[ENTERTAINMENT]High-Stepping No Longer Tops the ChartsThe most popular dance trio in Korea, S.E.S, no longer wants to be called a dance group. These three young women now say they also want to be artists and not just singers, so in their latest release they move among various musical styles, including rhythm and blues and hip hop.
Rather than sticking to their former specialty of dance music accompanied by deft moves, Fin.k.l, a four girl group and strong rivals of S.E.S, has also moved on to something different in their new release, remakes of songs in the ballad style.
These changes might be part of a strategy by these groups to assume a more mature image, but cynics might say the groups are just adapting themselves to current trends in Korean music.
These two dance groups represent the music status quo in Korea at a time when dance music no longer takes the world by storm. For one thing, record sales of dance singers and groups are sluggish compared with the not-too-distant past when every popular dance singer sold hundreds of thousands of copies.
But now, new genres such as hip hop and rhythm and blues are taking the lead in the Korean music scene. Hip hop in particular, once regarded as far from mainstream, is now tremendously popular among youth. Three hip hop groups, Jinu Sean, Drunken Tiger and CB Mass played major roles in the rise of this import from the United States.
Among these groups, Jinu Sean took the leading role. Their third album, titled "Reign," which was released last February, has sold more than 300,000 copies to date. The album received a lot of attention as a result of contributions by American hip hop musicians Mobb Deep and Cypress Hill. The main track, "A-yo" has won both popularity and critical acclaim.
For Drunken Tiger and CB Mass, on the other hand, success was not as easy. These two groups made their name through a special multi-album project, titled "Republic of Korea," released from 1999 to 2001, which was produced to promote hip hop here.
Since then, Drunken Tiger has gained public attention not only in Korea but also in Japan. In March, they staged a concert in Shibuya, central Tokyo, which was a huge success. Their third album, titled "The Legend of...," has sold more than 250,000 copies in Korea alone.
CB Mass is not as popular as Jinu Sean and Drunken Tiger yet, but has been particularly well-received among hip hop fans and music critics.
Cultural critics claim Koreans are getting tired of so-called dance music because a number of dance groups specialize not in music but in dancing, and their music is not innovative. But dance music was a new entry on the Korean music scene in the early 1990s, just as hip hop is today. It will be interesting to see if hip hop groups, unlike dance music groups before them, manage to maintain their appeal to Korean audiences.
by Choe Jae-hee