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‘Culture President’ reigns once again with BTS

Pop icon Seo Taiji shows he’s still got it after 25 years

Even after two decades and a half since his debut, “culture president” Seo Tae-ji, who was a K-pop icon before K-pop was even a thing, proved to more than 35,000 fans why he still remains a legend and pioneer of K-pop.

Staying true to its concept of “Time: Traveler,” the Saturday concert that was held at Jamsil Olympic Stadium to commemorate the 25 year anniversary of Seo’s debut, revived a trove of memories from the past, as it showcased the barrage of megahits by the singer. The concert was a part of Lotte Card’s cultural marketing project “MOOV Soundtrack.”

“I missed you all so much. Thanks to you, I’ve come to see my 25-year anniversary. The power of music is just amazing. It’s just so wonderful that music brought you and me together right here, and it’s amazing that music allows me to step back in time,” Seo addressed the crowd of all ages, who responded with earsplitting cheer and sporadic chants of “Seo-Tai-Ji!” 

Seo Tae-ji collaborates with BTS at his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)
Seo Tae-ji collaborates with BTS at his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)

Seo’s time travel started off with tracks such as “My Everything” and “Juliet,” which were hit songs from his days as the legendary trio “Seo Taiji and Boys,” while missing were his former bandmates Lee Juno and Yang Hyun-suk, now a K-pop mogul heading YG Entertainment.

But true to his word, who else would have imagined the incredible power of music could bring two K-pop icons of different generation together? Taking the place of Seo’s former bandmates, BTS, arguably the hottest K-pop act do date, accompanied Seo to perform a string of his mega hits. 

Seo Tae-ji performs during his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)
Seo Tae-ji performs during his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)

Rappers Rap Monster and Suga accompanied Seo to the stage to perform “Nan Arayo,” Seo’s 1992 debut song which was one of the first attempts in the Korean popular to apply rap music. Jimin, J-hop, Junggook and V pitched in on “Through Tonight Growing Late,” “You, In the Fantasy,” “Hayeoga,” and the ballad “Neoege.”

But the biggest cheer of the Seo-BTS section belong to when all the members took the stage with him to perform “Kyoshil Idaeyo.” Echoing Pink Floyd’s sentiments in “Another Brick in the Wall,” the song shouts “Enough! We’ve had it with your way of teaching” in a resonating message to the rigid education system.

It has been a while since Seo showed off his once-famed dance moves, but he put on loose clothes and grooved on with BTS to “Come Back Home,” among the first taste of hip-hop for Korean fans back in 1995.

Seo Tae-ji collaborates with BTS at his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)
Seo Tae-ji collaborates with BTS at his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)

A testament to the singer’s overwhelming popularity in the 1990s, a considerable percentage of the fans gathered at the venue were those who spent their youth in the era, now aging with their hero.

As if to grant them a special treat, Seo rolled out the past live video in 1995 when he was being chased by fans.

“I still remember being worried that you may get hurt,” he said.

Near the end of the concert, he sang “Good Bye” live for the first time, something he has avoided doing.

“After my fourth album, I’ve parted ways from you for a while. This was a song that expressed how I felt back then, and I dared not sing it to you until now,” he said.

He followed with hit songs from his 8th and 9th album, such as “Sogyeokdong” and “Moai” which had been reimagined as an acoustic ballad. 

Seo Tae-ji performs during his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)
Seo Tae-ji performs during his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)
Seo Tae-ji collaborates with BTS at his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)
Seo Tae-ji collaborates with BTS at his 25th-anniversary concert at Jamsil Olympic Stadium in Seoul on Sunday. (Lotte Card)

Seo was among the most censored artists of the time, not shying away from speaking about what he felt was wrong with society.

Nearing the age of 50, he proved that he still has that rebellious side as he geared up for “Sidae Yugam,” a once-banned song criticizing the government. A video leading up to the song hinted at his recent criticisms of the government, with clips of former president Park Geun-hye’s impeachment trial included.

He wrapped up the concert with “October 4,” an orchestral version of “Nan Arayo,” and “Only Memories of Us.”

“I’ve packed the entire 25 years into this concert. I won’t ever forget the love you’ve shown me for the 25 years. This concert will be remembered 250 years later,” he said.

By Hong Dam-young (lotus@heraldcorp.com)
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