Way Back Wednesday : COOL
This past Monday, all of us here in the States celebrated Memorial Day. Memorial Day is a time to give thanks and honor those who serve our country, especially those who gave their lives in the defense of the nation. It has also become the unofficial beginning to the summer season when thousands flock to the beaches and get their food and drink on. When thinking of summer, there is one K-pop group that stands out to most of us of a certain age; COOL. COOL's music is the epitome of summer fun and relaxation, but more than that, they have produced some of the most popular and recognized K-Pop music of the past eighteen years.
COOL debuted in 1994 as a four member dance group comprising of members Kim Sung Soo, Lee Jae Hoon, Yoo Chae Young, and Choi Joon Myung. Their debut album 'The Reason I Wanted You' and the eponymously titled single was a mix of pop dance and hip hop influences that was a part of the first wave of incorporating American music styles and dance (check out the breakdancing in the music video). While the song may have been part of a revolution, it didn't necessarily catch the attention of fans and wasn't the hit they all were hoping for.
With the group's second album, members Yoo Chae Young and Choi Joon Myung left the group and were replaced by Kim Yuri. With the addition of Kim Yuri, they become the COOL trio many have come to know and love today. The style of music also went in a another direction as they eschewed the hip hop style of music and became much more pop oriented.
'Love is… Waiting' was released in 1995 and the single "Before Sadness Comes" was the group's first big hit and the song that many of COOL's fans first remember hearing; it certainly was for me. The dance track would lay the blueprint for their future success which was to rely heavily on Lee Jae Hoon's vocals mixed in with Yuri's unorthodox (some would say high pitched) singing style, and Kim Sung Soo's distinctive raps. Unfortunately when the album was released, they were going up against some of the biggest groups in K-Pop and so the song never became a #1 hit, but it was their first taste of success. So as not to be labeled as a one trick pony, the other popular single from the album "A Small Wait" was a medium tempo ballad to round out their overall sound.
While their second album gave the group a taste of their potential, it was their third album 'Destined the Best' released in 1996 that knocked down the door and put them directly into the spotlight. The single "Destiny" was monster hit for the group and their first number 1 hit, holding that spot for multiple weeks on multiple music charts. The song was vintage COOL; a fun, irreverent melody that all fans could instantly recognize and enjoy. "In Front of Your House" was another hit for the group but brought out their ballad side again, leveraging the vocals of Lee Jae Hoon. I think this song has to be included in the 'Top 10 Karaoke Songs Sung by Guys to Impress Girls' category.
In the summer of 1997, COOL would release their 3.5 album 'Summer Story'. The title single "Woman of the Beach" would go onto become COOL's second #1 song and was not only a big hit at the time, but would go onto to become a summer anthem for many K-pop fans, kicking off with the epic proclamation from rapper Kim Sung Soo. To this day, when my friends and I take off on our annual summer trip, there really is no question as to which song will be played first, and as a matter of fact, the song was recently selected as the number 1 beach song on Yoon Do Hyun's cable music show 'Must'. This album also started the trend of COOL becoming known as a summer group (even though they would release albums in other seasons) trend, which they continued until their last album.
COOL would release their fourth and 4.5 albums 'Sorrow' and 'Misery' (quite the pair) in 1998 and 1999 respectively, featuring singles "Misery", "Sorrow", "Until Friends Becomes Lovers", and "10 Commandments".
In 2000 and 2001 came their fifth, sixth and 6.5 albums 'Understanding Men and Women', '6ix', and 'First Whisper'. Singles like "Understanding Men and Women", "Beer and Peanuts", and "Jumpo Mambo" (which would go onto become another #1 song for the group) would continue the upbeat style that COOL had come to master.
On the other hand, more mellow and relaxed songs like "Aloha", "All for You", and "Someday" just reinforced that the band still had the emotional range to continue pushing all kinds of popular music. "All for You", while not a typical COOL song, is still one of my favorite K-pop ballads and was listened to on many a road trip during the miketastic college years.
The group returned in 2002 with album 7 'Honesty' and 7.5 'Second Whisper'. The releases followed the pattern of releasing an album in the summer and then a ".5" in the winter which would also be duplicated in 2003 with their eighth and 8.5 albums, '8ight' and 'Third Whisper'. In 2002, the group would also be honored as Grand Prize finalists from the SBS Music Awards.
In 2004, COOL released their ninth album 'Let's See What's Happening Now' and rumors of discord within the group started to grow. Their tenth album 'Forever' released in 2005 was to be their final album as a group. After a three year hiatus, COOL announced they would be making a comeback with their 10.5 album 'I Want Love' in the summer of 2008, and quickly followed that up by releasing 2009's 'COOL'.
COOL down the Heat
COOL debuted in an earlier era with the kind of music that would evolve into modern K-Pop. They managed to evolve on their own and become one of the longest running groups in K-Pop's history. Over the course of their career, they created a style and image that was synonymous with their name. As you head to the beach or take a trip with your friends this summer, try playing some COOL tunes while enjoying the hot sun rays.
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