Medium of the masses is the new star machineAbout a month ago, he had to endure heartless comments on the Internet accusing him of being a loser. Jang Seong-min, 21, may be an “official” singer now but first he had to make six videos of himself singing alone in a room clutching a spoon in his hand to serve as a microphone.
“Who does he think he is, the next YouTube star?”
So went one comment condemning his efforts to sing Lionel Richie's “Hello” or James Ingram’s “Just Once.”
But less than a month after he had been vilified, he was standing on stage awaiting his turn to receive a small prize from a competition he entered for self-made online celebrities, sponsored by the video-sharing Web company Pandora TV, one of the outlets he used to upload his videos. With him on the stage were “Breoun Aideul Seoul,” (Children We Envy) an amateur R&B group who phonetically parodied the popular band “Brown Eyed Soul,” Jung Ho-seong, a “king” of lip-sync, and Baek Du-hyeon, who suddenly turned into a celebrated comedian after he recorded himself in bright red thermals.
Now that he has “arrived,” Jang says he appreciates even the most sarcastic responses he received in the beginning. At least they meant he was getting some attention and people were passing around his video online and posting them on their own personal blogs, even if many did so in order to mock him.
A black-and-white title card posted on the wall behind him was another intriguing factor. The card said, “My agency went bankrupt,” and had a small Korean emoticon “T.T” at the end to express his sorry plight.
“I had an agency that helped me finally release a digital single album in the summer but I never got to stand on a stage nor did the agency do much promotion before it went flat broke,” Jang said. “But I did not want to give up [my dream to be a singer] just like that. So I started posting my own videos on video-sharing sites.”
His effort seems to have worked. He is now a celebrity figure among the denizens of user-created content Websites who have identified him as “the guy whose agency went bankrupt.”
Jang was serious when he said his agency went bankrupt, however. His profile is on a music streaming Web service and says he was once a member of a boy-band “G #” in 2004. But his songs were never played on music channels after his agency collapsed and his group disbanded. Other members went to serve in the Korean army, and he tried to make his debut again as a soloist, but that did not work either.
Jang said he lost everything when his agent went out of business and he was left with nothing “except for a single spoon to feed himself.” And that’s the reason he is wryly holding a spoon instead of a microphone on his self-made video, and why he sings that his desperate situation “turned his world into pitch black.” This line explains why he is wearing sunglasses in all his videos.
For his now infamous performance, he stands solemnly in the center of a room, swaying to the prelude with the silver spoon held tightly in his hand. A subtitle comes sliding across the bottom of the screen that says, “My agency went bankrupt and I am here to promote myself on my own.”
Even before he begins to sing, most viewers start laughing. But his parents didn’t think it was funny at all.
“When my parents saw me on the Web, they got mad as hell saying I was embarrassing them,” he said. “My mother fell sick with insomnia and my father yelled at me to go to into the army if I had nothing better to do.”
“They hated the idea of me going around begging to become a singer,” he said.
But what hurt him most were Internet posts that accused him of being a fake, he said.
He did not mind when people said he was lousy. But it was when people wrote that he was doing it as a marketing and PR strategy that he got upset.
“But these days I am receiving encouraging e-mails saying that my videos are cheering people up,” he said. “And they say that I am a good singer too,” he added with a grin.
Jang’s songs are currently selling well as a popular online item to upload onto personal Web sites as background music.
A few of the new popular videos on video-sharing Websites have copied the idea behind Jang’s video.
Some are called “My agency went bankrupt too,” while some gave his title a witty twist and says, “My agency is about to go bankrupt, I think.”
“I think this User Created Content stuff is like magic. It gives anybody a chance to become a somebody,” Jang said. “Frankly speaking, I was a terrible singer and my music teacher told me to study composing instead. But I did not give up.”
So he has proved himself to be a hard-worker. But has he found himself an agent to get him back into the entertainment business again?
“Believe it or not,” he said, “there are some agencies who are calling me these days to work with me.”
“They all say their agency will not go bankrupt.”
by Jung Hyun-mok,Lee Min-a
More in Features
[Shifting the Paradigm] With one epidemic under control, another is threatening Korean society
Kakao TV launches this month, takes on Netflix
[TURNING 20] In a sea of hate, change flourishes
Criticism of sex ed books for kids raises more questions than answers
When it comes to sex ed, this Danish author says just talk about it