Sharp, Emerald Castle Come On Strong

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Sharp, Emerald Castle Come On Strong

A popular way to advertise Korean singers, in an attempt to set them apart from the rest, is to claim that they are "real singers," or "genuine musicians." Readers may wonder whether this is not a fact to be taken for granted, considering their professional field. It is an unintended indictment of the music community in Korea.

As in other countries, the scene here is overly fixated with a limited version of the dance music genre. Success in this industry requires good looks and good moves, rather than decent musical ability. And many performers owe their success to their ability to amuse rather than their musical talent.

But there is always a Triton among the minnows, and two such are the groups Sharp and Emerald Castle, which both released albums this week.

Sharp, which made its debut in 1998, released its fourth album on Tuesday, titled "Feel So Good."

With two female singers, Seo Ji-young and Lee Ji-hye, and two male rappers, Chris Kim and Jang Suck-hyun, this popular dancing group has survived in the Korean community through a combination of dazzling dance routines and musical talent. Unlike other performers, who are so busy indulging the choreographers that the singing is relegated to lip-sync, this foursome fit live singing and rapping into a show that is also replete with dancing.

With a string of hits behind them, including "Tell Me Tell Me" in 1999 and "Good For Me" ("Jaldwaesseo") in 2000, the group is hoping to renew its good fortunes with a new release that has been crafted by many hands. Songwriters and producers who contributed to the album include Park Geun-tae.

"Sweety," the album's mainstay track, has an appropriately sugary sound and melody, and the lyrics tell the story of a girl who shyly but frankly opens her heart to her lover. Critics have likened the style of the song to that of Christina Aguilera. "Between" ("Sa-i") and "Praying for 100 days" ("Baegil Gido") are also worthy of four minutes of your attention.

However, if you are fed up with dance music, albeit professional and refined dance music, how about some rock?

The popular Korean group Emerald Castle has on offer the kind of tracks to get you sober and serious.

The rock group formerly won applause for the tuneful melody "Steps" ("Balgeoreum"), about a man saying goodbye to his sweetheart.

Its new release, "Dual Minded," featuring the main track "Shout the True," deals with a more momentous theme, the absurdities of the world where the strong prey on the weak. The group has a message - that even in the world where survival of the fittest rules, the truth should not be lost and forgotten.

It took nearly two painstaking years for the band members to bring the album to completion. They also took a big part in the album's production.

If you don't like the staid and the grave, you may want to take a rain check, but if you're nostalgic for songs like "Balgeoreum," check out "That Day" ("Geu Nal") on the new release.

by Chun Su-jin

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