KOREAN MUSIC: Lee Hayi of SBS’s “K-Pop Star” (12)

케이팝 스타: 이하이 (Lee Hayi, or Lee Ha Yi)

I know why Hayi didn’t win the final.  It’s all my fault.  I jinxed her.  Jo Mungeun, John Park, Lee Taekwon, Busker Busker, and Bae Sujeong.  As some of you may know by now, this is a long list of runner-ups at the previous Korean singing competitions and as most of you may not know, I rooted for them to win.  Now Hayi is a new addition to the list. 

But I’ll tell you what. I kind of already knew that Hayi was not going to win as her voice is not cut out for a singing competition where high-pitched, sometimes overpowering voices (or singers’ ability to sing notes in a very high register) are favored and wowed by the viewers and audience.  We’ve already seen it before when the likes of Lee Sora, Jo Gyuchan, and Jeong Yeop were eliminated from the Naneun Gasuda or NAGASU (나는 가수다, “I Am a Singer”) or when Bobby Kim and Lee Hyunwoo were underappreciated by the NAGASU audience and viewers.  All those are more understated singers than others featured on the show.  They all failed to make the viewers’ and audience get goosebumps by hitting overpoweringly high notes. That’s the downside of singing competitions and music is not a competition. So I think it’s already a miracle that Hayi has come this far, that she’s brought us this far spellbound.

And in this vein, I think Hayi chose the wrong song.  I know Roberta Flack is such a great singer and her song, “Killing Me Softly with His Song” (1973) was a number one hit and has been remade so many times until now.  But honestly, I never listen to this song without getting bored to tears.  It's always like the singer's killing me softly with her song (in a negative sense).  I know it's all a matter of personal preference or taste, but it’s obvious it failed to showcase her one-of-a-kind talent tonight especially when Park Jimin chose to sing Lim Jeong Hee’s “Music Is My Life.”  I know there’s no use to say what if's but I wonder what'd have happened if Hayi had chosen a Korean song that touches the Korean audience’s heart to the deepest.  

And here's one more thing:  Given that Lim Jeong Hee’s “Music Is My Life” sampled Diana Ross’s 1970 hit, “Ain't No Mountain High Enough,” all four songs sung by Hayi and Jimin are “Pop Songs” (American/British popular music). Therefore I think it's a legitimate criticism from the show’s fans that they should rename it “Pop Star,” not “K-pop Star.”  It’s like David Cook and David Archuleta singing all Korean songs in the American Idol final.

Even though it’s true that we live in a “Winner-Take-All” world, I don’t think it’s true in this case.  For both Hayi and Jimin can be winners in the long run.  And looking on the bright side, it may indeed be Hayi’s career blessing in disguise.  And I wish her all the best!

Lee Hayi:  "K-Pop Star" Final  (aired on 04/29/2012)
Roberta Flack: "Killing Me Softly with His Song"

Here’s what the judges said:

Park Jin Young (or Park Jinyeong):  I would give Hayi 100 points for (up to) the first 16 bars of the song.  But she lost concentration and emotion in the middle of the song while ad-libbing the part without lyrics (humming along to the tune).  A singer should be able to express emotions without lyrics too, but she failed to do it, which broke her concentration.  So I averaged her points between the best (beginning) part and the worst (ending) part.  (94 out of 100)

BoA:  Hayi’s voice has such a captivating power to it that sweeps over the audience.  Her voice has such a bewitching power but as JYP just commented, if she really wants to be more expressive and wants to thrill the audience with better performances, then she needs to  work more on body language (like hand gestures) and she needs to sing like she means it (just like an actress).  I want her to sing more carried away by enthusiasm. (98 out of 100)

Yang Hyun Suk (or Yang Hyeonseok): Honestly, I like this song the most of all songs Hayi has picked so far for she didn’t really need to sing high notes that she’s been having trouble with.  The Korean audience has a tendency to consider a person with high-pitched voice a good singer, but the reason why we, all three judges, keep praising Hayi is….  I wonder who else, I mean, among any professional singers in Korea, can sing this song as well as her.  I felt really great (listening to her singing) and I told you I would be very generous with the scoring today. I don’t care if I get bashed (for this).  (99 out of 100)

Lee Hayi:  "K-Pop Star" Final (aired on 04/29/2012)
Adele: "Rolling in the Deep"

Yang Hyun Suk (or Yang Hyeonseok):  I didn’t wear headphones while other two judges wore them to hear everything, so I might be wrong.  But Hayi amazed me with this rearrangement of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” that created a style that was strictly her own and also with her perfect rendition of the song, including such numerous ad-libs, totally in tune from the beginning till the end.  On the other hand, Park Jimin demonstrated off-key flubbing here and there singing Lim Jeong Hee’s “Music Is my Life.”  Well, again, I might have heard it wrong, but any way, I really appreciate her singing.  I didn’t know (until now) Adele’s song could be interpreted and rendered this way.   (99 out of 100)

Park Jin Young (or Park Jinyeong):  This time, Hayi expressed definitely more of her feelings in this song and didn’t lose it all along.  I really appreciated it.  But we don’t always need to hit the high notes to get to the climax of the song; we can build to a climax by expressing emotions or changing tones. Just like Hayi and me did while practicing together to use different types of tones for the song, “Mercy.”  This is the problem that lies ahead of her.  She has to solve it by practicing; she needs to learn how to reach the climax of the song and how to create a thrilling sensation for the song.  (96 out of 100)

BoA:  I coached Jimin when she was practicing this song (for the competition).  When I heard Hayi was going to sing this song, I expected she would sing just like Adele because their vocal tones are quite similar.  While listening to her singing the song, however, I was never reminded of the original singer, not to mention Jimin.  And I never thought Hayi would nail the high notes this solidly.  Today is the final and I think she deserves this score. (100 out of 100)

Finally, here’s Hayi’s final runner-up’s speech:  I feel so good ‘cause I don’t need to feel under pressure any more.  I also have felt like crying but tried really hard to hold back my tears.  At last it all ended, so I’m feeling bittersweet.  I feel so relieved.

Yang Hyun Suk (or Yang Hyeonseok):  Even though Hayi placed second tonight, she’s the number one in my heart.  Cheer up, Hayi!

Post-Final Backstage Picture: Hayi gets a bear hug from Jimin's mom.
(Picture from SBS's K-pop Star Webpage)