With over 3,000 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.
The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!
Year Released: 2013
Phantom are one of the most underrated K-pop groups of the last decade. Debuting in 2011, the trio consisted of members Kiggen, Hanhae and Sanchez. You may be familiar with one or more of those names based on collaborations, but paired together the three forged a tight, versatile group that skirt the line between commercial pop and independent-minded hip-hop.
Like Cho Yong-Pil (조용필처럼) references its titular legend as someone who sings without fail, no matter what life brings. The song is yearning but resolute, and paired with one of my favorite story-centric K-pop music videos. Phantom delivered their fair share of hip-hop bangers, but this exists on their melodic side. Like Cho Yong-Pil is a surging mid-tempo driven by piano and a fantastic performance. Its emotional verses bloom into an utterly gorgeous chorus, drawing upon bright harmony at odds with the melancholy lacing other parts of the song.
It’s telling that – even with wisps of strings swirling across much of Like Cho Yong Pil – the track’s climax pulls back to focus solely on the group’s vocal blend. There’s a sense of lift here, like a flower blooming from cracks in the pavement. But, the entire song hinges on its classic sense of melody. You can pick out influences as old as Motown, but the final product has a timelessness that has kept it fresh year after year. It’s the crowning jewel in Phantom’s strong discography, and one of those tracks that will pull on your heartstrings even after one listen.
The MV, the song, the nostalgia, it all rings with me. Back in 2013/14/15, I was basically a boy group version of Xeno, following all groups from the a-list down to obscure artists like LC9, Wonder Boyz, N-Train, A-Jax, Demian, and many others. I am glad to see you cover some of them here.