In my two years in Korea I recall one absolutely perfect moment. My boyfriend and I were racing across Seoul one afternoon in a cab. The skies were grey and the weather warm despite it being fall. I had my window rolled down so I could feel the wind on my face. As the city flashed past me, lightly and magically, Tasha's As Time Goes By came over the radio.
Flash forward eleven years and imagine my surprise to see Tasha, the talented singer and rapper, interviewing her husband, musician Tiger JK on Mnet. Watching her got me reminiscing about my other favorite Kpop from back in the day:
Before Rain ruled Korea with his abs, there was Yoo Seung Joon. He had swagger and dynamic dance moves, but he also possessed a warm honey voice. In 2000 there was no knowing the performer, who immigrated to the United States as a teenager, would be banned from returning to Korea after becoming a naturalized US citizen in order to avoid ROK Army duty. Yoo Seung Jun lost legions of fans in Korea, but he gained a following in China where he sings and acts to this day.
Like Yesterday (2000) by J
Looking at the video for this lovely ballad, I marvel at how naturally Korean J appears. These days female Kpop stars all seem to have the same oval faces, high bridged noses, and round eyes.
A-Yo! (2001) by JinuSean
Back in 2001, everybody pumped iron to JinuSean at my local gym. I still get down to the beat when I hear this song. A-Yo! is my favorite Korean video, though I get creeped out when the man rolls up to the little boys in his Mercedes Benz.
Lie (2001) by G.O.D.
Even as a boy band cynic I couldn't resist G.O.D. Lead singer Kim Taewoo's voice is like butter. I could do without the screaming woman at 2:51, however. G.O.D.'s video for Lie is the cat's meow because not only is it filmed in Los Angeles, but Sung Kang plays the lead!
Passion (2001) by Koyote
I heard Passion on my first day in Korea in the Kangnam subway station. I was instantly hooked. Years later I'd hum the song to everyone trying to figure out who sang it. Once I knew, I gave my friend Han the no-win assignment to buy Koyote's Volume 3. album back in Korea. At the same time I scoured Ktown CD shops for the 2001 disc with no luck. One day Han showed up with the Best of Koyote CD set and I've never been without Passion ever since!