[ENTERTAINMENT] For Him, Variety is Truly the Spice of LifeLee Seung-chul released his latest album, "Gobaek" ("Confessionl"), last Thursday. The enthusiasm he puts into his performances is seen by many as his forte.
In an interview with JoongAng Ilbo English Edition, the 35-year-old "emperor" showed that he has more than enough confidence to bear his regal title. But that confidence is backed up by his vocal ability and his wide repertoire, from underground rock to classical crossover.
When he made his first appearance as lead vocalist of the underground rock group Buhwal in 1985, the Korean popular music scene had little variety. Mr. Lee made a spectacular impact on this infant scene and has been a notable figure in Korean music ever since. Starting as a rocker whose spe
ciality was, well, shouting, he continued to experiment with different musical styles. In 1990, he began performing solo, softening his style of music with the smash hit song, "Last Concert." In 1991, he returned to his former genre, rock, but this time with a little twist, as punk rock.
In 1993, he dabbled in dance music influenced by hip-hop, then in jazz in 1995. From then up until recently, he indulged in ballad music. And in this latest release, he has test-driven another new genre, a Latin sound spiced with a funky rhythm. What is remarkable is that every musical trial he has made has met with success.
Mr. Lee remarked, "I intentionally avoid similar genres of music. I just don't want to be like other contemporary musicians who gradually fall behind, with their musical talent drying up by remaining in the same musical realm."
But his 16-year musical career has not been without its labors. In both 1989 and 1990, he was arrested for drug use. Later he married the TV actress Kang Mun-young, then regarded as one of the industry's most beautiful woman, only to divorce later.
He has never allowed these trials to foil his ambitions, and he is not one to hide his light under a bushel. Regarding his secret of success, he said, "I always try to give my music both popular appeal and artistic value. I think my music should sound familiar to the public, but at the same time, I try not to lose the exclusive quality only a true artist can have."
His latest release, "Confession," will be followed by another album, "Antique," in October. This time, he will try his luck in classical music, mixing pop melodies with the sounds of an Austrian orchestra.
He thinks the Korean pop music scene has developed a lot since his debut, but Mr. Lee's criticisms echo those of others. "I am concerned that in the current pop music industry there are too many wanna-be singers who just want to be stars, instead of challenging themselves to improve musically."
He is always searching for a road not taken, but he does expect some rewards for his dedication. "I hope to be remembered as Korea's Frank Sinatra, who deserves generous praise as the best musician of his time."
If, despite your best intentions, you drift toward 'wanna-be-ism,' why not shoot for the top?
by Chun Su-jin