By Chung Ah-young
Huge popularity _ hard to believe _ may not be always a boon for stars. Even for the widely popular band YB, fame has been a mixed blessing.
YB was formerly known as Yoon Do-hyun
Band, an aspiring rock group that experimented with various types of songs, including ballads. The band's popularity soared when they sang the 2002 World Cup song.
They gained commercial popularity, yet at the same time, were criticized for deviating from their rock group identity.
But 10 years later, the band that survived in the real "jungle", after trials and errors, wants to be born again as a new band of genuine hard rock. Their seventh album, titled "Why Be?" indicates the band's new name, YB.
Their decision to return to their rock roots might be reminiscent of a local film titled "Jungle Story". The film depicts the personal and professional travails of an aspiring, underground rocker and their commitment to rock music. Lead vocalist Yoon played himself in the 1996 movie.
YB consists of vocalist Yoon Do-hyun
, guitarist Heo Jun-I
, bassist Park Tae-hee
and drummer Kim Jin-won
"Our band has been widely known to the public for our ballad songs", Yoon said in an interview with The Korea Times. "We attempted various kinds of music in the past albums, but from now on, we will focus on only one genre _ vintage hard rock _ in depth in this new album".
The new album consists of two CDs, or 22 tracks, including their songs rearranged and reinterpreted with a more classic rock feel.
"The title of the album, `Why Be?' is the question we're asking ourselves about the identity of our band. We've thought about what music could embody the identity of our band now and the future. So we feel as if we debuted as a new band with the new name and album", Kim Jin-won
, the drummer, said.
The question actually has a long history. The band has taken a bumpy road over the past decade because it was perceived as a rock band catering to mainstream popularity, and its authenticity was consequently questioned.
The band was commercially successful, peaking in mainstream popularity around the World Cup in 2002, and it had several hit ballad songs in its early period.
"Oh! Pilsung Korea", a cheering song for the national football team at that time, swept the nation, becoming synonymous with the World Cup.
"Our band has been branded the `World Cup Band', or `People's Band' since the World Cup. But we don't like such nicknames. We're just a band pursuing a rock music", Yoon said.
The band also came under fire after performing a rock version of the national anthem in a commercial advertisement.
Since then, the band has gotten an earful from rock fans because it was closely associated with ballads and commercial jingles as the nation's leading band.
"We've received all kinds of criticism since the ballads on our third and fourth albums became big hits. Some critics said that they would not expect any rock from the band because they think we turned ourselves into just a ballad group", Yoon said.
However, the band has just emerged as a "new" band, overcoming the history sticking it and aspiring to create genuine rock.
"Over the past decade, we've finally admitted to ourselves that we couldn't find our musical identity because our members were changing so often. But past hardships and criticism have helped us to create this album, which is really the one we are pursuing", Kim said.
The band was created to provide back-up for Yoon, then a solo artist, when he started his singing career 10 years ago.
He was a member of an amateur singing group called "The Paper Kite". Yoon was invited as a guest performer at various live concerts and started attracting attention from the major pop music arena.
Then, the make-up of the band was shaky and unstable from the start.
Yoon said that the current band members began playing hard rock together six years ago, when Huh joined as the band's guitarist for the fifth album.
"I think our music works to reinvigorate and groove listeners. We're sure that our music is powerful and energetic", he added.
In Korean music arena, it is not easy for rockers to gain consistent mainstream popularity. The film "Jungle Story", vividly depicts the life and agonies of a rocker.
"We've received criticism from rock fans and critics for not fully committing to rock. We think we were in a difficult position, swinging between Korean pop music and rock music", Yoon said.
"But we've made the best use of our position by striking a balance between mainstream fans and the originality of rock", Yoon said.
"We have endured the past decade, which was not easy for us as musicians who appeal to mainstream audiences and rock fans from two separate worlds", Yoon added.
The band is recognized for Yoon's powerful voice, honest attitude and explosive live performances. Yoon also currently hosts a midnight music show aired every Friday on KBS TV.