Is ‘neo-trot’ the next K-pop?
However, the nasal singing, cheesy keyboards and stage-strutting antics of Korea’s original pop music may be filtering into the mainstream once again.
TV viewers have noted a shift in pop trends ― younger people are rooting for Japanese enka-like trot songs, while upcoming performers strive to incorporate the nasal trot sound of yesteryear. It’s even become a route to recognition.
On Korean MTV and other live music programs, Lee Jae-eun, a 25-year-old child actor-turned-singer, appears as a popular trot singer. She debuted in 2001 as a singer and dancer but saw little success. So she declared earlier this year that she would become a trot singer, and this has definitely been a turn for the better with regard to her career as an entertainer.
Kim Min-gyo, a Korean pop singer from 1990s, returned with his first single in eleven years. And guess what? Even the soft ballad singer now hopes to revamp his career on the wings of trot.
Ttutti, a female dance duo from 1997, said they have been practicing trot melodies ― while Banana, a former male dance duo of nobodies, have also released a new trot single.
“Its amazing and welcoming news that a genre that had long been dead in Korea is actually reviving,” said Im Jin-mo, a pop culture critic. But he said he was worried that the style was losing some of its respect as the new songs are in a lighter and more comical vein.
For example, take Jang Yoon-jeong, currently the most famous young trot singer.
She gained stardom with a whimsical tune called “Eomeona” (Oh My). Television commercials and ring tones for mobile phones immediately caught on to the jolly melody. But the music was not taken seriously by people who buy CDs.
“Sometime pop agencies know that these albums will not sell, but they don’t seem to care,” said a music agency expert talking under the condition of anonymity.
“They go for profits by using the songs as ring tones and selling them to noraebang [singing rooms] instead.”
But Yoon Myeong-seon, 37, a composer and producer of several successful trot music albums, is one of many who appreciates the “neo-trot” boom. He composed Ms. Jang’s “Eomeona,” and produced the songs by Lee Jae-eun and Banana. These days, he is busy training a four-person trot group called LPG, composed of fashion models, whom he says will be a big hit.
“I don’t think trot music should be limited to senior citizens,” he said.
When he wrote “Eomeona,” however, veteran trot singers refused to sing his song, saying the song was imprudent. Nevertheless, it became a huge hit.
In his music, he mixes the traditional teuroteu with polka or tries to add can-can melodies to Korean sounds.
“The differences between trot and R&B and even rock music are all in the arrangement, the voice and the heart of the singer,” he said. “I think Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’ would make a great trot song, if I could remake it.”
by Lee Kyong-hee, Lee Min-a