As mentioned in an earlier article, the original soundtrack is in some ways is the lifeblood of any drama. But typically, who are the very singers that provide the tunes?
A quick scan of any OST soundtrack release tends to reveal many known voices, like 8Eight’s Lee Hyun, Lee Young Hyun (ex-Big Mama fame) and K.Will, with the most prominent of them all being Baek Ji-young. There are a few reasons why soloists are commonly heard on OSTs.
Firstly, it’s not always the greatest idea to have the actors in the shows do the singing. For all their powers in emoting on screen, in front of the microphone, it all tends to go south. Who could forget Gong Hyo-jin’s rather flat rendition of “Pit-A-Pat” during a crucial scene in The Greatest Love, as much as her facial emotions were spot on? Far better to let the actors focus on what they do best, and have the singers supply the tunes.
Soloists also gravitate towards OSTs as a far more stable way of getting the bills paid, especially given how idol groups seemingly dominate the K-pop music roster. Compared to having to spend months developing concepts, learning stage moves and getting the MV made, with far more competition from everybody for sales, by comparison, OST work could be called a walk in the park.
In an interview on TvN’s Taxi, Baek Ji-young described the OST recording process as being one where songwriters sent her demosfor potential drama music. If she accepted the offer, then it was a few hours in the studio to make a recording. After that, it was a matter of waiting for the royalties to come in.
Finally, OSTs also serve as a nice way of raising a singer’s profile. If the OST ends up being as big as the drama, then there is a fair chance the singer would be performing live, a pretty nice way of added exposure. Also, if they can get attention for their OSTs, it would mean that their solo efforts get some interest from listeners, who get piqued by hearing that voice from the OSTs, and get keen to explore their solo efforts.
In spite of this , there is always the worry that solo singers might be threatened by the idol wave again. Firstly, as idols take to acting, there is a high chance that they would end up singing OSTs themselves, or get the capable singers in the company to do it. A good example would be the drama Love Rain, where Jang Geun-suk took on some singing work, and SNSD Yoona’s label mate Tiffany got another solo of her own.
Another example of idol singers jumping the gun for drama OSTs is Cube Entertainment, whose artistes seemingly provide at least one song in each recent Hong Sisters drama. First, we had G.NA record “Because It’s You” for The Greatest Love, and more recently Beast with “Bad Guy” for Big. Admittedly, Cube has also been trying to get a hold on the solo front, with subsidiary A-Cube’s Huh Gak providing a soundtrack for most dramas.
Despite the idols making a claim in the OST stakes, the solo artiste position as the first choice for OSTs should still be safe for a while. Just as solo artistes consider OST work a territory they own, Idols still consider weekly stage performances, dances and concepts things they can do better (as a team). Also at times, it is nice to watch a drama and hear a voice that is pleasant, if not overtly familiar. As an added benefit, K-pop lovers still like the idea of being able to choose between a solo singer and an idol singer for their sound tracks.
So what are some of the soundtracks by solo singers you have enjoyed?