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’90s music is back, across generational divide

Drama soundtracks lead the newtro trend

The five main characters from “Hospital Playlist” play music together in a college band. (CJ ENM)
The five main characters from “Hospital Playlist” play music together in a college band. (CJ ENM)

Young artists are repopularizing songs from the ’90s as part of a newtro trend that has hit the music scene, along with a wide range of other industries in South Korea, influencing tastes in beverages, fashion and games.

Spearheading the newtro music trend is the soundtrack from the popular tvN drama series “Hospital Playlist,” which has released songs from each of its episodes.

“Hospital Playlist” centers on five doctors in their 40s who have been friends since college and are reunited some 20 years later. They play music from their younger days, when they formed a college band.

“We chose songs that not only reflect the atmosphere of the drama and fit the actors but also reflect the plot of each episode,” said the “Hospital Playlist” production team.

Eight songs from the soundtrack have been released so far: Kwon Jin-ah’s cover of Boohwal’s “Lonely Night” (1997), Red Velvet member Joy’s cover of Basis’ “Introduce Me a Good Person” (1996), Jo Jung-suk’s cover of mixed-gender pop group Cool’s song “Aloha” (2001), K-pop boy band Super Junior member Kyuhyun’s cover of Lee Seung-hwan’s “Confession Is Not Flashy” (1993), Urban Zakapa’s cover of Lee Jeong-yeol’s “Beautiful My Love” (1999), Kwak Jin-eon’s cover of Zoo’s “In Front of City Hall at the Subway Station” (1990), J Rabbit’s cover of Mono’s “You Always” (1993) and K-pop group Mamamoo member Whee In’s cover of the late Seo Ji-won’s “With My Tears” (1996).

“Aloha” -- featured in the third episode -- has topped music charts since its release.

“Many genres of music were loved in the ’90s, so there is a surplus of materials available for consumption,” said music critic Choi Kyu-sung. “It was a period when we turned from analog to digital, and different genres of music flourished,” he said. “Newtro is nothing new, as bringing back old songs has been around for a while, and it will continue as it has become a category of its own,” said Choi.

“When My Love Blooms” is another tvN drama that features ’90s music on its soundtrack. “Don’t Leave My Side” (1991) by Light and Salt played as the two main characters recalled the days when they were in their 20s and fell in love. The music brought back the atmosphere of the ’90s and highlighted the time shifts between past and present.

Newtro music evokes nostalgia in the older generation and presents new music for the younger generation.

“‘Music has now become too common. Smartphones have hundreds of (songs) stored on them or can stream music anytime. Naturally, the reverence for music or the nostalgia has disappeared,” said Lee Ho-jin, who runs an LP bar called Yonhee38Avenue in Yeonhui-dong, Seoul, where one of the scenes from “When My Love Blooms” was shot. “The reason analog comes back is because people yearn for the past. The music of the 2000s doesn’t have the lyricism of the ’90s,” he said.

“Many people ask for music from the ’90s. Artists like Light and Salt, Kim Hyeon-chul and Yang Soo-kyung are requested now and then. People also hear their music from dramas and come to our bar to listen to it,” said Yang of LP bar Dasoyu in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul.

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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