Welcome to another Roundtable!

Last week, writers Nicholas and Jasper teamed up to review the songs from Kara‘s latest Japanese release, wherein each of the five members performed their own solo — and recorded accompanying PVs for them as well. Deemed as a novel concept that allowed each member to play to their individual strengths, this mini-album was well regarded by both the writers and readers alike.

Seeing this effort by Kara got the Seoulbeats staff thinking, though: with the exception of some groups like Big Bang and 2AM, only select members of a group (usually the vocalists) are normally provided with the opportunity to record solos (like After School‘s former leader Kahi and 2PM‘s Wooyoung). But allowing all the members of a group to record their own song provides new opportunities for both the members to put all that vocal training to good use as well as give their own personal touch to the music, and this is only to the delight of fans. Heck, a group may even be able to bring in new fans with such a concept, if the comments in the aforementioned Kara article are any indication. “Solo compilation albums” could be a successful tool, wherein the group’s brand is utilised to showcase the individualities of its members — and the possibilities of such a concept seem endless.

Assuming there is an unlimited budget and free creative control, which group, do you hope, will make their own “solo compilation album?” What kind of song would you like to see each member perform? And, for bonus marks, what would the music videos for the songs look like?

Let’s see what our panel of writers fantasised about…

Fannie: I think it would be really interesting for Super Junior to go for a solo compilation album, as they have approximately the right number of members to amount to an actual full-length album, which K-pop needs more of. Suju has always been marketed for the individual colors of each of the members’ personalities anyway, so I think it would make for a very fun and varied album… I’d imagine there would be a smooth R&B number by Donghae, a cheerful trot-rap piece by Shindong, a soulful ballad by Yesung, a rock piece by Heechul, etc. etc.

Of course, the group might run into some problems with this logistically, such as whether to include Kibum, Henry, Zhoumi, or members that happen to be in the army. On the other hand, I know that one problem they regularly have to face (as a group of entertainers with a lot of individual schedules) is finding time for the whole group to promote/record together — and this wouldn’t be an issue for a solo compilation album since everyone would be recording separately. As for music videos, I do think 13 (give or take a few) videos would be a bit excessive, but at the same time, we do know that SM has the resources to do so if necessary — just look no further than Exo‘s 23 teasers.

Johnelle: Hard question, because most of the groups I know and love the most have already done solo work — Big Bang, 2NE1, 2AM, the Brown Eyed Girls and CN Blue. Even SM Entertainment has been doling out the solos or duets a lot recently, although mainly for OST work. But did you hear some of the songs they’ve done for the To the Beautiful You OST? Even Taemin got a solo that was released with this week’s episodes.

Digging deep into my K-pop pool of knowledge, a couple of groups come to mind: Sistar, Beast, and the Wonder Girls. I actually got to see the Wonder Girls live at their concert in Hawaii in 2010 (also saw Sistar at the 2011 KMF, but I don’t think they were singing live) and their voices really did wow me so I’m picking the Wonder Girls for the group I’d most like to see a solo compilation album from.

I believe Sunye has done the most work singing outside of the Wonder Girls’ promotions, but mostly featuring in other artists’ songs and for OSTs, like “Maybe” for the Dream High OST. I think Sunye’s voice would do well in a love ballad. In my opinion Ye-eun has the best voice overall and I’d like her to sing some kind of sexy love song. Her husky tones would sound awesome in it. I LOVE Yubin‘s voice and think it would work perfectly in a smexy hip hop track — maybe featuring a strong male vocalist to back her up? Hyelim has a sweet voice that would probably be highlighted best in some kind of cute, pop track. As for Sohee, although she has improved, I think she’s still the weakest, vocally, of the Wonder Girls. She could probably work some kind of ear worm-like song though.

Gaya: Wow, I thought the large number would be the biggest impediment to Super Junior doing this kind of thing; I didn’t even think of all the other issues you mentioned, like whether to include Henry and Zhou Mi.

I loved Hyelim’s solo from Wonder World, “Act Cool;” I don’t really know why, but I just love the obnoxious, spoiled-maknae feel it had (not that I think Hyelim herself is obnoxious), with its bragging and brilliantly meta-bridge. I’d love to hear more of that, though I agree that it is a bit of an acquired taste. “Like This” really suited her as well, so something like that would probably be an even bigger crowd pleaser.

But Johnelle, I know Big Bang has members with their own solo releases, but I can’t help but think of Daesung, who I don’t recall having solo promotions. I know he has some ballads and trot songs in his repertoire, but what would your dream Daesung solo be like? What kind of concept would you want him to do?

Nicholas: Gaya, if I remember correctly, Daesung used his solo opportunities to have fun and surprise in the most literal sense — by releasing trot singles.

For me, the group that cries out most for solos has got to be SNSD. In my article on their B-sides, I observed that most of their releases have been geared towards a compromise towards most members. Hence, a Kara Collection-styled release would suit them perfectly, in terms of how songs written just for them would help to play up to their strengths and let even the most ardent fan discover a possibly more talented, unexpected and surprising side to SNSD.

I can see Taeyeon doing some diva-style tunes, possibly a duet with Tiffany, and maybe having the group’s dancers, Yuri and Hyoyeon, do a heavily synthesized, pumping dance tune. However, I should add a “but” into this fantasy, as SM would need to be serious with production quality. They’d have to make the girls sound good, and not have fans wondering what “could have been”.

I’d also second Fannie’s call for a Super Junior project, but for different reasons. I feel that a solo release serves as a nice way to channel one’s musical passions into what can be better done, as well as break away slightly from SM’s rather conservative musical culture. For some reason, it is as if when groups start selling beyond a certain number, they start doing songs that attempt to strike a middle ground, and just like that, they lose that carefree spark that makes “pop”, pop. Just look at how fun Oppa, Oppa was compared to half of Sexy Free & Single! Then again, that single was probably never done with sales figures in mind.

Johnelle: Just when I think I’m done with this Roundtable, Gaya hits me with my K-pop kryptonite: Big Bang, and Daesung nonetheless. Totally exploiting my bias.

So, to be totally honest, I don’t think any of Daesung’s solo work has highlighted his vocals to its greatest potential. His songs “Try Smiling” and “Baby Don’t Cry” are probably my favorites of his solo work, but I think both songs are too slow and too low pitched. “Wings” off of the Alive album was okay, but it totally sounded like a song from a musical. I think Daesung’s trot songs “Look at me Gwisoon” and “Big Hit” were pretty successful in showing off his personality and voice, but I’m still waiting for that perfect solo song from Daesung.

I’m thinking something R&B/neo-soul-ish because Daesung has mentioned numerous times that he loves the genre and artists like Eric Benet and D’Angelo. I’ve heard it said that to be able to truly sing R&B, one must have experienced life and tragedy and at this stage of his life, Daesung has. I’m thinking a mid-tempo song that starts slow, but at not too low a register. The song would also need to ebb and flow with emotion, showing off Daesung’s rich voice to its fullest. This song would be about a man who tries to escape from the depths of desolation because of past mistakes, and a figure in the background would be following him. He’s lost in a maze and around every turn there is a dead end. Just when he’s about to give up, the figure catches up to him and grabs his hand and it’s his love. She pulls him along and shows him the way out of the darkness that was always there. He wouldn’t have been able to see it because he was punishing himself. They escape and live happily ever after (damn you, Disney for making me like this). End scene. Too much? Well, I’d also take a really great love ballad.

Paloma: I second the Super Junior album too. They are at a point in their career where all of them have enough personality to release their own solos even if they haven’t been so musically talented individually. Also, some of the members have developed an interest in creating their own music, so for the most part, I think it would be worth listening to.

And in hopes that someone mentions Infinite and SHINee, I’m going to pick Secret (also pretty relevant now, have you seen what I just did, have you?), because they have already tested the waters in this area and the results were great. Ji-eun‘s “Going Crazy” was my jam for weeks (or months, or…), partially because of Bang Yong-guk, but also because the style fitted her so well. I like her voice, but sometimes it does sound a little hollow, so having her combined with a rapper just worked wonderfully. So, another Ji-eun/Yong-guk collaboration will be more than welcome. I also love Zinger‘s solo in Moving in Secret, “Amazinger”; she is a quite decent rapper (especially considering female idol rappers are meh most of the time) and she barely gets to show it in Secret’s songs. She is also a good dancer, so I would love to see her promoting a hip-hop song with some kick-ass dance moves, maybe a collaboration with labelmate Zelo? As for Hyosung, she fits the sexy diva type quite well. I can see her doing something like her Beyoncé cover for their Japanese tour, just with an original song. I’m not sure about Sunhwa though, maybe a nice dance-pop song? She has good stage presence, and her voice is also one of the deeper ones out of the four, so I can also see her doing something Lady Marmalade-esque too.

Ambika: Super Junior and SHINee are definitely high on my list of picks. And though it’s really early for them, in the future I’d like to see what B.A.P does individually, since each of them are rather distinct with their sense of musicality.

But for now, I’d like to pick F.T. Island, but with a bit of a twist. After listening to Five Treasure Box and noting the group’s contributions to their album, I’d like to see five tracks composed and written individually by each member, hopefully showcasing their individual music tastes. There’s a high possibility that they’re all quite similar, considering how they seem to enjoy playing that rock sound, but perhaps such a solo compilation album would give an opportunity to reach a little outside that, should they choose to go that route. While Hong-ki, Jae-jin, and even Seung-hyun, to an extent, have stable vocals, Jong-hun and Min-hwan aren’t half bad themselves, so hearing their vocals would be an added bonus, but not necessary if their work is in every other part of the song.

Nicholas: Actually, come to think it, I would really like to see B.A.P do something new too, seeing as how “Crush” is well-received around these quarters. Apart from giving them another side to their musical identity, it’ll also serve as nice respite from the “boy band with attitude and swag” image, which by now has become sort of “we get the point, really”.

Ambika: Yes! Is this cheating if I talk a bit about them too? Each one of the members seems to have a style that they prefer when they go on radio shows or variety, even Jong-up and Him-chan, who don’t necessarily sing as much in their songs. While they have that powerful attitude going on, they seem capable of doing well in a number of genres.

Maria: Could I just hang out with the SONEs a little bit more? I’d love to see a lot of them do solo work. Releasing individual tracks could come in hand, since it could shed light over the real talent of a group that usually passes unnoticed. Like in Kara’s case, most people stick with “X group can’t sing” because they were left with a bitter impression from their group songs in the past. Take Sunny for example. I knew she had a good voice, but I never knew her worth until Nicholas kindly pointed this collaboration with Miryo:

I know most of them have done OSTs and some other songs, but I’d love to see an official video coming from each one of them. Or at least Tiffany — she’s full of charisma and can carelessly handle a track on her own; Sunny — for the glimpse I had at her in that video; Taeyeon (duh!), Jessica, Seohyun — I’d love to see her get some emotions on her face, Yuri — a slightly sensual song that’s not very demanding would help — and Hyoyeon, as long as she dances all throughout the video.

I’d nominate some other groups like miss A, Beast (think of pure Hyun-seung magic), 2NE1 (Minzy, wherefore art thou?) or SHINee, but Gaya would kill me, I’d never be done talking.

Nabeela: YES! B.A.P is one of those groups where every member, at least in my opinion, is talented enough to hold solo efforts. Half of them are rappers, half of them are vocalists (well Jong-up… I mean, he can at least hold a note, I’m not sure he can rap) so I would think a solo compilation album from them would be pretty sturdy!

But if I were to choose another group, it’d be Beast. We already know Gi-kwangYoseobJun-hyung and Hyunseung would have no problem with solo efforts — they’re four distinct voices that are actually very musically talented. From what I hear in their music, Dongwoon has this interesting pitch I just have to hear more of but I never do, and a solo would certainly hit that nail on the head. As for Doojoon, I’m not too convinced he could do it, but it’d look unfair if everyone else got a solo and he didn’t, so throw this dog a bone.

Gi-kwang would for sure have a dance song, Yoseob would be all over a ballad, Jun-hyung is of course throwing down some hip-hop, and give Hyunseung another pop jingle with a sharp chorus. Give Dongwoon something easy that won’t make my ears bleed — as long he looks good, it’ll sound good to me. And Doojoon — just go easy on him and sprinkle his solo tune with some autotune and we’re good to go.

Salima: You guys know it’s a must that I represent for my 2PM boys. 2PM in the houuusse! Unfortunately, 2PM has been depressingly MIA for the last year and a half so I’m happy about this topic.

I’ve always felt that Junsu should have a solo project. A lot of people didn’t like his single “Alive” but I LOVED it. He sings so well that people didn’t expect him to rap. I even liked how unrefined the production was. I can just see him doing the Tevin Campbell/Babyface R&B thing with hints of Kanye West production. His solo song would be what he was already planning on doing for “Alive” with the “No Love” campaign as his video.

I’d love to see Wooyoung do the exact opposite of what his solo debut was. That JYP-inspired jazz phase was lame. And “Sexy Lady” was boring. I just don’t see Wooyoung as the hot sexy guy. I see him as the sweet guy next door who wears a letterman’s jacket and asks nice girls to the prom. Sort of like his image in the new Reebok CFs with Suzy and Taecyeon. I’m going to get mad hate for this, but I could see him doing something like Justin Bieber‘s “Boyfriend.” *dodges tomatoes*

As for my boy, Nichkhun, we all know he isn’t the most talented vocalist. But he is one of the sweetest. His specialty lies in the sappy songs of Brian McKnight and Browneyed Soul. When he chooses the right songs, I’m embarrassed to admit, he sounds like an angel. So I’d like to see him slide into the seat of a piano and sing a sweet song for this compilation album.

My beloved underdog, Junho, needs to do some Rain/Usher music. Not only does he have an amazing voice, he’s got some slick dance moves. Not many people realize this but Junho is kind of hot! He’s got nice buns and if he gets on the same work out regimen that Wooyoung was on, I think he could rock the Rain/Usher vibe with the excessive on-stage waterworks and unexpected ripping of the shirt. That’ll be his song.

Taecyeon and Chansung should just model on the album jacket. I’ll just end up skipping those pages.

Nicholas: And finally, it’s worth saying a little something on behalf of T-ara. For all their woes, and the insistence on earworms, I’ve felt that there’s always been a decent group, with many overlooked members, waiting to break out. For them, maybe solos might help everybody in the group establish a purpose in one way or another.

So, I’m thinking along the lines of reasonably composed mid-tempos for Boram, peppy dance tunes for Qri and generally something nice tailored for everyone else. Of course, the trio of Soyeon, Hyomin and Eunjung, probably deserves something like a reworked variation of their earlier material, maybe something like a sub-group T-ara ‘S.H.E (Taiwanese girl group)’, “The Ultimate Embodiment of Female Music”? While that might be overstating things a little, it does not take much genius to see how much an SNSD-TTS project could do for the more capable members of the group.

Gaya: Did someone say SHINee?

Maknae Taemin has expressed his desire to appear more manly before, and this would be the perfect opportunity. I can’t picture Taemin beefing up (I swear he has the skinniest legs in K-pop), so a sleek and suave look would be best for portraying a more masculine image. R&B would be good, something that Justin Timberlake would sing, such as “Senorita,” or a more electro-friendly sound as heard in JT’s Futuresex/Lovesounds album — a song like “My Love,” Lovestoned” or “Summer Love” would suit Taemin. Heck, even the music video can be black and white like the one for “My Love,” with a suited-up Taemin (with a waistcoat) dancing against a dark grey background in place of the usual white. And maybe even with the lighting effects in “Single Ladies” thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed his “Only One” stages with BoA, so I would love to pair him up with a female dancer and see him take the lead in a pas de deux.

Key‘s solo stages have always been crowd pleasers (though I’m not too sure about his latest “Hair/Judas” stage) and fans would be expecting a song that shows Key in all his diva-like glory. Jo Kwon‘s “I’m Da One” would be the immediate comparison, but Key’s own snarky streak also opens up the possibility of including some more mature influences like those found in G-Dragon‘s solo material. I recently heard Karmin perform their song “Hello” live, and something in that style would be great for Key, I think. For his music video, he’d be in colour while everything else is in black and white; and he’ll have great choreography and a bevy of female back-up dancers to perform it with him.

Key’s song might have a touch of eccentricity to it, but Jonghyun‘s song is going to be slathered in it. I want Jonghyun, who already writes songs for SHINee, to take the sense of humour seen on his twitter account (seriously, it’s almost like Hee-who?) and pour it into lyrics, to make his very own gag song. Jonghyun could also create his own MV — seriously, they could just give him a video camera and let him run amok, or perhaps film him pulling all sorts of pranks on his idol friends (like the epic Choco Pie-Diablo one). Basically, they should just let Jonghyun go nuts.

Minho‘s song will take down the aforementioned crazy by several notches, but will not be any less frenetic. Contrary to popular belief, Minho is able to hold a note or two, so his song would begin with a soft refrain accompanied by an acoustic guitar (which is where I guess Jungmo comes in), before transitioning into rap. The song could be about having a fighting spirit and never giving up. For the MV, Minho is a soccer player up against a tough opponent. It’s a gruelling match, and the team’s coach (cameo by Minho’s dad) is frazzled, especially when the other players on his team start turning into ordinary citizens: school kids, office workers, housewives, ahjummas and ahjussis. But just when defeat seems inevitable, the rag-tag team corral their strength and determination into one last play, where they dodge their opponents, get the ball to striker Minho, who kicks… and nets the goal! His celebration is mirrored by someone in the stands… it’s Minho. He’s next to his dad, and surrounded by all the people who were also on the pitch with him. Looking again at the field, we see that the soccer players (and coach) have returned to normal, and they go on to win the match, with Minho and the rest of the crowd cheering them on.

And to close out the album, we have Onew singing a nice and soft song in the style of Jason Mraz, which would be different from the belting of high notes he’s required to do for SHINee’s songs. A carefree and breezy tune is something I would love to see Onew do, an acoustic concoction — something like SHINee’s “Honest,” perhaps. The MV would be suitably stripped back, featuring Onew wandering though a forest, and picking various flowers to make a bouquet, which he presents to the viewer at the end of the MV: cue awwwwww. Actually, there are many different scenarios that could be built, but something simple and sweet to let Onew’s vocals take centre-stage, would be the aim.

(Images via SBS, Style Wow, Coway)