Clarke Quay’s Central Fountain Square has been playing host to a bunch of international acts the last few days as part of Music Matters Live 2012, and on May 24, 2012, some of South Korea’s most talented singers and rappers showed how diverse the K-Pop genre really is.

K-Pop Music Matters Live 2012 tigerjk -- rebecca quek
K-Pop Music Matters Live 2012 btob2 -- glenn taubenfeld
Old & new: K-Pop stars of different styles and generations got the crowd going at the Music Matters Live 2012 concert with TigerJK (above top) and BTOB (above) getting the crowd jumping. Images: Glenn Taubenfeld & Rebecca Quek

The surprise hit of the night was Rhythmking, a five-piece band with lead vocals by the shy and diminutive Bumkey. They showed their sincerity by performing five original and brand new English songs. The smooth voice (check out that falsetto) of its lead singer was so sexy, it gave my companion and I goosebumps.

In keeping with Music Matters Live 2012’s motto of helping audiences discover new music, I’ve been googling Bumkey’s (who’s also part of a duo called 2wins) songs and performances – and you should too.

An expected hit came next, five-member boyband BTOB, who of course, had the most cheers from fans waiting just for them to perform. At the press conference on May 23, the immaculately-dressed teenagers had expressed shock that fans were there to greet them at the airport – after this, they should be heartened to see just how big their fan base is. Every shedding of a jacket and flying kiss to the crowd incited major screams.

Their latest title tracks Insane and Imagine are the usual electronic dance music K-Pop groups are known for and BTOB, who had considered the names Asian Kings, Sonic and Arirang before debuting, executed them perfectly, with the ballad Father thrown in to prove their skills as a vocally-talented idol group. With a dance interlude of around five minutes, they also showed they could pull off some impressive and coordinated moves as well.

J’Kyun, a rapper who calls himself the Prince of Hip Hop (he also emphasised this at the press conference) tried his hardest to schmooze the women by speaking in English while DJ Clazzi, part of the experimental band Clazziquai, provided a relaxing, groovy session.  The artiste who ironically, said he “isn’t a clubber”, was joined by singer Jinsil, seeming almost ethereal in her all-white outfit and long hair, rapper MYK and singer Yi Sung Yol.

Of course, the highlight of the night (well, mine at least) was Tiger JK and Yoon Mi Rae’s performance. Their proteges of sorts, hip hop idol group MIB came first and were able to get everyone hyped with just three words “girls”, “dreams”, “money” (or “G.D.M.”, which is the name of their debut track).

It helps that the four members are cut from a different, studlier mold than a lot of other idol groups. But this is still hip hop done K-Pop style, meaning coiffed locks, eyeliner and stylish clothes, but luckily, no choreographed dance moves. By the way, their name is short for Most Incredible Busters. Yes, even labelmate Tiger JK thinks “they’re the group with the stupidest name” as he told the media at the press conference.

Equal parts rock star and rapper, Tiger JK raps flowed easily and energetically onstage, beating all his hoobaes (juniors in Korean) who had come before him. The veteran artiste also joked with the crowd, as he did the day before where he showed off his Singlish skills (courtesy of his Singaporean Twitter followers) – “They told me to add ‘lah’ and ‘loh’ to the end of every sentence. So, “I didn’t eat chilli crab yet, loh.’”

He was complemented by Bizzy, who had seemed quite reticent at the press meet but was a changed man once he began rapping. “He’s a rare MC, humble and not good at promoting himself,” as Mi Rae put it. Watch out for his new single Angel coming out soon.

The duo were soon joined by Yoon Mi Rae or Tasha, whom every one had been anticipating, on a few songs including the crowd-mover Get It In. The rapper/singer/wife of TigerJK and mother of one is known as the “Queen of Soul” in South Korea but she humbly acknowledged there might not be many people who know them in Singapore.

With an upcoming feature on the track Live My Life with Far East Movement, whom they met at an awards show after party, she’s sure to gain more well-deserved recognition. And it’ll certainly go towards her aim of letting the world know that “we have some really good music in Korea. K-Pop isn’t only a certain type of music.”

The last song, Drunken Tiger’s Monster, a hardcore rap song with intense beats, had the entire Jungle Entertainment crew bouncing and ended the concert on a feverish high.

Log on to www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBO3J2dPc0E to watch the concert (starts at around 1:32:00).


Vanessa is a freelance writer who can be found at thesewingwriter.tumblr.com.