September 21, 2007 09:00
For a well-known singer to go for a completely different genre or style and succeed is not easy once the public have a fixed image and expectation of the artist.
On the Korean scene, it is all the more difficult for a dance music artist to become a ballad singer since the two fields are considered antipodes of each other. But Baek Ji-young faced up to the challenge, and it has come off nicely. The change began with her hit song "I Won't Fall in Love" last year, and she firmly established her ground as a balladeer with the latest album "Sixth Miracle."
The album's title song "Just love" has already topped many of the music charts on the Internet. Unfortunately, the song is considered the least creative, almost a copy of "I Won't Fall in Love" from melody and lyrics to sentiment. The finest piece on the album is in fact the fifth song, "Like an old habit," which is completely absorbing and flows like water, all the while fully conveying the pain of a break-up. But the album is full of songs that boast high quality and strong public appeal at the same time.
Baek's husky yet distinctive tone commands more appeal in ballad songs than dance mixes, as it is easily drowned out by strong beats. In the 1980s, Korea's then queen of dance music Kim Wan-sun drew some attention with such ballad pieces. Her singing was widely acknowledged as she advanced further into her career, but even so she couldn't fully break away from the limitations of a dance music artist.
Baek, on the other hand, is gaining public acceptance as a ballad singer eight years after her debut, and she did this after making it to the top as a dance artist with such songs as "Dash" and "Sad Salsa."
Such a smooth conversion is very rare in Korean popular music. Of course, the inevitable break she had to take due to a sex video incident might have provided the opportunity. But one thing is certain: more and more people are drawn to her voice, which is gaining more strength as the days go by.
Once known as a fashion icon, she sported lingerie, tiger skin costumes or tassels, fully unleashing her sex appeal. But when she returned after the long absence, we were in for a surprise. Her transition from dance to ballad may have been welcomed, but her outlandish outfits did raise some eyebrows.
After her fifth album "Smile again," she flabbergasted audiences with a costume that looked like a giant broccoli, and more recently, she baffled viewers on cable TV program M.net by appearing in a long dress with completely mismatched top and bottom. She didn't stop there, but went on to appear at several award ceremonies in a chiffon dress that came down to her ankle, repeatedly earning her the "worst dressed" title.
She managed to delight her fans once again on M Countdown with a long dress with layers of lace like a wedding cake; fans decided to giver her new nicknames like "nine-story cake" or "shuttlecock." It remains to be seen whether her new fashion adventure will be as successful as her musical adventure.
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