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Missing “Duex”

Posted January. 27, 2007 07:24,   


“I like Seo Tai-ji and [the music group] Noise, but Duex is the best.”

Na Jeong-ju is the main character in the movie, “Go! Go! Sister.” Her hero was “Duex,” one of the most popular hip-hop bands in Korea. In a room with walls filled with large posters, the little Jeong-ju (Jo Ahn) and the grown-up Jeong-ju (Goh So-yeong) dance to the song, “Look at Me” sung by Duex. Tae-hoon, a nerd who is in one-sided love with the little Jeong-ju, practices dancing while watching Duex’s music videos as Ha-ni, a prospective rocker, confesses his love to Jeong-ju, singing “In Summer,” another song by Duex.

The main figure is Goh So-yeong, but the audience is showered with “Duex.” The movie showcases a myriad of bits and pieces of fading memories of “Duex” with images of their debut scenes and the movie’s main theme song. However as the movie unfolds, the welcoming mood turns into nostalgia, which in turn makes the movie feel as if something is missing.

Lee Hyeon-do and Kim Seong-jae were the second generation members of “Wawa,” the backup dancers of Hyeon Jin-yeong, one of the top singers in the 1990s. As if to revive the reputation of Hyeon Jin-yeong, they formed a hip-hop duo three years later, introducing numerous hit songs including “In Summer,” “Breaking Off the Yoke,” and “To My Lover.” And yet, hip-hop music at the time was simply categorized as “dance music” just because it was fast and without a proper artistic appraisal due to the huge popularity of “Seo Tai-ji and Boys.”

Their achievement is having thoroughly established “Duex” as a band. They produced music, juggling both the spirit of experiment and commercial popularity, including “The Weak Man,” where Miami sounds were added to the crossover song, “Go Go Go” of “H2O” the famous rock band. Here, their work was equally divided among the two: “music production by Lee Hyeon-do, and dance and fashion by Kim Seong-jae.” Not only that, their so-called “Duex Dance” of varied dances, checked shirts, and their own styles built up their own character. However after their break-up in 1995, Kim Seong-jae suddenly passed away, putting an end to their spectacular stage career.

Why does their music resonate now after a decade? Korean pop music in the 1990s was an era of singers fully equipped with talents and temperament of a star: “Duex,” “Seo Tai-ji and Boys,” “Panic,” and “Exhibition.”

People could not wait to see their albums launched, fully enjoying the thrills of tearing apart the plastic package of a CD. Even so-called commercially popular singers such as Kim Geon-mo and Shin Seung-hun had their talents recognized with soaring record sales.

But what about the Korean pop music in 2007? People say, “There is no song worth listening to.” Music by young singers is soaked with their agency’s profit making instead of their talent or vision as they are surrounded by the demands for them to become “entertainers.” Music, a mere file, has lost its seriousness to most.

It is becoming more of the norm to return to the songs of the 1990s. Listening to the series of songs of Duex like “Look at Me” and their last song, “Loving and Missing,” I miss them so much that I have teary eyes. Korean pop music is becoming emptier. When will we ever have a “Duex” as good as the original one?