Competing concerts fail to drive wedge between friends

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Competing concerts fail to drive wedge between friends

Yesterday’s friends, today’s enemies. Or, at least that’s how it appears at first glance for pop singers Psy, 27, and Kim Jang-hoon, 37.
They haven’t stooped to anywhere near the level of the nation’s politicians and engaged in hand-to-hand combat, but what they will do is stage competing concerts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Last year, Psy’s Christmas concert, titled “All Night Stand,” was a huge success, selling all 12,000 available tickets in two weeks.
Kim directed that show, billing it as “the first pop concert designed only for adults.” This year, however, the two are competitors whose advance ticket sales are both in the top five on online ticketing Web sites.
The JoongAng Ilbo had a chat with the pop singers over a glass of soju.
JoongAng Ilbo: Do you guys still get along?
Psy: I was heavily influenced by Kim, and yeah, now we are close friends. Last year, I wanted to do a really fun gig, so I asked Kim to help, and he was willing to take the trouble even though he was studying in the United States at the time.
Kim: The only reason I’m not helping Psy this time is because I have my own concert to do. Plus, I told Psy to give it a try on his own because he has plenty of ideas.
JoongAng Ilbo: What is it like to direct and perform in your own concert?
Psy: Most pop singers only perform live on stage when they get a guaranteed fee. Some consider concerts just another part of their daily schedules. But we are different. We take on the job of directing the show and sharing the profit or loss. No wonder we’re more drawn to concerts.
Kim: What worries me the most is what is called an “omnibus concert,” featuring a group of pop singers on the same stage. The essence of a concert, and a record too, is to allow people to get to know the singer deeply. But that’s the kind of concert that sells, attracting many sponsors.
Psy: Critics say I focus on big, overblown shows because I can’t sing. But that’s wrong. Big shows like this with lots of dancing take much more effort. And it’s financially riskier when you invest all that money on stage design.
JoongAng Ilbo: What makes you guys stick to concerts?”
Psy: As I see it, concerts are the best way to rebuild a reputation gone sour. I’m not trying to make money, it is more like an investment in myself. Escaping from the Psy stereotype created by the mass media, I’m creating another based on “Psy’s concert.”
Kim: I think performance art is the least respected of the cultural industries. If we have pop singers like Psy, who’re not afraid to adopt new approaches, the concert scene will start to change, and the time will come when we have a wide variety of quality performances. When such a day comes, we could sell our concerts abroad just like we do movies and TV dramas.
Psy: Giant theaters like the Seoul Arts Center and the National Theater of Korea welcome imported musicals, but not local pop singers. Cultural toadyism and vanity are serious problems. I hope local pop singers will soon receive the warm treatment afforded to imports.
JoongAng Ilbo: So you have to compete in selling tickets.
Psy and Kim look at each other and answer in unison: “It doesn’t matter; our audiences’ tastes differ.”

by Lee Kyong-hee
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