Visuals, rappers, and dancers. When this title is given out in the K-pop realm, the idea that this member will be — for a lack of better terms — “talentless,” will loom over that member’s head for a considerable amount of time. After all, every group has a lead vocalist, a star to wow the crowd with his/her vocal range, high notes, and gusto, and a standout to ‘cover’ for the weaker members. They’ll be seen doing covers on radio shows — as long as the group stays a steady course — and they’ll get subsequent opportunities (solo or subgroups) to show off their talents without sharing the mic. They bring attention back to the main group, and they bear heavier responsibilities when it comes to singing.
But is that really the case for all those idols that fall into those categories? What about ‘the others?’ There are many gems hidden in groups that, while carrying the burden of “visual” or “dancer,” manage to carry vocal talent beyond what is expected of them. While their current responsibilities are not without their importance, within the current K-pop world, those are often given as ‘throw-away’ positions. So, I’ve taken the time to lay out a few commendable vocalists that are hiding out in some of your favorite groups.
f(x) – Amber
Amber is known for her pretty solid rap skills gender-bending appearance, but only recently has her vocal talent been put on display. She has a steady tone and a rich sound that I would love to hear more of. This is not to say that she is on par with the current lead vocalist of the group, Luna, but with training, she very well could be. She was one of the first rappers that made me do a double take and ask “why isn’t she singing?” In f(x)’s most recent album, we got to hear quite a bit of Miss Amber’s vocal talents beyond her rap skills, and it was quite a treat for fans!
A visual and a rapper! A double whammy when it comes to K-pop and its talent department. This combination usually leaves that member as the pretty face with just a few lines, to let us know why they’re in the group. But as far as I’ve seen and heard, Hongbin has performed with a deep, steady voice when he’s been given the right range. While he may lack a certain control with his vocals, it can be said that he’s horrible at either position.
Secret – Hana
Now, she’s not high up on the list, but with the groups’ recent foray into ballads and much softer songs, she’s managed to hold her own.What makes her jarring is the juxtaposition between her singing voice and the higher range of her members. Her rapping is often a higher tone that fits right in, but the change in pitch often makes her stand out when she’s put in a vocal position. Her voice is deeper in comparison, and it lacks control. But for an idol group rapper, she’s got a pretty solid set of pipes. While rapping is her focus, and also what she truly excels at, her voice can’t be ignored either.
Big Bang – T.O.P
Big Bang is known for being a talented group, and as they’ve all spread out in the recent years, they’ve each been able to hold their own. T.O.P shows his chops as a solid rapper who never deviates from his role — whether or not ballads are part of the picture — but it’s often a surprise to know that he can hold a note and deliver rather pleasing vocals, especially when he’s given the chance to go it alone (albeit only for variety show purposes).
Crayon Pop – All of ‘em
Crayon Pop is a special case, as the idea that ‘they can’t sing’ has be lobbied at the entire group. With their hit “Bar Bar Bar,” and even their recent “Uh Eee,” their vocal skills have been hidden under their goofy costumes and the ‘just have fun’ feeling in their songs. However, when one attempts to look past their gimmicky get-ups, it’s not difficult to see that the girls can actually sing. Some of the members may appear to be more prominent in this department, but as a group, they aren’t without talent. Their current schticks don’t lend themselves to power ballads, but there’s no doubt that the girls could handle a live radio show if the need arose.
While this member is better known as Block B’s resident dancer, he also stands well with the vocalists of his group. Like many other male singers, U-Kwon’s voice figures in the deeper range, but his renditions often carry a soothing tone as well. When given the chance and training, there’s every possibility that he could make it as a sub-vocalist in his group or subgroup.
Some of the above vocalists aren’t the best, and they may not be good enough as soloists, or even artists who eventually relinquish their rapper statuses, however, it’s nice to shine a light every now and then, on sidelined group members who’ve been given bad raps (pun intended). While K-pop is swamped with pretty faces that lack substance, there are a few blinking beacons that give hope to the title of “visual,” and give meaning to the position of idol rapper.
Are there any other idols who should be recognized as “hidden gems?” Let us know in the comments below!