Retro 2000s pop culture revival hits TV, K-pop biz - Korea Times
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Retro 2000s pop culture revival hits TV, K-pop biz

Variety show
Variety show "Hangout with Yoo" launched a new project to form a male group, leading to the resurgence of hit songs from the early 2000s. Courtesy of MBC

By Lee Gyu-lee

The "retro trend," which formerly revolved around pop culture and style from the late 20th century, is back, with a wave of early 2000s variety flowing across the entertainment industry.

TV shows and K-pop stars, such as Joy and Chungha, who are remaking old songs, have ushered in a 2000s revival trend, stirring up nostalgia for that era.

MBC's variety show, "Hangout with Yoo," began a new project in March to form a male group to copy SG Wannabe, one of the most popular ballad groups from the early 2000s.

Naming the group, "MSG Wannabe," a play on the original group's name, the show's host, Yoo Jae-suk, held a series of auditions to handpick eight celebrities, including actors, singers and a comedian, over the three-month run of the episodes.

The project and its audition episodes created such a huge buzz, leading to a resurgence of hit songs from the early 2000s, including SG Wannabe's songs among others sung by the competitors on the show.

Some of SG Wannabe's songs, such as "Timeless" and "Lalala," came up again on various music charts, and MSG Wannabe's remake of "Journey to Atlantis," by K-pop girl group, Laboum, topped the charts.

A scene from 'Hangout with Yoo,' featuring a performance by SG Wannabe / Courtesy of MBC
A scene from 'Hangout with Yoo,' featuring a performance by SG Wannabe / Courtesy of MBC

Pop music critic and journalist Park Hee-a explained that the current trend of retro 2000s pop culture follows in "logical order" the 1990s pop culture revival that swept across the entertainment business here recently.

"Content (or music) from the '80s and '90s has already been overly consumed. It has become outdated, so the timeline has moved on to the decades after those years," she said.

Adding that media platforms, especially YouTube, have acted as a source to spark retro trends across generations, she said: "Teens and people in their 20s have found the retro material refreshing, and those who lived through that time got a taste of nostalgia through them. And, as (the 1990s revival trend) died out, the trend moved on to the era that came after."

Another TV show, "Kwak's LP Bar," tvN story's newly launched music talk show, also takes its viewers on a trip down memory lane. The show, hosted by economics professor Kwak Sung-joon, singer Choi Si-won, and comedian Kang Yoo-mi, invites different guests to an LP bar to share their personal stories, along with a playlist of songs that were meaningful in their lives.

The show's producer, Lee Jong-hyung, expressed that the show targets a wide ranging audience ― not only generations that are familiar with LPs, but also the MZ Generation (a term coined to refer collectively to both Millennials and Generation Z), who have a deep interest in vintage and retro sentiment.

"We hope that this show will inspire nostalgia and the collective memory for some and offer the opportunity to grasp an emotional and unique experience to others," he said.

Joy, a member of K-pop group Red Velvet, released her first solo album, 'Hello,' with remakes of old songs. Courtesy of SM Entertainment
Joy, a member of K-pop group Red Velvet, released her first solo album, 'Hello,' with remakes of old songs. Courtesy of SM Entertainment

A string of K-pop stars is also riding the wave of the 2000s trend, releasing remakes of songs from that decade.

Singer Chungha released a duet with singer-songwriter Colde, "My Lips Like Warm Coffee," originally sang by the group, Sharp, in 2001. Additionally, ballad singer Ben remade the hit song from 2001, "Because I Am a Woman," by KISS.

Some singers are releasing their previous songs after reproducing them with newer generation artists, like SG Wannabe's Lee Seok-hoon releasing "Ten Reasons I Love You" from 2010 with Rocoberry.

Girl group Red Velvet's Joy made her solo debut with the album, "Hello," made entirely of remakes of songs from 1999 and the early 2000s, including Hey's 2001 hit, "Je T'aime," and As One's 2003 song, "Day By Day."

The singer explained that she chose songs from the 2000s because she wanted her album to be enjoyed by different generations. "I was wondering how my songs might reach both moms and children as listeners, and then I came across the songs from those years," she said during a media conference to promote the release of her album, May 31.

Music critic Park noted that such remakes by younger artists, whose fan base is among the younger generations, bring even greater interest in the retro trend. "Teens and those in their 20s find (the remakes) more interesting because they are sung by their favorite stars, who are still in her 20s, just like them," she said. "And they come to hear the original songs, for example, through algorithms on YouTube, and this leads to deeper interest in songs from that time."

The critic noted that the key behind the cause of this trend is that a retro sentiment calls up different emotions across various generations. "What's unique about this trend is that each generation can feel different things through the same songs," she said.

Lee Gyu-lee

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