but with that same voice, he can also sing melancholy ballads like “More and More” and “Don’t Go, Don’t Go” or reimagine old songs like “White Butterfly.”  If, in addition to Naul, I Am A Singer is able to cast Kim Jin-Ho, the epitome of “the Age of So-mol-ee,” it would really be a sight to behold.  [Ed: The vocal style of SG Wannabe’s Kim Jin-Ho was coined so-mol-ee, literally “cow herding,” because his ad-libs, etc. reminded detractors of the cries of a cow.]

Naul – Already One Year

Tablo ft. Naul – Airbag

And last but not least, for the proverbial cherry on top, let’s invite Big Bang’s Taeyang.  Taeyang is a prodigy of the R&B music scene who has absorbed the subtleties of the groove in R&B and Soul music down to the details of its pronunciation.  There have been Korean singers that sing with the thickness/depth of Black singers.  However, Taeyang is still the only singer who can dance like Chris Brown or Usher while singing with the kind of innate sexiness that is conveyed in their sticky/gooey, sweet tone.  If I Am A Singer can simultaneously cast Naul and Taeyang, they would no longer have to overuse the term “legend” for the cast.  After all, if a singer can win first place competing against Insooni, Lee Seung-Hwan, Lee Juck, Naul and Taeyang, the only thing left would be to issue a challenge to [a true legend of the Korean music scene] Cho Yong-Pil and [create a new show] I Am A God.

TRANSLATION BY SILLY@ALWAYSTAEYANG.  Please do not remove credits when taking elsewhere.

7 thoughts on “Vogue Korea, Sept 2011: I Am A Legend”

  1. I have no idea why, but reading YB’s part made me giggle so hard. Maybe I’m just happy that he’s still being regarded so well. Or maybe it’s because the words “sticky/gooey, sweet” threw me off. Or it might just be the “I Am A God” part. I have no idea. Haha
    But seriously, I’m so glad he regards YB so well that he would choose YB to be on a stage like this. And to consider him a “legend” as well. As much as YB gets shit on, no one can deny that he does R&B the best. “Taeyang is a prodigy of the R&B music scene who has absorbed the subtleties of the groove in R&B and Soul music down to the details of its pronunciation.” Hells yes!!! You tell them haters!!!
    I wish that YB would do this. It would prove to people exactly why he’s always ranked in the Top 5 of male kpop singers. It’s just too bad that we would never see YB on one of these shows. It’s just not in his nature. 😦

    1. idk if there are haters for YB coz he’s got the whole package that no one can deny 🙂
      i love the “I am a GOD” part, not a legend but a god LOL @_@

      1. there were fans who kept on asking why taeyang’s always on the list of polls made by music critics and were butthurt that why is it so and so wasn’t on the poll blah,blah and their bias are way better than YB lol.TY fans are chic and chill and never bothered by this complaints.

  2. Thanks for the lovely article. Remember seeing this a while back.

    Seeing Taeyang along with those veteran/”legends” is a little jarring but a nice surprise. It’s weird even for us to see him spoken in the same manner as Isooni (OMFG SO SASSY), Naul, Lee Juck (!!!!!) because these people aren’t in Kpopland like Taeyang is. Considering that he isn’t the most consistent or even close to being perfect, it’s strange indeed to see him in this discussion. But I get what the author is saying though. He’s highlighting qualities of these singers that no one else can possess (ie: Isooni’s vocal strength, Lee Juck’s sensibilities etc.). Indeed, Taeyang possesses an innate groove and “feel” for the music he performs/sings. And he as the ability to channel it to the listeners is quite unique. I think this is the trait that his fans/critics/writers have spotted early on even before his solo debut. The author’s description of Taeyang’s “sound” comes off at first a little over the top, but it’s probably the best way to describe it though. Like Keone said about Just a Feeling, “its like rubbing lotion all over your body.” (LMAO) I hope Taeyang reads this and keeps this in mind, technique is important, but ultimately, you gotta translate it, make it relate-able.

    HAH. GQ are probably the biggest bunch of fanboys ever.

    1. I think what sets IMAS apart from the other music “competition” shows is that it tries to cast singers with a very recognizable signature style. Rather than a question of ‘can they sing” – because they all can obviously, and very well – its more of a showcase on how they can re- interpret other songs in their own style and connect with the audience. It’s not really about technique anymore, but reinterpretation and putting a new spin on known songs. I guess we know that KMS is an obvious fan of YB and knows YB’s limits as a singer, but in this particular case I agree with Tofu that he just wanted to highlight that YB has a unique style that is so obviously identified with him which would be a nice contrast with the styles of the other singers.

  3. BM – I can’t believe you actually posted all those Lee Juck songs. LOL (I thought you would pick one or two, haha.)

    And I guess you decided to just leave it as “sticky/gooey”? Heh, what happened to “sensual”? Sorry, people – we had a long conversation about what the best translation would be (“sticky/gooey” being the literal translation) and never really arrived at a consensus. ^^

    And BTW, Kang Myung-Suk isn’t claiming that YB (or the others, for that matter) is a legend. His point is that None of them are legends. He’s saying that if they had quality musicians on the show, there wouldn’t be this need to anoint everyone as legends – their talent would speak for themselves, basically.

    Anyway, it’s a huge honor for YB to even be mentioned among these names, because they are all highly respected veteran musicians in Korea. ^^

    1. Haha, Silly. After long discussions about the correct translation (sticky? gooey? sensual? slippery? sexy? – not to mention the whole discussion about Keone and his lotion remark) I figured it best to go with your original instincts. Sticky/gooey it is.

      And how can anyone ever have too much Lee Juck? (haha)

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