King of Korean pop celebrates 45th year

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King of Korean pop celebrates 45th year

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Cho Yong-pil entertains fans at a concert celebrating the 40th anniversary of his debut in 2008. [JoongAng Ilbo]

If Michael Jackson was the king of the pop, Cho Yong-pil is the king of Korean pop. His songs have been widely heard, loved and sung over many decades. Maybe it’s because his songs convey more than music. Indeed, they are not just for the ears, they touch the heart.

The 63-year-old has been singing for 45 years since his first single “Return to Busan Port” propelled him to stardom in 1975.

He is now coming back with his 19th album, the first in a decade, unveiled at a press event Tuesday. It is full of tracks that evoke tears, giggles and memories.

The opening track “Bounce” is way more than expected. The acoustics and rhythmical guitar combine to form a tune as trendy as any produced by young musicians. It will make sure listeners’ hearts are “bouncing, bouncing, bouncing.”

Title track “Hello” uses guitars in an impressively unique Britpop style with the addictive chorus “hello, hello, hello.”

The moody third track “I Feel Like Taking a Walk” and seventh, “Let Me Say,” tone down the rather upbeat package. “I Feel Like Taking a Walk” begins with slow piano sounds and is overpowered by the orchestra near the end.

On the other hand, the retro disco tune “I Need to Recharge Myself” and electronic “Things I Miss” make the assortment more flavorful.

Cho himself composed “One Day, On My Way Back Home” along with friend and sociologist Song Ho-keun. Dedicated to Korean baby boomers, it tells of the emotions felt by a lonely retiree on his way back home.

To make the album, Cho also worked with many big names like Tony Maserati, an American record producer who received a Grammy nomination for best engineered album last year, and British audio engineer Ian Cooper.

“Cho wanted to stretch the limits of his musical range by leaping into a new genre,” a spokesman said. “He gave his full commitment to the production and handpicked nine songs out of hundreds.”

Professional pop music critic Song Ki-chul said, “While his last album was grand in scale, the latest takes a 180-degree turn through modern rock and Britpop. The simple yet sophisticated album is expected to pioneer a new genre called ‘rock for his generation’ while appealing to young people as well.”

Cho traveled to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Thailand and other countries over the past year and a half to produce the 10 new songs. Some may wonder why the veteran singer, who has a huge following, went so far.

Perhaps his perseverance is, in fact, his secret to success. Cho didn’t sit idle during the production of his newest album but participated in every process to create a masterpiece.

“His songs will shine like a diamond in the soulless Korean music industry where fast-made songs are all over the charts,” the critic added.

Cho’s newest album will be unveiled at his first-ever showcase on April 23 in Olympic Park, southern Seoul. The event will also be streamed live on Naver.

He will kick off a national tour there on May 31 and then travel to other venues through December. Tickets are now available on Interpark.


By Lee Kyung-hee [estyle@joongang.co.kr]

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