Are you familiar with old school K-pop artists, such as Kim Gun Mo (김건모), Park Ji Yoon (박지윤), or Seotaji & Boys (서태지 와 아이들)? If you are, then kudos to you! If not, not to worry for we are bringing back the vintage K-pop bi-weekly. Our objective is to bring new fans up to speed with some of the oldies so that you can see how K-pop has evolved and how some of the old-school influences are still with us today.
Instead of starting K-pop music history with well-known pop bands such as H.O.T or S.E.S, we will start out with Lee Jung Hyun aka AVA. Although she was not quite as popular as the idols of her generation, I personally feel that she was an artist that was uniquely ahead of her time. Before Lady Gaga, 2NE1, or any other over the top artists, there was Lee Jung Hyun. A spunky girl with a unique flair in all of her songs who wasn’t afraid to undergo several transformations (from an alien to a barbie doll to even a dominatrix) to convey the ideas behind her music, literally.
But before we go deep into her music, let’s take a step back to learn about her origins. Unlike current idols of today, who use their idol status to weasel their way into acting, Lee Jung Hyun started her career as an actress. She made her debut in 1996 through a movie called A Petal, which tells a story of a young girl who faced emotional trauma as the result of the Gwangju uprising in 1980. The critics and the media at the time were surprised to see a 16 year old carry out such complicated and hard role the way Lee Jung Hyun did. And the movie won numerous awards, which put this diva on the map.
Before the actress turned singer fully ventured into K-pop, she was featured in Cho PD’s Fever and Goofy’s Rule of the Game and in 1999, she finally debuted with album titled Let’s Go to My Star. Her first title track “Come(와)” topped SBS charts for 3 weeks and her next track, “Change (바꿔)” won awards for Best Song and Most Broadcasted song of the year. As the result of her successes, she also picked up the “Techno Queen” nickname, which wasn’t innovative for any standards, given that her music was predominately techno.
The following year the techno diva released album titled Peace promoting “You(너)” looking like an Egyptian.
In 2001, she released album titled Magic to Go to my Star and the “Crazy (미쳐)” music video was highly controversial because she not only sported a dominatrix costume but also because it alluded to homosexuality with a scene of two guys almost kissing.
In 2002, she promoted another techno album titled I <3 Natural, utilizing traditional Korean instruments.
Lee Jung Hyun’s music slowly transitioned from techno to pop, releasing three full albums (Passion, Fantastic Girl and oo7th), a mini-album (Avaholic) and a special album (Summer Party) in Korea as well as other material in Japan and China.
Although Lee Jung Hyun is not as popular as she was when she first debuted in the sea of current idol stars, it is apparent that some solo singers, such as Seo In Young are influenced by her over-the-top image and execution. Since her last album in 2010, the actress-turned-singer went back to her roots and is currently busy filming her next movie, Crime Boys that is scheduled to hit the theaters this year.