*disclaimer: If you hadn’t read the intro, the following is a personal memoir about my 13 years of exploring Korean and Japanese music
The first song I heard of Seo Taiji was toward the end of 2005. It was a live performance of “Hefty End” followed by “Roboto.” At first listen…I honestly wasn’t that impressed. Mind you, I had already heard the music of Miyavi and Gackt. It sounded like a version of them so I wasn’t interested.
However, by the summer of 2006, after jamming out to the hits of H.O.T. and indulging on Moon Hee Jun’s version of nu-metal…I was ready for Seo Taiji.
Seo Taiji really deserves his own Hollywood biopic, similar to N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton.” He was one of the main forces that modernized pop music in Korean culture. Before him, they had some pop acts where the singer came out on stage in Christmas sweaters, looking all prim and proper. But Seo Taiji was the first to get out there and show Korea that they could produce high-energy music and perform it just as well, if not better than the Americans.
The South Korea of today is completely different from the way it was in the 1980s. From my understanding, it wasn’t until the 1988 Olympics in Seoul that brought a lot of money in and helped really develop it from a second or third world nation into a first-world country. Four years later, here comes this trio of skinny lads, two main dancers who could sing and rap…led by a scrawny kid in glasses who could rap, sing, dance and play the hell out of a guitar. He went by the name of Seo Taiji.
In 1992, Seo Taiji and Boys dropped this dope hit:
Seo Taiji and Boy’s “Nan Arroyo” exploded on the music scene and changed the dynamics of Korean pop culture. And the thing is, I had heard this song before. When I was learning about Se7en, I found a clip of him, Rain, and Hyori performing a tribute to it. Of course, at the time, I had no idea how influential Seo Taiji was or why that song was so significant.
Everything changed in the country after this. Seo Taiji became a household name and from what I read, his appeal was widespread, reaching fans of all demographics, male, female, teens, kids and adults. Thus, people called him the Michael Jackson of S. Korea. Fans swarmed venues and any place where the group made an appearance.
I even remember reading about a U.S. soldier who was stationed in S. Korea in 1994. He described how famous Seo Taiji was and how even he fell in love with Seo Taiji’s music. He said the first song he heard was “Certain Victory,” which cemented his fandom. That’s what did it for me as well. In truth, their first hit of “Nan Arroyo” didn’t really do anything for me. Too retro, influenced by the new jack swing. But the attitude and sound of “Certain Victory” was really got me to listen to his music.