I think that in our lives, most people that are true music enthusiasts have one artist that they connect with more than any other. The one band that gets them thru a hard day, links them to their past, or changes their ideas about life and music. YB has to be that band for me.
I first heard YB in 2006. It was a World Cup year and the Red Devils were out in full force. If you’ve never been a K-Pop fan during the World Cup, you’re missing out. Suddenly the entire Korean community becomes patriotic soccer fans. Which definitely includes the artists. So, it was during this time I heard a rock version of the Korean national anthem, sung by – obviously YB. And I remember thinking OMG Korean rock is real, and it kicks ass. It was at this time that I became a pretty big devotee of Korean rock music. I’d grown tired of the same K-Pop formula happening over and over and I was almost ready to give up on Korean music, outside of a few favorites. But in came YB to save the day.
Formed back in 1995, YB is one of a few bands in Korea that can boast a double decade shelf life. (Tho they did break up for a bit in there, but then obviously got back together) They have brought rock music to the forefront, becoming one of the few bands that regularly shows up on variety shows and TV specials. Their music transcends generational boundaries and you can often see the ahjumma’s rocking out with the teenagers when you take a look at their audience during their performances.
It’s that charisma and unbound musical stylings that keep me coming back to YB again and again. No matter how many albums they put out, they never sound stale or boring. They are constant tinkerers. They never leave a song alone if they think they can do better. I’ve heard about 5 versions of all their English songs for instance. I know that getting the lyrics just right is important to them all. I tend to like tinkering musicians, even if I do wish I had new material instead of a new version of an old song, but I feel like it means they’re never satisfied, which translates to never being bored. A bored musician is a death toll for them. It means they have nothing left to give, and YB always has more to give.
Not only are YB my favorite band to listen to when I’m down (the above song “Today” is my go-to cheer up tune), but they’ve been unknowingly helping me along my path to being a music journalist, (and now band manager). It was going to see them in Texas that finally gave me courage to go back to school for Music & Entertainment Business. I wrote about them in my college entrance essay. One time when I was wondering if I was going down the right path I got asked to write about them professionally and it seemed like fate. I also got to interview them in 2015 at SXSW.
It’s been a wild 10 years of being a YB admirer. I went from discovering that Korean rock music existed, to being so involved in everything that I’m flying to Korea for the first time now. And it all started here.
P.s. in case you’re curious here is that first song that got me into YB.