To be a comedian takes wit, timing, a character, and the capacity to laugh at yourself, numerous times. It’s a job I admire because it cannot possibly be easy to repeatedly come up with sketches that are amusing even after hearing it multiple times. South Korea seems to harbor quite a few of these witty people, the more famous appearing on multiple shows to serve up their share of funny along with their peers. Being this type of entertainer doesn’t come easily to everyone; every assembly of comedians, actors, and singers can’t have the same comfortable relationships as those on Running Man and Infinity Challenge, but when it does happen, the kind of magic created is well appreciated.
Among that number of comedians, there are those that choose to expand their talents in the music industry. For example, Lee Su-geun, perhaps best known as a main MC on Happy Sunday: 1 Night 2 Days, has released five songs, the earliest being in 2006. Some have featured fellow former members of 1 Night 2 Days, Eun Ji-won, like his latest release in 2010 “Huk,” while another was included in Eun Ji-won’s album “Platonic. Another example is comedian Heo Kyung-hwan, known for his skits on Gag Concert, as a cast member of “G4” on Happy Together: Season 3, and also as one of the better looking comedians has released a song, “Jai Jai,” featuring Heo Anna. The song is particularly upbeat and sounds like trot music, but without that high level of vocal technique. And one can’t forget about Yoo Se-yoon and High Syde‘s Muzi in group UV with their first hit “Itaewon Freedom,” featuring JYP.
But I’d like to focus on some comedians who have released music that I found particularly good or amusing: in other words, a shameless plug of these guilty pleasures. Although some comedians have released music through Infinity Challenge‘s festivals, I’m going to avoid mentioning those and focus on the music produced outside of television shows which demonstrates more incentive to actually make music.
First up: Jung Hyung-don and Defconn, fondly known as Donnie and Connie on Weekly Idol, a show they both host, and formally known in the music scene as Hyung-don and Dae-jun. Defconn is already known to be a rapper, so a musical collaboration, and music in general, isn’t particularly new to him. But Jung Hyung-don was a surprise. Last month, the duo group released their first mini-album, Gangsta Rap Volume 1. While the title is cringe-worthy, the tracks themselves aren’t half bad. They switch from clearly intending to be humorous to actually being a legitimate song with serious intent. There’s “Olympic Expressway,” which surprisingly features the nation’s MC, Yoo Jae-suk, known here as MC Nal Yoo. There’s also a short MV for the song here. While Defconn clearly has more finesse in his rapping style, Hyung-don isn’t bad. He’s consistent with that gravely sound that also matches well with Defconn. The beat and background music is addictive, and if you don’t watch the music video, the song passes for a legitimate one. It relates a high-traffic highway in Korea, the Olympic Expressway, to ways of life.
Another song, perhaps more well-known, is “The Gloomy Song.”
This song is weird. No, really, it should not be catchy. The hook of “Anianianianianianianianiani~” and so forth threatens to be annoying, but its presence is just borderline, not enough to cross the line to actually be annoying. The pitch is lower than that of “Olympic Expressway,” and it suits the talk-singing and rapping that both members are engaged in. And it is because this song sounds different and clearly a bit foolish that it’s interesting to listen to and even more amusing to watch. Loen Entertainment provides the best explanation of the song and music video in the description box for the video:
“The Gloomy Song”, the main title song for the album, is a gangster rap interpretation containing the humorous sensations of Hyungdon and Daejun about a broken-up couple. The music video — in which the beautiful comedian “Kim Hee-Won” was threatened to star in — released at the same time as the album, is already gathering much attention. It is a music video full of laughter you should not miss out on if you need a good laugh.
The last song to be highlighted from the duo is “Hanshim Cart Bar” featuring singer Boni. The song is a slow trance created from Boni’s soulful vocals and Hyung-don and Defconn’s rapping. It’s more apparent that Defconn is a much better rapper in this more serious song about parting lovers. Hyung-don’s rapping comes across as overly exaggerated in emotions rather than appropriately sorrowful or desperate, but it was a good attempt.
Next are the Brave Guys, in particular their leading woman, Shin Bora. Brave Guys is a newly formed music group that also does skits on Gag Concert. Members are the aforementioned Shin Bora, Jung Tae-ho, Park Sung-kwang, and Yang Sun-il. Shin Bora clearly stands out with her great vocals, even though she claims to not have the skills to go solo. I first ran across her voice while watching the SBS drama Ghost and her contribution to the OST, the song “Crying With Longing.”
Her voice has a shine to it that lends a haunting and melancholic tone to the song. It very much matches the instrumental and fits well with what the drama needed. She is a little lacking in emotional depth in her singing, but as she’s still relatively new to the music scene, if she continues to work a little at her skills, she could surely overcome that snag. Additionally, the serious tones of this song are different from their previous songs as Brave Guys–“I Don Care” featuring Seo Su-min PD and “Wait and Be Ready.” “I Don Care”– ‘don’ means money in Korean –cleverly meshes humorous comments and lyrics with the very solemn topic of how money is required to do anything in the world. Shin Bora’s voice is once again a stand-out in the song, though applause must be given to how the little interjections don’t take away from the song at all; they’re woven in rather well. In contrast, “Wait and Be Ready” features more rapping/chanting by the Brave Guys, including Shin Bora. She’s also proficient at rapping and displays more aggressive vocals that are impressive and help make the song what it is. The entire song is a success, the type that anyone can chant and follow long, especially because of the encouraging and buoyant background music that sounds as if it’s played by a marching band.
Now we have none other than Ha Dong-hoon, better known as comedian Haha. Haha actually debuted in 2001 with the boy band Zikiri under Seoul Records, which is now Loen Entertainment. But the group was unsuccessful, and Haha left to pursue comedy and acting, becoming successful in both. His variety career–appearances on X-Man, Infinity Challenge, Running Man, and more–has arguably been much more successful than his music career, making it reasonable for him to pursue music while his variety antics are still well-received. The song that got me into him was “Rosa,” an oddly catchy, reggae influenced track. While Haha is no Bob Marley, his raspy voice has its charm. The lazy song has a catchy hook that unwittingly gets stuck in the mind, regardless of the point. The lyrics, better viewed here, also bring amusement with a dash of unexpected wit. If you’re interested in more about Haha’s works, check out Fannie‘s article written a little earlier this year.
The last artist I’d like to mention is Park Myung-soo. Yes, that cranky man that explodes with anger on popular variety shows. But he is ‘oh-so-amusing.’ He’s on this list more for that generation that doesn’t quite know about his music and believes him to be more of a comedian, as I did at first. But the following video proved he can do more than just hold a tune:
2NE1 fans may recognize this song if they’ve been to 2NE1’s concert, NOLZA, or have seen fancams of Park Myung-soo as he performed it there. The song, “To Fool From Fool,” was released in 2008 and is particularly startling because of the sheer contrast between the emotion and feel of this song and his persona on variety shows. Other songs of interest are “Prince of the Sea” and the more comical “Fyah!,” featuring LeeSsang‘s Gil, and as a bonus, the remaining Infinity Challenge members as extra dancers. Those songs cover a decade of Park Myung-soo, showing his transition as an entertainer, and both are good listens for different reasons. The latter song is clearly more of a parody or joke, and nonetheless, serves up merriment for viewers.
Comedians can sometimes be the most amusing vocalists or artists, particularly because they generally don’t have an image to conserve. They instead can continue with the comedic route or choose a more serious path. Either way, the music speaks for itself as some to watch out for. Other mentions go out to popular MC Boom, who actually began as a hip-hop singer, and Yoo Jae-suk, for his recent second collaboration with Lee Juk as Sagging Snail with “Room Nallari.”
So what do you think of comedians turning to music, either as a new venture or something to return to with more popularity? Can you think of any other comedians that have released music? Leave us comments with your thoughts!