Updated Mar.16,2006 20:36 KST
K-pop singer Seven, born Choi Dong-wook, is as big a star abroad as Rain, with a fan base that stretches across East Asia. Perhaps that is why he has taken the unconventional step of releasing two albums simultaneously, one in Japan and one in Korea, that are completely different in style. Essentially, Seven is active in Japan on weekdays and in Korea on weekends. "I do that because I would like to sing to as many people as possible," the star says.
The Korean album, "24/7," departs from the saccharine tunes of his earlier work and gestures in the direction of hip hop with powerful beats that overwhelm melodies. He claims the songs have "hip hop beats that can compare well with the newest trends in the U.S." How Koreans will react is another question, since tastes here have tended to focus on a hummable tune regardless of the arrangement. By contrast, the Japanese album "First Se7en" is “typical J-pop,” according to the singer.
So how does he feel about rival Rain’s sold-out performances in New York’s Madison Square Garden?
“I was proud, put everything aside,” he says. “I think no one can match me or Rain in East Asia. I would like to make a debut in the U.S., too," he admits. Asked about his strengths as a singer, Seven points to his dynamic voice and his insistence on live performance regardless of the occasion. That, he believes, is the foundation for his popularity overseas as well as in Korea. "Since I wanted to be acknowledged as a singer rather than as an entertainer, I couldn’t allow myself to lip-synch,” he says. “Singers are expected to sing and shouldn’t lip-synch even on the smallest and most humble stage."
Seven was picked up by YG Entertainment when he was in middle school and released his first album at the age of 20. Six other wannabes were trained with him, but all of them left for other agencies or gave up in less than three years. Seven had no appearance in a Korean soap to help his popularity in Japan along. Instead, he secured a fan base in the island country with TV appearances and gigs promoting his albums just like most Japanese singers would. "I was just confident. I’m not the only one, am I? I think Korean dance music stars have infinite potential in the future," he declares.