Sketchbook is a weekly television program that invites and recognizes a mix of musicians. What makes it appealing is its fine balance of music and humor. You Hee-yeol, the show’s host is a professional musician who was trained in classical composition. He also has years of experience as a host of radio music programs. In addition to these music-related assets, he is so funny, keen and genuine that he makes everyone feel comfortable and included. Sketchbook has featured several special episodes with distinct themes such as Korea’s best studio musicians. Last Friday (March 23) was another special episode.
Beaming with a night club tout’s name tag, MC You starts the show in a classic DJ voice. “Night is Young” or “Young Night” is dedicated to the music of the 90s and its listeners. The intro of Toy’s “A passionate farewell” (2007) plays and fades out.
In a moment, we hear an arresting line of song: “Misty stage light wraps my scattered body~.” It’s “You inside my dim memory” by Hyun Jin-young. One of the first Kpop dance musicians, Hyun delivers a performance of his 1992 hit. As I am watching, I find myself chanting, “Hyun Jin-young go Jin-young go!” Although Hyun is older, he is still very energetic. The news about his weight loss speaks to his determination to revitalize his career. Only recently has he become more visible. Being able to watch 42-year-old Hyun Jin-young bounce on the stage is great. He may not be the young, nimble dancer anymore, but composure that only maturity can nurture should outweigh yesterday’s glory.
Next up is Solid’s “Perfect match” from 1996. Kim Jo-han the R&B god sings with guest rappers. Kim Jo-han seriously can belt anytime anywhere.
“Candy,” a historic hit from 1996 that provided a powerful impetus to H.O.T.’s career, is reenacted by Tony and Smash, the boy band that Tony is producing. The hoodies they wore instead of the exuberant furry suits seem an appropriate choice given that it is almost April. Tony also wore his beanie and goggles.
Sistar’s performance of Finkl’s “Now” (2000) is next. Although Sistar is undeniably hot and may even be the better singer as a group, they could not take the place of Finkl. Just like Smash’s “Candy,” Sistar’s “Now” reminded me how much I had liked the boy and girl bands of the 90s.
MC You returns to the stage to tease the audience: I am so impressed by the strong odor of your sweat! You are all so mature that you know the lyrics to all the songs! He introduces the next performer, referring to her as the king or big sister. In a moment, the soaring voice of the diva Park Mi-gyung fills the auditorium. Park in a leopard-print dress and leather boots is as stunning as her vocal. Park belts out “Unreasonable reason” (1994) and “Eve’s warning” (1995) with both passion and poise.
DJ Koo joins Park in “Eve’s warning.”
DJ Koo continues to wow the audience with his dazzling glow sticks. Although his partner Kang Won-lae is missing, DJ Koo gives us an amazing performance of “First love” (2000) and “Kungtari shabara” (1996). I am singing already. It’s “Kungtari shabara!” Who can resist? Kungtari shabara pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa pa~
Next is Solid’s timeless song from 1992: “Holding onto the end of this night.” It’s amazing what a song is capable of. I notice that MC You and Yoon Jong-shin have volunteered to be Solid. Thick sunglasses, awkward dances and unambitious vocal work (MC You) all lend to a hilarious stage. Seriously, these guys are just too hot. MC You and Yoon diligently impersonate Kim’s Korean-American pronunciation and vibration in order to entertain us. The dry ice on the stage is about to engulf the tiny guys when Kim Jo-han finally joins the stage to make the whole thing less comical The trio shows off some intense singing and ends the stage with an equally dorky gesture.
Next, MC You checks in on the audience: In consideration of your age, we have planned for a relaxation time. We are going to put on some ballads. We have even scheduled in a time for singles in the audience to hunt for a partner, so be mindful of that.
Yoon Jong-shin with his Shinchirim partners, Ha Rim and Cho Jung-chi takes the stage. Guitarist Ham Choon-ho joins. Together, they perform “Please” (1995). “Your wedding” (1992) follows. It feels like we are back in the 90s, at least for the moment. But we don’t get so sappy.
MC You reappears. It’s time to hear from the audience. MC You recognizes a guy whose story was selected to be highlighted during the episode. MC You in his playful tone narrates: This guy fought off his adolescent peril marked by loneliness and sexual curiosity, with the help of this particular female singer: Kim Hyun-jung. The deft intro of “Parting with her” (1997) sounds, and Kim takes the stage. I am singing again with the audience. “Hurt” (2000) is next. Kim is just as tall and her voice as sharp and forceful.
Next is Norazo, singing Buck’s “Barefoot youth” from 1992. I don’t know who planned this, but it’s crazy how Norazo is the perfect duo to reenact this song. Lee Hyuk’s a tad awkward because he is a rock musician in heart. I make sure I don’t miss the “Wa da da da da da da” part.
Kim Gun-mo is the next hero. He is the guy who likes to wear lipstick (in reference to his then-controversial-but-now-funny I am a Singer performance). “Love’s stealing away” (1997) begins. Kim Gun-mo is such a gifted singer. But look at what the guy is wearing. It’s modeled after a certain canine breed. Despite the dots, Kim Gun-mo’s artistry is amazing. Kim sings next “A bird that flew over the cuckoo’s nest” (1997).
Lights go out. Weird line graphs appear intermittently on the screen. What the heck. A green laser beam shoots out from the center and two discrete notes repeat. The interval of the repetition grows short. What could it be? The notes evolve into a melody; it’s the intro of “Wrongful encounter” (1994). Kim, in Big Bang-like attire, lights up like a neon sign. Kim Gun-mo is gifted in making us laugh with the way he dresses. I am singing again, feeling nostalgic and a bit proud that I can still keep up with the fast rhythm of the song.
The final stage celebrates the soundtrack to the famous basketball drama of youth, friendship and romance known as Last Match (1994). Kim Min-gyo is singing. Every Korean ought to know or have heard this song. In my experience, this song was one of those songs that people saved for last at karaoke; it was that impactful. It is like a fight song. Having sung along to most of the songs, and with “Last Match” as the finale, I feel as though I’ve enjoyed a good hour and a half of noraebang with old friends. I think I saw Kim Min-gyo for the first time on television. Kim, who was a big star in the 90s, delivers a passionate performance and keeps on a cheerful mien the entire time. He gives a shout out to his wife.
Before Kim Min-gyo’s finale, MC You shares with the audience, “It occurred to me. Aren’t we happy that we have common memories? So much to reminisce.”
Set list in Korean
흐린 기억속의 그대 (You in my dim memory)
천생연분 (Perfect match)
이유같지 않은 이유 (Unreasonable reason)
이브의 경고 (Eve’s warning)
초련 (First love)
꿍따리 샤바라 (Kungtari shabara)
이 밤의 끝을 잡고 (Holding onto the end of this night)
너의 결혼식 (Your wedding)
그녀와의 이별 (Parting with her)
맨발의 청춘 (Barefoot youth)
사랑이 떠나가네 (Love’s stealing away)
뻐꾸기 둥지 위로 날아간 새 (A bird that flew over the cuckoo’s nest)
잘못된 만남 (Wrongful encounter)
마지막 승부 (Last match)