“The Beauty of Four Seconds.”
This is the snarky label from the Internet for Heechul, member of an idol group Super Junior who only has four seconds of solo singing time in “Sorry Sorry,” the title song for the group’s third album. Together, there are 13 members of Super Junior who sang this song. Since all 13 divide up a single song, each member can call himself a “singer” after singing for only four seconds.
Lately there are increasing cases in which solo parts of a song last no more than a few seconds, as the number of members in the idol groups such as Super Junior, Girl’s Generation and After School increase. This is contributing to the pop culture in which those who rely on looks or conversation skills are considered “singers” regardless of their singing abilities.
Idol Group Members Sing 16 Seconds on Average
According to Dong-A Ilbo’s measurements of solo parts, seven idol groups (Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, 4minute, After School, Infinite, MBLAQ, f(x)) appearing on MBC’s “Show Music Core” (July 10), SBS’s “Inkigayo” (July 11) and KBS’s “Music Bank” (June 25), sang for 16 seconds per person on average. Because a song lasts around 3.5 minutes on average, each member of those group sang less than one-tenth of a song, excluding the chorus.
Among the groups, Girl’s Generation (singing “Oh!”) had the shortest solo parts, averaging 9.4 seconds per part. The main vocal Taeyeon sang for 22 seconds, while Seohyeon’s solo parts — two lines consisting of “oppa look at me, just look at me” and “listen, really” — amounted to 5 seconds. When After School sang “Bang!”, members Nana and Lizzy had no solo parts; instead, the two sang together for 8 seconds. Jooyeon’s solo part — “The heart-thumping night, my heart is oh oh oh oh” — lasted 4 seconds.
Infinite, singing “Come Back Again,” had the greatest time differential among the members’ solo parts. While the main vocal Kim Sunggyu sang for 29 seconds, Lee Sung-Jong, Lee Seung-Yeol and L sang for 1, 3 and 4 seconds respectively. The words that Lee Sung-Jong sang alone were four letters (다 거짓말 “all lies”). Lee Seung-Yeol only had the line, “Feels like I’m going to die, my head hurts.” Lee Young-Joon, director of Infinite’s management company, said: “It is not that the members have different singing abilities. It is more the case that the process of assigning the solo parts while taking the tone of this particular song into consideration made the parts of certain members relatively smaller.”
As individual singing is increasingly obscured through the lengthened chorus and the shortened solo parts, certain bloggers have taken to uploading videos of live performances with pre-recorded background music edited out, then proceeding to evaluate the singers.
No Shame in No Singing
Yoona of Girls’ Generation, in “Family Outing 2” aired on SBS on June 27, said: “We can’t go longer than ten seconds (on solo parts),” and that her part is five letters. (말하고 싶어 “I want to say.”)
Since his debut, Heechul cumulatively sang 39 seconds of all Super Junior title songs; Yoona of Girls’ Generation, 42 seconds; and Nicole of Kara, 45 seconds. Instead of being embarrassed, they appear to treat this as a fodder for laughter. In MBC’s “Radio Star” aired on June 30, Jung-ah, member of After School, was a recipient of a joke from MC Kim Guk-Jin that she was “amazingly, a main vocal.” Jung-ah only responded by laughing and half-heartedly singing one line of a song. Goo Hara of Kara, whom music fans have pointed out for lacking singing ability, invited further criticism by only repeating the refrain “hallo hallo hallo” in Kara’s new song “Lupin,” released February of this year.
Music critic Im Jin-Mo said, “If there is only a few seconds of solo parts, a singer will naturally practice less singing — which is what singers are supposed to do,” and noted, “Another problem is that members with less solo parts will feel excluded, which hurts the teamwork of the group, shortening the group’s lifecycle.” Music critic Kim Jak-Ga said, “The more idol groups — who do not put much emphasis on singing — there are in the pop world, there is less room for singers with real talent.”