A Musician of Many Talents Takes Note of Life and Love"Since I turned 30 earlier this year, I feel that I finally know what I should give up and what I should keep doing for the rest of my life," said You Hee-yeol, who leads Toy, in an interview with JoongAng Ilbo English Edition. Toy debuted in 1994 as a collaboration between Mr. You and a musical engineer, Yun Jeong-o. Their music created a shock in the domestic music scene, but Mr. You has been on his own since 1996, when the two split to serve in the military.
Mr. You possesses an extraordinary sensitivity that comes through in his music. As a result, he has a reputation of bringing up the sensitive parts of love and life skillfully together in his lyrics. In a song from his fourth album, titled "Geojitmal Gateun Sigan" ("The Time Like a Lie"), he wrote "Your smile, the place I wandered about and the sunshine that fell on my head while waiting for you, I will never forget." Mr. You says that every song he writes is based on a real story, from his life or those of his friends.
On May 11, Mr. You released his fifth album, which he composed, wrote, arranged and produced himself. Titled "Fermata," an Italian word which means a prolongation of a musical note, the album has sold 150,000 copies to date and is likely to remain high on pop charts.
In the new release, he has focused on sadness disguised as happiness. The main track, "Joeun Saram" ("Good Person"), a ballad with an up-tempo rhythm, tells the story of unrequited love. "This is a real story from one of my friends. He used to smile and say that he felt lucky just to be able to see the woman he was in love with, even though she loves somebody else. This was much more touching than seeing him shed tears," added Mr. You. There are 18 tracks on the album, all of which attest to the musical improvement of this young artist.
One of the most significant aspects of Mr. You's music is that it does not fall into the mainstream of Korean popular music, which consists largely of dance and hip hop music － it is almost impossible to imagine him doing a dance routine. He pursues an adult contemporary style, which mainly consists of ballads. He places great emphasis on experimental and instrumental music as well as easy listening ballads. Mr. You says that his music is rather similar to that of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Pat Metheny.
"Instead of having one group or singer whose album sells more than million copies, it is much more desirable to have a variety of musicians who have enough fans to sell 50,000 to 100,000 copies of each of their albums," says Mr. You.
The only thing in the field of music that Mr. You does not seem to be gifted in is singing. A number of other singers, mostly friends of Mr. You, sing on his albums instead. However, he has a rule that says he must sing at least in the last track of each album. On his fifth album, he sounds much more at ease in his vocals but this sensitive musician observes that this may be due to the developments in modern technology. "There may be two ways of sounding comfortable － pleasant and unpleasant. In case of my singing ability, I hope it is the former."
Since he made a self-titled debut as a songwriter in 1987, Mr. You has had a number of jobs outside the musical field, including writing and being a radio DJ. He initially made his name as the host of a radio program, not as a musician. He was the host for the radio program "Eumak Dosi" ("Music City"), which has aired at midnight for the last three and half years. Known as the mayor of "Music City," he gained explosive popularity, especially among those in their 20s, for his sense of humor and sweet voice. He quit the job in early May.
In 1999, he published an illustrated book and released it with a CD, titled "Iksukhan Geu Jip Ap" ("The Familiar Place in Front of That House"). It told the story of his youth, when he spent happy days with his former girlfriend. It did not take long for the book to become a bestseller, once again substantiating his popularity.
However, Mr. You says that he wished he led a more ordinary life, noting, "I would prefer supporting roles to leading roles, if I were an actor, though that is quite unlikely." But the fact that he has been a student of Department of Composition at Seoul National University for the last eight years, while pursuing his career as a musician and a radio host makes his life seem far from being ordinary. He is also interested in pursuing a career as a movie director someday, but he says that he considers his lifetime vocation to be music.
Mr. You is scheduled to stage a concert at one of the local art museums sometime in July.
by Chun Su-jin