Despite losing some footing on the charts, K-diva releases never stopped being great, but 2013 is the first time in years that they’ve been good enough to rival –if not surpass– music from idol groups. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Lee Hyori’s “Miss Korea” and “Bad Girls,” Seo In Young’s “Let’s Break Up” and “Love Me,” Lee Jung Hyun’s “V,” Sunmi’s “24 Hours,” and Kahi’s “It’s Me,” all of which were basically perfect. Even the stuff that wasn’t universally loved, like Ailee’s Beyonce knock-off “U&I” and G.NA’s Mariah b-side “Oops!” were great to me. (The only song I didn’t like so far was Ivy’s “I Dance,” which is strange because she’s usually one of the best female soloists around.)
We’ve now got another song to add to the hit list with Park Ji Yoon’s “Mr. Lee.”
For those of you who don’t know, Ji Yoon first found fame as a teenager in the late nineties under JYP Entertainment. Her popularity peaked around 2000 with the release of “Coming of Age Ceremony,” which went on to become one of the most iconic K-pop hits of the noughties and is generally considered K-pop’s definitive good-girl-gone-bad single. The past few years has seen her move into less pop-driven territory, peaking with last year’s acoustic “Tree of Life,” which was straight up K-indie (and fucking beautiful).
“Mr. Lee” sees Ji Yoon returning to a more contemporary sound with the help of producer, Primary. Unlike some of Primary’s other productions, the sound isn’t immediately recognizable as his own: His signature squelchy synths and electronica is swapped in for breakbeats, a chopped & screwed horn section, and old-school disc scratching. Ji Yoon’s not the strongest vocalist but she knows how to pick the right songs and use her voice to the best of its ability, which she does here while sparring with rapper, San E.
Brown Eyed Girls were the first females to jump on Primary’s sound with “Recipe,” which seems to have opened the doors for other ladies to follow. Kahi’s “It’s Me” and Elly’s “Love Me” weren’t Primary productions, but you can tell that they’ve been influenced by his sound. Don’t be surprised to see more and more artists doing some variation of this urban K-indie sound in the near future. (Which is exactly what I said in my Elly post, and then BAM, we got “Mr Lee”.)
Speaking of Kahi, Elly, and Park Ji Yoon, can you imagine how much better American pop music would’ve sounded this year if some of the too pop tarts recorded these songs instead of “Work Bitch” and “Roar”? Katy would’ve kill “Love Me,” and Britney would end careers with “It’s Me” — even without doing the signature choreography.