[ENTERTAINMENT]Daddy of the Ballad Is a Crooner, a ComicLee Moon-se, a 43-year-old Korean singer, makes no bones about how he measures his success as a pop musician. He said recently: "Though other musicians say they don't care about how many records they sell, to me, that figure is extremely important. I'm a pop singer. I have to make music that people like."
That ambition, which he so honestly admits to, has been paying off for the last 20 years. He pursues an adult contemporary style of music, mainly ballads, and each of his 12 previous albums has met with appreciation. He is trying to add another sequel to his steady success with his 13th album, "Chapter 13."
"I guess the fact that I have produced 13 albums in my 20-year career is neither too prolific nor too meager," he said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. "What is quite rewarding is that my fans have always particularly loved at least one song from each album."
His latest release features 10 songs. The main track, "Gieok-iran Sarangboda..." ("Memory Is Something More Than Love..."), is a typical ballad about a man who cannot erase his former sweetheart from his memory.
Mr. Lee will perform some of his new songs in Seoul from Thursday to Sunday. This will be followed by shows in other cities including Taegu and Pusan. Prior performances have won the thumbs-up for presentation, effects and stage design. And these coming up will be no exception, he promised. "This time, I will show you a real extravaganza. I want this concert to be full of fun."
Mr. Lee's ability to entertain for some outshines his reputation as a singer. As the presenter of "Byeol-i Bitnaneun Bam-e" ("On a Starry Night") from 1985 to 1996, he holds the record for longest-running radio show host in Korea. Even now, his slick, expert presence means he is still in demand as a host.
But that same skill as an entertainer has meant that some dismiss his claim to be a genuine musician. He counters this suggestion with his tried-and-trusted defense － that he's only providing what people want.
And in fact, his musical achievements are impressive. He had already established himself as one of Korea's most popular musicians when he took to the airwaves. He was among the first to sing ballads. They were a new, fresh addition to the rather stale music scene.
Lee Young-hun, a songwriter who has been working with Lee Moon-se since 1984, played a crucial role in the singer's success. Lee Moon-se said, "It seems to me that Lee Young-hun's music impressed the young generation of the 1980s, who were looking for something new."
But Lee Moon-se did not seem to need reassurances that his identity as a musician is valid. Satisfied that his career has endured for nearly 20 years, he is simply hoping that his appeal remains for a few more years.
This spring, if you want something entertaining, if no longer musically innovative, see him in action. For further information, call 1588-7890 (Korean service only).
by Choe Jae-hee