Recently, MBC‘s “King of Mask Singer” is shedding light on the vocal abilities of idols. With no prejudice, there were many idols who were revealed to be fantastic vocalists. As such, five experts gave their opinions on the five best idol vocalists in Korea, and those who they would recommend. Producer Kim Hyung Seok, indie musician Danpyunsun, music critics Kim Young Dae and Kim Yoon Ha, and editor Kang Myung Seok each chose the best idol vocalists in their points of view.
There is no way that vocalists will always sing a song the same way. According to the situation, the final product will be different, and in my personal opinion, the best vocalist is the one who I want to hear a new song from right now. Right now, I would like to hear a solo dance song from Taeyeon. In the short part she has at the end of “Shake That Brass,” Taeyeon goes in strongly with the groove, then enjoys every situation lightly, then takes over the stage again with her vocals. Also, she dominates the song with feminine interjections. She doesn’t back down with just setting the atmosphere with her featuring, but she establishes herself as a fun woman but doesn’t appeal with her sexuality excessively. Instead, she uses her tone and rhythm to dominate her parts and draw out a character of a beautiful woman. She does the same in TaeTiSeo‘s “Holler,” making sure to blend the styling and performance with her feminine beauty. She went from acting out multiple characters as a member of Girls’ Generation to the true, cool woman that is difficult to express. She’s beautiful even though she doesn’t pretend to be meek, and I love that.
By: Kang Myung Seok (ize Editor-in-chief)
You could be a vocalist with high notes that would make a dolphin jealous, the emotions that could flower a dry tree branch, but there is another, harder road; timbre. The fact that he can change the air around him with any note is even more unique when you consider that great timbre is born, not practiced. SHINee’s Onew is a vocalist who is born with a timbre that the heavens have gifted him with. His biggest charm is his innocent and clear voice, and his biggest strength is that he doesn’t lose his unique sensitivity even as he sings high and difficult notes. He doesn’t aim to stab your heart in one go, but he has the strength to slowly capture your body and mind. If you haven’t yet experienced the strength of the magic that only Onew can cast, I recommend “Stand by Me” from the “Boys over Flowers” OST and “Honesty” from SHINee’s fourth mini album, “Sherlock.” If you feel something that spreads through your heart elegantly, you are already a slave to Onew’s voice.
By: Kim Yoon Ha (music critic)
The biggest surprise factor from MBC’s “King of Mask Singer” is the ability of idol singers. It’s only natural that the good singers get their vocal abilities hidden behind the visual concepts of dance and costumes, or other stimulating things. However, if I were to pick a vocalist who makes the concepts irrelevant, it would be BEAST‘s Yang Yoseob. A few years ago, Yoseob sang my song, “Cherish That Person” as part of MBC’s “My Princess” OST. I thought he would just be a pretty-looking kid, but he sang exceptionally well. His tone isn’t bound to a certain genre and can express a variety of different genres freely, and his vocalization and breathing were also perfect. Even when he sang the song a little differently than I had intended and asked him to sing with a different technique, he changed to a completely different technique in one go. This wasn’t something that could be achieved with just a little experience. Idols need to be a full package, from song, dance, to costumes. However, the person who made me realize that I have to write songs with more care in order for the song to stand out was Yoseob.
By: Kim Hyung Seok (Composer, Producer)
The first task to choosing the best vocalist is, “What makes someone a great vocalist?” There may be different standards, but personally, I think it is “Being able to understand the song, complete the task at hand, and sometimes even interpret the song in a way that overtakes the intent of the composer.” It is because I think being a vocalist inherently puts it at a similar position to a performer. In addition, if you are an idol, you must be a good dance pop singer since most idol songs are dance pop. AOA’s Choa is a great vocalist in the standards that I listed above. In the covers of other artists and collaboration concerts with other FNC artists, it’s easy to realize that her basics (for instance, breathing, vocalization, fullness of voice, pitch, etc.) are there, but her biggest strength is in AOA’s recordings. If I say it simply, her voice has colour. She seems to tighten her voice and connect some nasal sounds together while integrating with her signature husky voice, she reminds you of a cute cat. She decorates AOA’s music as the final cherry on op. While there are many who have good technique, there aren’t many who change a group’s identity in a huge way or define it entirely. Choa does that naturally. That’s why I think she is wonderful.
By: Danpyunsun (musician)
A common critique that you can hear about Taeyang‘s voice is, “He has a nice voice but he doesn’t have fantastic vocal powers.” Of course, you can’t compare him to those that you could call vocal machines such as Xia Junsu when you take his range and fullness of voice. However, timbre is a musical ‘fingerprint’ that can’t be learned through technique or vocalization. And in that aspect, Taeyang has something that no one else does. In particular, the way he sings R&B often demands a different type of vocalization, but switching naturally from head voice to chest voice smoothly and instantly, Taeyang’s timbre is luxurious and one you couldn’t find before him. While you could think of Kim Jo Han or Jay Park, considering the fact that they are gyopos who grew up in completely different environments, especially as their voices were trained in English vocalization, Taeyang’s voice is very special. As you can see in “Eyes, Nose, Lips,” instead of giving off a mechanically trained and cold aura that other idols usually exhibit, he has a warm and full emotional range, and something that is often overlooked while critiquing his voice.
By: Kim Young Dae (music critic)