Hi folks, today I’d like to introduce to you someone amazing. I dare give her the title of “The Voice of Korea” because she won season 1 of the local version of the famous singing show “The Voice”. I’ll outline why I think she deserves the title, and give you clips of her work, both in English and in Korean. That person is Son Seung-yeon, also known as Sonnet Son.
Disclaimer: Many pieces of what I’m going to say cannot be found on Wikipedia or other text sources, because they were revealed in informal interviews on the show “Immortal Songs 2”.
For those of you with travel plans to Korea between now and March, you can watch Son Seung-yeon live as she performs in a much-coveted role in the Korean musical adaptation of the iconic 1992 film, “The Bodyguard”.
Tickets range from approximately 60,000 to 140,000 KRW, with a very loose exchange rate of 1 CAD = ~900 KRW. That means ~$70 to ~$160 for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear these godly vocals live.
Son Seung-yeon was born on September 15, 1993 (and this is important because you have to realize that this woman is barely 23 years old). She won “The Voice of Korea” competition in 2012, so when she was only 19 years old. The show’s caption is “one will only win by his or her voice”, and even at the time her vocal ability was such that she earned standing ovations for four consecutive performances before winning, as according to this article by Mwave. Following her win on “The Voice of Korea”, she released an album on October 23, 2012. She then held a concert on August 16, 2013, before leaving for the USA to attend Berklee College of Music at the end of August 2013.
Watch Son Seung-yeon cover Bruno Mars’ ‘Treasure’ at Berklee below:
On January 2014, she put her studying at Berklee on hiatus while she returned to Korea to pursue a career in singing. Her fame in Korea exploded after her cover of Idina Menzel’s “Let it Go” made it into the top 10 of Ryan Seacrest’s “Let it Go” cover contest.
Following that, she was invited in July 2014 by Korean singer “The One” to be his singing partner for the Lee Chi-hyun Special. Unfortunately, and this speaks to how unknown Son Seung-yeon is to the international audience, many of her 40-ish performances on Immortal Songs are only available from KBSKpop, so I can’t embed them in this post. Her older (2015 and 2014) performances are often part of this list that are KBSKpop only, with notable exceptions like her cover of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
Friendly reminder: They’re meant to reinterpret the song, and there’s beatboxing in her version.
One of my personal favorites, and arguably my absolute favorite performance in Immortal Songs 2 is her rendition of “Can’t Find You Nightingale”. She mixes rock with Korean traditional music, gugak in this case, and the resulting harmony is enchantingly breath-taking.
This performance, along with other earlier performances, landed her a bunch of achievements even in 2014. She holds the record for most number of wins in a short amount of time since her debut performance, winning her first appearance with The One, and her first solo performance less than a month later. On the show, her nickname is “Monster Vocalist” for her tremendous ability to belt, especially given her age. She can perform in a wide range of genres, from rapping, singing ballads, pop rock, to heavy metal and that fusion performance.
Some more statistics: She has performed, in 3 years, a total of 39 times. Of those 39 times, she has won 6 times (I’ll explain below why it’s just 6, and not 8 like what you’d count on the Wikipedia page), placing her within the top 5 people with the most number of trophies. The current record holder for most trophies is ALi with 9, then Jung Dong-ha with 8. Since I’ve only done research on the performances from 2014 to 2016, I don’t know if there are other people with around 6-7 trophies, so I’m playing it safe and saying she’s in the top 5. Her first ever performance didn’t count as her winning a trophy because she was a guest partner of The One, the actual contestant for that week, so he received and kept the trophy. Another of her 8 wins was a part 1 of a 2 part-special, which doesn’t give a trophy for winning.
Interestingly, and this is why even more experienced singers feel threatened by her – of the other 33 times she didn’t win, she came up 9 times as the first runner-up. Aside from those 9, she would have won if she had placed in 8 matches, since she was up against the winning performance that week. If you’re keeping track, that means she was close to winning 17 out of 33 times, in 3 years, which is definitely unprecedented (I should know, I did the research myself). Of the 22 times she’s placed, she averages 418 votes in her performances, with only 3 being below 400, and 9 being above 420 (I’m not counting times that she didn’t place). If we do count those times, filtering in the score she would need to place, her average drops by just 2 votes to 416. Bottom line: She consistently scores 400 and up, with easily a third of performances in the “winning score” range of being over 415.
For your convenience, I’ve put together a list of her performances on Immortal Songs 2 here.
Sneak preview! Watch her latest performance on Immortal Songs 2 here.