There are many songs that will go down in history, have impacted a generation, or have been just great to dance along to. It is no surprise that many of them have been covered by artists and fans all over the world. Some of these covers are by Korean superstars who, in many cases, have outdone themselves in delivering the music with their own touch. Here is a list of the top covers done by your favourite idols!
- Sign of the Times - Woo-sun & Chan-sol
Harry Styles’ comeback after One Direction’s split made a lot of Directioners heart flutter; with the main song, “Sign Of The Times” (2017), being everything fans ever wanted, expected and needed. In Superband, a Korean show described as a “hidden musician discovery project,” Kim Woo-sung, lead singer of K-pop group The Rose, and Lee Chan-sol, a solo singer, cover the song with a simple keyboard and guitar as a background, and they do a brilliant job. Woo-sung’s unique indie voice, along with Chan-sol’s more clear voice that harmonises perfectly, creates a perfect balance from the smooth beginning to the build-up at the end. A performance full of emotion, passion, and raw talent.
- Creep - Hyun-woo, I’ll, Hyun-sang & Jin-ho
Radiohead’s “Creep” (1993) is one of the most melancholic songs out there, and one of the most covered ones, too. There have been many alterations in the covers, from jazz to classical, yet none have come close to projecting the emotions the original version gives. However, these contestants of Superband certainly put up a fight to leave their mark. Ha Hyun-sang, a solo singer, has a very controlled voice, using it to his advantage in the quieter parts to fully attack in the last bit of the song. I’ll, a solo singer, provides a simple keyboard melody, yet his backup vocals and harmony get under your skin and make your hair stand on edge. Cellist Hong Jin-ho’s incredible skills on the cello, along with musician Kim Hyun-woo’s indispensable double bass acting as the backbone of the group, maximise the melancholic feel to the song.
- Y, ¿Si Fuera Ella? - Jonghyun
“Y, ¿Si Fuera Ella?” (1997) is a Spanish song by singer-songwriter Alejandro Sanz. It is one of those songs every Spanish person knows and cherishes, and could be considered an ‘unofficial national anthem’ of Spain. Kim Jonghyun from SHINee wrote a Korean version of this song. Although the original message is slightly different, both versions are about a male lover being heartbroken due to a woman. The dramatic themes of the song are perfectly portrayed in Jonghyun’s version, and his honey-like voice could not fit more perfectly. Jonghyun also starts the song quietly, almost like he’s singing to his lover who is asleep, making the dramatic buildup and the musical crescendo even bigger and more impressive. Alejandro Sanz tweeted about this cover in 2015 - six years after it was released - linking the Spanish world of music with the Korean world of music.
- Hey Jude - Young K & Dowoon
The Beatles are adored globally, being the biggest boyband in the world, and “Hey Jude” (1968) is one of their most recognised singles. Young K from DAY6 made a cover of this song in a live session with KBS2Radio, accompanied by fellow bandmate Dowoon. Young K’s clear and spectacularly-controlled voice really do this song justice; while Dowoon’s funky beats on the Cajun and deep backing vocals provide a raw personal twist to the cover as well as add some fun and personality, which is what The Beatles would have loved.
- I Will Always Love You - Ailee
“I Will Always Love You” (1974) was originally written and performed by Dolly Parton, and later popularised by Whitney Houston for the film The Bodyguard. Ailee performs a version of this song that is both true to the song, and true to herself and her style. The large vocal range is no challenge for Ailee’s voice, which is powerful both in the lower tones and remains just as powerful in the higher notes. She also shows no fear of the tone change in the song, as she does that perfectly, and adds another in her own version.
- Halo - Hyolyn
“Halo” (2009) was written specifically for Beyoncé’s famously powerful and unique voice, which is often described as soul and gospel combined. This, however, does not intimidate Hyolyn, who tackles this song in an outstanding manner. Despite not having a background in soul and gospel, this song does not sound empty when she sings it with such strength and passion. The video clearly shows she loves the song, enjoys singing it, and that love is translated in the way it is performed.
- Father - Bada & Insooni
“Father” (2017), originally performed by Insooni, is an extremely emotional song. The story of a girl singing to her father is significantly more touching when you realise Insooni's father was African-American, and being mixed race brought a lot of problems to the singers' life. Bada sings this song with Insooni in Fantastic Duo 2, a Korean TV singing broadcast, where she was a judge for the season. Bada’s clear voice, along with Insooni’s soulful harmonising make the performance very memorable. During the performance, Bada literally breaks down crying, yet manages to keep her voice in complete control. The emotion is well-portrayed, as many of the audience members are left in tears, too.
- Empire State of Mind - Cho A, Hye Jeong, Yu-na
Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” (2009) is an iconic song about one of the most important cities in the world. When AOA members Cho A, Hye Jeong and Yu-na covered the song in New York in 2015, it became an iconic moment in K-pop. Cho-A’s powerful voice, along with Hye Jeong’s distinctive (and very controlled) voice and Yu-na’s charmingly soft voice, make the perfect recipe for a complete and beautiful harmony. Alicia Keys would be proud of the cover!
- Flashlight - A.C.E
“Flashlight” (2015) was a song written by Jessie J for the film Pitch Perfect. The song showcases good voice control and a fairly wide vocal range, which is what the members of A.C.E. show perfectly. Each member has their own strengths that they are not afraid to show, but they never intend to outshine their fellow members, and the others are always supporting each other via the backing vocals. The great teamwork singing this song is clearly shown when the complicated song is delivered so movingly.
Just Dance - SHINee
Last but not least, is SHINee’s cover of “Just Dance” (2008) by Lady Gaga, one of the most memorable and iconic songs of the ‘00s. The mixture of the techno effects on their voices, the impressive dances, the funky outfits, and the groups coordination gave us an unforgettable performance, and proved the group was (and is) worthy of the title “Princes of K-pop.” It’s just a shame we still haven’t gotten a Gaga and SHINee collaboration - the stage presence and outfits would be too much for us to handle!
This brings us to the end of this list of covers by K-pop superstars! A few other notable covers include “Despacito” (DAY6), “My Heart Will Go On” (Bada) and “Marry You” (The Rose)... There is a big variety of songs showing how globally aware the world of K-pop is through covers of your favourite songs by your favourite Korean artists!
Here’s a hilarious clip of Highlight covering “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
Have your favourite K-pop stars covered songs you’ve enjoyed? Do you prefer the original versions or the covers? Let us know in the comments below!
Cover Image: Jonghyun of SHINee (SM Entertainment)
Written by Lucille Bamber