In the fall of 2009, while rookie groups like BEAST and MBLAQ were going toe-to-toe, one mustn’t overlook the significant contributions from other artists that seemed to resonate with the beauty that comes along with the fall and winter seasons. I’m talking about the likes of Superstar K’s Seo-in-Guk, U-Kiss, Wheesung, Hwanhee, and Taeyang. Let’s get it.
This trend of releasing melodic sounds, it seems to carry over the years. The summer is full of club bangers and school anthems. But when the leaves start to brown and the wind turns chill, when the sweaters come out, that’s when the laid back hits start to wash over.
In the fall of 2009, several interesting things happened. First, this was around the time that I became a regular on a relatively new website devoted to kpop called Allkpop. These days, Allkpop is the standard by which everyone goes to for the latest and greatest news coming from South Korean entertainment. For the most part, it seems reliable and trustworthy… “seems”.
Back then, in 2009, I had to take it with a grain of salt. Allkpop was reliable when it came to publishing the release dates, the music videos, and teasers for my favorite artists. The downside, was that Allkpop was extremely biased back in the day and they know it. If you read my chapters about DBSK and Casseiopeia, then you’d understand. That fandom was real. And anyone who threatened the popularity of DBSK and SM Entertainment artists was a threat. That threat was none other than Big Bang.
Thus, if you go back and check out some of their articles released before 2009, you get a lot of trash talking where they’re straight up dissing Big Bang and YG artists. They may have deleted a lot of it, but I’m telling you it was real. Even when G-Dragon came out with his solo album that was undeniably good, the Allkpop author writing an article about it would give their two-cents where they’d give some credit, with backhanded criticism. Kind of like the news does with Pres. Trump these days. Where they’ll say, “Pres. Trump condemns white supremacists, but refuses to change gun laws…” He did something good…but he’s still bad. That effect.
4-MEN – Knock Knock Knock
However, Allkpop would get better as they came along. I think they took notice of the comments and how a lot of us were dissing the Allkpop writers for their unwarranted criticism of our favorite artists. Gradually, they realized that while DBSK had more fans internationally (out of the states), domestically and within the U.S., we mostly favored the sound of Big Bang and 2NE1. If you don’t want to lose readers, you gotta curb your hate and cater to them. So that’s what Allkpop did.
By time Taeyang came out with “Where U At” on October 14, 2009, Allkpop was starting to look like a fair and balanced site, where they presented the artist’s work and simply stated the facts. If there was praise or criticism, it wasn’t their own, but from this new thing called “Netizens…” a horrible word, phonetically, that I’ve never spoken out loud because I’d feel like a geek to do so.
Taeyang – WEDDING DRESS
When Taeyang released his promotional tracks “Where U At” and “Wedding Dress” it really did seem like YG had the golden touch. 2009 was owned by YG Entertainment and their stable of artists. From 2NE1 debuting in March, Big Bang’s first Japanese album in July, G-Dragon’s first solo album in August, and now with Taeyang and Park Bom dropping unforgettable tracks in the last quarter…
It was amazing…not just for the music, but also TV. Big Bang’s TOP was blowin up the small screen as the iconic assassin Vick in the hot TV show, “Iris” starring Lee Byung-hun.
However…one can’t sleep on the other artists releasing amazing work around this time. In particular, Epik High released their album “E” on September of 2009 and man…the electronica they experimented with was perfect for that fall season, especially me as a writer.
EPIK HIGH – BEST OVERTURE
That song by Epik High, I must have had on repeat over a hundred times in a single day as I wrote some of my most precious work. And aside from the amazing compositions, they also introduced a mainstream audience to underground Korean rappers like Dumbfounded and Dok2.
EPIK HIGH – LIFE’S LIKE A MAZE
Old school vets also returned to the scene that fall. I’m talking about the likes of Fly to the Sky’s Hwanhee (H-Soul Oct 2009) and the soulful R&B crooner, Wheesung, aka Real Slow (Vocolate).
It was amazing to see them promoting around the same time because they were close friends from back in the day. I remember watching a broadcast where Fly to the Sky’s Brian and Hwanhee were featured. For those who don’t know, Fly to the Sky was an R&B duo under SM Entertainment who performed along the likes of Shinhwa and S.E.S. in the early 2000s. But as time progressed, apparently Brian and Hwanhee drifted apart. The broadcast I watched explored what happened and it appears Wheesung was good friends with both of them during that time.
Another group returning to the scene that fall was a group called U-Kiss.
I haven’t written much (at all) about U-Kiss up to this point because…sad to say, they were really never something to write home about…until they released “Man Man Hani.” hahaha! I remember doing that dance every time I wore a suit that year. It’s a hypnotic beat produced by none other than Brave Brothers, the same producer who knocked out several of Big Bang’s hits the year before. I had heard there was beef between Brave Brothers and YG, which was why Brave Brothers left to start his own label, “Brave Sound,” but none of that mattered to me. I’m a fan of YG, but real recognizes real. If rival band or group sounds good, I have no shame in jamming out to them while still being a YG fan. Shiiet.
Another significant thing that happened in the fall of 2009 was Superstar K. This program was supposed to be S. Korea’s answer to the U.S.’s “America’s Got Talent.” 2009 was its first year so expectations were high. This was every boy and girl’s chance to win superstardom in an instant. Some of my favorite singers would eventually receive their initial fame through this show, talents like Kim Feel or Winner’s Kang Seung-Yoon. To win this thing, against all odds, you had to be something special. And in 2009, the first winner was a young gun named Seo in-Guk.
I liked Seo In-Guk. It was difficult not to like him. Modest, seemingly from humble beginnings, but with a tremendous voice and obvious work ethic. I don’t think I saw a single episode of Superstar K but when I heard his first single, “Calling You,” I was impressed. It’s just unfortunate that he released it along the likes of Hwanhee and Wheesung, his superiors, in my book.
Don’t get me wrong, Seo In-Guk deserves all the credit he got. But kpop is a tough industry. You gotta keep coming with the hits if you want to survive, and after Seo In-Guk’s “Calling You” debut…I really didn’t hear much from him for some time. I think his next release would be in May of 2010, which may not seem like a long time, but when you have groups like BEAST and MBLAQ causing a stir…yeah.
Not to mention 2pm’s drama, which I’m going to devote all of my next chapter to. Because 2pm…damn dude. I said that YG dominated 2009 with all their accomplishments…but what happened with 2pm really did steal a little of their shine. And when 2pm won an album of the year award at one of the year-end festivals, everyone knew it was a pity award, where they didn’t earn it, but the public felt sorry so…here you go pal. Now go on and be happy.
But let’s end this chapter on a good note. YG isn’t known for releasing mushy holiday songs, but in November of 2009, they did. One of my favorite Big Bang songs is “Let Me Hear Your Voice.” It was the perfect way to wrap up an awesome year. The boys showcase their best vocals, just in time for the holiday season. You don’t need to know Japanese or Korean to follow along. The chorus will stick with you and you’ll be mouthing the words in no time.