As the heat of summer gradually diminishes and the crisp cool of fall approaches, slower love songs that best fit the new season are making a strong push onto the K-Pop Hot 100 chart. It seems fans are switching their mp3 playlists stacked with buoyant dance songs to those filled with relaxing love ballads.
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The hip-hop duo Leessang is the front-runner of this slow jam movement with the introduction of their seventh soul & hip hop album, “Asura BalBalTa.” The title song of this album, “I Turned Off The TV,” has reached No. 1 on the K-Pop Hot 100 while 12 other songs from the same album have also made their way onto the chart. In addition to Leessang’s effort, songs like “You Are So Beautiful” by Kim Jun Soo of JYJ and “Mermaid” a joint song by Lena Park, Sohyang and Lee Young Hyun have shown strong sales for the ballad genre. Billboard Korea has compiled a list of the top five ballad/slow jam songs from the last week of August (August 24 ~ 30).
Leessang: I Turned Off The TV (No. 1)
Leessang, the ninth year hip hop duo, released its seventh album titled “AsuRa BalBalTa” on August 24 and what a huge response the album is receiving. Thirteen of the album’s tracks can be seen within the K-Pop Hot 100. Even the title song’s prologue track, “The Answer To Me Is You” sits proudly atop the No. 67 rank clearly showing the popularity of Leessang’s album. R&B and Hip-Hop are considered fringe genres within the Korean music market; however, the popularity of this album speaks to the diverse music tastes of the Korean music consumer. The number one song on this week’s chart, “I Turned Off The TV” has lyrics penned by Gary and music composed by Gil. This song tells the story of a man yearning to spend a passionate, impulsive night with the woman that he dearly loves. The politely sexual references throughout the song stimulate the senses and have made the song popular amongst all genders and age groups. In addition, Gil’s husky singing voice blends well with Gary’s high-toned, sharp rapping showing off Leessang’s unique musical identity. “AsuRa BalBalTa” meaning “Everything Comes True” stays true to its title allowing Leessang to stay true to its soul & hip-hop musical roots but still remain popular with the masses.
10cm: “Hold Me” (No. 16)
Indie-band superstar male duo, 10cm, has once again hit it big with their mellow ballad song, “Hold Me.” Vocalist Kwon Jung Yul’s sweet voice invokes feelings of love in the listener and is the highlight of this track. 10cm is known for continuously repeating its chorus line throughout the song to increase the listener’s rhythmical sense. In this track, the members of 10cm repeatedly beg their sweetheart to hold them and not let go. Listening to this track, we were reminded of mellow, feel good songs such as “The Lazy Song” of Bruno Mars. 10cm debuted this past April and has been breaking down the barriers that separate mainstream music from indie music. So far, their biggest hits have been “Americano” and “It’s Not that.”
In Soon-Ee: “Father” (No. 17)
In Soon-Ee is known as the Whitney Houston of Korean music and explosive vocals and appeal have helped her rule the stage for the past 33 years. The song “Father” was a track on her 17th full album that was released in 2009. “Father” is a medium-tempo ballad song mourning the death of her beloved father. In Soon-Ee’s song, about the realization of how much she loved her father only after he had passed away, invokes memories of beloved parents in all who listen to this track. “Father” was able to make it on the K-Pop Hot 100 two years after its release due to the MBC TV reality singing competition, “I Am a Singer,” in which seven real vocal artists compete to decide the top singer in Korea. On August 21, In Soon-Ee performed as a competitor on the show and sang her hit, “Father” to the delight of all who were watching. With her performance, In Soon-Ee not only won that day’s competition but also is experiencing a rejuvenated popularity with the younger crowd.
Kim Junsu (JYJ): “You Are So Beautiful” (No. 18)
Kim Junsu, member of JYJ, has become one of Korea’s “king of ballads” with his solo track on the OST for the hit SBS TV series “Scent of a Woman.” With his sweet vocals, Kim Junsu has successfully crossed genres from dance music over to ballads. In “You Are So Beautiful,” he sings about the sad love of a man who can only helplessly watch as his terminally ill lover wastes away. The first line of this pop ballad goes, “Please do not forget the memories you made with me,” and speaks to the tragic emotion contained within this song. Kim Junsu also played a major role in five episodes of “Scent of a Woman,” adding another dimension to his already successful career.
Lena Park, Sohyang, Lee Young Hyun: “Mermaid” (No. 26)
Three of Korea’s leading female vocalists have banded together to form the “Diva Project.” The “Diva Project” consists of Lena Park, who has returned to the forefront of K-Pop with her stunning live performances on a popular reality show, Sohyang who received personal vocal lessons from Michael Jackson’s vocal trainer Seth Riggs, and Lee Young Hyun from the skilled K-Pop ballad team Big Mama. Their first collaboration, “Mermaid,” is about a fairy tale mermaid who has struck out in matters of love. The climax of the jazz-tinged track is especially awe-inspiring due to the blend of Sohyang’s voice reaching up three octaves and the R&B background grounded voices of Lena Park and Lee Young Hyun.