Monday, November 15, 2010

50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists: 42. Jang Yoon-Jeong

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[Series Index]

42. Jang Yoon-Jeong [장윤정]

Years of Activity:  2004-present

Discography:
Oh My [어머나] (2004)
Jjanjjara [짠짜라] (2005)
Later, later [이따, 이따요] (2006)
Jang Yoon-Jeong Twist [장윤정 트위스트] (2008)
Ole [올래] (2010)

Representative Song:  Oh My [어머나] from Oh My


어머나
Oh My

어머나 어머나 이러지 마세요
Oh my, oh my, don't be like this
여자의 마음은 갈대랍니다
A lady's heart is like a reed
안돼요 왜이래요 묻지말아요
No, why do you do this. Don't ask questions
더 이상 내게 원하시면 안돼요
You should not want any more from me
오늘 처음 만난 당신이지만 내 사랑인걸요
I only met you for the first time today, but you are my love
헤어지면 남이되어 모른척하겠지만
Though when we part, we will become strangers and pretend not to know
좋아해요 사랑해요
I like you, I love you
거짓말처럼 당신을 사랑해요
I love you like a lie
소설속에 영화속에 멋진 주인공은 아니지만
Though you may not be a handsome character from a novel or a movie
괜찮아요 말해봐요
It's ok, just tell me
당신 위해서라면 다 줄게요
For you, I will give you my all


어머나 어머나 이러지 마세요
Oh my, oh my, don't be like this
여자의 마음은 바람입니다
A lady's heart is like the wind
안돼요 왜이래요 잡지말아요
No, why do you do this. Don't hold me
더 이상 내게 바라시면 안돼요
You should not desire any more from me
오늘 처음 만난 당신이지만 내 사랑인걸요
I only met you for the first time today, but you are my love
헤어지면 남이되어 모른척하겠지만
Though when we part, we will become strangers and pretend not to know
좋아해요 사랑해요
I like you, I love you
거짓말처럼 당신을 사랑해요
I love you like a lie
소설속에 영화속에 멋진 주인공은 아니지만
Though you may not be a handsome character from a novel or a movie
괜찮아요 말해봐요
It's ok, just tell me
당신 위해서라면 다 줄게요
For you, I will give you my all
소설속에 영화속에 멋진 주인공은 아니지만
Though you may not be a handsome character from a novel or a movie
괜찮아요 말해봐요
It's ok, just tell me
당신 위해서라면 다 줄게요
For you, I will give you my all

Translation note:  "Reed" is a common metaphor in Korean, signifying someone who "bends with the wind" -- i.e. changes as the times change.

Hey, didn't I see her before?  Yes, you saw her in the Just Missed the Cut (Part 2). But upon reconsideration, the Korean had to include her (and drop 장기하, much to his regret.)

In 15 words or less:  Woman who singlehandedly brought trot back to life.

Maybe she should have been ranked higher because...  In terms of the level of difficulty, getting the young people interested in trot again was an enormous feat.

Maybe she should have been ranked lower because...  At the end of the day, how big is trot in K-pop scene? Is it even as big as rap? Hard rock?
 
Why is this artist important?
Trot is a genre that has an awkward place in Korea. The screaming girls (= fans of boy/girl groups) do not care about trot as it sounds old-fashioned. The too-serious K-pop aficionados (= fans of rock, hiphop and indie) dismiss trot as uncreative and Japan-origined.
 
They both have a point. As the Korean noted in the brief history of K-pop, trot was the first -- and for a long time in practical terms, the only -- form of pop music in Korea. It is an imitation of a popular music in Japan, undoubtedly a product of Japan's colonization of Korea. The music itself is thoroughly unoriginal, employing the same distinctive one-two beat created by a percussion box throughout the decades of its existence. The lyrics were catchy for one listen, then quickly stale and vacuous.
 
From its heyday in the 1960s and 70s, trot suffered a long decline until it reached a nadir at around late 1990s-early 2000s. There were a few brave souls -- generally older male artists in their 50s -- who kept chugging along, but they did nothing to reverse the perception that trot was a musical equivalent of a stale meatloaf.

Jang singlehandedly reversed that trend. To be sure, it probably helped that in the 2000s, the trend in Korean pop culture toward retro -- the tendency to look back into the past as more innocent and romantic -- was in full swing. Her music is not anything special, as the familiar one-two beat is present throughout.  But there should be no question that it took Jang's full talent and gumption for this moribund trend to come back. It was unthinkable for a pretty young woman in her 20s would hitch her musical fortune to a dying genre. That Jang was able to bring back the trend by the sheer force of her spunk and charm is quite an achievement.

It is still not entirely clear whether trot will completely shed its stigma of being an uncreative music of the bad old days. But regardless of its artistic merits, trot survived for so long in Korea at least partly because it resonated with Koreans themselves -- it would have been a shame if something that was such a huge part of Korea's pop culture completely disappeared into oblivion. Because of Jang, trot is now seen as a valid career path for young Korean pop artists, and accordingly received an injection of new talent that will carry the genre into the future.

Interesting trivia:  Jang was a winner of a prominent amateur singing contest in 1999 (MBC 강변가요제) with dance music, but toiled in obscurity for five years until her debut album in 2004. In an interview, Jang also professed that she originally wanted to be a rock musician.

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

10 comments:

  1. I'm a fan of trot. I love hearing it at the base of mountains in northern Seoul, in taxis, and walking past sexagenarian hangouts like 경동시장. The over-the-top voices, cheesy lyrics and weird instruments (I feel like I hear accordions a lot) make it interesting for me.

    Jang Yoon-jeong is actually a good musician though.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You dropped Jang Gi Ha??? Oh man, you don't know how sad I feel now...

    Could you do a write-up for him anyways?

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  3. 장기하 will be sorely missed, but I feel that 장윤정 deserved it more. With 장기하, there's the constant danger of him being too gimmicky (or at least being perceived as gimmicky) and/or him having relatively short stardom/influence.

    What 장윤정 achieved was incredible (even though I'm not a fan of trot (not by a LONG shot))... it's like bringing back bluegrass into the mainstream and have teenagers willingly listen to it in the States. It would have been too bad if she wasn't mentioned in the list.

    And I second the motion for a write-up (short blurb, even) for 장기하. Or, as he would have said, "나~를 받아주~오~!"

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  4. Trot for me has always been like the cumbias and bandas in Mexican music. It's the music that played in the background during my childhood. I used to hate it, but now I listen to it occasionally when I'm feeling rather nostalgic. It brings back memories of simpler times.

    Definitely not a big fan of Jang Yoon Jeong, however her impact in the Korean music scene definitely grants her merit in your compilation. She has brought Trot music into the mainstream and several young female singers have followed suit to imitate her success. She has the ability of garnering support because she is easily likeable. Without a doubt she will continue to be a presence in the scene since it'll be way easier for her to continue her music career way into her 50's, 60's, and beyond-- considering that once female pop singers hit the brick wall of turning 30 their popularity and likelihood of a successful comeback is typically zilch.

    In another note, I agree with kignusonic. It would be great if you write one for Jang Gi Ha. It's the first time I've listen to his music (thanks to your blog) and I've become a fan!

    ReplyDelete
  5. If you use income as a criteria, then Miss Jang should be in the top three.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The Korean was looking up old albums of Jang Giha, and found this title: "얄리는 내가 죽였다".

    The Korean nearly fell from the chair laughing. If you get the joke in this title, you really know your k-pop.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I dunno how many people would have gotten the joke when 눈뜨고Kobain released that album. I barely remember that rumor, and I remember it being vastly overshadowed by that OTHER thing. :D

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  8. Wait, what rumor? And what other thing? 얄리 is the name of a chick (=baby chicken, not a girl) in 날아라 병아리 by 신해철.

    ReplyDelete
  9. oh, I thought you were talking about the whole backmasking thing. There was a rumor that if you played 날아라 병아리 backwards, you hear "내가 죽였어, 얄리는 내가 죽였어." But it was vastly overshadowed by 서태지's 교실이데아 thing (aka "피가 모잘라" + rumor that 서태지 wrote the song in a 폐가 and what we were hearing was actually Satan).

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ah ok. The Korean did not know about the backmasking rumor in 날아라 병아리, although he did hear about 교실이데아.

    ReplyDelete

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