JTBC's second chance audition program nears its end
Cable channel JTBC’s music audition and competition program “Sing Again” is on a roll. Having started with a twist to the audition format that many viewers are now fond of, “Sing Again” only casts singers that have had at least one song or album officially released in the music market.
Initially, competitors were only referred to by a number in a bid to keep their identities concealed, but when the top 10 contestants were chosen last month their names were revealed. Singer No. 30 Lee Seung-yoon and Singer No. 63 Lee Mu-jin became the hottest stars in town, and other less-known singers also have the show to thank for bringing them back to the spotlight.
The show's first episode saw a viewership rating of 3.2 percent on Nov. 16, which tripled to 10.1 percent by its 11th episode on Jan. 1. The show ranked No. 2 on the non-drama trending chart published by local data analyzer Good Data.
Six singers now await to take each other on face to face in the final round set to take place next Monday. Singer No. 1 Lee So-jung debuted in 2013 as part of girl group Ladies’ Code and Singer No. 20 Lee Jung-kwon rocked the KBS1 talent show “Korea Sings (National Singing Contest)” in 2015 with singer San-Eh Kang’s “Like The Mighty Salmon Swimming Upstream" (1998). Singer No. 29 Jeong Hong-il debuted in 1998 as a member of heavy metal rock band Barkhouse while Singer No. 47, known by her stage name Yoari, debuted in 2007 as the vocalist of band Sprinkler.
“It was surprising to see that people who have been active in different fields are now finalists of the show,” said producer Kim Hak-min. “It’s proof that there is a demand for diverse genres of music.”
Singers Lee Seung-yoon and Lee Mu-jin are seeing particular support from viewers. The two came together for a collaboration on late singer Shin Hae-chul’s 1990 hit “In a Play” (translated, 1990) in the second-round team match and then came face to face in the third round of the rivals showdown. Lee Mu-jin beat his opponent with his version of Lee Moon-sae’s “Whistle” (1985), but the viewers' response to Lee Seung-yoon’s adaptation of Lee Hyori’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (2011) was just as positive.
When the judges’ reaction was fiercely divided over the two singers, singer Yoo Hee-yeol, who is a judge on the show, equated it with the birth of pioneering acts such as Seo Taiji, Guckkasten and Kiha & The Faces, whose presence was much debated in the music scene until their worth was recognized by the general public later on.
“I can see why you never trended,” he said in his judging speech. “But if you just go one step further, you will be [a singer] like no other.”
Lyricist and judge Kim Ena credited Lee Mu-jin’s ability to digest songs created even before he was born and making them his own, dubbing him “a truly rare singer” who “makes it sound like the song was actually sung by a singer from this generation.” Former TV producer Joo Chul-hwan, who is currently a professor of culture and contents at Ajou University, complimented them both as “genius[es] in choosing songs.” Pop culture critic Lee Young-mi gave higher points to Lee So-jung for her techniques, but still acknowledged Lee Mu-jin and Lee Seung-yoon for bringing out their unique touch in every song they sing.
Critics, who have been following the progress of the two singers through the screen, also applauded the two Lees on their talent.
Music critic Seojeong Mingaph chose singer Jung as the most impressive, both skill-wise and for fitting best to the program’s intentions of bringing back old and forgotten singers back. Though they did not make it to the final round, famed singers such as Youme and Jisun from Loveholic also got a chance to take to the stage once again after taking years off from the spotlight.
While the success of the show has the talents of each competitor to thank in bringing high praise from viewers, critics pointed out that the program has managed to quench the thirst of music listeners who have been smothered with K-pop dance music or teary ballad songs that dominate charts.
“In the 1980s and 1990s, underground and indie music that didn’t necessarily make it to TV had a base,” said critic Lee. “People didn’t need to hop on the mainstream to survive, which secured the survival of many different music styles. ‘Sing Again’ has managed to appeal to the nostalgia of those times.”
Professor Joo hoped that the contestants will be able to start a new trend in the pop music scene, just like the “Miss Trot” and “Mr. Trot” shows by TV Chosun which sparked the trot trend in Korea.
“Pop singers can survive only if they possess the modernity that the times demand,” he said. “Just as Lim Young-woong is loved for the trot that was suitable for 2020, Lee Mu-jin and Lee Seung-yoon have the potential to start a new wave in the music scene with the songwriting skills that are right for us now.”
BY MIN KYUNG-WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]