Morning Countdown #7 (5/22/09)

1) Just Like Heaven – The Cure
2) Dreaming of the Queen – The Pet Shop Boys
3) Suicide Is Painless – Johnny Mandel
4) I Love You More Than Anyone Else – Bijoo
5) Old-School Love – T (aka Yoon Mi Rae aka Tasha Reid)

The weather’s been kinda crazy this week here in Seoul. It’s flipped back and forth between super hot and rainy. This morning was no exception, starting off nice and sunny, but now at 7 pm, gloomy with a light drizzle. Today’s countdown was similarly back and forth, starting off bouncy before quickly turning
gloomy then ending with a ray of R&B sunshine, Korean style.

It all started with “Just Like Heaven.” It’s definitely one of the Cure’s best-known songs, and I LOVE the Cure (they’ll show up on the Top 101 Countdown), but this one wasn’t quite as amazing as I remembered. The verses are fantastic, and the guitar work is amazing, but the chorus ends up being a bit of a letdown instead of taking the song to a higher level. And as important as good verses are, it’s the choruses that can really make or break a song, and this one just isn’t one of the Cure’s best.

The Cure was followed by fellow alterna-demigods, the Pet Shop Boys with a track from my favorite album of theirs, Very. The song finds Neil singing about a dream he had, where the Royal Family shares his lament about the fact “there were no more lovers alive.” It’s clearly a comment on the tragedy of AIDS, and as such, it’s obviously not a roaring dance number. It’s achingly morose and very intelligently-written, but it works a whole lot better in the context of Very than on its own, where it can’t help but come off as a bit plodding.

Turning up the moroseness meter even higher is Johnny Mandel with his ode to suicide (yikes, there goes the little morning pep I had left). I know it was the theme song to MASH, but the show was before my time, allowing me to appreciate the song for what it is (as opposed to the Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There For You,” which I like but could live perfectly happy without ever hearing again). I’m still not sure what in the world Johnny Mandel had in mind when he wrote the song (hopefully not triggering a mass suicide movement), but I have to admit, it’s a darkly beautiful song, as troubling as it is.

Fortunately, the Korean duo Bijoo came to take the dark clouds away with “I Love You More Than Anyone Else.” I don’t think the group is around anymore, but this song was one of the first Korean songs I liked when I started working here in 1999, so it brings back good memories. It’s like a Korean equivalent of Madonna’s “Cherish,” with the female vocalist singing the standard I’m-so-in-love lyrics over a simple, irresistible melody. Unfortunately, the guy member’s rapping is not only completely unnecessary, it’s becomes rather annoying at times.

Yoon Mi-RaeFinally, we have another Korean song, this time by T (aka Yoon Mi-Rae), who IS still around and doing quite well. That’s a good thing, because she’s one of the most talented R&B/rap artists to ever hit the Korean music scene. Make no mistake, she’s no K-pop puppet; she has a hand in crafting her own music, and fortunately, her English lyrics are Konglish-free, thanks to her being Korean-American (she’s from Texas, born to an African-American father and a Korean mother, and her English name is Tasha). “Old School Love” is an all-English song, and it’s downright awesome. It’s a strong woman singing about her love for a strong man. There’s nothing cloying or annoying here, as T proves herself to be the Mary J. Blige of Korean R&B, singing and rapping like a queen. As such, she fully deserves to win this Morning Countdown (with Johnny Mandel coming in at second).

Winner: T (Yoon Mi-rae) – Old School Love

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