Dancing in the Streets-Summer of Pop DanceIn Korea, at least, with the summer heat comes a new wave of bubble-gum dance pop to make the summer even hotter, and this year is proving no different. Singles of Kim Hyun-jung and Paik Ji-young, 'Clon' and 'Cool' are climbing the music charts with upbeat songs titled "Bruise" ('mong' in Korean), "Dash", "First Love" ('cho-ryun') and "Analyzing Boys and Girls" ('haesuk-namnyuh'). Not to be outdone, other musicians like Lee Jung-hyun, 'Country KoKo', 'Shinwha', and 'Roora' have also recently released albums with quick, 'pop' beats swelling the already large tsunami of pop dance music blasting everywhere in the nation.
Lee Jung-hyun is expected to do well again. Having made her debut just last October, Lee went platinum with her singles "Come" ('wa') and "Change" ('bak-kwuh'). With the release this summer of her second album "Lee Jung-hyun II", she hopes to cement herself as the princess of Korean pop. Working with established songwriters like Choi Jun-young, Yun Il-sang, Lee Hyun-do, 'Doctor Core 911', and Shim Sang-won, her new album experiments with a variety of musical genres, incorporating elements from techno, rock, heavy metal, ska, and hip-hop.
Her title song "You" ('nuh') weaves in Middle-Eastern melodies with a heavy techno beat. Incorporating Egyptian-like tunes and running up and down the scales, "You" accentuates Lee's signature 'shouting' and powerful voice that belie both her small frame and her youth. Composed by Choi Jun-young of her smash hit "Change", the melody and beat of "You" are bizarrely similar to "Change". It does, however, convey a wholly different ambience with its recurring Egyptian-like melodies.
Country KoKo's new album boasts songs with hilarious verses and catchy tunes, once again emphasizing the duo's comic image. Their title song "Ogani" (Korean for "Oh, are you going?") is particularly humorous and clever with the group singing falsetto with every word ending in "ni" as in the title "Ogani". Songwriter Choi Soo-jung, who wrote last year's hit "Gimme Gimme" for the group, teamed up with the group again for "Kiss Me", a song combining fast Latin beats to traditional 'trot' (Korean foxtrot-type music characteristic of the 1950s and 60s) creating a very dated yet modern tune.
Sensual choreography in suggestive and risque clothes is making the popularity for the music that much stronger with singers like Paik Ji-young performing her popular songs "Dash" and "Sad Salsa" to a Latin beat and never hesitating to show a little skin with her sequined bikini and halter tops. Kim Hyun-jung, currently at the top of the music charts, is also showing off her tall figure sporting mini-skirts and sheer tops. Men, not to be outdone, are no exception with 'Clon' wearing tight tank tops and flashing some leg while wearing shorts.
Pop Dance music appeals to many with its hummable melodies and usually comic lyrics. It is precisely for its non-seriousness one wants to hear while driving to the beach or singing to in Karaoke rooms. From the streets of Kangnam Station with music blasting over the heads of twenty-somthings to 'ajummas' (Korean for a woman of a 'certain age') humming Pop Dance tunes while working, dance music caters to all in the heat of the summer. Moreover, the sultry evenings and muggy days make listening to anything other that light dance music the only option to beat the heat.
Music critics, however, fear that this surge in Pop Dance music this summer will ultimately be to the music industry's detriment. One critic explained that a lot of singers rush to release albums in the summer because they know it will sell well. "In the process, they forego quality. If you listen carefully, a lot of these summer dance hits lack quality as compared to music that will last. In the long-run, this trend could be very dangerous for the Korean music industry." Another music critic lamented pop musicians for their emphasis on factors external to music: "Most singers put music second with dancing and fashion taking precedence. It is, indeed, a big problem we face every summer."
by Lee Eun-ju