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TV variety shows rekindle interest in time-honored musical genre

Jan 24,2020

With its simple two-beat rhythm and no-nonsense lyrics, Korea’s nearly century-old trot genre has long been confined as entertainment for older folks.

But the neglected genre is enjoying a renaissance recently as the birth of new trot stars have reawakened the allure of the music across generations.

Garnering a viewership rating of up to 18.1 percent, an all-time high for a cable channel entertainment show, “Miss Trot” by TV Chosun brought Song Ga-in out of obscurity and into prominence as a young trot diva last year.

Song’s ascent is a rare addition to the small pool of young trot singers, which also includes Jang Yoon-jeong and Hong Jin-young.

According to Genie Music, a music streaming service, streams of trot songs jumped 74 percent last year from a year earlier amid listeners’ renewed interest in the genre.

“Listeners in their teens and 20s tend to be glued to the trot songs that fit to their own tastes, while those in their 40s and 50s tend to enjoy a wide range of trot songs, especially those by well-known singers,” Genie Music CEO Cho Hoon said in a press release.

Driven by the genre’s growing popularity, Genie Music also introduced a new top 100 trot song chart to capitalize on the genre’s renaissance.

Comedian and TV show M.C. Yoo Jae-suk inarguably also deserves credit for the recent trot boom, having launched a music debut project through the MBC variety show “Hangout with Yoo” last year.

The comedian released a trot EP, “Bbong For Yoo,” under his stage name Yoo San-seul, the Korean name of a Chinese seafood dish, as part of the weekend TV show.

His songs, including “Hapjeong Station, Exit No. 5,” made it to the top 100 singles chart on music streaming service Melon Music last year, winning him, under the stage name, the first Rookie of the Year award in his 29-year TV entertainment career at the MBC Entertainment Awards.

At a press conference last year, Yoo illuminated his fascination with the trot genre.

“In fact, trot is a really wonderful musical genre, but it has not earned the reputation it deserves,” Yoo said, citing the “straightforwardness” of trot music’s lyrics as the basis of the genre’s allure.

“Through the show, I hope the trot genre can enjoy more popularity and more new singers can find venues to sing at,” he said.

As trot’s power grows, more TV channels are launching their own trot-based shows.

KBS ran a six-week project trot competition show starting in October, “I Like Trot,” leading to the emergence of another young trot star, Jo Myeong-seop.

In November, cable channel MBN debuted a trot audition show, “Voice Queen,” including established trot stars, like Tae Jin-ah and Kim Hye-yeon, to the show’s mentoring panel.

Earlier this month, “Mr. Trot,” a male version of “Miss Trot,” began its run on TV Chosun and became an immediate hit.

“Trot is a fundamental element of Koreans’ emotions, but it has been a neglected genre ... many older people continue to consume the genre, but it has never taken center stage before,” said culture columnist Jung Duk-hyun.

Yonhap