This post is part of an ongoing series on Asian pop music.
Let’s talk about some of the heavy hitters now – in terms of singing. In western pop music, there are so many different kinds of singers, but there is a group of them that are incredible singers. Whether you like them or not, Adele, Ariana Grande, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga are just some of the incredible singers in the west that could easily perform unplugged. Pop stars like Britney Spears on the other hand, aren’t known for their strong vocals. In Asia, the same is true as there are pop stars of all sorts, but there is a group of very talented singers that stand out from the rest with respect to their powerful vocals. You may or may not have loved some of the artists I have showed you, but be sure to give these songbirds a listen as they really know how to belt out a tune. Keep in mind that I am only profiling solo artists in this post, despite there being absolutely incredible vocalists in girl groups, like CL (2NE1) and Taeyeon (Girls’ Generation) to name a couple.
Ailee (South Korea)
Don’t Touch Me (2014)
Ailee has as very westernized sound to the point that if you aren’t really paying attention, you may actually think you are listening to a song in English. She has an incredible vocal range and the feel and beats of many of her songs remind me of Adele mixed with KT Tunstall. I find her to be the answer for those who are seeking a pop artist with incredible vocals – something that is lacking these days. Personally, she is that answer for me, as a lot of artists in the west who have incredible vocal range produce boring music (in my opinion), ie. Ariana Grande – great singer, boring hits. Ailee is a great vocalist and she is fun; it’s simply a great combination.
Singing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” (2014)
IU (South Korea)
Love of B (Live) (2013)
I first heard IU with the song above, “Love of B”, and fell in love with it. The sound and style was that of a Django Reinhardt song from the 40s and I became very interested in her style. She is a strong vocalist who also likes to experiment with different music styles. She has songs that simply don’t fit any era as they appear to be from the 30s in one verse and the 70s in the next. Her ability to be so diverse is honestly refreshing. Although she is a talented vocalist, she doesn’t belt out notes the same way that Ailee does…but that’s okay. Her main focus is her singing, not her dance moves or music videos, etc etc, like a lot of other pop stars. The singers in this category tend not to have as much synth and electronic beats in their music as their main focus is in their singing. IU is only 21 years old too, which means we can expect a lot more from her in the coming years!
The Red Shoes (2013)
Last Fantasy (2012)
Lee Hi (South Korea)
Lee Hi is currently 18 years old and had her debut three years ago! She is an excellent singer and has a lot of confidence for someone so young in the entertainment business. Another singer with a predominantly western sound, a lot of the singers who show off their vocal talent tend to have more western backgrounds. I really like her sound and more so, the fact that she is so talented at such a young age. Because Lee Hi hasn’t released a lot of content, I don’t have a ton to say about her, but I do know she is one to watch. I am noticing that the ladies of K-Pop who tend to show off their vocals the most (who are less poppy and showy) seem to have a 60s sound sometimes; almost like they are channeling Adele or Amy Winehouse. Lee Hi definitely follows this trend by using the baritone sax and having slower paced songs that are still upbeat. I am really excited to follow her career and see where she goes musically because she is quite the talent!
I’m Different with Lee Suhyun (feat. Bobby) (2014)
I really wanted to present a few Japanese and Chinese singers in this category, but all the singers in Japan and other Asian countries who are known for their vocals aren’t really ‘pop stars’. Keep in mind, I am presenting the category ‘Distinctly Asian Yet Jack Of All Trades’ category next and that is not to say that the singers in that group aren’t amazing vocalists. Spoiler, Ayumi Hamasaki is an incredible vocalist with a very unique style, but she does so many styles of music and just has a different ‘sound’ than the ladies I have shown you in this category. You will see that the women I will show you in the next category are great singers, but not only are they great singers, but they can dance, sing opera metal (yes, there is an artist from China I can’t wait to show you), and just kind of do it all – but in a ‘distinctly Asian’ way. Trust me, you’ll see! As much as Ailee kicks ass at vocals, she does stick to her genre. Stay tuned!
Image Credit: http://i.imgur.com/CsIyf.jpg