Songs of the salaryman hit middle-aged chord
Choi, 40, recorded “Break the Rule” while an office worker at Korea Telecom.
In contrast to most contemporary pop, Choi’s songs explore the lives of middle-aged Korean office workers.
“People seem to like my lyrics more than my vocals,” Choi says.
He wrote 10 of the tracks on his recent album, which was produced by Yun Jeong-oh, who took popular balladeer Toy to stardom in Korea.
Despite the self-deprecating assessment of his singing, Choi honed his engaging vocals over the past decade with his band, all fellow office workers.
The band is reminiscent of “Dongmulwon (The Zoo),” a classic folk band from the 1990s.
Choi’s lyrics read like the diary of a college student commenting on the life of a salaryman.
His songs aim at the heart of issues that concern older people.
“I wanted to challenge the idea that it’s too late at 40 to release your debut album,” he says. “It may sound simple, but I’m satisfied if I can stimulate myself and others.”
“I Love School” is a ballad related to a popular Web site from the 1990s that helped Koreans find old friends.
In the song, a man uses the Web site to hook up with his first love whom he met in elementary school.
Choi refuses to say whether the story is true. When asked, he just smiles.
“Spring that Never Means Spring” centers on Choi’s close colleague who was laid off during the country’s traumatic foreign exchange crisis in the late 1990s.
In “Salary Man” Choi sings that “a salary is like a drug [life] and pain-killer [tonic] you get every month.”
“Song Dedicated to my Wife” looks at the changing domestic lifestyle in Korea. A decade ago, a song released under the same title by trot singer Ha Soo-young lamented a man’s guilt about his stay-at-home wife after seeing her coarse hands from housework.
Choi’s version shares similar feelings of guilt about seeing his working wife, “hurriedly running to catch a full bus on a cold winter morning.”
With his relatively late start in making albums, Choi is not dreaming of superstardom. But he hopes his songs connect with people.
“I would be really happy if office workers sing my songs at a noraebang,” he says.
By Jeong Hyun-mok JoongAng Ilbo [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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