[HOT TRACK]A Slave to Rhythms of RockOne of the saddest paradoxes in life involves doing well what you hate and doing badly what you love. The singer and artist Lee Hyun-woo, reminds his listeners of this kind of misfortune. Since he made his debut in 1991, he has earned a reputation as an impressive balladeer. But as Lee told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition, "Rock has an own original attraction to me that I cannot just give up."
This attraction haunts the 33-year-old singer who was raised in the United States. If you buy his earlier albums, there would inevitably be some crudely performed rock tracks. And although his concerts always sell out, there too Lee tries to impress his audience by rocking out.
It's not just a disappointment － it's more like a pity.
And now Lee is back with his seventh album, titled "Free Your Mind and Body." Fortunately both for him and for his ardent listeners, the 12 tracks do not focus on rock music, but instead vary in style － there are ballads, hip-hop, funk and jazz. The lead-off single "The End," a ballad about an exhausted lover saying goodbye, has already generated a lot of buzz because of its costly music video starring several hot actors and actresses. The song itself starts with the soft sound of a violin and features Lee's voice crooning a sad melody.
"I'll Be the Man," the album's sixth track, is an easy, light jazz number, and goes well with Lee's voice. The upbeat hip-hop track "Noljima" ("Stop Playing With Me"), however, is unremarkable － save perhaps for being spectacularly mediocre.
And, of course, there are the unavoidable "hard rock" tracks threatening to overshadow the overall quality of the new release. Most striking is Lee's cover of "Gasinamu" ("A Thorn Tree"), a classic Korean ballad, changed here into a pounding rock tune with roaring guitars and Lee's wailing.
Lee voice undeniably has many strengths, most notably in expressing emotions, but it is not powerful enough for explosive rock songs.
But "Free Your Mind and Body" is for the most part quite recommendable. While it may not have as many of the great ballads as past albums, neither does it have so many terrible rock songs.
On balance, "Free Your Mind and Body" leaves the impression that it is Lee who should first free himself from a rock music obsession and concentrate on the ballads that he does best.
by Chun Su-jin