Vibe, 4men aim to spread K-soul through V-Day concert at the Wiltern

February 12, 2015
Left to right: 4men's Kim Won-joo and Shin Yong-jae, Vibe's Yoon Min-soo and Ryu Jae-hyun. (Tae Hong/Korea Times)

Left to right: 4men’s Kim Won-joo and Shin Yong-jae, Vibe’s Yoon Min-soo and Ryu Jae-hyun. (Tae Hong/Korea Times)

By Tae Hong

The Wiltern in Los Angeles’ Koreatown will be all about love Saturday as it hosts South Korea’s top ballad groups, R&B crooners Vibe and 4men.

The Valentine’s Day show, titled “Balla-dream” and presented by Powerhouse, is the two groups’ first joint concert in the U.S. and will showcase their hit songs alongside special events for couples and fans in the audience.

The quartet — Yoon Min-soo and Ryu Jae-hyun of Vibe and Shin Yong-jae and Kim Won-joo of 4men — may be here in the name of love, but they’re also looking to play a role in expanding the common perspective on what comprises K-pop.

Yoon said he sees K-pop as it is seen most prominently now — idols, dance music — as the beginning of an opportunity to spread other genres within Korean popular music to an international audience.

He calls the ballad and soul music of Korea, which developed under the influence of Western music, “K-soul.”

It’s a brand he and the rest hope will one day become as accepted and ubiquitous as categories like “rap” and “trot.”

“I don’t think of K-pop as music without talent. K-pop is superb, and I love that it’s so widespread,” Ryu said. “But I’m afraid people see K-pop as just that sort of music. We want everyone to know that there are people doing our style of music, too.”

According to Yoon, Saturday’s show is the beginning of a tour. Their next performance will be in Japan at the end of the month.

The groups’ concert plans include more than sweet love songs in the vein of 4men’s famous “Baby” — Yoon promises a bit of everything, from melodrama to a dash of sexy to comedy.

The show also marks 4men’s first time ever performing in America.

“There are not many chances for artists who do the kind of music we do to perform live overseas,” Kim said. “My hope is that, starting with this, we can do a more diverse set of activities for people overseas in the future.”

And while the four musicians’ goal may reach as high as becoming the first-ever Korean recipients of a Grammy Award (“I see a future in which the Grammys make a category for K-pop,” Ryu said.), they’re looking to do just one thing this Valentine’s Day: connect with the audience.

“Although our languages may be different, I think what we feel is the same,” Yoon said. “We’re going to try our best to deliver our songs in a relatable way and with sincerity.”