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Lena Park & Wheesung
Live at Disney Hall
Part of the Global Pop Series Presented by "The Blue Ribbon"

 

Lena Park and Wheesung's talents were on full display in their concert at the world renowned Disney Hall. The venue's great acoustics and production standards provided a rare opportunity these Asian artists to intimately and effectively express their creative interpretations with their audiences. These two singers embraced that night’s rare moment by giving their U.S. audience something special and/or different than their normal concert offerings to affirm that imitating great singers (despite their great influence and talents) doesn’t mean duplicating great singers since audiences (in the long run) are looking for artists with their own unique vision while communicating the emotional heartbeat of the songs that they sing. Today's fans are looking for more than singers with good to great voices, there are looking for singers that have taken the time and effort to interpret the words behind insightful songs in a personal way directly to them. Since both artists realized a rare opportunity that night, it brought a greater expectation and excitement to their joint concert.

Wheesung Singing "Is It Not Possible"
Lena Park & Wheesung ("With Me" )

Wheesung - "Insomnia"

With the music from his recent single “Insomnia” playing as a backdrop - Wheesung made his entrance dancing and singing in a striking outfit of sparkling silver jeans, see-through black top and grey blazer jacket. Female fans of his music that made him to be the best selling artist of 2003 in Korea made themselves known by drowning out his vocal for the first part of his song. After Insomnia, Wheesung sang Love is Delicious, Choco Luv, Fading Star, Narak, The Day We Met, A Walk in the Sky, Ahn Dwe Na Yo, With Me and Incurable Disease. Wheesung's performance reflected his growing maturity as a vocalist to go beyond his previous stiffness and thickness to be replaced by a greater resonance that provides a greater ability to effectively interpret songs. This growing process allowed him to continue his transformation of just being another singer within the Asian music massive assembly line of singers to providing a unique voice within the KPop and other music scenes while providing opportunity to collaborate with artists such as Se7en, M-Flo and U.K.’s Craig David.

Wheesung's Last Song at Disney Hall
At times, Wheesung appears to be an uptown version of Hong Kong’s Khalid Fong who has incorporated elements from artists such as Usher and Justin Timberlake (especially with his dance moves with his dancers) within his attempts to reach the stylings of Jay Chou. On his pop ballads, he displayed a restraint that successfully reflects the taste of his many fans in Korea and throughout Asia while displaying faint influences from artists such as Jamie Cullums and Harry Connick. As he matures as an artist, one looks forward to his development of becoming a master interpreter of songs that will provide him with a platform to reach audiences outside of Asia with an unique creative voice. Could he be an Asian version of either Marvin Gaye or John Legend in the future?

As part of the tradition of Asian artists in concert to stop the concert to talk to the audience, Wheesung fulfilled his obligation by comically commenting that the dryness of the air in Los Angeles had caused him to consume a greater amount of water that he was accustom to that resulted in his ever-increasing need to use the bathroom. When members of the audience replied that they would wait for his return, he laughed and replied that he would just continue with the concert – albeit with facial expressions that reflect his attempt of “lasting” till the end of the performance. His self-deprecating jokes and banter brought humor and warmth to the presentation to his music while thrilling his Korean fans (many of them are female) who responded in piercing screams of delight.

Lena Park ("You Raise Me Up")
Lena & Charice (Always Love U)

Lena Park at 2009 Korean Music Festival
Lena Park Singing "Somebody Like You"

When Lena Park appeared on stage – she (sometimes referred to as the “Utada Hikaru of Korea”) displayed her versatility of singing various genres from r&b, Korean/Japanese pop to gospel throughout her performance (including her influences from Amy Grant, Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell) – including her talents at playing piano. Attired in a little black dress, black wedges and her hair up in a bun – she started the concert by singing two songs from her early album and followed with a number of other songs including the hit “Noon mool e jooreuk jooreuk” (closest translation is “Tears are Falling”) with the same excellent "house band" that backed up Wheesung. Special Note: Disney Hall, Wheesung and Lena Park are to be commended on providing an excellent "house band" artists that provided outstanding musical support while providing a quick transition between both artists.

Altogether, Lena Park sang about 12 songs for the night that displayed why she was selected to represent Korea in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2002 FIFA World Cup – as part of Voices of Korea/Japan with Brown Eyes, CHEMISTRY and Sowelu. Her selections included various songs in Japanese and Korean that included, Noon mool e jooreuk jooreuk, P.S. I Love You, In Dreams, Reflection, At the Hair Salon, Someone Like Me Someone Like You, I’ll Write to You, My Day, The Rain and You Mean Everything To Me. Her smooth singing in her performances that mainly consisted of ballads reflected her influenced of old school r&b/jazz singers such as Nancy Wilson, Anita Baker and Alicia Keys. The audience were captivated by Lena's performances of many of their favorite songs, though screams of delight that was afforded to Wheesung wasn't forthcoming - probably because the majority of the crowd was female?!?!

Hearing her interpretations of Reflections from Mulan and remembering her rendition of “Raise Me Up” (from the Japanese anime TV series, Romeo & Juliet) – one long for her to really cut loose and sing with complete abandon on at least one song (in addition to the Sandi Patti song listed below) during the concert, especially since she has demonstrated in the past the vocal ability and power to successfully do so. I think her fans were also waiting for her to display her vocal explosiveness and power that they have come to expect and admire. As a result, the audience were not as enraptured or vocal in their response to Lena's performance - in comparison to Wheesung that solicited screams of delight.

Noting David Foster’s (among other American music producers) recent interest in developing Asian singers (i.e. Filipina Charice - click HERE to watch her video - and China’s Jane Zhang - click HERE to watch her video) - along with KPop's Boa making her entry into the marketplace, Lena Park's talents as a singer put on full display what David Foster's latest Asian discoveries could be upon transitioning from just having a good voice to being a singer with the ability to passionately interpret songs like other talented Asian singers such as AI (aka Uemura Carina Ai), Hikaru Utada, Lea Salonga, Regine Velasquez and others. Given the past attempts of Coco Lee (even with her solo appearance at the 73rd Academy Awards in 2001 - click HERE to view her performance) and Utada Hikaru (click HERE to see her latest video), along with their male counterparts such as Rain and Se7en - one might want to review the results and procedures of their respective attempts to conquor the U.S. marketplace to maximize one's success. In the past Asian record company executives had the mistaken notion that what worked in their own respective countries will work in the United States. American producers are often guilty of making Asian singers into the mold of past singers in a "cookie -cutting" model that practically eliminates their creative uniqueness and passion. At times, the parents' of the Asian singers have been the fatal element in their pursuit for success that resulted in inadequate promotion/public relations, production, unprofessional management and/or selection of songs - all of which, has happened in the past.

STORY BEHIND THE CONCERT

Korea’s top ballad singers Lena Park (a.k.a. Park Jung Hyun) and Wheesung were selected by the Los Angeles County Music Center to represent Korea at the Global Pop Concert at the Walt Disney Hall in the U.S. The selection was made based on their exceptional musical talents and popularity in Korea.

Lena developed a repertoire that can best demonstrate her musical personality - as noted by her popularity formed after singing the title song of a Disney animation film, “Mulan,” in 1998. Wheesung has gained attention from the American music scene after he sang the Korean version of Craig David’s “Insomnia.”

Presented in conjunction with Global Pop, Global Social is an opportunity to connect through interactions and conversation highlighting Southern California's rich, multicultural communities. Khype, Korean American Music Foundation, Koreatown Youth and Community Center, Korean Cultural Center and Kollaboration are a few of the community partners that will be at Global Social representing the diversity of cultural assets in the local Korean community.

The next concert (see below to view her video) will feature Coco Lee in a solo concert featuring her music It is anticipated that the night will feature exclusively ballads (including Best of Love - along with Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" and "Rock With You") with a "house band" providing musical support - along with a special section dedicated to the late Michael Jackson that includes the songs listed above- somebody that Coco Lee has met in the past.

A special part of Lena’s performance was her duet with Uriah (her much younger sister, as she stated at the concert) singing their favorite Sandi Patti song titled “That’s the Love of God.” The experience seemed to bring back great memories of when they were singing together in their father’s church in Downey. Acknowledging her Christian roots, past experiences of singing in her father's church choir and her parents in the audience, singing a Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) seemed to bring a special passion to her performance that made it the best moments of the concert. In addition, it was a delight (as I sure it was a delight to her parents) watching the older sister (Lena) escorting the younger sister (Uriah) to each side of the stage, like an older family mentor gently teaching her the ropes of how to connect with audiences while providing opportunities for the audience to give her adulation that she richly deserved since she sang very well.

Though Wheesung and Lena have sung together on several songs in the past, the many requests for encores were not met – could it be that the venue had a curfew? Both artists, however, returned to interact and giving thanks to the audience for their time and support. Given the rare and intimate opportunity to showcase their talents and magic when working together, it would have provided memorable moments that would not be forgotten easily within the Korean communities. If these moments become trademarks for their appearances at Disney Hall, this annual showcase has the opportunity of becoming an event that both artists and audiences alike look forward to attend.

Congratulations - despite the fact that the concert wasn't sold-out - should be accorded to the sponsors of this event and the others involved in the Global Pop Series - The Blue Ribbon, a Music Center support group consisting of 625+ women such as prominent members such as Maralee Beck, Karen Kay Platt and Maxine Dunitz. Through their vision of championing the arts by bringing celebrated international artist representing the diverse through their substantial financial contributions, Lena Park and Wheesung were able to perform to their U.S. fans – with Coco Lee appearing in July.

Their inaugural concerts featured Fly the the Sky and Lea Salonga in 2008. Hopefully, their Global Pop Series (in conjunction with Korean community partners such as KHype, Korean American Music Foundation, Koreatown Youth and Community Center, Korean Cultural Center and Kollaboration for the next KPop concert) will continue to build their relationships with the various Asian communities since they have demonstrated that they will support their respective artists that perform in Southern California. Past examples of successful recent concerts have included the Annual Korean Music Festival (SRO 18,000+ people - for seven years), Gary V.’s SRO concert at Nokia Theater (6,100+ people), Celebrating the Beijing Olympics (featuring Stephanie Su with 9,000+ people) at Inglewood Forum (former home of the L.A. Lakers), Jay Chou at Galen Theater with 8,000+ people in attendance and many other examples that include KPop's The Wonder Girls" performing on the Jonas Brothers' 2009 tour.

Review: Coco Lee's concert had a surprisingly small audience, considering her stature in Asia, though it might have been anticipated considering the low media coverage, community involvement and promotion within the Chinese communities. Despite some production/sound engineering issues not often found at events at Disney Hall - Coco's performance reflected her success in Asia, her experiences in the United States and her tribute to Michael Jackson. With the renown Nathan Wang (Fullbright Fellowship recipient who has worked on Steven Spielberg, Fox's Eekstravanza/Likely Suspects, Warner Brother's China Beach, Dreamwork's Toonsylvania, Steven Spielberg's Lost Children of Berlin, Disney's Pith Possum and Jackie Chan's Asian version of Rumble in the Bronx/First StrikeWho Am I - among other credits. He has also worked with Sandy Lam, Jenny Tseng and Chris Wong while composing the music for Zhang Ziyi's latest movie entitled Sophie's Revenge. To listen to the theme that Nathan composed, click HERE) conducting her music, Coco's vocals soared with the excellent musical foundation that was filled with ballads. She shared with her audience (in English, Mandarin and Cantonese) memories of her career in Asia, attempts to conquor the U.S. marketplace (a topic to be discussed at another time) and meeting with the recently deceased Michael Jackson. Considering the above-listed success of Asian concerts, along with other similar events at its sister venue - the Hollywood Bowl with events such as its Lang Lang/Herbie Hancock concert - it is this reviewer's hope that the Global Pop organizers will incorporate factors that will bring creative and financial success befitting their vision.

EXPANDING THE SCOPE AND FOCUS OF THE GLOBAL POP SERIES

could the next year's concerts be in conjunction with the male counterparts of “The Blue Ribbon” support group, the David Adishian-led “Fraternity of Friends" (read the information on the left for more information) – since this private group of 250 money managers from 90 public/private companies, real estate moguls, entertainment executives within 22 entertainment companies and lawyers from 16 law firms with a combined market capitalization of $18 billion has provided many millions in support of culture and the arts?

Given these financial resources, imagine a series of sold-out concerts at Disney Hall from all the major Asian communities during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May) – an Asian version of the “Spotlights Awards.” I can!

The "Fraternity of Friends" is the Music Center's version of the old boys' network--one with a cultural and philanthropic twist. The little-known, male-only Fraternity of Friends has ponied up millions of dollars over the years to support the Music Center--including a combined $18 million to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. The fraternity's only requirements appear to be a seven-figure income and an interest in giving money and time to one of the Music Center's four marquee names - Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Mark Taper Forum, the Ahmanson Theatre and Disney Hall. To become a member, a hopeful candidate has to be sponsored by and know an existing member.

Founded in 1978, the Fraternity of Friends modeled itself on its older sister organization, Blue Ribbon, a women's-only club created in 1968 by Dorothy Chandler to provide economic and community support for the performing arts. Today, fraternity members hail from more than 90 public and private companies with a combined market capitalization of $18 billion. More than 22 entertainment companies, 16 law firms and a handful of real estate moguls are on the roster. They created its own philanthropic outlet--the Spotlight Awards--a one-night performance by local high school students that is like a cross between "American Idol" and the Academy Awards. Most of the Spotlight Awards winners become successful professionals in ballet, theater and dance.

A Final Flash! The Wheesung and Lena Park concert started out great since it started on time – a rarity for Asian concerts! Hopefully, Disney Hall’s professionalism will start a new tradition and/or a blueprint for successful Asian concerts that incorporates professional production standards. Unfortunately, past Asian concerts - in contract to the above-listed successful concerts - have been consistently plaque with unfortunate circumstances filled with last-minute cancellation (Rain's cancelled concert at Staples Center), the supposedly BOCOG (Beijing Olympics Committee) endorsed concert at the Nokia Theater filled with various problems while not being well-attended and others. Asian audiences have a fast-growing track record of supporting their artists, this reviewer looks forward to Disney Hall's upcoming concerts highlighting artistic representatives of "Global Pop" at their venue.

Wheesung Info

Awards
2003 18th Golden Disc Awards - Bonsang
2003 Korean Music Awards - Bonsang
2003 Seoul Gayo Awards - Bonsang
2004 Korean Music Awards - Best Male Performer
2004 M.NET KM Music Video Festival - Best R&B Artist
2004 19th Golden Disk Awards - Bonsang
2004 KBS Music Awards - Bonsang
2004 MBC Music Awards - Bonsang
2005 M.NET KM Music Video Festival - Best Male R&B Artist
2005 20th Golden Disk Awards - Bonsang
2005 SBS Gayo Awards - Bonsang
2007 22nd Golden Disk Awards - Bonsang

CDs
Vol. 4 - Love...Love...? Love...!
Vol. 5 - Eternal Essence Of Music Wheesung
1st Mini Album - With All My Heart And Soul Wheesung
Memory of The Restless OST Korean Movie Soundtrack
Joo Suc Vol. 4 - Seoul City's Finest : Superior Vol.2 Joosuc
Best Ballad Vol. 4 Korean Various Artists
Club Hit Gayo Remix Vol. 5 Korean Various Artists
The Kingdom of The Winds OST (KBS TV Drama)
K-pop Super Live In Saitama Super Arena (Japan Version)

Lena Park Info

CDs (Click on the LINKS to purchase Lena's music)
Music
Cosmorama
Subetenomononi Anatawoomou
Gold Within
Another Piece
Ai no Jealousy (Japan Version)
Beyond the line (Japan Version)
FALL IN LOVE (Japan Version)
Vol.3 - Naturally
Inori - You Raise Me Up (Japan Version)
Sanctuary (Japan Version)
Vol. 6 - Come To Where I Am (Taiwan Version)
Park Jung Hyun Single - Precarious Story
Park Jung Hyun Live - Op.4 Concert Project 4th Movement THE ALBUM
Vol. 5 - On&On
Vol. 7 - 10 Ways To Say I Love You Poster (Version B)
Vol. 7 - 10 Ways To Say I Love You Poster (Version A)
Vol. 6 - Come To Where I Am
Vol. 7 - 10 Ways To Say I Love You
Vol. 7 - 10 Ways To Say I Love You (Repackage Edition)
Chemistry - fo(u)r (Korean Special Version)
The 25th MBC Korean Children's Song Contest
The Accidental Couple OST (KBS TV Drama) Korean Various Artists
The Contractor (2007) (VCD) (Hong Kong Version)

 

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