14 Days of K-Pop: Distinctive Sounds – A Vocalist’s Analysis

Some K-Pop groups are written off as having an over-produced and auto tuned sound.  They are there to make songs that can be danced to and MVs full of beautiful people with fancy choreography.  It is a fact that often trainees are scouted on the basis of their looks and dancing potential.  Singing ability is not always a priority.  However, there are a few groups and idols that really stand out for their distinct sound or raw vocal talent.  Here is a vocal analysis of some of my favorites.  My son, a talented musician and vocalist, will be joining me for today’s analysis.  I asked him to use layman’s terms (or at least commonly recognized music words ) whenever possible because his first explanation sounded like I would need an Italian-English dictionary to decipher his meaning.  Luckily, he is a great sport!

Lee Hong Ki

Kdrama Jen: Lee Hong Ki caught my attention a zillion years ago during the You’re Beautiful years.  I loved the power in his voice.  In OST after OST, I could pick out his unique voice.  I then started listening to FT Island (just not the soundtrack to Heirs).  Even during King of Masked Singer, I knew it was him immediately:

Talented Musician Son: He does have a very distinct sound to his voice.  You can hear he has an incredible range and is able to hit those high notes without reaching into his falsetto.  You tend to like singers who can belt, and he definitely has this ability. There is a quality to his voice that is slightly gravelly in his lower range, but then there is a clarity in his high notes that makes for such a compelling contrast.  He has a powerful voice.


Kdrama Jen: I LOVE her!  I first heard of her as a rapper, and I wasn’t super impressed.  She was just another voice among many, but then I heard her sing the OST for Cinderella and the Four Knights and I was smitten!  Her more recent Don’t Make Me Cry is phenomenal with headphones and the rain pouring down outside.  I adore her voice!

Talented Musician Son: Wow.  She has a beautiful alto voice that has a jazz/R&B feel, but this smoky quality is paired with such beautiful tone.  In a K-pop world dominated by bubblegum girl-groups, Jessi really stands out.

V (from BTS)

Kdrama Jen: I have proclaimed repeatedly that I do not have a BTS bias, but I do love Taehyung’s voice (also known as V).  I love it best, though, when he is able to sing in his lower register.  His speaking voice is low, but he is often signing with more of an airy quality.  My favorite singing moments for him are when he is goofing around on V-Live singing jazz standards.  It was a treat to hear him cover Adele too.

Talented Musician Son: I agree.  They should let him sing in his natural range.  He sounds like a baritone and it is in that natural range where he has power and support.  Once he gets into his head voice, though, it loses some substance.  Still, though, he manages to keep the purity of his tone even when in that range.

The Rose

Kdrama Jen: I am kind of obsessed with this group lately.  They only have one song, but I listen to it over and over.  I also watch them live on their Facebook page.  It is there that their true musical brilliance can be observed.  They play a game where one of them calls out a chord progression and the others have to take turns singing a song that “fits.”  So talented!  Check out their Facebook page too!

The Rose

Talented Musician Son: Do you know how hard that is to do?  Their musicality and understanding of music theory has to be at a mastery level to be able to immediately come up with a song and then sing it extemporaneously.  That is amazing.

Sandeul (from B1A4)

Kdrama Jen: I enjoy B1A4.  I love their energy and they offer such an interactive experience at their concerts.  I discovered them through the Baro/Jin Young drama connection, but it was Sandeul’s voice that captivated me.  It was at the suggestion of Amber Kmuse (that lady seems to drag me into all kinds of crazy adventures) that I listened to Sandeul singing a classic song on Immortal Songs.  I was minding my own business trying to finish editing my dissertation (looking back, I was clearly procrastinating), so I decided to listen.  I had chills.  It is such a simple song, but he sang with such emotion and there I was in Starbucks with tears pricking my eyes.  With the benefit of hindsight, I was probably extremely sleep-deprived too, but even listening again today, I still think he has an outstanding voice!

Talented Musician Son:  He has a strong vibrato with an almost-operatic sound when he crescendos. It is a solid tenor voice with a nice range.  He has excellent intonation and a beautiful falsetto.

Suga/August D

Kdrama Jen: I was not really a fan of rap music.  It just didn’t capture my interest or move me in the same way as other music.  But, then I saw Suga (from BTS) on stage performing Cypher 4.  It was raw and powerful and he was so in the flow that I was transported into this web of rhyme and  rhythm and meaning that he was creating.  I could not help smiling.  It was such an incredible experience.  So, I came home and started to really listen to his voice in other songs.  How can he convey such a depth of meaning and help me visualize even when I don’t fully understand the language?  I don’t have the ability to properly analyze this one. It is a very distinct voice, but this goes beyond the quality of the vocals; it hints at the ability to convey anger, pain, disillusionment, fear, and hope through music.  I am definitely a fan!

Talented Musician Son:  Although rap is not really my area of expertise, he is clearly a very accomplished musician.  When it comes to rap, flow is very important, and he really hits his stride at the 1:25 mark in the video.  Being able to rap at that speed while also not compromising musicality is the mark of a true professional.  I would not be surprised if he had some kind of classical training too.  There is a sophistication to this composition.

Kdrama Jen: Umm…  That’s impressive that you picked up on that.  Suga’s “first love” was the piano.  Here.  You can hear for yourself:

Kdrama Jen: There are so many talented musicians and vocalists to enjoy.  I think we are going to have to do another post to make sure they all get recognized.  Please leave your suggestions in the comments!  Also, special thanks to Talented Musician Son.   Maybe he will get hooked on K-pop as a result!

Until next time…

Kdrama Jen

Dramas with a Side of Kimchi

5 thoughts on “14 Days of K-Pop: Distinctive Sounds – A Vocalist’s Analysis

  1. Oh my gosh! I too fell in love with Lee Hong Ki’s voice during You’re Beautiful! I loved the solo album he put out. The same with Jessi, I had never heard of her until Cinderella, of course at the time the song wasn’t on iTunes, so I wound up buying the OST just so I could have it. (I liked all of the OST songs, so I’m not totally insane. 😉
    Thank you for introducing Taehyung! What a sexy voice! Love it! You now have me hooked on The Rose too!

  2. lmfao ofc gotta add a bts member for the views, V is my bias in bts but i dont his voice is all that impressive and distinctive , chen or even kim roy is more powerful

    • Hey, now… These were my picks in 2017. Admittedly, I was deep into my BTS obsession at that point, so there is a definite bias in that direction in this post. Still, I stand by my choice of V from two years ago as having unique vocal tone, especially when he is given the opportunity to sing in his natural vocal range. We could do this again in 2019 and I might pick other vocalists. Actually, I am still obsessed with BTS, so they would likely end up on here again.

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