Recently,  I came across an article where the previous PD of “I Am A Singer,” Kim Younghee, listed the idol singers who he thought were capable of appearing on the show (IU, SNSD‘s Taeyeon, JYJ‘s Junsu, some reports include SISTAR‘s Hyorin). Later, the current PD, Shin Jungsoo, also said that he wanted IU on the show. Both said that they had called and tried to recruit IU to the show. While I agree that the idols he chose are indeed, very talented, I strongly believe that they are incapable of appearing on the show for a number of reasons.

1. Competent Singer ≠ Competent Musician

Yes, they are all exceptionally talented singers. But something that separates the I Am A Singer contestants from idol singers is musicality. They are all singers and musicians, but are they all good musicians?

Singer: Having a strong and clear voice is usually one of the main factors that deems a person as being a good singer, but sometimes weak voices have charms that wouldn’t fit with a strong voice. Next, the ability of staying on pitch, having a large vocal range and good use of breath, and expressing good rhythm are also factors taken into consideration when picking out the best singers.

Musician: A musician isn’t just someone who can sing. A good singer can be a good musician and a good musician can be a good singer, but not every good singer is a good musician and not every good musician is a good singer. I would call a singer “a good musician” only after they have reached a certain level of experience. A singer becomes “a good musician” when they are able to sing a variety of songs well, their knowledge consisting of a wide range of music. In addition, with this, they have developed the ability to improvise right on the spot; this is similar to one who plays a musical instrument and develops the ability to site read a difficult passage of music with little mistakes.

While IU and the other idols that the PD listed are all very capable singers, they have yet to become capable musicians.

2. Experience

All of the the contestants on I Am A Singer have been in the industry for at least a decade, with the exception of Jung Yeop of Brown Eyed Soul. Because of this, they have witnessed changes that have occurred in the Korean music industry over various generations. They have also been able to spend this time exploring various styles, improving and growing musically.

While Jung Yeop of Brown Eyed Soul debuted the same year as Junsu did in DBSK, they are quite different musically. While both Brown Eyed Soul and DBSK have their own share of ballads, Brown Eyed Soul has always focused on ballads, but to DBSK, ballads were only a small part of their wide scope and style of music. Brown Eyed Soul’s time would be focused on ballads, while only a fraction of DBSK’s time would be focused on ballads because like other idol groups, they would also need to pay attention to dancing, acting, modeling, and more. Also, DBSK’s songs range from catchy pop songs to heartfelt ballads. However, I cannot deny the fact that Junsu’s participation in DBSK played a great role in his musical growth since DBSK is one of the groups that focused on ballads and singing more than many other idol groups.

Experience is not necessarily measured by the amount of activity that one does during their singing career, or even by the number of years that they have been active in the music industry. Experience is measured through one’s time spent into a specific genre of music; only then can true experience be cultivated in that specific field. So while DBSK and Brown Eyed Soul have been in the music scene for the same amount of time, I would say that Brown Eyed Soul has more experience in ballads because it was their primary focus.

3. Pop Genre

As the genre most prominent in the Korean music scene, “pop” is the genre where Korean “idol” groups fall into. While such talented “idol” singers like IU, Taeyeon, Junsu, and Hyorin exist in the pop genre, for the ex-PD of I Am A Singer to have to bring these names to light emphasizes that not every “idol” is exactly good at singing, and it is for the most part accepted by the public. In addition, many of these groups dance, model, and appear on variety shows too, so being a good singer/musician is only part of being a good/popular “idol,” and thus, even less importance is put on being able to convict the audience and express the true emotion of the song (not to mention the fact that “pop” songs usually don’t have too much meaning). Meanwhile, singers who are solely singers are just singers, rarely modeling and dancing.

Idol singers are professionals in the sense that they are under reputable entertainment companies; however, they are not professionals in the way that they are lacking many skills that are essential for a so-called singer. When one’s performance merely consists of singing, the audience typically holds its applause to the end because the singer concentrates on singing well and bringing out the emotions of the song. Many times, when one concentrates on a “pure” singing performance, the audience is left mesmerized, sometimes even moved to tears. However, when singing isn’t necessarily the main focus of the performance, more importance is stressed on the dancing, aegyo/charm, and the stage. The song is typically more upbeat because it includes dancing, so the audience appropriately cheers with fan banners, balloons, and/or lightsticks to the beat of the song. Singing loses “value” or importance in idol/pop performances because there are more things to pay attention to.

Lastly, I will say that I think that even singers of the previous idol generation might not be ready to appear on I Am A Singer. Kim Taewoo, while blessed with a very nice voice, has been in the music industry for more than a decade; however, little of this was spent on building his own style separate from god, so I would not call him a good musician — yet.

For a singer to be a good musician, they must develop their own style, their own trademark, their own musicality.

And now I will refer to the reason why I even wrote this post. While I have never truly attended  a concert for a Korean artist, professional performances are just breathtaking. One day, I was watching Baek Jiyoung perform “That Woman.” At that time, her singing was the only audible sound. I watched the performance uninterrupted, merely concentrating on the singing without even multitasking. Staring at the screen, I became mesmerized; her singing entranced me as it sent chills down my spine. And so, my love for “good” singing was cultivated.

The main reason why I wrote this post is because I am a fan of I Am A Singer. I Am A Singer has the same charm, and when I watch the performances, I am overcome by a variety of emotions that words cannot express. And because of this, I wish that even with the PD and format changes, I Am A Singer will remain as enjoyable as it has been — because once its charm is gone, I’m afraid I will have no reason to watch, and the next time I’ll be able to enjoy a performance like way once again will be indefinite.

Once idols begin appearing on this show, I will no longer have a reason to keep watching because I watch for musicians, not singers.