In 2006, King and The Clown
director Lee Joon Ik followed up his mega period blockbuster with a seemingly very different kind of film, the life-affirming and heartwarming Radio Star
. But Radio Star
is really, at its core, again a movie about men in love. Without the grand narrative and controversial undertones, the film spins a smaller, safer, and unabashedly cheesier story, but it is one filled with a quiet understanding of life's journey and a clear appreciation for the music that has accompanied it. The Radio Star
soundtrack brings together some rather unlikely names into one album. Listening to the soundtrack feels a bit like a walk through the decades, visiting the ups and downs of life with a mix of youthful rock, nostalgic pinnings, and earthy instrumentals.
Just to situate the soundtrack, Radio Star is essentially a mid-life-crisis buddy flick. The film stars powerhouse acting duo Park Joong Hoon and Ahn Sung Ki as petulant, self-centered has-been rock star Choi Gon and his harried manager Min Soo, respectively. When Choi Gon gets into trouble one too many times, he ends up reluctantly DJing in a tiny rural town where he unexpectedly finds a new audience and rediscovers that long dormant spark for life. The film is great, and I heartily recommend it, but it is not necessary to watch the film to appreciate its superb soundtrack. (Alternatively, you can consider picking up the limited edition DVD, which includes the soundtrack.) The Radio Star OST easily stands on its own as a music release, and I would definitely list it as one of my favorite Korean albums in the past year.
The soundtrack begins with its most important track, "The Rain and You", performed by lead actor Park Joong Hoon. This slow, soulful, guitar-driven rock number seems to call up countless emotions and experiences with its clear melody, moody guitar riffs, and stirring lyrics. In an alternate universe, Park Joong Hoon could have very well become a rock star instead of an actor, because he brings as much depth to his singing as he does to his acting, with a deep, rough, folk blues voice that hints of valor and vulnerability. Composed by the film's music director Bang Joon Seok and penned by screenwriter Choi Seok Hwan and producer Jung Seung Hye, the track features prominently in the film, as it is the song that pushed Park's Choi Gon to great fame in 1988. In keeping with that concept, the song has a dated, yet classic feel and the lyrics - remembering a loved one who has left whenever it rains - are simple and lingering. The softer acoustic version (Track 29) brings an additional layer of melancholy.
Both Park Joong Hoon's versions of "The Rain and You" are already great to listen to, and yet there is still more to be found in the song. Local band No Brain, one of the more iconic names in Korean punk, offers a loud, energetic rendition (Track 7) that screams its sorrow. Now, young, angry bands generally get less young and less angry as time goes by, and No Brain is no exception; the band may have reached its mainstream apex last year by appearing in Radio Star as the goofy, amusingly showboat band East River. It's hard to say what's more curious, the band's decision to appear in the film or the filmmakers' decision to cast them, but they certainly help lift the soundtrack. The band also offers their own anthem "You Fell in Love with Me" (Track 18 and Track 30) from the Stand Up Again! album and interestingly, a cover of rock legend Shin Jung Hyun's "Beautiful Rivers and Mountains" (Track 21).
There is a palpable element of nostalgia to the film and the soundtrack, a revisiting of simpler, yet perhaps more rocking times. Quite a few classic tracks pop up including Shin Jung Hyun's "Beautiful Woman" (Track 13), Kim Choo Ja's "Woman in the Rain" (Track 15), and Cho Yong Pil's "Where You Settle" (Track 27). And then there's heavy metal band Sinawe's wake-up call "Turn Up the Volume" (Track 11) and duo U&Me Blue's mellow "You Cannot Be Erased" (Track 24). Perhaps No Brain's decision is not so odd after all as they are in very good company.