Kpop News
The return of Seo Taiji
by | November 6, 2007 | 36 Comments

 
Seo Taiji‘s back in the news, and as far as Korean pop music is concerned, it’s a pretty big fucking deal. If you aren’t familiar with Seo Taiji, you might not get why he’s considered important, but the guy’s practically a legend. He had a strong, lasting effect on Korean pop music; he wasn’t just popular, he was influential.

And now he’s back. This time it’s something of an event, with an album to commemorate the 15th year since his debut. The album has already sold out in preorders, within four days of the November 2 announcement of its sale, and will need to go into additional pressings.

The frenzy of preordering was set off by the announcement that the album would be a limited edition — a monster 7-disc CD set with an additional two DVDs containing every song from his seven-album discography, all his music videos, unreleased footage, live clips, etc. Demand continues unabated even in the face of the rather high price, which is a bit over $100 (close to 100,000 won). The production company had wanted to only print 15,000 copies (15 being a special number as it’s the 15th anniversary), although a representative from Yedang Entertainment admits that it might prove difficult.

What I find cool about these copies is the care being taken to make it a special item — each copy from 1 to 15,000 will come with its own number, and the first 15 have been reserved for people at Seo Taiji’s company. The copies for sale will begin with #16, and — get this — even some of the other numbers are considered extra-special, i.e. 221 because February 21 is Seo Taiji’s birthday.

 

 
Whether or not you like his music, Seo Taiji injected a much-needed jolt of energy into the direction and sound of the music industry back in the early 1990s, when the kpop landscape was lots of trot music and pretty ballads sung by people like Cho Yong Pil, Shin Seung Hoon, Lee Seung Chul. Remember Kang Suji? Innocuous, simple, safe. When he started the group Seo Taiji & Boys, their first breakout hit (Nahn Arayo / I Know) was the first time rap had been introduced in Korean music. Sure, it was more DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince rap than Tupac rap, but it was novel, and it was edgy for the times. Ask any pop singer today who was an early influence; Seo Taiji’s probably somewhere in the mix.

He was also controversial, not just for the sound of his music but its content, which was critical and provocative — in that way, I almost see him as a precursor to groups like Epik High. He was purported to be extremely intelligent but eschewed formal higher schooling, being disillusioned about the educational system.

 

 
SONG(s) OF THE DAY

The thing I remember most about Seo Taiji is how he changed with the times, constantly bringing in new sounds. Yes, he was criticized for ripping off Western sounds too closely. I tend to see it as experimenting with different influences rather than lazy copying, though, because he continued to evolve and work those sounds into his own.

The group broke up after four albums, each one progressively edgier than the last, and afterward Seo Taiji (who was always the main songwriter and musician) took a step back, resurfacing every now and again to release a solo album.

 
First album:
The first album was a bit old-school rap, a bit dance, a bit pop. It was a bunch of things mixed together, with a few filler ballads thrown in.

“난 알아요” (Nahn arayo / I know) :: The first smash hit by Seo Taiji & Boys. Everyone knows this song. EVERYONE. It was a noraebang staple for me as a kid, even though I didn’t understand the lyrics and mostly memorized them phonetically. It sounds kind of cheesy now (and it was kinda cheesy then too), but it was a huge song. And it still is.
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Second album:
The second album was similar to the first, although he started expanding the scope of the music, incorporating heavier elements. The hard-rock influence wouldn’t come in full force for another album, but there were fewer bland ballads and he distanced himself further from the traditional pop stuff. Unfortunately, I cannot locate my second album so no clips. :(

 
Third album:
But that’s okay, because the third album is where things start getting good. The heavy guitar takes the fore, and a metal vibe weaves through the songs. Even Taiji’s ballads have made an improvement — they’re pretty and listenable, but like the rest of his music, not conventional.

“발해를 꿈꾸며” (Balhae reul kkumkkumyeo / Dreaming of Balhae) :: This is the title track, which I dig for its ability to be heavy rock/metal and yet very listenable. It has traces of their old rap style, but introduces lots of new elements.
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…but the album also has its mellower side:

“널 지우려 해” (neol jiwooryeo hae / Trying to forget you) :: There’s a live mix album, which was recorded at one of their concerts. When this song comes on, at the transition from melodic softness to the loud guitar-driven chorus, the audience goes batshit insane. It’s a trip. You can barely hear the song, they’re so loud.
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“아이들의 눈으로” (ayideul-eui nooneuro / Through children’s eyes)
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“영원” (yongwon / Eternity) :: Ah, pretty.
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Fourth album:
Ah, the fourth album. This is the last album with the group as Seo Taiji & Boys, titled their “Goodbye Best Album.” Taiji takes the metal/grunge-y guitar sound from the third album and goes a step further, incorporating a wide range of sounds more closely into each song. Pretty groovy.

“Come Back Home” :: “Masterpiece” is too strong a word, but take that down a notch and that’s what “Come Back Home” is for Seo Taiji. It was much-lauded for being fresh and different and edgy; it was also later accused of ripping off Cypress Hill’s sound. I think it’s both. The similarities to “Insane in the Membrane” are unmistakable, and I don’t think it’s accidental. But given the wide range of Taiji’s stylings, it can be seen as one influence in a sea of many.
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“슬픈 아픔” (seulpeun ahpeum / Sad pain)
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Source: Mydaily

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36 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Amyable

    I met Seo Taiji at O’Hare airport once. I can’t for the life of me remember how long ago it was but it was when Seo Taiji and the Boys were still together. I was flying back to CA from the east coast and had a lay over in Chicago. That’s where I saw him (and others with him) waiting at the same gate as me. I got the nerve to approach him once we boarded the flight (my seat was exactly 2 rows behind him) and asked for an autograph. I felt so stupid! I never asked anyone for an autograph before! I didn’t even keep that autograph!

    Anyway, I remember thinking how small he (and the rest of his gang) was. I felt so big!

  2. rocketfuel

    I couldn’t really get with this guy….none of his music could really be considered his. It was either being New Kids on the Block, Beastie Boys, Cypress Hills, or Limp Bisquit. He could mimic anything though…

  3. plumangel3

    ohhh i sorta heard of this before. :D
    good luck to him ^^ im sure he’ll get a war welcome back. for sure :)
    thanx for all the songs.

  4. plumangel3

    lol sorry i meant *warm ^^;

  5. Anonymous

    I have no idea who he is (i’m not asian) but it sounds like a HUGE deal…
    I actually recognized the first song you posted because it is the song that Rain, Seven and some other chick are dancing/singing to in a video floating around on Youtube..

    interesting…i learned something new today about kpop hehe :D

  6. Eve

    Don’t know if anyone heard to this but Nan Arayo was featured in one of the 3 Ninja’s movies (you know the old ones with three kids who beat up adults?) I heard it first when I was pretty young but the sad thing is that the story took place in Japan -__-;; but it was sure catchy.

  7. Cartman

    his songs are all good..though I’ve never heard of him until now..but it’s all good ^_^

  8. sami

    I love how you introduce so much about Korean Celebrity that I haven’t know about!!! Thanks

  9. stawr

    I actually have a video of Seo Taiji and Boys. It’s a videotape of a really big concert where they all dressed up, danced, etc. Hahahaha. I remember when I was like, what? 4? 5? I was simply obsessed with the video because of all the flashing cool lights even though I was too young to even comprehend what they were saying, hahaha.

  10. 10 Jessica

    Entertainment really goes full circle doesn’t it? Back in the 80’s and early 90’s Asia was copying Hollywood. Now, Hollywood is copying Asia!

  11. 11 esyl

    looking forward to his return to the entertainment circle

    thanks for this news, i learned so much about seotaiji

  12. 12 giddygirl108

    I’m pretty “Nahn Arayo” was translated and re-made into a hit Vietnamese single as well. If not that, then some Vietnamese songwriter definitely ripped the melody off.

    …Just wanted to say that I’ve never commented before but absolutely love your posts!

  13. 13 giddygirl108

    I meant “pretty sure”

  14. 14 Anonymous

    i grew up with his music and especially loved the 3rd and 4th album. he was the one responsible for introducing different genres to korea’s mainstream music scene. glad a lot of people are getting introduced to his stuff from this post!!! i won’t say anything about his copying since that is a whole whirlwind discussion i like to avoid.

  15. 15 Archaenon

    I’m really not a Seo fan , as I thought alot of his songs were very un-original. I wonder what his new work will be like. I hope this time off has proved useful in his musical endeavours and greatly improved his music overall.

  16. 16 julier

    Thanks so much for the info and the links. Adding these to my ipod now! While I’ve heard of him, I didn’t know anything about him.

  17. 17 Anonymous

    just for a little more info about seo taiji he actually was originally in a rock band in the late 80s which he later left to form seo taiji and boys. I’m not too sure but i think he once stated that he felt as if korea wasn’t ready for rock music yet and thats why he went into the whole pop/rap thing first

  18. 18 Champong

    thanks for the post! hehe. I love his music!
    his music helped me through some tough times. Can’t believe he’s back! makes my day knowing he’s gonna make awesomo music again.

  19. 19 mad_yet_kool

    I always thought he was a controversial figure… accusations that he wasn’t original and creative. When I first heard of him, the first thing I thought was, “it’s a hide wannabe!!” (Matsumoto Hideto). Coincidentally I learned about him just after hide’s death. His hairstyles, clothing, dance style, eclectic music and the way he sung all reminded me of hide. I’ve only liked a few of his songs and hopefully his comeback will bring into great stuff.

  20. 20 Kim

    Listen,

    Taiji is extremely sexy.

    And his music is amazing.

    I am extremely glad that he came back.

  21. 21 monotonadevota

    Para mí Seo Tai Ji es el compositor más talentoso de todos los tiempo!!!….las hace todas!!!!…con cada nuevo disco hay una grata sorpresa que alegra mis días y por eso siempro digo que Seo Tai Ji es la luz que ilumina mi bastardo camino…

    ah!, y es mucho más que un tipo sexy…grrrrrr!

  22. 22 MaTsuRtito

    Me caia mejor con sus rastas de estambre rojo, ahora ya se ve mas fresa pero sigue rifando como nunca!!!!

  23. 23 Jay

    I totally agree with you.
    Additionally,
    Seotaiji’s music cant be defined. He crosses over every boundary of music genres, and after deconstructing the forms, creates the music his own. In the whole process of composing, arranging, and writing lyrics, he has inserted many hidden codes, but he conveys them with melodies easy enough for many innocent fans who dont knew even grammar of codes. So his album have become not only masterpieces of this generation and but also the million sellers.

    He also has become a model who has broken the slavish chain of management companies and mass media. He is a musician, director, manager, and stylist at the same time.

  24. 24 ------------

    I think HIDE copied SEOTAIJI.

  25. 25 htshi

    I NEED BOY FRIND

  26. 26 ryu

    antes q nada seo taiji estaba cagado y me dava mucha risa pero ahora seo taiji es el mejjor del mundo tengo toda la coleccion de el mi primera cancion de el es to you de la piu prex fan me latio y ahora soy un fanatico a el

  27. 27 animark11

    Thanks for informing everyone about him.

    I was also obsessed with SeoTaji and boys growing up in korea. I remember mimicking their dances in Nahn arayo all day till the sun went down. hahah

    Listening to their 3rd album again gave me the chills. ah~ the memories.

    anyhow, Im also excited that hes coming back. and from what Ive heard, hes going back to more melodies! I wasnt really into his heavy rock music.

    SeoTaiJi For the WIN!!!

  28. 28 ONth

    If Seo taiji is un-original, who has the original or creative sound in Kpop?
    I think Seo taiji is only guy who play his own music.. at least in Kpop scene.

  29. 29 324

    AWESOME – SEO TAIJI ROCKS

  30. 30 omg

    seo taiji is wanna be of hide? no offence,but that is the FUNNIEST thing I’ve ever heard in my life lol Some J-pop fans go over board sometimes. Taiji strongly have been saying that he is not even interested in Japanese music. And you will know it by listening to his songs. Some people say that his name was from TAIJI of X-japan, but sorry to discourage you, Taiji’s name was made even before the X-Japan was formed. His name was on SINAWE’s album back in 80s. Also concerning Cypress Hill, Seo taiji actually sent ‘Come Back Home’ to them, and their response proved it was not a rip off. he is controversial mainly because he does not often show up in the media though he is huge in k-pop scene.

  31. 31 MaffyTaffy

    Lolwut, Seo Taiji is amazing no matter what! I love his music ;>

  32. 32 Anonymous

    Eternity sounds like something from a musical. :]

  33. 33 Ahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!

    Man, Seo Taiji being accused of ripping off of others is the FUNNIEST THING I HAVE EVER HEARD, BECAUSE IT IS SO BLATANTLY OBVIOUS IT IS NOT TRUE. He is probably the MOST original person anyone would ever see. He definitely did not copy off of any J-Pop or any American work like Hide or Cypress Hill (and his new solo albums have been criticized of ripping off of Korn…geez). You can’t rip off genres anyways, so most songs that sound similar is just a coincidence of styles. Geez…

    At least he’s better than friggin pop artists…man, pop annoys me these days, whether American, J-Pop, or K-Pop…

  34. 34 Silvia

    I heard about him but i don’t know him…now i see him in this post i think that he is jentelman…

  35. 35 petmink

    This comment may be a little late. This article definitely helps me understand the setting of Answer Me 1994 and YooJin’s crush on him.

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