Yesterday’s stars are shining once again

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Yesterday’s stars are shining once again

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From Left: Lim Chang-jung, Lee Sun-hee, Lee Seung-hwan

With Korea enjoying a boom in retro pop culture these days, a number of veteran singers who dominated the Korean music scene in the 1990s are making comebacks.

Within days of each other, new albums were released by Lim Chang-jung (on March 20), Jo Sung-mo (last Sunday), Lee Sun-hee (Monday) and Lee Seung-hwan (yesterday). In addition, Lee Eun-mi is slated to release her new mini-album today, and Lee So-ra will release her eighth album on April 8.

Generally, it is an unwritten rule in the music business not to overlap with competitors. But due to the Sochi Olympics happening in February and the FIFA World Cup starting in June, many big names have flocked to release albums in March, April and May.

The popularity of nostalgia-filled movies and TV series, such as tvN’s two “Respond” dramas, has helped fuel the interest in these singers of yesterday. But there’s also something special and timeless about these artists that accounts for their continuing popularity.

For one thing, these veteran singers’ latest albums contain at least 10 quality tracks, unlike the singles and EPs that are more common with younger artists these days. Full-length albums provide the time to convey a fuller message from singers.

Also, these albums’ production levels are all top-notch. Lee Seung-hwan, for example, went to Los Angeles to record “Fall to Fly” in one of the finest studios there. “This is by far my most accomplished album. The music style is pop, but in terms of the sound’s quality, it is perfect,” said the 49-year-old singer during a press conference.

For Lee Sun-hee’s “Serendipity,” which commemorates her 30th year in the industry, she recorded with young artists such as Duble Sidekick, Sunwoo Jung-ah and Epitone Project.

“I thought I needed to collaborate with some young musicians in order to fit the public’s taste,” said the 50-year-old singer during a showcase on Monday. “To those who are my age, it will be something fresh and to the younger generation, it will sound familiar.”

Balladeers like Lim Chang-jung and Lee Eun-mi are focusing on what they do best - forlorn, sorrowful ballads. Lim has already topped online charts with his lead single, “Ordinary Song.”

When Cho Yong-pil - Korea’s “king of pop” - returned last year with his 19th album, “Hello,” and enjoyed the best reaction since his heyday in the 1980s, it was an inspiration to many.

“Since we’ve all been in the industry for a long time, there is no question about whether we will do well. It’s a question of who will try something new,” said Lee Seung-hwan. “Being nostalgic is good, but if the public only remembers our old songs, it would be very tragic.”

“Rather than pursuing a radical change, it is about being progressive within one’s own style,” said Kim Ban-ya, a music critic. “The music scene has lacked some disciplined singers for a while, but with an infusion of younger ideas, their music should appeal to various generations.”

BY KIM HYO-EUN [estyle@joongang.co.kr]


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