At 43, pop icon still has major staying power

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At 43, pop icon still has major staying power

Lee Seung-chul is undoubtedly a heavyweight in the Korean pop music industry.

The 43-year-old singer, after all, will celebrate the 25th anniversary of his debut next year.

While there are a number of Korean singers whose careers span more than 20 years, Lee is one of the few who can still compete on the charts with rising music stars many years his junior.

“Love is So Difficult,” the title song of his recently released repackaged 10th album, has maintained its position within the top 10 on the charts for three consecutive weeks.

To coincide with the release of his new album, Lee is now busy preparing for a concert tour named “Mutopia Season 2,” which will begin later this month and visit 20 cities around the country.

So what exactly is the secret to Lee’s lasting popularity? Ask the singer himself.

“It is probably because I don’t stick to my own style,” Lee said during a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo. “When I sing a song, I tend to act upon the advice of the person who made it rather than interpret it on my own.

“I think it is my job to reproduce the feelings that the composer originally intended to express through the song.”

Lee also has his own philosophy about the role of a pop singer.

“I think a pop singer should always keep an eye on what kinds of songs people want and be able to present them whenever they are called for,” he said. “That is why I often have a dozen songs ready, so that I can release them when the time is right.”

When choosing a title song of a new album, Lee said he turns more to strangers like taxi drivers and restaurant workers over music industry officials or fans - hoping that his tracks will be well received not just by those who know and love him but also by others who aren’t as familiar with his work.

Recently, Lee has taken on a new role, serving as a judge on the popular TV show “Superstar K,” the Korean version of “American Idol” that airs on the cable channel Mnet. In the show, Lee comes across somewhat like the brash and brutally honest Simon Cowell from the American Idol series, as he doesn’t hesitate to pick apart contestants for their weaknesses during the competition.

“I want to let them know that singing as a career is not something that’s easy to do, as most people think it is,” Lee said. “The finalists in the show apparently have outstanding singing ability, but it takes more than that to be a successful star.

“A top singer nowadays should be versatile. That is, they must have many other abilities aside from singing - like dancing - and ceaselessly aim to maintain their position at the top.”

Lee is normally not an active participant in TV shows, due to his belief that singers should be firmly planted on the stage, not in front of it.

His upcoming concert tour, which will kick off in Jinju, South Gyeongsang on Oct. 24, will continue through March 2010. He’s also preparing to hold a special concert commemorating the 25th anniversary of his debut next May.

“Above all, I have confidence in the quality of my concerts because I have always endeavored to make my stage show the best ever by upgrading my performance year after year,” Lee said.

By Lee Young-hee []

Singer Lee Seung-chul celebrates the 25th anniversary of his debut next year.By Kim Seong-ryong
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