If you’re in the US, then I hoped you enjoyed this past Labor Day weekend, as nearly everyone is back in school after the summer break. If you’re currently working, then the long weekend was most definitely appreciated. I ended up going to the beach with a few friends and whenever we get together, the topic of old school K-pop is always brought up. This time, the main topic of discussion revolved around the hit Korean drama ‘Reply 1997’ starring ‘Superstar K‘ season 1 winner Seo In Guk and A Pink member Jung Eunji (had no idea who she was before and now I’m a fan). The drama is a love story that takes place in 1997 and prominently features the music of the time; the height of the original idol generation. As you can imagine, old heads like my friends and me love it. The characters in the drama are just about the same age as us and while it’s weird that we’re considered old enough to have a drama about our high school years, it’s also fun to look back at the idol-mania of the fans of that era.
Because this is my new favorite drama, this week’s Way Back Wednesday is going to travel back to 1997. We’ll take a look at the songs from 1997 that you all know and love and others that might have flown under the radar.
Disclaimer: Before everyone goes crazy telling me how much I suck, let me mention that there will be some obvious songs (like H.O.T’s “Candy”) that aren’t included because they’ve already been profiled in this column in the past. I know that they are hugely important songs but I try not to repeat groups or songs that were already covered so sometimes I have to leave popular groups/songs off. Feel free to continue and leave comments about your favorites or other songs I might have missed.
Uptown – Let’s Meet Again
One of the true old school K-pop hip hop groups, the group comprised of members Chris Jung, Carlos Galvan, Steve Kim, and a young Baby T a.k.a Yoon Mirae. Uptown was one of the very early groups (if not the first) in K-pop to feature members that were of mixed race. The group brought a sound that could be considered more authentic, or at least that more Americans would recognize as hip hop and their 1997 #1 hit “Let’s Meet Again” was a great example. Each member’s powerful voices and cocky swag resulted in one of the most recognized songs from back in the day.
JuJu Club – I’m Me
JuJu Club was a Korean rock group that was popular during this time but never really got as much press because of the explosion of idol groups. While they might have been overshadowed, they were still able to reach and maintain their popularity riding the unique voice of lead singer Ju Da In. Mixing a little reggae with pop rock, this was a mellow song with a strong and simple bass line that was fun to listen to when you were chilling out or relaxing after shooting some bball outside of the school (a little ‘Fresh Prince‘ reference for the fans).
Position – Remember
Position was a two man group of Im Jae Wook and An Jung Hoon. “Remember” was from the group’s 2nd album ‘Wine and Tears’ and is a soft, melodic ballad that was in line with the group’s overall style. The song reached the top spot in May of that year and I do remember seeing them on the music shows but honestly, fast forwarded that part waiting for the idol groups to come out. Looking back though, it was a really good, solid tune and I still enjoy the music today.
Sechs Kies – School Song
“School Song” might not be the greatest translation but you can’t leave off the debut song from the other boy band from that time, Sechs Kies. Everyone knows the group so I won’t do a long intro but I will say this, when these guys debuted with this song, it was a big deal. H.O.T at the time was doing more of the bubblegum pop thing but these guys came out with this new look (looking back at it now, they looked ridiculous but it was awesome at the time) and the music had rock influences, the dances were hard core, and they had the charisma to challenge the dominance of H.O.T. I guess one fact I can’t leave out is that leader Eun Ji Won is a supporting character in the drama ‘Reply 1997’ and the other characters often reference his resemblance to himself. Kind of like Julia Robert’s character’s resemblance to Julia Roberts in ‘Oceans 12‘. Anyway, this song helped propel the great idol wars of the latter part of the 1990’s and really sent idol-mania into another level.
Clon – City Escape
I can’t believe it’s taken this long to get this song on a WBW list. This is probably my second favorite song from the group and is another great jam to listen to during the summer. The duo of Koo Joon Yup (DJ Koo) and Kang Won Rae brought their unparalleled energy and growly voices with their fun dances to create a classic. Take a look at not only what they’re wearing but what the MC’s of the show are wearing. Why did anyone think that was OK? I love the 90’s.
Kim Kyung Ho – The People Who Make Me Sad
Another non-idoler to reach #1, Kim Kyung Ho’s other-worldly voice broke through the teen hormones and this song from his second album ‘Kim: Kyungho 1997’ became one of his biggest hits. The man really does have an amazing voice that can be hard rock and then blend into soft pop ballads. He recently strutted his stuff for the show ‘I Am a Singer’ and it was great to see him back in the limelight.
Goofy – Tragic Love
Goofy was a three-member dance group debuting in 1996. This song from the group’s second album was very much techno with a great hook. While the group has had some member changes and style switches, they have been fairly long lived with their most recent album release in 2010 but it was their early style of music that most fans will remember.
Carnival – It Was Like That Back Then
The project group of two of K-pop’s best musicians Lee Juk and Kim Dong Ryul released just one album back in 1997 and this was the title song. A unique sound at the time, these guys reinforced the fact that technique and substance have to be at the forefront of all music.
Eco – Happy Me
You may not recognize the group, but chances are you’ve heard the song. Eco was a three member group debuting in 1996. Their first album didn’t see much success but their second offering featuring this single became their breakout and biggest hit. A sweet, soft ballad the song has been covered on a few occasions most notably by Yoon Mirae, Huh Gak, and unofficially by the ‘Adam Couple‘.
Alright, who am I kidding? I take back what I said earlier. How can you have a list of songs from 1997 and not include H.O.T, Jinusean, DJ DOC, Yoo Seung Jun, etc… I mean, you HAVE to and the whole impetus for this column was the drama ‘Reply 1997‘ in which the main character is a humongous H.O.T fan so, I give in. I won’t go into much detail but here they are for your viewing pleasure.
H.O.T – Candy
Jinusean – Tell Me
Yoo Seung Joon – Nightmares
DJ DOC – Dance with DOC
Cool – Destiny
What are some of your favorite songs from 1997?