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The ‘Newbie’

Posted April. 19, 2006 02:59,   


Though having debuted 15 years ago, the Korean pop-ballad artist Jang Hye-jin, who produced such hits in the 90’s as “The Short Sky” and “To Me,” now has a new nickname: “Jang Hye-jin, the newbie.” Her new songs “Let’s Not Meet” and “That Guy, That Girl,” which she sang with the male duo group “Vibe” and were introduced after a 5-year hiatus, are currently numbers one and two on the charts, but teenagers who are not familiar with the past often ask “Who is Jang Hye-jin?”. The singer Yoon Soo-il, who attained fame through songs such as “Apartment” and “Ecstatic Confession,” announced his 21st album “Remodeling” last month after seven years of absence. The new generation sings “Apartment” in karaoke bars but is not familiar with the musician Yoon Soo-il. The artist vowed to “have the youth recognize me now.”

The Memorable “7080 vs. 90”-

Jang Hye-jin and Yoon Soo-il are both returning musicians. After Lee Hyo-ri failed miserably after allegations on plagiarism for her song “Get Ya,” the “old boys” came to dominate the stage in early 2006. These artists consist of those who gained fame in the 70’s and 80’s, versus those who were popular in the 90’s.

In addition to Yoon Soo-il, other “7080 singers” consist of Seo Soo-nam, who produced the country music album “2006 Seo Soo-nam, Oh Beautiful World” after a 14-year hiatus, Woo Soon-sil, who introduced the album “Injungcheonjeeil” after a period of six years and four months, Jang Eun-sook, who introduced her 15th album after 12 years, and Yang Hee-eun, who will be presenting her 35th anniversary album late this year.

On the other hand, notable singers from the 90’s such as Park Sun-joo, who is introducing her fourth album 10 years into her debut, “015B,” who will hold a 10-year comeback concert this May 20, the hip hop group “Uptown” who announced their reunion after a five year break, the dancer-singer Hyun Jin-young, and the ballad singer Lee Jung-bong who sang “How Are You” also formed the range of comeback musicians.

They are acknowledged more through live performances than albums. According to the internet ticket reservation service “Interpark,” the comeback concert for 015B recorded a reservation rate of 76 percent in one month, garnering 3,500 seats out of 4,600 seats in reservations alone. Performances of the male duo “Panic,” which ended last month, also recorded a reservation rate of 80 percent.

“Selling Nostalgia” Comebacks vs. Searching for “Diversity”-

The popularity of these singers does not merely come from “selling nostalgia.” Rather, they have attempted to bring in the younger generation by getting in touch with the latest trends. Jang Hye-jin said, “I would be lazy to think of returning just by depending on the sensitivities of the past,” and added, “I need to produce something that will integrate my middle aged fans with the younger generations.”

The return of the “7080” or 90’s singers are significant in changing the map of Korea’s pop music charts, which had hitherto been dominated by teenagers. The effect is also predicted to revitalize to the stagnant domestic music industry, in which middle aged fans will rush to the music halls and purchase albums. Lee Juck of “Panic” said, “During the 90’s, musicians and the older generation had a cultural code that was distinctly different from that of today’s artists,” and foresaw the expansion in the diversity of Korean music through their return.

Some look upon these flashy returns of the “old boys” with worry. Critics say that this may prevent avant-garde newbies from entering the music arena.

Lim Jin-mo, a music critic, said, “The long-suffering music industry is wary of introducing new musicians, which has relegated music to a relatively inferior status, including its value in background music in movies and the internet rather than being acknowledged by its own merit. That is why new artists with the potential to change the cultural code, such as Seo Taeji of the 90’s, cannot receive sufficient attention.”

Jun Hae-sung, a composer, said, “The music arena of the 21st century is not led by one person but rather a group of musicians from different genres,” and added, “’Newbies’ and ‘old boys’ will not be recognized as musicians or achieve success if they merely imitate current trends.”