Monday, October 24, 2011

Ask a Korean! Wiki: What is Your Fantasy I Am A Singer Lineup?

The Korean is a huge fan of a Korean reality show called Survival: I am a Singer [나는 가수다]. The premise of the show is simple yet irresistible. Seven well-known singers compete for two weeks, sometimes with a song of their choice, other times with a song designated to them. The singers (or their staff) arrange the songs, stage effects and generally put on a show. At the end of each show, 500 audience members -- who are selected with an even distribution in age groups, so that the audience is not dominated by screaming fangirls -- vote the top three singers. After adding up the two week tally, the last place is taken off the show and the new singer comes on.

Needless to say, the show has been a massive hit -- which made the Korean realize:  it will be just a matter of time before Hollywood catches on. Sooner or later, there will be an American copy of I am a Singer on network television, because that's what American television people do. (Of course, this is not to say only American television people shamelessly copy TV show ideas.)

If the trend is inevitable, why not join it? Surely there must be a Hollywood intern scouring the Internet right now, looking for new show ideas. Perhaps this post can push the American version of the show in a manner that we want. So here is a fun little exercise: what would be your dream lineup of I am a Singer USA? Be sure to remember that you are not simply indulging in your wildest dream, but actually trying to come up with a reasonable lineup for a sustainable show. To that end, consider these formulas that the actual show has been following:
  • The singers should be one of three things: (1) a former superduperstar who has been out of the limelight for a few years; (2) a very talented artist who has a niche appeal but not known to broad mainstream audience; (3) up-and-coming young artist who is talented but not very well known. In other words, these type of people cannot be on the show: (a) artists who are currently at a very high level in terms of public appeal (e.g. Lady Gaga); (b) untalented pretty puppets (e.g. Justin Bieber).
  • There should be diversity in musical genre. The very first lineup of I am a Singer featured: R&B/Reggae singer, two soft rock singers with very distinctive voices, a rock band, two "classical" R&B singers and a dance/pop singer. The current lineup features a hair rocker, alternative rock band, three soft rock singers, a rapper and an old time diva who sings everything.
  • There should be diversity in age and career, to include old time legends as well as younger generation.
  • There should be diversity in musical stature. You cannot fill the show with seven hyper-legends, because that lineup is not sustainable. The lineup must include top-tier, mid-tier and indie stars.
  • Be mindful of the budget. I am a Singer might be the most expensive show program in Korean television history, because each of the singers commands high premium. The show was made possible only because Korea's version of iTunes bankrolled the show, out of the expectation that the songs from the show (which will be owned by the bankrolling company) will sell extremely well online. They were correct. But even still, the budget is not unlimited.
The Korean will add one more requirement: since we are trying to envision a sustainable show, create a two-deep lineup. In other words, come up with the "starting" lineup of seven artists, and have a backup lineup of seven artists.

With these caveats in mind, create your own lineup! The Korean's proposed lineup is after the jump.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at

Here is the Korean's proposed lineup for I am a Singer USA:

Starting Lineup
  • Whitney Houston.  You want a superduperstar who has been out of the lineup for a few years? Here she is. You will watch a show where Whitney competes against other singers. You will.
  • Kelly Clarkson.  This show will inevitably depend heavily on inoffensive soft rock. Clarkson is as good as any in that genre, without having to break into "legendary" level.
  • Shakira.  Must also have a sexy dance number who is actually a good singer. Also passes the "been out of the limelight for a bit" test. Latin flavor is a bonus.
  • Toby Keith.  Must also have a country singer representative.
  • Creed.  Who's ready for some controversy? Can't you just see the head explosions of hardcore rock fans?
  • Adele.  Talented up-and-coming star? Check. Also helps to have a UK representative.
  • Ludacris.  Can't have an American TV show about music without a rapper. 
Second Lineup
  • Chris Brown.  Could replace Creed as the "controversy" star. Also provides the R&B backbone of the show.
  • Britney Spears.  Just like you will watch Whitney singing, you will watch Britney Spears' attempt to out-whore other women on the show. You will.
  • Alicia Keys.  A more accomplished and dignified version of Kelly Clarkson.
  • Dixie Chicks.  Our token country artists who actually do have some mainstream pull.
  • Bruce Springsteen.  This lineup's legend.
  • Jennifer Hudson.  This lineup's young star. Pit her against Alicia Keys and we have a show!
  • Eminem.  Because every reality TV show requires a certifiable asshole.
The Korean is getting giddy just thinking about these lineups. The Korean is actually not even the best person to play this game, because he does not follow American/Anglophonic music scene as closely as he follows Korean pop scene. (He listens almost exclusively to rock.) Spread this around and go nuts!

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. what's your fantasy 'I am a Singer' lineup for the Korean show? Who would you like to see on?

  2. That is a very, very difficult set of rules, especially because a LOT of American artists who are not "mainstream popular music" or are "former superduper stars" still make shitload of money (Paul McCartney, U2, Rolling Stones... And the fact that none of them are American), and many artists who would be considered "moderately popular" or a "niche" still pulls in a LOT of money.

    ... So, assuming that I have about 3 trillion dollars as my budget and it's okay to invite British or Canadian singers/bands...

    Season Premiere Lineup:

    1. Rev. Run
    2. Eagles
    3. Stone Temple Pilots
    4. Sum 41
    5. Less Than Jake
    6. Eryka Badu
    7. Eric Clapton

    Backup Lineup:
    1. Common
    2. Kansas
    3. KISS
    4. Blink 182
    5. Smash Mouth
    6. Leona Lewis
    7. Paul McCartney

    I've tried to be as diverse as possible in terms of the musical genre (hiphop, 'softer' Rock, 'harder' Rock, 90's Punk, Ska Pop, R&B, and whatever Clapton & McCartney are (... 'Legends'?))

  3. Britney Spears? I thought you said no untalented pretty puppets. Admittedly I'm not completely up on the majority opinion these days, but ever since she debuted I can remember her being considered an image-driven star rather than a talent-driven one. Does she still lip-sync her live performances?

  4. You can't use Bruce Springsteen! In fact, none of the people listed here should be on the show:

  5. Seeing as how this is merely a fantasy I guess I can indulge myself

    1st lineup:

    1. Dream Theater
    2. Rush
    3. Steely Dan
    4. Opeth
    5. The Unthanks
    6. Bjork
    7. Jamey Johnson

    2nd lineup:

    1. Anthrax
    2. Diablo Swing Orchestra
    3. Symphony X
    4. Dropkick Murphys
    5. Brian Eno
    6. Janelle Monae
    7. Arcade Fire

  6. First line up:
    3.Sara Bareilles
    4.Jason Mraz
    6.Linkin Park
    7.Justin Timberlake
    and second line up:
    2.Avril Lavigne
    3.Priscilla Ahn
    5.Gwen Stefani
    6.Carrie Underwood
    7.Red Hot Chili Peppers

    too bad it's just a fantasy...

  7. @Ian: I think Britney qualifies under clause #1. Despite her perceived lack of talent, she is a former super-duper-star who has been out of the limelight for a few years.

    I think that the American music market, being broader and stronger than the Korean one is a hard one to do this game with for reasons that bum points out. Even if you were to limit it to a single genre, you still have a lot of variety in the US. Still, with VH1 and company churning out endless reality programs featuring formerly popular musicians and one-hit wonders, I think there's definitely still room for an "I Am a Singer" type program. Here's a fun list, it's less fantasy and more fun and I'm limiting myself to Americans. I also limited myself to just one band, although you could substitute some of the solo performers below with their respective bands.

    Starting lineup

    1) Poison
    2) Lauryn Hill
    3) Neko Case
    4) Brian McKnight
    5) JC Chasez (of NSync)
    6) Mandy Moore
    7) Richard Marx

    Backup lineup

    1) Brian Setzer (of Stray Cats)
    2) Macy Gray
    3) Gloria Gaynor
    4) Debbie Gibson
    5) Montell Jordan
    6) Ben Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie)
    7) Black Francis (of Pixies)

  8. All I know is, Meatloaf is one of my backups, and any band that's done a reunion tour is disqualified.

  9. Nice lineup, The Korean.

    I wish we had a show like '나는 가수다' in America. I just saw "the X-Factor" for the first time tonight. I changed the channel within minutes of watching it. It's SO cheesy...

    I would definitely tune into an American version of "I Am A Singer."


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