As an avid fan of Korean pop music, I highly enjoy watching clips of my favourite singers on 도전 1000 곡 (1000 Song Challenge), a variety show in which artists must correctly sing a random song. Through Challenge, I’ve come across a lot of great old songs, and this thankfully adds a bit of variety in my otherwise monotone collection of current K-pop.

Another good thing about Challenge is that you find out which singer can actually sing. Nowadays, many Korean pop groups lip sync through a lot of their live performances, as demonstrated by the times when CDs start skipping, or the weird fact that they can do aerobics on stage and still sing without sounding laboured. But even during the times when they sing live, you usually don’t hear more than a couple of lines from each member, especially if the member is

  1. in a large group, like Super Junior (13 member) or Girls’ Generation (9 members);
  2. not a main vocalist (e.g. Yoona in Girls’ Generation or Sunhwa in Secret); or
  3. performing on a stage with horrible sound systems, which is pretty common, believe it or not — mics are often set too quietly compared to the background music.

But on Challenge, none of these problems exist. Everyone sings alone, and because it is a television show with a live audience, it has sound recording AND you know that there is no way they could’ve prerecorded the singers in a studio.

Generally, I’ve found that most K-pop group members sing okay. They’re not musical prodigies, but they sing pretty well for overworked kids who can also dance/model/act. There are also some who sing beautifully — Sunny and Tiffany of Girls’ Generation, as well as Narsha and Ga-in of Brown Eyed Girls are a joy to listen to. In fact, I’ve been so floored by Narsha’s voice (until recently, I paid little attention to her group) that I’m almost desperately seeking out more clips of her singing solo. Honestly, she’s not given enough singing parts in her group’s songs.

I haven’t found a place that provides Challenge episodes in full yet, but you can watch clips of individual performances by searching for “challenge 1000” on YouTube. Who do you find performs best?

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