Jang Woo-Cheol Column (130417) : A Singer’s Place


Writer and GQ Editor Jang Woo Cheol has  interviewed Taeyang for GQ many times in the past and most recently included the interview titled Dong Young Bae’s Spring  in his  book “Here and There”.  The following post is a column he did for Naver.

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When the season changes, so does the kind of music you want to hear. It’s not just the song that achieved an “all kill” today, but that particular song that comes to mind out of the blue, almost inescapably. Suppose you are enjoying the quiet passing scenery to Kim Jung-Mi’s ‘Spring,’ but then you want to note the fine details of that scenery to Jo Weol’s ‘Fireworks.’ It’s like having your own personal soundtrack. Or listening to David Bowie’s new song, ‘Where Are We Now?’ and fantasizing about stopping the flow of time…

But now music is everywhere. You almost don’t even have to seek it out anymore. For several years now, we live through seasons surrounded by songs, songs and more songs. Various audition programs have caught on like wildfire, and programs like ‘I Am A Singer’ have added fuel to the flame.

While the flood of music has made us realize how many good voices and good songs there are out there, it has also brought up the concern that music itself has become a mere passing trend. Like the saying, “even a good song [will grow tired] after a few hums,” it’s almost as if music itself has become tired. There must be a reason we hear the cries for “no more audition programs.” Will ‘K-Pop Star,’ which recently wrapped up its second season, continue with a third season? Is it inevitable?

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From time to time, I come across a scene that transcends the situation. I found myself rewatching Bang Ye-Dam (runner-up) and Taeyang’s joint performance of ‘Bad Boy’ on ‘K-Pop Star’ a number of times. In that performance, there was a raw freshness of a sort, different from the kind of impact that makes one watch wide-eyed or the deep emotion that makes one applaud tearfully. The collision between the veteran, completely at ease on the stage [“toying” with the stage], and the still green newcomer manifested itself in a restless energy that filled the stage. It wasn’t that they were amazingly in sync nor was it that they sang perfectly, but it was alive.

But while such performances exist, the music scene itself continues to appear tired and directionless. There is no letdown of the various ventures that refuse to allow singers to just be singers. The attempt of programs like ‘Immortal Song’ and ‘Hidden Singer’ to blend music and entertainment/variety can be meaningful and interesting. But I can’t help wondering, what stage is available for these singers to really sing their own songs?

That said, Cho Yong-Pil is making a comeback. ‘Nation’s Singer’ and ‘King of Gayo’ are terms that are certainly appropriate, but I’m curious how he’ll fair with his single. Recently, David Bowie hit Number 1 on the UK charts for the first time in 20 years. What kind of response will Cho Yong-Pil’s new song produce?

I cannot wait to hear his voice, but have to first wonder – on what kind of stage will we meet his new song? Taking aside special programming, what stage, among those available to singers these days, would actually suit Cho Yong-Pil? Does such a stage even exist? Is it possible that we will be left, in the end, with just “the song by Jo Yong-Pil” [emphasis on the song] rather than “Jo Yong-Pil’s new song” [emphasis on the singer]? Songs are plentiful, and my worries are rather long.

Original Naver Column by Jang Woo Cheol  here.

Translations by Silly for alwaystaeyang.wordpress.com – Please credit if taking elsewhere

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8 thoughts on “Jang Woo-Cheol Column (130417) : A Singer’s Place”

  1. I thought this was rather interesting not just because he liked Taeyang and Bang Yedam’s stage so much but because of the point he brought up about how music seems to be enjoyed nowadays. His column is bit of a ramble and initially I found it hard to make connections with the points he brought up but Silly said this and made it a bit clearer:

    “Basically, I think he’s saying in the old days music was something you had to seek out, and finding that music to suit the moment was a special experience. But nowadays, we are so inundated with music that we’ve become almost numb to it. He’s bringing up the abundance of audition programs and music/variety programs as examples of that and kind of lamenting the fact that despite the proliferation of all these programs, there’s no real, quality stage for singers to showcase their music. I think that’s the general gist of it anyway…”

    One thing I notice is that these singing competitions by nature, force the singers to become rather over the top in their performances – striving hard for emotion to the point of histrionics, or indulging in vocal acrobatics or novelty arrangements or resorting to gimmicks and extravagant set pieces in their performances. Of course since its on TV, you can’t escape that music is there for entertainment and the blending with variety happens quite naturally. I do find it interesting though if he is lamenting that the way music is consumed is becoming sort of part of a package rather than just on the strength of songs itself – that good songs can’t just be enjoyed for itself and needs 12 back up dancers and strobe lights and a concept to be appreciated. It seems to echo the criticism of the oversaturation of idol-dom in Kpop where there is an over emphasis on visuals rather than the quality of the actual song. (How many times have I heard “I don’t like the song too much yet but will wait for the performance to judge…” Even I’m guilty of it…)

    It’s true that with so much music out there, good songs get buried without a gimmick. But its sad when the gimmick somehow becomes more important than the song.

  2. I love JWC. And anything connecting JWC to YB is a great thing in my book.

    I think what’s he saying makes great sense. I feel like the emotional connection and the sincerity of music is slowly fading away. It seems like everyone just wants to become a singer and make it big. What happened to the people that make music for the sheer joy of making music? Because they can’t see or want themselves doing anything else?

    Nowadays, people are making music just to do it. Their goal is to make the most money, or win the most awards, or to top the charts.
    Now, it’s all about the staging and lights and cameras and who puts on the best stage.

    I miss the passion. I miss the connections you could have with songs and the person singing it.

    It’s a sad thing when even legends like Cho Yong Pil have something to worry about.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. There seems to be fewer and fewer artists these days that make music just to make music. And those that do want to do just that seem to be overlooked especially if they can’t be marketed for a specific genre or audience. I think that’s the saddest part.

      I admit that I watch most of the American audition shows and although there are some talented people on these shows the ones that make it far seem to be ones that have a touching back story or is cute. The talent sometimes seems to take a back seat on these shows.

      But like everyone else I’m glad Jang Woo-Cheol recognized Taeyang’s passion even in just that one short performance 🙂

  3. In some ways, I understand where his laments are coming from. Music is how it is today has very much to do with the introduction of TV into our lives (Video killed the radio star anyone?).

    With that, music and how it’s produced and consumed changed completely – much like how now the Internet is practically changing everything we used to know about consuming and producing information/content/music.

    It’s so easy to become a ‘star’ these days, post your cover of a song on Youtube, do it ever so frequently, get subscribers and likes – YAY! (To generalise a bit). What was the original motive? Purely for the love of music?

    Fame and the idea of being in that shiny, glossy world of celebrities and walking down the red carpet is deeply imprinted into our lives, and a dream that is very much achievable today – so I have to agree with JWC that music seems ‘tired’ and ‘directionless’ these days.

    Gosh this turned into a bit of ramble that I could write for one of my essays for uni! Sorry to put anyone through that, I hope this made sense nonetheless!

  4. I agree with many points he mentioned. The music industry is becoming an over saturated market. It makes you feel as though songs are being composed with compulsion rather than enjoyment, and the same goes with the recruitment of many artists nowadays. He points out the sedate or dull nature of the industry in recent times, yet at the same time he recognises there still exists the few that give that energizing feel and excitement through their music and performance. Of course I’m glad he was able to recognise that through YB’s performance with BYD, and honestly I couldn’t agree more. It’s why I always love YB’s stage. He radiates so much energy and really connects his audience with his performances. It’s fresh and it’s enjoyable. I often find myself watching them again and again 🙂

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