Wednesday, October 26, 2011

50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists: 24. Lee Seung-Hwan

[Series Index]

24. Lee Seung-Hwan [이승환]

Years of Activity: 1989-present

Discography:
B.C. 603 (1989)
Always (1991)
My Story (1993)
Human (1995)
Cycle (1997)
The War in Life (1999)
Egg (2001)
Karma (2004)
Hwantastic (2006)
Dreamizer (2010)

Representative Song:  For a Thousand Days [천일동안], from Human



천일동안
For a Thousand Days

천일동안 난 우리의 사랑이 영원할거라 믿어왔었던거죠
For a thousand days, I believed that our love will be eternal
어리석게도 그런줄로만 알고 있었죠
Foolishly, that's how I thought
헤어지자는 말은 참을 수 있었지만
I could endure your goodbye, but
당신의 행복을 빌어줄 내 모습이
I, who will wish for your happiness,
낯설어 보이진 않을런지
Might appear strange to you

그 천일동안 알고 있었나요
For those thousand days, did you know
많이 웃고 또 많이 울던 당신을 항상
That you, who laughed a lot and cried a lot, were always
지켜주던 감사해하던 너무 사랑했던 나를
Protected, appreciated and loved too much by me
보고 싶겠죠
You will be missed
천일이 훨씬 지난 후에라도 역시 그럴테죠
And it will be that way long after a thousand days
난 괜찮아요
I will be fine
당신이 내 곁에 있어줬잖아요
Because you were by my side

그 천일동안 알고 있었나요
For those thousand days, did you know
많이 웃고 또 많이 울던 당신을 항상
That you, who laughed a lot and cried a lot, were always
지켜주던 감사해하던 너무 사랑했던 나를
Protected, appreciated and loved too much by me
보고 싶겠죠
You will be missed
천일이 훨씬 지난 후에라도 역시 그럴테죠
And it will be that way long after a thousand days
잊지마요 우리사랑 아름다운 이름들을
Please don't forget our love, those beautiful names

그 천일동안 힘들었었나요
For those thousand days, was it hard for you
혹시 내가 당신을 아프게 했었나요
Did I perchance cause you pain
용서해요 그랬다면 마지막 일거니까요
Forgive me, if I did that, that will be the last time
난 자유롭죠 그 날 이후로
I am free since that day
다만 그냥 당신이 궁금할 뿐이죠
I only am curious about you
다음 세상에서라도 우리 다시는 만나지마요
Even in the next world, may we never meet.

Translation note:  The Korean is having a hard time finding an elegant English equivalent for 헤어지다 and 이별. Any suggestion?

In 15 words or less:  One of the twin peaks of Korean ballads of the 1990s.

Maybe he should be ranked higher because...  In the 1990s, "ballad" was as big as boy/girl bands are today. Lee was at the top of that trend.

Maybe he should be ranked lower because...  The ballad era faded away, and Lee did not leave any lasting imprints.

Why is this artist important?
This series previously mentioned the prevalence of "ballad" -- sappy soft rocks with a clear rise-climax-denouement structure a la My Heart Will Go On -- in Korea of the late 1980s-early 1990s. However, for a K-pop fan who has not lived in Korea in that time period, the dominance of ballad was difficult to capture. You think it's bad now with boy/girl group blaring dance music that all sound the same? Replace that dance music with Celine Dion-esque soft rock, and that was Korean pop music scene of late 1980s-early 1990s. (The only thing that held ballad back from total annihilation of all other music is the burgeoning trend of generic dance music -- which would become the mainstream in the 2000s.)

It must be said that ballad was, for the most part, just as dumb as the dance numbers that dominated the next decade. The entire selling point was the saccharine, tear-jerking lyrics delivered in a predictably dramatic tune. If Korean drama could take a musical form, it would be ballad. (It is, therefore, not a surprise that ballad is heavily featured in the soundtracks of Korean dramas!) And much like the boy/girl band music of today, much of the ballad from the 1980s/90s is completely forgettable.

But not Lee Seung-Hwan. Along with another artist to be ranked on this later, Lee formed the two greatest peaks of ballad artists. As a gifted singer/songwriter, his lyrics are understated, but the songs are delivered with utmost sincerity. He was also renowned for his explosive live performances. Although he could not completely get away from the "ballad singer" label applied to him by virtue of his massive success in that genre, Lee continuously explored and experimented with new and different types of music. As a fitting representative for one of the most significant musical trend in Korean pop music, Lee Seung-Hwan deserves his spot here.

Interesting trivia:  Lee Seung-Hwan is one of the few Korean pop artists who have their own record label.

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

6 comments:

  1. The Korean is having a hard time finding an elegant English equivalent for 헤어지다 and 이별. Any suggestion?

    "Parting words" seems to have the right emotional associations there.

    In the last stanza, "were you having a hard time?" feels rather awkward. "Was it hard for you?" sounds much better.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Woo! I was hoping that Lee Seunghwan would show up on this list. Great, great live performer--someone who I was hoping might appear on 나가수, although it might be unfair for the others if he did.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Maybe "I could take your saying 'Let's split up'"? Though I guess that's more natural than elegant.

    ReplyDelete
  4. - Good suggestion, jinrok. Translation is changed.

    - rd, 이승환 on 나가수 would destroy the field a la 인순이. He is such an explosive performer, and has a surprising diversity in his music regardless of his reputation.

    - TA, that translation is just not elegant enough.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have boundless respect and admiration for The Korean's highly entertaining and educational blogging, and so I don't wish the following to come across as anything other than my (quite probably uninformed) opinion but parts of the English translation you put up sound less than elegant to me, though interestingly they did not include the part you actually asked for suggestions on.

    In particular, the use of the construction "you, who did/were [x], did/were [y]", rather than sounding elegant, just sounds (to me) old fashioned and unnatural. My guess is that it was used in order to remain true to the structure of the Korean sentence but, in my opinion, in English it doesn't work. So, since I had far too much time on my hands today, I had a go below at revising The Korean's translation to put those bits into what seem, to me at least, to be more natural constructions. I recognise that it's just my opinion and my version is no great stylistic shakes. I also recognise that the approach might be totally misguided if the original Korean lyrics are actually going for a tone more poetic than 99.9% of pop songs. Given my abysmal level of Korean, that is something I am not qualified to comment on.

    For a thousand days I believed our love would last forever
    Foolishly that's the way I thought.
    I took the blow when you said let's go our separate ways, but I will only wish you happiness
    Maybe that will make me seem strange.

    For those thousand days, did you realise
    As you laughed so hard and cried so hard
    That I was always protecting you, grateful to you, loving you too much.
    I will miss you
    And it will be that way long after a thousand days have passed
    But I will be fine
    Because you were by my side.

    For those thousand days, did you realise
    As you laughed so hard and cried so hard
    That I was always protecting you, grateful to you, loving you too much.
    I will miss you
    And it will be that way long after a thousand days have passed
    Don't forget our love, those beautiful names

    For those thousand days, was it hard for you?
    Did I maybe cause you pain?
    Forgive me - if I did, that will be the last time.
    I'm free since that day
    It's just that I wonder about you.
    But let's not meet again, even in the next world.

    ReplyDelete

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