True talent unmasked

True talent unmasked
THE VOICE:Solji, who delivered a powerful rendition of Blondie classic Maria, won the show’s one-off Lunar New Year Special Episode.

I'll be the first to admit I used to be awfully prejudiced against the vocal abilities of K-pop idols.

Are they lean, mean dancing machines? You bet. Can they pull off titillating moves? Of course. Milk aegyo (Korean for cuteness) on stage? No problem.

But do they truly know how to sing? Erm... no.

Save for a few power belters like Girls' Generation leader Taeyeon and Korean-American pop diva Ailee, I was adamant that most couldn't cut it.

Besides, tunes get rolled out of the K-pop hit factory like kimchi on a conveyor belt. Most follow a standard formula for success - heavily autotuned voices set against thumping synth beats.

Seriously, does this industry even need top-notch vocalists?

But after catching several video clips of King Of Mask Singer, Korea's latest reality TV singing competition for professionals, I had to eat my words.

Not only was I ashamed at my initial bias against K-pop's pretty boys and doe-eyed girls, I have finally learnt what it means to not judge a book by its cover.

King Of Mask Singer goes one up on its competitors - especially The Voice and its by-now passe blind audition concept - by throwing up the most unique premise I have ever seen in the genre.

Contestants must wear masks and costumes as they deliver their song of choice, in order to hide their real identity from the audience and judging panel. They get to unmask only upon elimination, or for the best among the best, when they are crowned champion.

While they are masked, they go with stage names that are deliberately pantomime-like and theatrical, giving them an air of intrigue.

Solji from sexy quintet EXID, who won the one-off Lunar New Year Special Episode, was "Self-Luminous Mosaic".

Boy band B1A4's Sandeul was "Flowering Silky Fowl" and Luna from girl group f(x) was "Gold Lacquer".


I was highly impressed by Luna and Sandeul, considering that both f(x) and B1A4 members were never recognised for their vocal prowess.

When Luna removed her mask, the entire judging panel gasped in astonishment. If I had been there in the studio, my jaw would have dropped.

SM Entertainment had better give this girl a solo number - she hardly got to shine on f(x)'s dance anthems Rum Pum Pum Pum and Red Light.

The biggest star on the show so far, however, is Solji. The 26-year-old's rendition of the Blondie classic Maria - in Korean - was simply mind-blowing.

All you fanboys who ogle the EXID girls for their steamy, provocative routines, I promise you'll never see Solji the same way again.

This article was first published on May 20, 2015.
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