Friday Feature: Actor/Singer

Why simply stick to one branch of the Korean entertainment industry when you can dominate two of them? We assess the success of Korean actor/singers in both fields.

IU

IU started as a musician known for toting an acoustic guitar, so it is not surprising that her first acting gig was in the musical drama, “Dream High”. Within two years, IU got starring roles in two KBS dramas, “You’re the Best, Lee Soon Shin” and “Pretty Man”.

IU’s music is hardly the stuff of teenage rebellion despite her young age. She pretty much sounds the way you would expect: young yet conservative. Even by K-pop standards, IU’s music is overly produced like a musical. Modern Times is practically a concept album and could double as the soundtrack for The Great Gatsby. Yet, IU is surprisingly repressed in live performance shows like “Inkigayo”, going through the motions of the choreography with minimal changes to the expression on her face.

IU is more animated in her acting than her musical performance, though there is still a lack of sincerity. She was an unconvincing 27 year old in “Pretty Man”, but even in a role closest to her actual age and experience as a performing teenager in “Dream High”, she wore a fat suit much of the time, and acted like a prepubescent child.

One can only hope that life experience away from her management company will allow IU to develop her own voice, and lend some authenticity to her acting.- Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다

So Ji Sub

So Ji Sub is a rare bird, in that despite his success as an actor, his love for hip hop keeps dragging him back into music. It’s a mystery as to why, since he tends to produce fairly middle-of-the-road fare. Granted, my opinion is based on my limited knowledge of his catalogue, but I wonder why if he’s such a fan, he doesn’t experiment more.

His range is a bit more interesting as an actor. I’ve personally seen him in the drama, “Master’s Sun”, a couple of episodes of “I’m Sorry I Love You”, and two movies. I’m told he’s better known for melodramas, but in “Master’s Sun”, he was remarkably adept at low-key comedy.

His broad range was visible again in his films. In Rough Cut, he was a thug who wanted to be an actor, and A Company Man, he was a company employee who wanted out of the business of assassination.

Given that he chooses more interesting projects as an actor, I can only hope that he stretch his interest in experimentation to music. Or, just concentrate on the acting. – Only 만

Taecyeon

Taecyeon was recruited through an entertainment company audition and competition process, to become the main rapper of the boy band, 2PM. Two years after debuting, Taecyeon starred in his first drama, and he has continued to play a lead role in four other dramas.

Taecyeon hasn’t strayed far from the mainstream in his television roles and music, coasting on his good looks in serious dramas and posturing in rap solos. It was the variety show, “We Got Married Global Edition” that exposed Taecyeon as a bit of a staid and awkward nerd. In the reality show, he is overwhelmed by his mischievous wife, who admits to preferring one of his 2PM bandmates, much to his dismay. Based on this glimpse into Taecyeon’s personality, I would be surprised if he ever took on a controversial role or branched away from pop music.

Below is Taecyeon and 2PM following the album concept of sexy. Their most recent album, Go Crazy calls for the boys to party hard, and they try their best to act the part. – Junggugeo Kaenada

Seo In Guk

Seo In Guk joined the industry by winning a singing contest show called “Superstar K”. A lot of his success is based on his personal charm, which is considerable. Personally, I find his music pleasant, but unmemorable, like good background music at a party. That said, I doubt I’m his musical target audience, since it’s unlikely that either he or his management have given a lot of thought to how hungry Canadian noonas feel about him. So, instead, I’ll stick to talking about his dramas, which I generally enjoy.

I first noticed him in “Master’s Sun”, where he had a memorable turn as the second lead. It was on the force of that drama that I started watching “King of High School Savvy”, despite its off-putting premise. Whatever your opinion of that drama, it’s impossible to deny that Seo In Guk was fantastic as the irrepressible Lee Min Suk, bringing heart and complexity to a character that could have been entirely comedic.

Final analysis: I probably won’t go looking for his music again, but I’ll definitely be watching what he gets up to acting-wise. – Only

Jang Geun Suk

Jang Geun Suk started as a child actor, but obviously has musical aspirations. He played a musician in three of his more recent dramas: “Beethoven”, “You’re Beautiful” and “Mary Stayed Out All Night”, and contributed to the official sound track of many of his TV shows. Jang Geun Suk has released his own albums, though only in China and Japan where he is even more popular than he is in Korea.

When he is not busy playing out his fantasy of being a musician, Jang Geun Suk enjoys acting the aloof jerk. I have often wished that Jang Geun Suk would pay more attention to his acting career so that his dramas and movies would not turn out to be such train wrecks. It is a pleasant surprise that his music is not equally a hot mess. Below is a song written and composed by Jang Geun Suk, off of his album, Just Crazy. Dare I say, it is not bad. – Junggugeo Kaenada

Kim Jae Joong

The first time I saw Jae Joong in “Protect the Boss”, I wondered who had cast this unconvincingly wooden pretty boy as a company CEO, and given him such terrible hair. Since then, he’s sorted out his acting skills, though not his ability to choose good projects, as he was one of the few bright spots in the interminable “Triangle”, and was pretty funny as a spoiled idol in the so-so kidnapping comedy film, Codename: Jackal.

I’ll freely admit that I know little about his music career apart from the fact that he’s a member of JYJ, and that he, along with Yoochun and Junsu, had an acrimonious breakup with their management company, thus splitting up their former group, TVXQ. I recently listened to WWW, his first solo album, and was completely taken aback by the fact that much of it sounded like an anime soundtrack. Is Jae Joong a closet otaku? Fantastic!

Here’s the song I liked from WWW:

And, while we’re at it, let’s throw back to the pre-TVXQ split era with “Mirotic”. It’s not bad, and the “sekshy” concept with Jae Joong in bondage is a bonus. –  Only


Readers: is there an idol whose acting does not make you cringe? Or, an actor whose singing doesn’t cause your ears to bleed?

Tell us more in Comments below.

6 Comments

  1. I like Lee Seung Gi also. I like his songs and i know his acting range isn’t so varied but i like him a lot in dramas inexplicably.
    Amongst the ones listed, i wish So Ji Sub would stop singing/rapping and just stick to acting 😦 but i guess he REALLY loves singing. LOL.
    I feel Seo In Guk is one of the best singer/actors. His a very very good actor with potential to be great. I will keep watching him

    P.S Mirotic was one of my most played kpop songs ever. I especially liked the sekshy concept 🙂

    Like

      1. I don’t want him to stop… I just wish he would try something more interesting. And not with his hair because he covered that in “Pickup Line”.

        Like

  2. Han Groo was also originally a kpop singer, but she’s also an amazing actress in Marriage Not Dating, Can we get married, and Girl K (so versatile!!)

    Recently CNBlue’s Yonghwa in Three Musketeers was pretty awesome too, as well as Soo Young in Cyrano and My Spring Day!

    Park Shin Hye’s singing doesn’t cause my ears to bleed, she has a very smooth, soft voice. I especially like her “Pitch Black” Flower Boy Next Door OST.

    for me, the singers that aren’t so great at acting are Infinite’s L, SNSD’s Yoona, and so-so is f(x)’s Krystal.

    Like

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