Super Junior – Sorry Sorry Remix (Answer)

Most people should be familiar with Super Junior‘s 2009 hit ‘Sorry Sorry‘, which marked the beginning of Hallyu (Korean) wave taking international stage. It is a dance song underlined by heavy electronic beats, with a trance-like chorus featuring repeated, monotonous notes (very minimalist here!). Not as well known is this R&B remix version of the famous dance track, released in late 2009.

Sorry Sorry – Answer‘ is vocally led by the 3 most competent singers of the group (known as the K.R.Y unit), as well as Yoo Young Jin, singer-songwriter and producer for various famous KPOP groups. Sadly, Yoo only participated in the Studio Version but never performed it live with the boys.

There are not many similarities that one can draw between the remix and the original, apart from its iconic chorus. The verses and bridges have been replaced by soulful melodies, challenging adlibs, and high notes. I love everything about this remix, not only because I am a high notes fanatic, but also it showcases the members’ vocal ranges and styles very well. Yesung (pink hair)’s husky and emotional voice suits R&B better, but his control is not as good as the other two.

Although this remix is meant to step away from the original, there are repeated, trance-like elements in the song (not including the chorus) which stand out to me – e.g. first line of the pre-chorus at 1.36, the instrumental bridge at 2.35, etc. I feel that these were deliberately added to preserve some of the original feels of the song.

If you enjoyed this, you might want to check out a Trot version made by a fan, or their dance remix version.

Oh, and for those who claim that Super Junior cannot sing – you better think twice before making that kind of sweeping statement again. ;)

SHINee – In My Room

I’d like to think that I have quite flexible taste in music – I enjoy listening to a range: rock, jazz, ballad, instrumental, pop, hiphop, easy listening, R&B, etc. It is especially pleasant to the ears when you mix different genres together well to bring unexpected results – SHINee‘s ‘In My Room‘, an R&B ballad, is one such examples.

SHINee debuted 7 years ago in 2008 with their ‘Replay‘ EP, which featured ‘In My Room’ as the second song out of five. The group has been widely considered as one of SM Entertainment’s most successful boybands, with some noting that they have almost filled the void left by the split of KPOP sensation 동방신기 (TVXQ). Personally, I have never been a religious follower of SHINee’s music – although I have found their many hits very catchy (Replay, Ring Ding Dong, Sherlock..), I prefer their ballads which allow their unique voices to really shine through.

Since ‘In My Room’ primarily depicts a man reminiscing about the woman he misses, a resigned sense of loneliness permeates the song, underscored by the frequent use of minor/diminished chords and emotional singing. This song attracts me in multiple ways: Firstly, it has an atypical melody and chordal progressions – it is not one of those songs that you can easily hum along to or guess what the next melodic line would be, yet the whole piece stitches well together and holds the listener’s attention. Secondly, I love the layers of harmonies used in the choruses – the way the vocal lines intertwine with each other accentuate the emotional element of the song really well. Thirdly, the R&B singing style adds a sense of soulful-ness to the song, which matches its theme. As vocally led by Onew and Jonghyun with Key shadowing, the song is not an easy one for male singers to challenge, as both are known to have wide vocal ranges. The highest note sung in chest voice is Bb at 3m26s mark.

The boys have performed this a couple of times, although nowhere near as many as I’d like: here they keep the subgroup formation, and here they re-distribute lines between all five members at an SM Town performance. I prefer the former performance as it is executed better and so full of emotions, not to mention that the singing is much clearer (the latter link is a fancam afterall).

They have also re-released an unplugged remix in their ‘The SHINee World‘ album, where guitars have been replaced by strings. While the feel of the song is still there despite the slight changes in chords, I am not a massive fan of the way they mixed in the drumset in this version, as it seems to have unnecessarily brightened up the mood of the track.

If you enjoyed listening to ‘In My Room’, I’d strongly recommend SHINee’s ‘Selene 6.23‘, which is another soulful ballad by the talented boys.

Sarah Vaughan – A Lover’s Concerto

I’d imagine that no one would be unfamiliar with this beautiful tune – based on Bach/Petzold’s Minuet in G Major’, Sarah Vaughan’s ‘A Lover’s Concerto’ (1966) is one of many covers that popularized this classical piece.

The song begins with a melancholic violin and piano line which journeys you through 5 unexpected choral progressions, to a set of rhythmic drumbeats that then bridge into the verse. In a mere 15 seconds, you find yourself lost in the cheeky manoeuvre of the skilled arranger, which is what captured my attention initially.

Sarah carries strength in her voice throughout the song and her trademark jazzy / operatic style really shines through. One might argue that her deep and rich vocals are too heavy and somewhat unfitting for the lyrics, and I have indeed come across covers which take a much sweeter and gentler approach (example here by Kelly Chen). However, for me, Sarah’s voice brings such emotional depth and maturity to the song that other versions become lacking in comparison.

Another point worth mentioning is that the original Minuet is written in 3/4 time (1 2 3, 1 2 3), similar to that of the Waltz, whereas ‘A Lover’s Concerto’ is in 4/4 time (1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4). This is a fundamental shift in rhythmic style and is achieved by prolonging the first note of each phrase (i.e. howwwwwww gentle is the rain, that faaallssssss softly on the meadow). This effectively slows down the piece, which complements Sarah’s heavier take on the song.

All in all – a brilliant masterpiece that I can listen to for hours on end!

Kousuke Atari – Summer Evening Sky

Apart from the usual J-POP and J-ROCK genres that people normally associate Japanese music with, there are a number of  traditional, less mainstream styles that are real eye-openers. In particular, the song I’d like to write about today is part of the Shima-uta (島歌) genre.

Shima-uta originates from the Amami Islands in Southern Japan – the word ‘Shima’ 島 translates directly into ‘Island’, which also alludes to one’s communities within these islands, and one’s home. It is sung in recreational gatherings, almost like folk songs, but with a very distinctive singing style where deliberate trembling of the throat and falsetto are frequently employed.

For me, Shima-uta bears similarities to Enka (演歌), which is more traditional and prominent in the older generations, as well as Korea’s Trot (트로트). The frequent trembling of the throat is a common technique shared between all three singing styles.

I first came across ‘Summer Evening Sky’ watching Natsume Yujin-Cho (夏目友人帳), which goes to show how Shima-uta has infiltrated the mainstream world of J-music, with songs climbing up the ranks in pop charts. The lyrics in this song are beautiful, while Kousuke’s unique singing style, coupled with the simple instrumental arrangement, has a real calming and reflective effect on the listener.

Back in the University days, my accommodation hall was situated 20 minutes away from campus on foot. My exams used to always take place during the summer, and every journey I made to school before an exam would involve looping this song without fail. It’d rid me of my worries and stress, allowing me to absorb in the beautiful nature along the path to campus, bringing me immense peace.

Now, whenever I re-listen to this, I can still vividly picture myself walking under the warm sunshine, feeling the breezy London chill, with trees standing tall above me, leaves shining on my face…

Lee Jin Ah – Time Slow Down

People close to me are well aware that I dislike cutesy singing voices, which is why I never expected myself to like Lee Jin Ah‘s work.

If I were to try and justify this, I’d say that Lee Jin Ah’s unique singing style is natural and unpretentious, which is why it does not put me off. However, the main charm of this young lady definitely lies in her ability to incorporate elements of jazz and improvisation naturally into her work.

I knew about her from KPOP Star 4, where she captured my initial attention with her well-refined keyboard and improvisational skills, as well as song-writing abilities. I then listened to her 37-minutes long album ‘Unvisible’, which was released before she emerged into the limelight, and really loved it. As Park Jin Young mentioned on the show, the way Lee Jin Ah is able to combine various genres and elements into her music really brings a breath of fresh air to listeners.

You know how songs can catch you by surprise with beautiful and unexpected chordal progressions and scales – this is a true soft spot for me, and Lee Jin Ah is simply a master at this.

If you are interested, listen to her full-length album here.

New Purpose

So… I decided to re-start this blog, only to steer it in a different direction.

I have always wanted to write a blog about songs that have a special place in my heart, as well as share funky and unique tunes that people otherwise wouldn’t normally come across.

As a music lover who enjoys listening to songs on repeat, music associate to memories for me. Having looped songs at various stages of my life, re-visiting them trigger all the memories and emotions automatically, and it is a somewhat wondrous and bittersweet feeling for me.

Free Cover Downloads

You can download all mp3s of my cover songs here. Please let me know and take out full credits if you’d like to use my covers for any purpose. Songs are categorized by artists and in chronological order of cover release dates.