For every quarter in each year, our VOH!cals team consist of Rinne, AhMin, VT Evil Queen, and Haruko will go through amazing vocal performances in currently active quarter. There are lots of them, but we can’t list them all out so we decided to rank the best 10 among the best.
South Korea is a host to hundreds of talented and capable singers, with exceptional and jaw dropping performances to boot.
Here we go!
#10 Kim Yeon Woo
Haruko: Kim Yeon Woo, referred to as “CBR Cleopatra” is a beautiful vocalist. Singing in a clean, healthy manner with odd touches of throatiness for character.
VT Evil Queen: A vocalist that definitely knows how to tastefully sacrifice technique for a more stylistic approach and add character to the song. Throughout the performance he definitely leaned on more of the cleaner vocal approach side only adding touches of imperfection and small places. Great technique on the upper mixed notes.
Ahmin: Kim Yeon Woo is a perfect example of a true Korean vocal legend who’s not just a big influential ballad singer with years of experience and fame, but also a vocalist with true control of his instrument. He has such precise control of his voice, it is clean, it’s powerful, it’s strong and it definitely is done with ease. Yeonwoo’s highlights lie on how his tone, that to most is a likable tone, is highlighted by his technique, allowing him to fully use his voice as he wishes with beauty and grace. The captivation was such that he was able to bring another one of our Top 10′s vocalists, Sandeul, to tears.
Rinne: Let’s be real here. Do you know him the moment you read his name in this list? Most probably not. Me too, so don’t worry. But after watching his performance, I started to worry and getting anxious by seconds. I wasted parts of my life for not knowing this dude even existed. His performance, voice, and stage presence are equal to his legendary status.
#9 Super Junior KRY
Haruko: The strongest idol vocal line, and one of the most well rounded as well. Super Junior KRY have been busy since Yesung’s return. Making a comeback AND going on tour. While each of them had a solo like a lot of normal idol groups, The difference was that they all were able to show support, resonance, and independence as they belted their way through the tenor range. Welcome Back, K.R.Y.
VT Evil Queen: S.Korea’s most technically adequate vocal group definitely deserves a spot on this top 10 list. All three of their solo performance were extremely well executed, but this does not mean that one was not better than the others. Out of the three KyuHyun performed the best as his technique is more refined than his group mates, but this isn’t to say the other two didn’t perform well, they too also delivered vocally great performances.
Ahmin: A team of vocalists that would all find a place in everybody’s top 10 of male idol vocalists, Super Junior KRY had to be included all together for this ranking. Each one of them proves that they’re worthy of their positions, each with different strengths, different voice colors and different vocal levels, they’re able to mark 2015 as the returning year of SM Entertainment’s strongest vocal unit, Super Junior KRY. Yesung comes back with the stronger darker vocals, due to his chesty mixed voice, he’s able to create the thickest color and tone out of the group and show his strengths as an emotional ballad singer. Followed by Ryeowook, an often under appreciated and underrated vocalist. Possessing a much brighter vocal approach and brighter tone than Yesung, he brings in almost feminine vocals to the trio. He is able to create power with no effort, as a clear strong vocalist. Also possessing one of the best head voices amongst male idols, Ryeowook makes up for his somewhat less developed lower range, which is still well developed compared to most other idol tenors. Instead of a pushed chesty approach, Ryeowook is able to vocalize with a much more punchy clean tone by recreating one of Korea’s most classic ballad anthems. Last but far from least, comes the youngest, Kyuhyun. With the brightest mixed voice and biggest resonance, Kyuhyun has been making a name for himself after years of being less promoted by simply challenging the idol image and really showing strong ballad power. With such power, taking on a challenging Park Hyo Shin song, Kyuhyun was able to make justice and really prove that he, as well as all of KRY, deserve to be called the best idol vocal unit.
Rinne: I don’t even like Super Junior. I don’t hate them but.. yeah. Their songs (other than It’s You and some other filler tracks) are not for me but hey, K.R.Y made me felt like I wasted years for not giving these vocal trio a listen. Yesung’s tone is so sexy that he can replace Liam Neeson as the voice actor for Aslan (from The Narnia Trilogy). Ryeowook provides clarity while Kyuhyun makes Paula Abdul goes speechless and do the infamous standing seal clap. After this, you, and me should give K.R.Y more chances and listen to their well-performed songs. I still don’t like Super Junior.
#8 4Men’s Shin Yongjae
Haruko: A personal favorite of mine, Shin Yong Jae of 4Men returning to the Immortal Song 2 stage to do what he does best: Serenade. In his take on “The Moment I Saw You,” Yong Jae starts the song with soft, brighter vocals as he speaks of the traits of his love that made him fall for her on sight. The tempo speeds up as Shin Yong Jae sings about the way his heart felt around his love, transitioning into his upper register to give a floaty, almost euphoric feeling as he speaks of their gorgeous clear eyes. When the climax hit, Yong Jae transitions wonderfully into a key change. Belting out and transitioning into his upper register while asking how such simple features can be so beautiful and telling his love that they kept him awake the entire night. Shin Yong Jae’s ability to turn a simple song into a full showcase of his love secures his rightful place on the top 10.
VT Evil Queen: YongJae definitely put on a beautiful performance with floaty vocals and nicely executed runs. The performance all throughout had a very nice flow and bounce to it making it easy for people to sit and listen to.
Ahmin: Two things that I really like about not only Shin Yongjae’s performance but his overall vocal ability is how he has improved his singing to the extent of not always oversinging and just singing high notes because he can, but instead singing now he also sings by gradually creating a build up on his performances and even then he’s able to hit numerous resonant A4′s effortlessly, like he’s speaking them. He’s got really good technique and is able to carry through an area of a tenor’s range that’s specially good to be highlighted.
Rinne: If the world judges beauty with vocals instead of looks, Shin Youngjae would be unbelievably handsome. He is the heart-throb. He is the sweetheart. He is the Caprio of South Korea. God’s righteous person. His tone is dreamy and every time he perform a song, you will be out of superlatives to describe it properly.
#7 B1A4′s Sandeul
Haruko: Seen by many as the “greatest male idol vocalist” with only Cho Kyuhyun and Kim Ryeowook being able to contest him for the title, B1A4’s Sandeul, in all honesty, has given my favorite performance of the quarter with his amazingly gorgeous performance of “Come Back To Me Again.” Sandeul started this performance with lower, airy vocals to emphasize the feeling of sorrow and depression, he builds up while singing of his yearning for his love as the feeling of passion explodes. He composes himself, while telling his love she can come back just the way she is. He asks once again “why are you being so hesitant?” Before perfectly modulating through a key change with little effort. Almost in no time, Sandeul modulates into yet ANOTHER perfect key change and then goes back into his airy vocals from the beginning to end the performance. A beautiful performance from a wonderful vocalist.
VT Evil Queen: Because Sandeul comes from a small company and group without a ton of star power he is often overlooked when it comes to idol vocalist even though his technique is fairly solid. He starts this song off like most people do with ballads softly and then builds it up throughout the song. He uses some pretty interesting phrasing switching between soft to a fuller and chestier sound. When he approaches the higher points of the song he does so with great technique keeping a nice and floating resonance.
Ahmin: It definitely is surprising to me that Sandeul isn’t considered as one of the best idol vocalists to many other people, he is often forgotten but he is certainly to be commended for his vocal skill. Objectively speaking, Sandeul is always so effortless with his voice, he never sacrifices technique for “emotion” and is able to deliver captivating vocal performances without overworking his voice, producing well supported, well placed notes and still controlling his voice very well from bottom to top with his clear understanding of dynamics. Although one of the few idols in this list, Sandeul definitely deserves a spot for his ability project his voice with such power but never oversinging, keeping it very well balanced.
Rinne: Well firstly, why am I here judging? I feel like a dog happily chasing its tail among all these experts. Okay. Hm. Frankly speaking, I am here as a representative for normal peeps out there trying to give a word or two about vocals. I’m not going to speak about technical stuffs. I’ll be like, fuck this shit lord damn Sandeul shits on other pretty male idols in this quarter. I don’t even know him but this performance embedded his name and voice in my head for ages to come.
#6 Son Seungyeon
Haruko: Known as “The Voice of Korea” or “The Monster Rookie,” Son Seungyeon easily made her way to the list with her rendition of “The Day I Met You.” Though not a personal favorite of mine, Seungyeon’s ability to take on a soft, loving ballad like this and work it into her style is something worth noting. Combining a soft beginning with strong choruses and a powerful climax that gives the message of love.
VT Evil Queen: Definitely one of her most tamed performance, but still a very vocally impressive. Son SeungYeon unleashes a sweeter and more girly side to her voice while singing this sweet ballad. She stays in more of midrange throughout majority of the song. Throughout the performance she showcases very beautiful and large resonance even up to F#5.
Ahmin: The most impressive thing about Son Seungyeon is how mature she sounds at such a young age and how developed her overall vocal technique is. She is able to perform with such control, such openness in sound and yet be so young, she is definitely a young vocalist and artist to look forward to. She has wow’ed us all by performing on The Voice Korea and she’s one of the biggest sensations on Immortal Song 2. She may not have the most developed head voice or lower range but her mixed voice is so balanced, clean and her overall vocal inflections and versatility definitely show an advanced vocal skill for such a young singer.
Rinne: I don’t know how to describe this performance. It’s great, it’s awesome, it’s nice, yet I can’t find the exact word for her. If I am rich, I would love to invite her to sing for my birthday party because I know she is never a disappointment for us. She can deliver a song very well and made us focus on her performance. Oh, I found the word. It’s beautiful. Just beautiful.
#5 Kim Yeonji
Haruko: A singer who specializes in ballads, Yeonji held nothing back as she told a story with her performance of Lost Umbrella. Starting with soft, air vocals to emphasize her loneliness and moving into a faster pace as she envisions the love that she once had. Using her mixed voice and head voice to convey the deep pain she feels from the loss of her “umbrella” or lover all exploding at the climax of her performance where she retreats back to her softer vocals to stay “Right now in this rain, I don’t have an Umbrella.” Yeonji’s excellent control, mixed with her incredible understanding of music secures her spot in the top 10
VT Evil Queen: After a long hiatus YeonJi has finally made her way back to performing. In the beginning of the song she takes a more traditional ballad approach with soft vocals and meaningful phrasing, but this is only in the beginning. She then transforms the song with using a more Latin feel and builds it with a slight crescendo with an excellent vibrato. With the musical style she also changes her volume output using a louder more forward sound with crisper diction. She colors the song with seamless switches into head voice and very story-telling like phrasing. Towards middle/end of the performance she slows down the tempo a bit and goes back to the more traditional ballad style to add a different dynamic. During this section she still maintains very clean diction a sings a beautifully resonant C#5. After this moment she sings a beautiful D5 and the stops the song completely adding another dynamic. She then goes back to the style she had the beginning soft airy vocals with touching phrasing, but this only last for a split second as she builds up the song the song again and belts her way through until she reaches the end in which she ends with breathy, floaty vocals.
Ahmin: I believe one of the highlights of this year is having former SeeYa member, Kim Yeonji, make a comeback into the music industry as a soloist. She was definitely dearly missed and being able to see her really show us why she was their main vocalist, really proves why she should be recognized for her vocal skill. I believe what really makes Yeonji stand out isn’t just how naturally big her voice is, being a Full Lyric Soprano amongst many Light Lyrics, but also how she’s able to properly vocalize with the right technique to produce such big resonance and sound with effortlessness. Not to mention how rare it is for vocalists in Korea to use connected supported head voices, Yeonji’s head voice always makes me happy when it’s used. Aside from a few minor details, such as when she’d sing outside her comfort range, Yeonji’s vocal performance was definitely of high caliber and shows exactly why she deserves a spot in the top 10.
Rinne: One of my favorite performances in this quarter. She came back and provide us with this top notch performance no one even dare to deny its quality. It’s epic! She (being a part of SeeYa) is one of the reason why I sold my soul to K-Pop devil. Thanks for enlightening me, Yeonji .
#4 Lee Haeri
Haruko: “What would a top 10 list be without Davichi’s own Lee Haeri? Taking on “That Is Only My World,” which has been done by many other wonderful vocalists, Haeri had big shoes to fill. Nonetheless, Haeri showed no fear. Starting off with a bright, clear vocals as she speaks of one who didn’t know of their world and followed their dreams to see it. Resonating while stating a lack of regret and that living out their dreams to the fullest is their world. Using bright and resonant vocals to convey strength and conviction in her beliefs. Haeri being in the top 10 is only the REAL world.
VT Evil Queen: Truly a technical and musical performance Haeri delivers great resonance and phrasing all throughout even bringing her resonance up to F#5 something that is very uncommon among Idol vocalist. HaeRi definitely takes her time building this song only truly belting it out towards the middle and then slowing back down towards the end.
Ahmin: Personally, I thank the day Davichi debuted. With a similar musical style of SG Wannabe, they came as a refreshing ballad duo with some folk influences. Lee Haeri really steals the spotlight many times when performing solo, showing that she deserves to be recognized for how developed her voice is. She is able to travel through stories in songs and never loses the ease in her voice, the ability to powerfully sing through songs with intensity. She is definitely one of Korea’s finest idol singers and divas, without a doubt able to produce some of the best vocal performances amongst idols and veteran vocalists.
Rinne: One of K-Pop’s finest and best performer, Lee Haeri is in a league of her own. She has always been included in top South Korean singers, and this performance further cemented her star quality. She is well loved by the public. They respected her, and deservedly so.
#3 Hwang Chiyeol
Haruko: Hwang Chiyeul is a vocalist who prefers to sacrifice technique for the sake of emotion at times(which is not good, despite popular belief), but when he sticks mostly to technique he proves to be one of the most competent baritones in Kpop.
VT Evil Queen: Being a Baritone, ChiYeol is a fairly rare voice when it comes to Korea’s well known vocalist. In this performance ChiYeol certainly does not disappoint. He builds up the song gracefully with the use of phrasing as well as building with the orchestra. There were times he sacrificed his technique for a more stylistic approach, but it didn’t completely distract from the overall performance from a technical stand point. Though he was sacrificing his technique at times he really he really applied when he needed too like when he belted the G4 towards the end. ChiYeol definitely delivered a great performance this quarter.
Ahmin: A personal favorite of mine for one main reason. It isn’t just that he was a struggling musician for years, became a vocal instructor for Infinite and still was a musical actor on top of it all. Hwang Chiyeol is an example of a fine low lyric baritone voice, able to represent all of us as baritones. He can show that being a baritone shouldn’t stop one from being a popular vocalist, from being able to sing and make your dreams come true. That having a lower voice than most popular tenor voices doesn’t make you any less of a vocalist, because when he sings up into F#4 and G4, he doesn’t need to be a tenor belting C5′s to prove that THAT is work and he is definitely working it. With a strong vocal build up, gradually adding more volume, more resonance, more intensity, some occasional throatiness for effect, he represents the true core of a low lyric baritone voice with depth, tone and above it all, technique that really allows the best of his voice to be showcased without struggle.
Rinne: He knows his thing, that’s for sure. For someone who is not musically-inclined, even I can tell that his vocal techniques and shits are great and he use it to its full potentials. Marvelous!
#2 Jung Dongha
Haruko: Jung Dongha’s take on “If You’re Like” is probably one of the most interesting on this list. He starts off softly, a normal on Immortal Song 2. But after a few minutes, he does something rare. He sings acapella, which(while brief) most vocalists would avoid. Dongha then resonates his way through the song before going acapella again and belting into the climax of the song.
VT Evil Queen: Starting off the song with soft slightly airy vocals Dongha plays into one of the most used gimmicks used by people who sing ballads, which has been demonstrated numerous times on this list, but unlike others he adds acapella section adding a completely different dynamic to the performance this also shows his confidence as a vocalist. Aside from just using airy vocalist he also adds a slight rasp here and there to give the song more life. Dongha also easily resonates his way through this performance showing great skill.
Ahmin: Jung Dongha is one of those vocalists who has shown that good technique keeps your voice for years and years. He has such good control of his voice and he is not one of those beginner rock singers who yells everything out to create “rasp”. Jung Dongha doesn’t have to sacrifice his vocal health to add a well controlled amount of rasp to his vocal performances and he’s also a tenor with a connected head voice, beautifully transitioned into and adding even more to his arsenal of vocal guns. He’s got control of his volume, his ability to transition through a song with power, to create desperation, longing and lastly ending with decisiveness, never losing the power in his voice. Definitely one of Korea’s finest tenors.
Rinne: He is like the second coming of Jesus. Those acapella parts are real killers, and he played with his vocal in a mocking way (don’t hold your breath, idols). This type of performance, rich in colors and stylish deliveries, is very re-playable. It’s legal to rape that replay button here.
Haruko: Are we really surprised? Any top 10 list about K-Vocalists would be incomplete without the addition of Kim Sohyang. She takes on Arirang Alone, a folksong of hope for reunification between the North and South. Floating through the beginning of her performance in a soft dynamic almost like a fairy tale before building up to two amazingly resonant Bb5s, keeping with the face pace as she effortlessly sings a Bb5 in head voice before transitioning back into her chest voice. Sohyang then sings with beautiful, bright resonance as well as seemlessly transitioning between her head and chest registers and belting an effortless G5. After that storm of amazement, Sohyang retreats back to soft, airy vocals. A true virtuoso.
VT Evil Queen: SoHyang truly came through this quarter with her beautiful rendition of the famous Korean folk song “Arirang Alone.” Though she first performed this song on April 3, 2015 she has performed this song numerous times after that in this quarter of the year. She truly makes this song musically intriguing. She plays with many dynamics, phrasing styles and even rhythms throughout the performance. She starts the performance off in a soft slightly airy sound creating a dream-like atmosphere, she continues creating this atmosphere by still using a soft dynamic. She builds the song up by slowly increasing her volume demonstrating a great control of breath. She sets up the main height of the song with soft vocals, haunting sounding chorus backing her up, a stratospheric violin and with gradual increases of volume before unleashing the effortless G5,A5,Bb5,A5,Bb5,G5 line all done on breath. After that she takes the song in a completely different direction making it more intense. She then takes the song in a different direction making it more about rhythm and phrasing creating more a fun and bouncy atmosphere before ending it with a similar theme she had in the beginning; dream like. SoHyang truly took this song and made it her own.
Ahmin: When it comes to singing, a lot of people seem to think that high notes are all that matter. As long as someone can sing high notes, they’re good. This is ignoring completely how those notes are hit, as long as they’re hit. For someone like Sohyang, however, it’s a different story. She doesn’t rely solely on being able to hit high notes, Sohyang is one of the few contemporary Sopranos capable of keeping a stable larynx and resonant sound without straining her voice, truly showing good support and technique that allows her to sing through high hard Soprano passages without the need of yelling out high notes. Not only that, but singing big high notes isn’t the thing that makes Sohyang amazing, but it’s just how effortless she is and how she is able to create a build up from the beginning to the end with a beautifully connected soft and angelic head voice that slowly becomes stronger and stronger. This performance showcases Sohyang’s vocal power, her ability to change her tempo, her rhythmic approach, her stylistic choices and her ability to sing folk without sacrificing technique to perform in that genre as accurately as possible. Many people use “emotion” as a guide for singing, as if only singing sad songs makes one good when Sohyang shows us that traveling through the story of Korea’s emotional traditional music, she’s able to touch everyone’s hearts without breaking them.
Rinne: She is the exact definition of phenomenal. Everything that she does on the stage is breathtaking. Her hand gestures. Her facial expressions. Her vocal prowess. Everything about her is priceless. It’s a folk song, and her rendition of this song will be a folk story for generations to come. She inspired me to profound new inspirations. Sohyang is our worthy winner for the third quarter of 2015. Congratulations!
South Korea is a host to hundreds of talented and capable singers, with exceptional and jaw dropping performances to boot. South Korea is not all about K-Pop, top professional gamers, and PSY. Power performers are there for us to explore, learn, and love.
So what do you guys think? Are they deservedly winners? Do you think there are others who should be included? Well leave a comment and let us know~
Author’s Note: Do visit our official thread in OneHallyu and learn more about vocals from our certified judges and vocal experts.