Tuesday, April 27, 2010

50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists Series: Just Missed the Cut (Part 1)

[Series Index]

Before we get into the actual rankings, here is a quick roundup of K-Pop artists who were considered. They are organized by their debut year. Part 1 is the list of the artists who debuted before 1990.

All of these singers are all pretty famous, and their songs are worth listening to if you want to get the full context of the prevalent music within the genre and the era. The Korean included Korean names of the singers/bands so that readers may copy/paste the names in Youtube search window. Amazingly, Youtube has a pretty decent store of many songs – even those belonging to the real old oldies.

Ha Choon-Hwa (하춘화), 1961

In 15 words or less:  Renowned trot singer with many connections with the politically powerful.
Maybe she should have been ranked because…  Recording 2,500 songs over 45 years of career must count for something.
She was not ranked because…  Trot is (for now) a diminishing genre with minimal impact on pop culture. Ha did not change that, nor did she dominate the trot era as much as other trot singers who are ranked.

Song Dae-Gwan (송대관), 1967

In 15 words or less:  Trot singer who is still going strong.
Maybe he should have been ranked because…  He still drives the trot scene of today.
He was not ranked because…  That does not mean much.

Song Chang-Sik (송창식), 1970

In 15 words or less:  One of the flag-bearers of the folk rock movement in the 1970s.
Maybe he should have been ranked because…  Some of his songs like Whale Hunt (고래사냥 ) are iconic.
He was not ranked because…  He did not have much influence otherwise, and quickly joined the softened folk rock trend in the late 1970s.

Whale Hunt by Song Chang-Sik

Yang Hee-Eun (양희은), 1971

In 15 words or less:  Perhaps the greatest female folk rock singer.
Maybe she should have been ranked because…  See above.
She was not ranked because…  Much of her success was fueled by Kim Min-Gi (김민기) who composed her songs. Kim deserves the rank.

Tae Jin-A (태진아), 1972

In 15 words or less:  The current face of Korean trot.
Maybe he should have been ranked because…  Right now, his name is the first to come up if one asked Koreans, “Name one trot singer.”
He was not ranked because…  The diminished influence of trot makes his influence accordingly small, and he did not exactly dominate when trot was the dominant genre. But this was a close call.


Tae Jin-A's live performance of Tears of Yours (당신의 눈물)

Hye Eun-Yi (혜은이), 1975

In 15 words or less:  Disco queen of the 1970s.
Maybe she should have been ranked because…  She went on tours in Southeast Asia, perhaps making her the first “Korean wave” star.
She was not ranked because…  Her peak was just not that special.

Lee Su-Man (이수만), 1975

In 15 words or less:  The progenitor of corporate bands.
Maybe he should have been ranked because…  H.O.T. BoA. DBSK. Super Junior. Girls’ Generation. Just a few groups that went through Lee’s production company, SM Entertainment.
He was not ranked because…  Close call, but Lee did pretty much nothing as an artist of his own right.

Love and Peace (사랑과 평화), 1978

In 15 words or less:  The pioneer of Korean funk.
Maybe they should have been ranked because…  Their experiments in funk and soul were innovative, and some of their songs like It’s Been a While (한동안 뜸했었지) are iconic.
They were not ranked because…  Fairly or not, right now their achievements are not valued as highly as other artists who were their contemporaries.


Shim Soo-Bong (심수봉), 1978

In 15 words or less:  Significant trot singer.
Maybe she should have been ranked because…  She had some iconic songs like Men are Ships, Women are Ports (남자는 여자는 항구).
She was not ranked because…  She was present at the scene when President/dictator Park Chung-Hee was assassinated. She was banned from public appearance for a long time since. Through no fault of her own, her music career was never the same.



Men are Ships, Women are Ports (남자는 배 여자는 항구) by Shim Soo-Bong, 
one of the most popular trot songs ever.

In Sooni (인순이), 1978

In 15 words or less:  Most famous mixed-race person in Korea until Hines Ward appeared.
Maybe she should have been ranked because…  As Korea is becoming more racially diverse, her influence in pop culture and Korean society at large is increasing.
She was not ranked because…  Even with recent highlights, she just did not have the public’s attention as much as the top 50.

Jeong Tae-Choon (정태춘), 1978

In 15 words or less:  Very popular folk rock singer who resisted the dictatorship until the bitter end.
Maybe he should have been ranked because…  Jeong led the charge on the censorship in music under the dictatorship, going so far as releasing an album without going through the government first – which may as well have been a death wish at the time.
He was not ranked because…  At the end of the day, his songs did not withstand the test of time, unlike other late 1970s/1980s artists who are ranked.

Peregrine Falcon (송골매), 1979

In 15 words or less:  The last flash of Korean rock’s golden age in the late 1980s.
Maybe they should have been ranked because…  Their songs still rock, and the leader Bae Cheol-Su (배철수) would go onto play a fairly significant role as a prominent radio DJ.
They were not ranked because…  Close call, but the bottom line is that their influence was not as great as those who are ranked.



Will Love Everything (모두 다 사랑하리) by Peregrine Falcon

Kim Hyeon-sik (김현식), 1980

In 15 words or less:  One of the most recognizable voices of the 1980s Korea.
Maybe he should have been ranked because…  See above. Also, a couple of his songs like I Had Loved (사랑했어요) and Like Rain, Like Music (비처럼 음악처럼) are very iconic.
He was not ranked because…  VERY VERY close call, but he did not live long enough (as he died in his early 30s,) and his influence was not big enough to overcome his short lifespan.


Like Rain, Like Music (비처럼 음악처럼) by Kim Hyun-Sik.

Kim Su-cheol (김수철), 1983

In 15 words or less:  Created a successful hybrid of traditional Korean music and rock.
Maybe he should have been ranked because…  See above. Also, arguably one of Korea’s best guitarists ever.
He was not ranked because…  He fully turned to creating traditional Korean music, and accordingly cut off his influence over pop culture.

Fire Engine (소방차), 1987

In 15 words or less:  Arguably, Korea’s first boy band.
Maybe they should have been ranked because…  See above.
They were not ranked because…  They disappeared with just a few hit songs with no lasting influence – not even in the field of boy bands.

Story of Last Night (어젯밤 이야기) by Fire Engine
(Warning: The Korean will not be responsible for gouging of your own eyes after watching the video.)


Park Nam-jeong (박남정), 1988

In 15 words or less:  One of the finest dancers in late 1980s Korea.
Maybe he should have been ranked because…  His signature dance moves are still recurring in current K-pop dances.
He was not ranked because…  He just wasn’t that influential.

Yoo Yeong-seok (유영석), 1988

In 15 words or less:  The man who figured out Korea’s ballad formula.
Maybe he should have been ranked because…  Churning out above-average ballad songs for 20 (!) years such that fellow musicians made a tribute album celebrating those 20 years probably should mean something.
He was not ranked because…  Close call, but there are others who figured out the formula just as well as Yoo did; unlike them, Yoo never had a period of utter domination.


On Days When Tears Well (눈물나는 날에는) by Yoo Young-Seok, 
as a part of a band called Blue Sky (푸른 하늘). 
This song is an excellent display of Korean ballad formula.

Lee Sang-Eun (이상은), 1989

In 15 words or less:  Probably the most talented female singer-songwriter in Korean folk rock.
Maybe she should have been ranked because…  Lee tossed away a very promising career to study more music abroad for four years. Then she came back and produced a series of incredibly diverse and innovative albums incorporating everything from jazz to Korean traditional music. That counts for something, right?
She was not ranked because…  Not when the ranking is based on influence. Lee was critically acclaimed, but was never a huge presence in the minds of Korean public. Nor did she leave a measurable imprint on the artists who followed her. She may have been (and is still) too far ahead of her time.



Music video of Bird (새) by Lee Sang-Eun

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

17 comments:

  1. I can say that I know of only three people on this list. I'm very interested to see who will make the top 50. I expect #1 and #2 will be Seo Taiji and Park Jin Young.

    I wonder where my mid-late 90's artists will go on the list.

    The problem with these lists is that more recent groups tend to make the cut by virtue of their current popularity. For example, I wouldn't rank Big Bang higher than H.O.T., nor would I place Girls' Generation above S.E.S., but that's just my opinion.

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  2. I'm not sure if I would rank Big Bang higher than H.O.T either, but Big Bang has definitely been influential, especially in terms of their style since their 2006 debut. A lot of the newer debuting groups seem to be copying them. I'm not saying that they're pioneers of K-pop, but they're worth at last a honorable mention.

    Same with DBSK/TVXQ, especially given the fact that they seemed to have "revived" Kpop in the early/mid-2000s when it seemed to be heading into a slump. They're arguably more popular than their sunbaenim/seniors H.O.T.

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  3. I'm actually amazed that I know more than 5 of these artists. I thought my knowledge of pre-1990's was limited, but I guess listening to my father's endless noraebang sessions in my youth stuck of a lot of these in my head.

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  4. "Maybe he should have been ranked because… He still drives the trot scene of today.

    He was not ranked because… That does not mean much."

    LOL! Ouch.

    Hmm... should Park Jin Young count as an influential *artist* though? He was certainly very influential as a businessman, but... The only song of his I remember are "Summer Jingle Bell" and "청혼가"

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  5. Like everyone else, I'm anxiously waiting the full article but this list is a great rundown in and of itself. Keep doing what you're doing!

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  6. PLS STOP USING SIK FOR SHIK. SIK IS LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO THROW UP (as in i'm going to be sick!). ALSO, YOU MISSED JK KIM DONG UK, AND KANG SANG AE, BOTH OF WHOM HAVE A MILLION TIMES THE TALENT OF ANY ELECTRONIC-ENHANCED BOYS/GIRLS POP ON TV.

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  7. Lorna, you missed turning off your caps lock. Also, please stop using pls for please. kthxbai.

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  8. I hadn't heard of Kim Hyun Shik until I heard the duet Kim Bum Soo did with his song Like Rain Like Music. I found it amazing and even better than the original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpAy_119iD8

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  9. Haha! 이상은 is the one who sang 담다디. Coooooool. :-)

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  10. "Fire Engine (소방차), 1987

    In 15 words or less: Arguably, Korea’s first boy band.
    Maybe they should have been ranked because… See above.
    They were not ranked because… They disappeared with just a few hit songs with no lasting influence – not even in the field of boy bands."

    One of the very first Korean tapes I ever bought.

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  11. OMG this post brings back MEMORIES! (I was born in 76 and came to America in 87. Anyway, can't WAIT for the series!

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  12. You obviously know your k-pop. Frankly, I'm surprised by some of the artists from your list who did not make the cut, which is making me anticipate your top 50 list even more. My predictions, in no particular order:

    definite list: seo taiji, jo yong pil, patty kim, choi mija, bae ho, na hoon ah, nam jin, shin seung hun, kim gun mo, hyun chul, shin hae chul, park jin young, yoon do hyun (yb), drunken tiger, joo hyun mi, yoo jae ha

    I predict #1 to be either Seo Taiji or Jo Yong Pil, but I give Jo Yong Pil the edge.

    my maybe list: lee moon sae, jeon young rok, uhm jung hwa, lee hyori, cool, deuce, lee seon hee, baek du san, yoon sang, lee seung chul/boo hwal/kim tae won, lim jae bum, lee seung hwan, jo soo mi, boA, kim jo han (solid), na mi, h.o.t., yoo hee yul, brown eyes, crying nut, kim gwang seok

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  13. Want to add three more artists to the "definite" list:

    Han Dae Soo, Deul Gook Hwa (들국화), San Ool Lim (산울림)

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  14. skimmilk! you know your kr pop well, too! i had my pix taken with duce a month before he, lead singer, died in 1995. it is in my storage in eugene, oregon/usa. i will dig it out early this decade. it was at sbs studios. my video engineer student from there also took me to others: dj doc, lula, etc. and, there are plenty of other singers i love. plus, even though he lives with another woman (not the first & you can bet your last dollar not the last, or not the last 'recreationally' as he is so well-practiced) i am Still! legally married 'to a ghost', "the baekdoosan bass" because he's: jib,don,ehon, all & always dang-dang-ie...and for 10yrs now, and even then. we got married on 5 june 1997...& i will publish in english & korean. yes, skimmilk! it is more sophisticated to spell it "baekdusan", but what did they know nearly 20 yrs ago, not to mention 19+ years later. the bass, jesse kim, kim chang shik - legal: kim moo nam, is internationally very, very talented! and there is so much more other talent underground...without all the hype, screaming, and the duplicity and unhealthy, sad lifestyle/s. Talented Music-Genius: A Gift from God: why waste Life to the contrary. anyway, i digress. my old favorites: park mi kyung, ballad singers shin songhun, cho kwanwoo, etc, etc. why is the forever kang sangae on no one's list?!?!and kim geon mo and bobby kim for sure! others! tons of others! thanx for listing so many :)!!!

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  16. Love this series. This is the primer I need to fill in the gaps in my Korean musical knowledge. I don't know much before the time of, say, Jaurim and S.E.S. Thank you.

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  17. ooOoo I would have loved to see 김현식 in the top 50, as I am a huge fan of 비처럼 음악처럼, 사랑했어요, and 내사랑 내곁에..it was almost as though his early passing made his songs even more heartfelt and widely known...kind of like the one singer from 부활 who sang 사랑할수록 and passed away right after it was recorded. he had such an amazing voice!! but I understand your reasoning..

    I would have also loved to see 변진섭 (홀로 된다는 것, 너에게로 도다시), 이상우 (비창, 슬픈 그림같은 사랑, 채워지지 않는 빈자리), 강수지 (보라삦 향기, 흩어진 나날들, 시간속에 향기), or 나미 (슬픈 인연)...I don't know exactly how popular they were at the time they were active, as I was probably only a couple of years old if not younger when their songs actually came out..but I have many fond memories as a young child listening these songs on cassette tape with my mom..hehe. And I think despite having been born in 86'..one of my favorite older singers is 주현미....my 외할아버지 always had her cassettes playing too.. :)

    But I did notice you included 조용필 which is great!! My mom is/was his number #1 fan forever~ hahaha.

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