Today's idols are perfect examples of what kind of music can be performed when one wholeheartedly embraces pop. If there is an idol in our nation that can pull off the neo-soul genre, who would it be? Who is the idol with the most suitable voice for pop music? Five columnists for the pop music scene picked the following.
Big Bang - Taeyang
Is it overkill to say that Taeyang has the brightest future out of all of today's idols? I don't think so. Taeyang, through the [HOT] EP, has displayed that 'bright future' on his own. More than anything, I hold the greatest expectation for him because of the image he's held that he knows what he wants to do and he knows what he's best at, and has continued to work under that knowledge. That he qualified (as an idol singer) should come as no big surprise.
'Only Look At Me (나만바라봐)' and 'Prayer (기도)' both had a level that could only been attained by someone that knew his future. His vocals don't stop at imitating black music. He has the vibrations and technique that note R&B or Soul and doesn't overdo his voice and feelings while coating his music with a black tint. He doesn't just 'sing.' I think he can joke about himself as a 'semi-R&B vocalist.'
On a global (or American) level, he's another trend, but in Korea, he's almost unique. However, his music is made of embellished hip-hop beats. Because of this, critics say that his vocals are somewhat plain and get overwhelmed by the beats, but I think this point has become his individuality. Of course, when we start to talk about a global level, then things are different. He'll be seen as someone who is just following the trends on all levels, including vocal style. However, as a late starter, this is only normal. With time and his effort, things will naturally solve themselves.
Kim Haksun (Editor of Bo-Da)
Girls' Generation - Jessica
When I listen to recent girl groups, they're so plain vanilla that I get tired of them pretty quickly. One or two R&B main vocals who've taken up cow herding as their song style, a subvocal of karaoke level that obviously isn't considering the person who has to hear her, and if that doesn't work, then make them rap, and if it's time to give up, then wrap it all up in autotune.
But Girls' Generation's Jessica is different. When she sings so finely with her pretty enunciation, I felt a pleasure reminiscent of the high times of popular music. Jessica's vocal style has always received a lot of love from the times. It was popular, not only from the chanson dolls of 1960's Euro scene to the muses of swinging London, but the 80's Virginia Astro Sounds who received attention for their splendid beats and soft melodies, and the 70's underground's renowned composers' mainstream efforts with the 80's idols of Japan - Yukiko Okada, Iijima Mari, and so on.
Jessica's vocal style is what the Western engineers call 'shine.' Or so to say, don't have that squeaky tone but rather a beautiful, sophicated 'shining' feeling. I think her vocals are best suited for a Western-style tune. I've found that, at time, girl groups's vocals tend to just rush to throw voices around without any roots for them in the song. Sometimes, their upshot green voices just vibrate and they feel shallow. But Jessica's voice is relaxed and dignified. It reminds me of silk dyed with a classy color. Sleek and soft and every once in a while, it revives a brilliant moment. This is the pop feeling that the talented have loved.
Park Joohyuk (Columnist, Representative of Bandiaeri Music)
SHINee - Jonghyun
When fans discuss Jonghyun's vocal skills, they frequently bring up 'Hyeya (혜야)' - Alejandro Sanz's 'Y Si Fuera Ela' rearranged. In this song, Jonghyun's vocals make him sound like a Korean-speaking Julio Iglesias, but that only means his feelings are that tangible and that, despite going up and down like a rollercoaster, it still flows smoothly.
Personally, the stability isn't the only reason I like Jonghyun's vocals. His vocals are appropriately rumored as dynamic. In 'Ring Ding Dong,' his voice jumps from husky to clear, but because the autotune fills in here and there like a compound, the odd feeling can be belayed. In what I think is the most impressive SHINee song, 'JOJO,' he oozes 'roller rink synth pop' - popular in 80s' London.
In mainstream music, which has become an arena where idol groups' songs reflect Western pop trends or reinterpret it, it's true that boy idol vocals follow the American mainstream pop style but from time-to-time, Jonghyun's vocals jump that limit. Depending on preferences, the evaluation may change, but the fact that his vocals have taken the most unique place is obvious. For these reasons, I have chosen Jonghyun's voice.
Cha Woojin (Pop Columnist)
2NE1 - Park Bom
If you had to choose between an amazing voice that you find hard to like and a voice that draws your love rather than awe, which would you choose? If you choose the latter, then you are ready to listen to Park Bom's voice. As the 'vocals' of 2NE1, Park Bom has vocals that are unique from even her idol peers. If I had to add to that, I would say that instead of being a 'trained' vocal, should I say she gives me more of a 'ready to fly' feeling?
I remember that the producer, Teddy, pointed out Park Bom's voice and said, 'Nowhere will you find a voice like this,' with a half-proud half-awed tone. There's no need to underestimate it as lip-service from the sponsor. It's well-known that her role model is less the Celine Dion-type 'white' diva and more the Whitney Houston 'black' diva. This is a personal preference, but her choice emphasizes the 'expression' or 'appeal' of vocals. This is something that's hard to find in even the best trained vocals. Maybe this is why Park Bom's voice shines in urban R&B, with its electronic background music. 'New British Neo-Soul' artists, like Adele and Duffy, human vocals in the vintage electronics. The songs by artists like them.
If you describe listening to Park Bom's solo hit song 'You and I' as eating 72% cacao chocolate to your ears, you wouldn't be very wrong at all. One thing I would like to point out is that in her enunciation and song style, she tends to mumble, but if she can just kick that habit, then it won't be a hopeless goal to sound like real espresso - a 'New British Neo-Soul' artist.
Choi Minwoo (Editor of Weiv)
2PM - Junsu
Public opinion about 2PM is that while their performance is strong enough to be associated with a circus, their vocals pale in comparison. But because of Kim Junsu's tone leaving an aftertaste at the end of the vocals, their music is good enough to listen to through an earphone. Compared to the other dazzling members, Junsu's image is very tempered. But not in terms of music.
That Junsu's voice is still gorgeous without a vocoder or any acrobatic dancing can be verified through his cover of his favorite song, 'Half the Time' by Calvin Richardson. His soulful voice, in this song at least, is almost perfect, but to enslave him like an ordinary screen for an idol group irritates me to no end. Of course, because music ranges are often limited and so insecurities tend to be exposed, you can't deny that his tone has a quality that makes you take a second look. Reverberations on such a short hook aren't things you can learn through uniform training.
On top of having a naturally beautiful voice, after taking so many songs and singing them into his own, that nasal quality that could have materialized in his voice instead developed to the point that he can pull off both the old school's ardent feeling and the new school's refreshing feeling. And so there's no way that, as the audience, I can't help but feel regret that it's impossible to feel his allure in 2PM's songs, divided into N parts. Ah, it's well-known that he's considered to have a huge black music craze, but does he know that sometimes, when he sings traditional Korean ballads, he conveys a sense of great self-pride and confidence? And that his sponsor, JYP, also has a talent for that?
Song Jihae (Pop Columnist)
Source: Nylon Magazine & DC Inside
Translation: hypocritical @ omona_prection
This is an opinion-based article taken from the February 2010 edition of Nylon magazine. I read translations for the parts of Bae and Junsu and this article seemed like an interesting take on these five. Thanks to hypocritical at omona_prection, here's a great translation of the entire text. ♥