Korean Drama OST evolution

Some time ago (with stressing this some part) we had this talk with friends about how it is possible that Korean movies OST rock (most of them) and how Kdrama OST... well, not that much. But since two years there has been a terrific improvement in that department as well. Of course, there are soundtracks more or less memorable, it is something we cannot avoid, but the improvement is visible.

It is nothing new to have classical music as the score. And by classical I mean what people usually perceive as one – Western classical music (Beethoven, Pachebel and the merry bunch). Lately the original score is composed by talented Koreans with songs added by famous singers. It might be my own personal taste, but among all scores, the first place belongs to historical dramas. And the reason is very simple – only historical dramas offer such wide span of emotions that may be transcribed into sounds. Moreover, only those dramas offer the possibility of incorporating the traditional instruments of Korea into the score. Very, very few modern dramas can do that (the latest was probably "New Gisaeng Story", because of the obvious reason).

What is a good OST and what is a bad OST? There is only one answer to that, and most of the people are barely aware it applies to other "rankings" as well – subjectivity. The good OST is the one that a certain person likes. I may like this OST, but some other people may hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. And vice versa. There is no one golden rule on that.

I do not remember the scores of 60% of dramas I watch. It may indicate I am somewhat neglecting it, but if no piece of music or particular song appeals to me, why should I bother about remembering who participated in it? Rom-coms have this tendency, they are light, fluffy and their OST are also like that. I may sometimes even not notice music at all while watching such drama. And sometimes big names do not make good OST. There is also another side of this medal. We might like even a mediocre song, but we transpose our feelings we have for a drama onto this song. The example? I really do like Jaejoong, but he has done much better songs than the one he sings for "Protect the Boss". Result? My liking Kim Jae-joong "infected" the song and I feel nice and cozy when it starts in the drama. Even thought it is not a masterpiece at all.

The breakthrough in soundtracks may be traced to 2007, again, according to my own personal taste. This is the caesura in the dramas' OSTs, as for me. 2007 had many great dramas, and many flops, but scores started to be "Big". They started to be composed, and not just made up from some scraps grabbed at the last moment, according to the motto "let's take whatever comes in random search and make an OST from that". Needless to say, score started to live on its own – songs appeared on various charts, they had their own life. It was possible thanks to big names involved in the production. Among OST from before that year there are some good scores as well, it does not mean they are all equally bad, as well those after 2007 are not all great.

Nowadays, composing original score, or singing a song for a drama is no longer overshadowed by the drama itself. Those "big names" in music industry elevate also one drama's prestige. No longer music is in the subordinate position to the drama, although it does not reach for the main place. Soundtrack will be always tied to the drama and not otherwise. Oh, musicals, you say? I have yet to see a real musical in Korean television.