Newer artists doing covers of famous songs by beloved artists of the past can be a tricky thing to pull off, not just in K-pop. However, why focus on the negative when we can just enjoy what we’re getting, new music by the artists of today that we like. That’s why for this week’s playlist we’re putting together a list of our favorite K-pop covers of ’90s hits by contemporary groups.
Although I was barely old enough to appreciate the good music at the time, H.O.T’s 1997 hit single “We Are the Future” is forever one of my most adored ‘90s jams. So when I discovered that their junior group under the same company EXO delivered their own contemporary take of the single, I seriously thought that I had hit the jackpot. For the 27th Golden Disk Awards held in Kuala Lumpur, EXO paid homage to their predecessors by performing a remix version of the song that stripped many elements of the original, such as the chimes and futuristic reverbs, and replaced it with some new sounds, like a piano melody which gave the song a bit of a cleaner feel. And while remixes can be risky business, EXO was still able to maintain the nostalgic boy band feel of the era with the electronic instrumentals and synchronized choreography. But above all, what I love about this cover is the vocals distribution. Members in the past who have largely gone unnoticed, such as lead vocalist Xiumin, were finally given solo parts and were able to showcase their talents, which I am sure fans are very appreciative of. The only sin here is that EXO has not released an official full version of the hit yet.
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What better way to pay your respects to those (idols) who came before you than to cover one of their most notorious choreography? With their polished suits and alluring visuals, the six members of B.A.P took the audience in a time machine when they covered Shinhwa’s infamous “Wild Eyes” on Korean pop music TV show, “You Hee-yeol Sketchbook” in 2014. There have been a number of idol groups, both male and female, who have covered “Wild Eyes” throughout the years; some were able to mimic the choreography pretty well, but lacked the intensity and charisma and vice versa. Whereas in B.A.P’s case, they evenly distributed their energy into both their singing and dancing. Although this may be wishful thinking, but it’d be pretty darn spectacular if Shinhwa were to cover a B.A.P song somewhere down the line. I would definitely pay to see that!
Before I knew that H.O.T had originally made it, I was already in love with Super Junior’s “Happiness.” It’s one of Super Junior’s early songs from 2007, and when I first discovered it way back when, I was obsessed. The video for “Happiness” is tons of fun and one of the few prior to Kyuhyun joining Super Junior, so I particularly enjoy it because some other members get a chance to shine vocally (even though I do love Kyuhyun’s voice). The song is an amazing pick me up, and will cheer anybody up from a gloomy day. The Super Junior version of the remake is essentially the same thing as H.O.T’s original, but the two groups are so different that the remake is just as much Super Junior’s song as it is H.O.T’s.
I always found it weird that Girls’ Generation had a song titled “Girls’ Generation,” but assumed it was their manifesto or something. It wasn’t until much, much later that I learned it was a cover, and even more that it’s originally sung by Lee Seung Chul, a man. The song came back in 1989, and the girl group used it as one of their lead singles in 2007 for their debut album. The contrast between the two versions is stark, with SNSD making it uberly sweet, while Lee Seung Chul is a rock anthem. The girls tried to embody his persona by mock playing instruments as in a band, which they mostly pulled off.
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I always think releasing a cover of a classic song is a lazy route for groups to go. Even though pop music is not exactly the go-to for originality, it’s still frustrating that there are covers of songs only twenty years old. That being said, I did enjoy Red Velvet’s second single, a cover of S.E.S’s ‘’Be Natural.’’ The strange thing about it is that they did not change a single thing about the song. Usually, this would annoy me even further, but here, it’s not necessary. The song sounds thoroughly modern and at ease in today’s environment. Maybe tastes have come full circle and we are merely listening to the same music as back then. Whatever the reason, the song holds up. It’s the sultriest piece of lounge R&B you’ll ever hear. Red Velvet’s whisper sultrily over slinking guitars and horns. It’s probably SM Entertainment’s most outwardly sexy concept ever and the girls can pull it off despite being relative newcomers.
What’s your favorite ’90s K-pop cover? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.