J Rises to the Top

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J Rises to the Top

Rising star J is taking the Korean pop world by storm. With her newly released album 'Like Yesterday' she joins the ranks of stars like Clon and Paik Ji-young. Her album has sold more than 130,000 copies since its release last month. The general consensus by music critics is that, in today's one-hit-wonder industry, J is a fresh face and here to stay.

Only twenty-two years old, this Korean-American already has a solid group of admirers. In the area around Kangnam station, a popular place for teens and twenty-somethings to hang out, her title song "Like Yesterday" can be heard at every corner. The song's nickname "the theme song of Kangnam Station," is proof of the song's popularity.

"Like Yesterday" (lyrics by Shim Sang-won, music by Sara) falls in the pop ballad genre. Its familiar and sophisticated melody forms a delightful combination with J's unqiue voice that is at once clear and innocent yet filled with unfathomable sadness and sorrow. Her music displays a deep sensitivity that is rare with today's younger musical talent.

Admirers of J's music often compare her to Japanese platinum singer Utada Hikaru. It does not seem a farfetched comparison, especially when listening to her song "Ashes" (lyrics by Shin Jae-hong, music by Sara). J officially debuted in October of 1998 with "Good Bye" but failed to garner the support needed to survive in the Korean pop world. J explained the failure of her first album, "I wasn't confident with my music. I think that's why it didn't do well." Smiling, she added, "I did learn a lot from my first album though. It really taught me that choosing the right music for me and for my voice is really important."

Having lived in the U.S. all her life, J's Korean sounds a little awkward. She, however, manages to convey her opinions with unwavering confidence. "I don't care much about appearances. I could care less about people judging me as gorgeous or ugly or cute. As a musician, what I want is for people to talk about my music. No one talked about my music when I came out with my first album. It was so awful and depressing. I was really fortunate this time to find music that exposes my musical abilities."

Well-known composers Shin Jae-hong, Chung Jae-yoon, Cho Kyu-chan, Yoon Il-sang, and Yoon Sang have joined in producing J's second album. Her musical abilities stem from her passionate love for jazz and soul and a musical family. Her father is Chung Hee-taek, former lead singer for the sixties rock group 'He-Six.' Her grandfather is Chung Keun-soo, a pianist and singer, and her aunt is Chung Hun-hee, famous for the "From the Flower Bed."

J placed second at the 1995 Miss Washington Beauty Paegent and stands at 170cm (5'8"). She signed a contract with BMG Japan and has already released four single albums in Japan. This September and October, J plans to release an English album and to enter the global music industry.

by Lee Eun-ju

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