Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Korean drama OST evolution

    Some time ago (with stressing this “some” part) we had this talk with friends about how it is possible that Korean movies OST rock (most of them) and how Kdrama OST... hit the rock bottom. But since two or three years there has been a terrific improvement in that department as well. Of course, there are soundtracks more or less memorable, it is something we cannot avoid, but the improvement is visible.

            It is nothing new to have classical music as the score. And by classical I mean what people usually perceive as one – Western classical music (Beethoven, Pachebel and the merry bunch). Lately the original score is composed by talented Koreans with songs added by famous singers. It might be my own personal taste, but among all scores, the first place belongs to historical dramas. And the reason is very simple – only historical dramas offer such wide span of emotions that may be transcribed into sounds. Moreover, only those dramas offer the possibility of incorporating the traditional instruments of Korea into the score. Very, very few modern dramas can do that (the latest was probably New Tales of Gisaeng, because of the obvious reason).
I may be biased... I am biased towards sageuk and taeha, tru, but latest scores for those dramas are simply stunning. Queen Seondeok, to just name the very first I can think of, huge score, big orchestra music, sweet IU's Araro song and... oh well, what a surprise, Mr. Hong Kwangho. Revenge of Gumiho had haunting Lisa's song, SKKS had its cheerful Chajatta, Chuno... oh that is a masterpiece. Right now Warrior Idiot Dongsu and The Princess' Man... But here is the trap. Although Warrior... has bigger names performing the songs (BMK, Buhwal, SuJu's Yeseong), somehow only Shin Seongwu's song is on my playlist.

            What is a good OST and what is a bad OST? There is only one answer to that, and most of the people are barely aware it applies to other “rankings” as well – subjectivity. The good OST is the one that a certain person likes. I may like this OST, but some other people may hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. And vice versa. There is no one golden rule on that.And this is exactly where the flame war begins. because people are so eager to convince others to their thinking ("this-and-this drama/OST/whatever is so good there must be something wrong with you if you don't like it!!"), or bash mindlessly if something is not to their liking. I don't watch medical dramas, fine, but I don't deny they may be good. The same goes for the OST or a song. Hell, I don't like SuJu (yes, I said that), but Yesung's song was nice (nothing above that).

            I do not remember the scores of 60% of dramas I watch. It may indicate I am somewhat neglecting it, but if no piece of music or particular song appeals to me, why should I bother about remembering who participated in it? Rom-coms have this tendency, they are light, fluffy and their OST are also like that. I may sometimes even not notice music at all while watching such drama. And sometimes big names do not make good OST. There is also another side of this medal. We might like even a mediocre song, but we transpose our feelings we have for a drama onto this song. The example? I really do like Jaejung, but he has done much better songs than the one he sings for Protect The Boss. Result? My liking Jaejung “infected” the song and I feel nice and cozy when it starts in the drama. Even thought it is not a masterpiece at all. The other side - even if drama is terrible, the OST might save it (unlikely but who knows). The example? Bury Me Mary... actually no, a bad one, there was anything on even a ground level in that drama, my bad.

            The breakthrough in soundtracks may be traced to 2007, again, according to my own personal taste. This is the caesura in the dramas’ OSTs, as for me. 2007 had many great dramas, and many flops, but scores started to be “big”. They started to be composed, and not just made up from some scraps grabbed at the last moment, according to the motto “let’s take whatever comes in random search and make an OST from that”. Needless to say, score started to live on its own – songs appeared on various charts, they had their own life. It was possible thanks to big names involved in the production.
Among OST from before that year there are some good scores as well, it does not mean they are all equally bad, as well those after 2007 are not all great. The example? My Lovely Kim Samsun has a great OST, Coffee Prince has one marvellous OST,  yet they are rather exceptions than the rule.

            Nowadays, composing original score, or singing a song for a drama is no longer overshadowed by the drama itself. Those “big names” in music industry elevate also one drama’s prestige. No longer music is in the subordinate position to the drama, although it does not reaching for the main place. Soundtrack will be always tied to the drama and not otherwise. Oh, musicals, you say? I have yet to see a real musical in Korean television. The Musical is no real musical, spare me any insane talk, Dream High would be considered as 'musical" if only was I "high", I wasn't so I didn't like it. Oh, there was I Am Legend, how could I forget? And all the ladies sang for real (y'all!). Considering they had a real musical actress among them, this wasn't so hard (or was it?)

So to close this short ramblings, a piece that is probably the most loved piece of (beautiful, great, awesome) music by Koreans in their movies or dramas:

And to just add, this is my first article featured on Hancinema^^ It will be out on Saturday.