Jang Yoon Jung was the first of the younger generation stars to experiment with Trot. Brought out in late 2004, her first album was a hit with older and younger buyers alike, and encouraged other Trot revivalists to have a go. Those who came after were somehow less successful, let down by their composers and so geared towards a younger audience that their songs lost any flavour of the original.
Jang’s album feels a lot more authentic. For starters her opening track, 어머나1, has the steady Ppongtchak drum rhythm that one expects, albeit a little faster. This song, more than any other, brought the new style to people’s attention, and gave Jang a niche after a slow start to her career.
The instrumentation of the songs mark the album out — with the accordion giving the collection a slightly eastern Mediterranean feel throughout, while other instruments include soprano sax, steel-string acoustic guitar and solo trumpet, as well as the obligatory tinny-sounding synthesizer (reproduced, one suspects, using slightly more sophisticated computer wizardry than was at the disposal of original Trot musicians).
The opener is a deservedly popular track, though one should not expect particular sophistication. Here it is:
The second one, (여자의 거울) is a slow ballad with the solo trumpet adding atmosphere. Although the cheesy synthesizer sound is prominent here, giving the song an authentic base, the emotion is not so over the top as one might expect.
If the second song is nicely relaxing, the third (후!) rudely wakens you with a raucous electric guitar and raw-sounding sax introduction before settling down into a mid-tempo swing number, while the fourth (눈물의 블루스) opens with another raw sax solo before again settling down to something which sounds as if, if Jang tried really hard, she could produce a n authentically over-the-top performance in terms of fake emotion — but this time she restrains herself, which is a disappointment.
The fifth track (수은등) is a really straight and simple ditty, while the sixth (변심) has pretensions to be a disco anthem, appropriately enough followed by the slow dance (바보 같은 미소) with a big chorus. A slow waltz follows (비에 젖은 터미널) and then an attempt at the foreign market with a touching ballad in English — IOU — which doesn’t really fit with what has gone before2.
So far, so middle of the road and unobjectionable. But then we go off the rails with the remix. 어머나 indeed. Whatever credibility the rapper had before he participated in this miserable effort is totally shattered by the revelation that he’s more into early Spice Girls than anything more “real”: his rhythm bears a startling resemblance to that of the girl band’s hit Wannabe. We end with karaoke versions of the first two tracks for you to do your own singalong version — probably the most catchy of the songs in this collection.
In general, this is tuneful, toe-tapping, hum-along stuff. If you are not looking for great depths of musical sophistication or emotion it’s perfectly enjoyable. It’s interesting for what it’s trying to do, and is by no means unpleasant or irritating, but there are probably other albums far more deserving of your hard-earned Won.
- Buy Jang Yoon Jung’s first album at YesAsia
- Roughly translated as “Oh my goodness!”
- Strangely, not that I’m an expert, her English pronunciation seems more accurate than her Korean. Maybe when singing in her native tongue she adopts the Korean equivalent of the ubiquitous mid-atlantic drawl which is so obligatory for English bands