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covers korean style
March 29, 2009 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Billy Jean from Winter Play, Can't get you out of my head from W & Whale, Karma Chameleon from 이장혁 (Lee Jang Hyuk) with 검정치마 (Black Skirts), Personal Jesus from Yi Sung Yol and 서울전자음악단 (Seoul Electric Band), Nobody does it better (+ Wonder Girls' Nobody) from Yi Sung Yol

Singing their own songs:
Winter Play Happy Bubble
W & Whale R.P.G. Shine
Black Skirts Antifreeze
Yi Sung Yol Secret (music video is directed by Park Chan Wook of Oldboy fame)

(and Ibadi The story which still has not ended since it shares musicians with Yi Sung Yol)

All these bands are considered part of the Korean alternative or indie music scene, although some have enjoyed commercial success through their music being used in ads and TV and movie soundtracks. For example, "R.P.G. Shine" is better known as the music from this SK Broadband ad and "Happy Bubble" is known as the "bubble song" of this washing machine commercial.
posted by needled (53 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Holy wow, needled. I think I love that Billy Jean cover. Totally unexpected.
posted by rtha at 7:48 PM on March 29, 2009


Surprisingly, the foreign cover of Personal Jesus is easier to understand than the original.

Any idea where I can buy a W & Whale CD? I've been listening to them on last.fm. I can't understand Korean, but they're really catchy, and the lead singer has a very pretty voice.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 8:03 PM on March 29, 2009


The W & Whale album Hardboiled is available through YesAsia.com as well as Aladdin. I've ordered from both without problems.
posted by needled at 8:11 PM on March 29, 2009


seconding rtha. That Billie Jean cover is fantastic.
posted by dismas at 8:13 PM on March 29, 2009


Awful. Reminds me of some of the Korean kids I went to music school with. I know that there are accomplished classical musicians from Korea, but why does it turn in to amateur hour when they try something more modern?
posted by mexican at 8:18 PM on March 29, 2009


Nice stuff. Here are some more.
posted by tellurian at 8:22 PM on March 29, 2009


The Billy Jean cover was pretty damn good.

However, I actually found the videos a little hard to watch. The disconnect between what the songs bring to mind and what my eyes were watching was just too much, especially in the Karama Chameleon cover.
posted by oddman at 8:24 PM on March 29, 2009


smells like teen spirit
posted by cazoo at 8:30 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some neat old numbers too.
posted by tellurian at 8:34 PM on March 29, 2009


Winter Play covers "Come Together". Adds brass combo for backup.
posted by Glibpaxman at 8:36 PM on March 29, 2009


and these links have sent me on an evening of musical awesomeness. thank you!
posted by Glibpaxman at 8:37 PM on March 29, 2009


This young Korean singer just happened to become the World Figure Skating Champion last night. Kim Yu-Na's world record setting short program.
posted by netbros at 8:39 PM on March 29, 2009


cazoo, that's horan from clazziquai (and ibadi), singer-songwriter kang seung won, and korean rock legend yoon do hyun, in order of vocals.
posted by needled at 8:40 PM on March 29, 2009


cazoo: "smells like teen spirit "

Ooh, that was excellent. Covers of that song usually make me cringe -- they're either too earnest or too sarcastic -- but that was great. It rocked while being creepy and original, with a touch of humor.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:41 PM on March 29, 2009


winter play and labelmates singing at label christmas party, including "white christmas" and "auld lang syne"
posted by needled at 8:59 PM on March 29, 2009


I think many young people today have no idea how culturally and generationally divisive rock music was in the 60's and 70's. My mother told me in earnest that the Beatles caused the "drug abuse epidemic". When I got old enough to go beyond listening to Cher and Abba 45's into Led Zeppelin and The Who albums, my mother became gravely concerned. Out came all the canards:

"They aren't singing, they're screaming".

"You can't understand the words".

And so on.

So when I hear Smells Like Teen Spirit articulated and enunciated, I remember my late mother's lamentations, and think "In Cobain's case, it was a feature, not a bug"...
posted by Tube at 9:15 PM on March 29, 2009


Billy Jean is awesome. Cool and understated. Less is more. Love what they do with the chord changes.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:54 PM on March 29, 2009


The "Billy Jean" cover is perfect for a hotel lobby.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:07 PM on March 29, 2009


Too bad they didn't cover the Blue Monday mashup instead.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:17 PM on March 29, 2009


Completely devoid of soul. It's everything Black Metal tried to accomplish, but could never be.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:35 PM on March 29, 2009


nthing all the Billy Jean comments. Though Smells Like Teen Spirit actually Smells More Like Middle Aged Underwear.

That Park Chan Wook directed video reminds me of every Korean action film I've ever seen. I'd swear that the big guy with the moustache plays either a henchman or a gang member in all of them as well.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:20 AM on March 30, 2009


I clicked on the second link first without leaving the front page. I thought this was a post about Korean karaoke television shows. That was the only way I could reconcile the fact that W & Whale's singer can't, uh, sing.

But she gets a pass for 'Rocket Punch Generation.' That's a lyric I'll buy for a quarter.
posted by incessant at 12:50 AM on March 30, 2009


Civil_Disobedient, it's easy to see that the young chanteuse covering Billie Jean is more of a Seoul singer than Michael Jackson ever was. I found her cover musically adept and well-delivered.

I found the Karma Chameleon cover rather flat. The guy singing Personal Jesus was singing too low for his own register. I was charmed by Whale and loved the dead cool look of her backing band W.
posted by Sitegeist at 3:02 AM on March 30, 2009


Foreigners Singing in Asian Languages
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:53 AM on March 30, 2009


"Seoul singer "

if you just made that up...you win!
posted by HuronBob at 7:17 AM on March 30, 2009


None of that stuff is indie at all, just to be clear. Those are pretty big acts, studio players, etc, as the production values of the videos shows.

I enjoy the covers, although it's pretty hilarious to hear Billie Jean performed with a negative funk quotient.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:08 AM on March 30, 2009


Great post—I was completely unaware of this scene, and now I'm a newly minted Winter Play fan! (One two three four, bubble! bubble!)

Completely devoid of soul.

Wow, you are so much cooler, hipper, and funkier than the rest of us! Congratulations, you win! But why are you wasting your time here when you could be listening to James Brown?

posted by languagehat at 8:12 AM on March 30, 2009


Wow, you are so much cooler, hipper, and funkier than the rest of us! Congratulations, you win! But why are you wasting your time here when you could be listening to James Brown?

He said nothing about you, anyone else here, and especially his relative worth in comparison to you or anyone else here. Do you always take people's taste in music so personally?
posted by dydecker at 8:26 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


For the newly-minted Winterplay (Winter Play? I'm seeing both versions of the band name online) fans,

Winterplay myspace page
Official site
posted by needled at 8:32 AM on March 30, 2009


For my money, Korea has only produced one great band so far: Sanullim
posted by dydecker at 8:44 AM on March 30, 2009


My favourite Sanullim track
posted by dydecker at 8:50 AM on March 30, 2009


He said nothing about you, anyone else here, and especially his relative worth in comparison to you or anyone else here. Do you always take people's taste in music so personally?

I'm not taking it personally, I just completely fail to understand why people feel the need to drop into a thread where people are enjoying something just to drop a little turd about how they think it sucks. I was snarking back.
posted by languagehat at 9:14 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Only comment in this thread if you like the music.
posted by chococat at 9:51 AM on March 30, 2009


Yeah, it strikes me as strange the idea that threads would be reserved only for positive or encouraging comments.

BTW, he didn't say "it sucks". He said he thought it was "without soul", which is a data point you can either agree with or disagree but it's playing the man not the ball and therefore fair comment IMO
posted by dydecker at 9:58 AM on March 30, 2009


That should read "playing the ball not the man". Damn fancy soccer metaphors!
posted by dydecker at 10:09 AM on March 30, 2009


Korean Latin.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:13 AM on March 30, 2009


Solo Duet.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:41 AM on March 30, 2009


Yeah, it strikes me as strange the idea that threads would be reserved only for positive or encouraging comments.

Oh, come on, that's not what I said or what I meant. I personally didn't care for some of the non-Winter Play groups nearly as much, and I have no problem with people criticizing. But:

BTW, he didn't say "it sucks". He said he thought it was "without soul", which is a data point you can either agree with or disagree but it's playing the man not the ball and therefore fair comment IMO

It's an utterly irrelevant data point. If Winter Play, say, were presenting themselves as a soul group, then yeah, "without soul" would be fair comment. But to go into a thread presenting charming Korean pop groups and say that seems to me like going into a thread discussing classical chamber music and saying "Bah, no backbeat." The only reason I could see for it was to prove that C_D was so hip he not only listened exclusively to the soulfulest of soul music but felt the need to let everyone know. I'm perfectly prepared to discover that I totally missed the point, and if C_D (whose comments I usually enjoy) drops by to say "Dude, you totally missed the point, I am a big aficionado of Korean pop and I feel that these particular bands are lacking in Korean soul, and here's why...", then I'll apologize and thank him for the explanation. It will not be the first time I have been full of shit. But that's how I took the comment at the time.
posted by languagehat at 1:56 PM on March 30, 2009


If Winter Play, say, were presenting themselves as a soul group, then yeah, "without soul" would be fair comment.

Well, yeah I'd say they are in the sense that 'Billie Jean' is a pretty soulful track, MJ is (or was I guess) a black man who sung RnB/soul connected-pop, and once you cover the kind of track you're going to be compared to the original, or 'soulful' music in general. I agree that you should judge music by the right yardstick, but 'soulful' surely isn't the wrong yardstick for an MJ cover.
posted by dydecker at 2:27 PM on March 30, 2009


BTW I don't neccessarily think 'soullessness' is a bad thing. The girl in that group isn't swinging her hips or Moonwalking like Jackson but she has her own charms. There are plenty of genres of music which don't even pretend to be 'soulful' (punk rock, metal, etc) and that's perfectly ok.

In fact I'd even say that pointing out that the links are in general on the 'soulless' side is not only fair comment, but a bit of an astute observation. Massive generalisation here, but in my experience Asia is much much better at Euro than Afro pop forms.
posted by dydecker at 2:46 PM on March 30, 2009


'Billie Jean' is a pretty soulful track, MJ is (or was I guess) a black man who sung RnB/soul connected-pop, and once you cover the kind of track you're going to be compared to the original, or 'soulful' music in general.

Hmm. I see your point, but I guess I feel so strongly that music has no borders and that any song/tune is fair game for anyone to play (with) that it didn't even occur to me that a cover of that song should be judged on "soulfulness" just because it was originally done by MJ (and in general I find that kind of approach off-puttingly... separatist, or barrier-ist, or something, not that I'm accusing you of anything bad, just trying to clarify where I'm coming from). I mean, jazz got started by black guys in New Orleans buying used military band instruments and playing opera music, marches, and what have you in their own funky way; reggae got started because Jamaicans were listening to New Orleans music on the radio and infusing that style with their own idiosyncratic rhythmic sense; white punks in Britain liked the Jamaican sound and added it to their repertoire, with their own different ("un-soulful") rhythmic sense... Artists everywhere have the right (and damn near the obligation, dammit) to pick up whatever they find lying around and use it for their own purposes, and (again, in my personal view) it's the lowest form of criticism to point out that they're not using it in the original, "correct" way.

Anyway, thanks for making me think about all this stuff!
posted by languagehat at 3:04 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


in my experience Asia is much much better at Euro than Afro pop forms.

As you will gather from my rant just above, I don't believe in the separation of "Euro" and "Afro" as if they were different universes and people should stick to their "own"; furthermore, just based on Winter Play's "Billy Jean," I disagree.
posted by languagehat at 3:06 PM on March 30, 2009


On the Billie Jean track, I liked their interpretation of the music a lot but the vocals, to me, had this feeling of being over-studied; memorized and droid-like. So ya, soulless. It's hard singing in another lanuage, I've tried and I suck at it. This one (and a few of the others) sounds like it was learned phonetically or by rote; to me it lacks emotion or a sort of, I don't know, visceral delivery. That's what I felt and that's what I thought he meant by "soul."

It's fun to have opinions!
posted by chococat at 3:45 PM on March 30, 2009


Perhaps he was just talking about the near-robotic efficiency of some of the musicians?
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 4:22 PM on March 30, 2009


Korean jazz vocalist Woong San singing Aretha Franklin's All Night Long
posted by needled at 4:27 PM on March 30, 2009


Reverse angle! Brett from Flight of the Concords sings a Korean 노래방 (karaoke) tune, and does a pretty damn creditable job of it. His accent is better than most long-term foreign residents in Korea I've ever met! Note: the translations are silly.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:24 PM on March 30, 2009


One person's subjective judgment about "soul" in music could be considered a "data point" in what universe?

Never mind. I'm just dropping by to cheer for the Wonder Girls, super massive pop group that they are. "Nobody" is a damn fine piece of Kpop, better than their breakout hit "Tell Me" imho.
posted by fatehunter at 5:43 PM on March 30, 2009


Artists everywhere have the right (and damn near the obligation, dammit) to pick up whatever they find lying around and use it for their own purposes, and (again, in my personal view) it's the lowest form of criticism to point out that they're not using it in the original, "correct" way.

Spoken like a true Blueshammer fan! ;)

But yeah, it's the purist vs tourist problem. There's merit in both impulses I think: great stuff gets made outside the comfort zone, but the best things tend to be seen as the zenith of the genre... it's a conundrum.
posted by dydecker at 6:33 PM on March 30, 2009


I hear what you mean, chococat. It's like the uncanny valley of vocal performance.

That said, I also really enjoyed the Billy Jean cover though I didn't care for Happy Bubble.
posted by danb at 8:20 PM on March 30, 2009


YOUR FAVORITE KOREAN COVER BAND SUCKS.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 7:48 AM on April 2, 2009


Are you sure about that? I know it looks so much like common sense that actually posting it as a comment seems like hackneyed drivel, but is there any actual evidence to support the claim? What if it turned out that my favorite Korean cover band did not, in fact, suck? You'd have to find some other musical genre or other thing to point to as being sucky then. I guess what I'm getting at is that your choice of what sucks, sucks.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:30 AM on April 2, 2009


YOUR META-JOKE SUCKS.

Most of these bands, however, do not.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 8:54 PM on April 3, 2009


I never was a fan of Culture Club or Boy George but this version of "Karma Chameleon" is very listenable and enjoyable. The singers are really great! Thank you for this post! I really love finding new good music!
posted by fiestapais at 5:58 AM on April 4, 2009


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