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The timelessness of Lee Jung Hyun

by kbrecordzz March 11, 2021 2000s, 2010s, K-pop, Lee Jung Hyun, Korea

Even though the album “007” by Lee Jung Hyun starts off with 3-4 loud gun shots followed by Lee Jung Hyun whispering “bad boy…”, it isn’t as unique and crazy as her earlier works. It’s great pop with great hooks (“dididididi it girl, daradada dadada, dididididi it girl…”) that’s not always instantly nice or distinct, but it has a deeper quality that may take time to understand. It’s great but not shocking. This measure wouldn’t be brought up if it wasn’t for Lee Jung Hyun and how insanely cool she was around the turn of the millenium. Even before her debut, the band Goofy thought she was so cool that they had to include her in their music video, mouthing the words to the original song (which she never sung, it was one of the bands’ vocalists), which she ended up being so good at that they kept her visible throughout the whole video instead of the originally intended few seconds. The “real” singer was not even seen once in the video. In 2000 she got allowance to shoot a video inside of an Egyptian temple, where filming was usually forbidden by religious reasons, because they thought this “mysterious girl from the East resembled Cleopatra” (google translated quote). This is hard to top.

Lee Jung Hyun’s appearance in another bands music video without even singing

In her first album Lee Jung Hyun was an alien who greeted earthlings with a negative number and made electronic techno music. This was very successful, so she could easily have sticked with the concept and cemented herself as the techno alien, but to Lee Jung Hyun this was only one concept of many to come. She’s known as the queen of transformation, and as she said herself: “I want myself to be different in every single album or film {…} I will uphold this forever regardless of age or popularity”. And while she’s a great innovator she’s also great at adapting to trends. According to the WikiHow guide “How to be a popstar”, what you need to become a great pop star is wholesomeness, self-respect, confidence, trend sensitivity, reinvention, style, sex appeal and persistency, and if we accept this as science (why not?), a difficult part of this is being trend sensitive and innovative at the same time. Following trends and creating new things is relatively easy, but balancing between these two is harder. How much “sell-out” is needed to be understood and how unique do you have to be to not become a forgotten trend? A lot of Lee Jung Hyun’s music seems to be attempts to catch up with trends. When techno got outdated in the early 00s she went more rnb on “Magic to go to my star”. “Fantastic Girl” from 2006 sounds updated while still keeping classic Lee Jung Hyun elements, and both “007” from 2010 and the single “V” from 2013 fit well into their respective times.

The music video to “Cheol-soo, I love you”, inserted just because I love it

But this is only surface. Even if she’s pandering to the pop audience of 2010, her creations have a timeless quality. When I listen to her flamenco-style album “Passion” I couldn’t be bothered by the fact that it seems to have been a failed concept in 2004, because Lee Jung Hyun dancing flamingly hot flamenco with a rose in her mouth is always good. No matter how tacky her “007” album cover is or how commercial her songs are, something keeps Lee Jung Hyun interesting to this day.

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