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TV variety shows rekindle interest in time-honored musical genre

All Headlines 16:35 January 22, 2020

By Park Boram

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- With its simple two-beat rhythm and no-nonsense lyrics, South Korea's nearly century-old trot genre has long been confined as entertainment of the aged.

The neglected genre is enjoying a renaissance now as the birth of new trot stars reawakened the allure of the music across generations.

Garnering a viewership rating of up to 18.1 percent, the all-time high for a cable channel entertainment show, "Miss Trot" by TV Chosun brought Song Ga-in out of obscurity and into prominence as a rare young A-list trot diva last year.

Song's ascent is a rare addition to the small pool of young trot singers, which also includes Jang Yoon-jeong and Hong Jin-young.

Song Ga-in (Yonhap)

According to Genie Music, a mainstream music streaming service operator, streaming of trot songs jumped 74 percent last year from a year earlier amid music listeners' renewed interest in the genre.

"Listeners in their teens and 20s tend to be glued to the trot songs that fit to their own tastes while those in their 40s and 50s tend to enjoy a wide range of trot songs, especially those by well-known singers," Genie Music CEO Cho Hoon said in a press release.

Driven by the genre's growing popularity, Genie Music also introduced a new top 100 trot song chart to capitalize on the genre's renaissance.

Comedian and TV show emcee Yoo Jae-suk inarguably deserves plenty of credit for the recent trot boom, having launched a music debut project under the MBC variety show "Hangout with Yoo" last year.

The comedian released a trot EP, "Bbong For Yoo," under his stage name Yoo San-seul, the Korean name of a Chinese seafood dish, in a comedy project as part of the weekend TV show.

His songs, including "Hapjeong Station Exit No. 5," did not remain as a TV show item and made it to the top 100 single chart on another music streaming service, Melon Music, last year, winning him, under the stage name, the first rookie of the year award in his 29-year TV entertainment career at MBC Entertainment Awards.

In a press conference last year, Yoo illuminated his fascination with the trot genre.

"In fact, trot is a really wonderful musical genre, but it has not earned the reputation it deserves," Yoo said, citing the "straightforwardness" of trot music's lyrics as the basis of the genre's allure.

"Through the show, I hope the entire trot genre could enjoy more popularity and more new singers could find venues to sing," he said.

This image of Yoo Jae-suk, singing under the stage name Yoo San-seul, is provided by MBC. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

As trot's power grows, more TV channels launched trot-based shows, joining the boom.

KBS ran a six-week project trot competition show starting in October, "I Like Trot," leading to the emergence of another young trot star, Jo Myeong-seop.

In November, cable channel MBN debuted a trot audition show, "Voice Queen," bringing established trot stars, like Tae Jin-ah and Kim Hye-yeon, to the show's mentoring panel.

Earlier this month, "Mr Trot," a male version of "Miss Trot," began its run on TV Chosun to introduce new male trot stars, scoring an immediate hit.

"Smartly tweaking the trot genre played a major role," culture columnist Jung Duk-hyun said, referring to the success of trot-based TV shows.

"Trot is a fundamental element of Koreans' emotions but it has been a neglected genre ... many aged people continue to consume the genre but it has never taken center stage before," he said.


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