I had no work last week! Nine days of freedom and to do whatever my heart desired: sleep, watching dramas, reading, writing, and listening to music nonstop. It was glorious to be able to freely listen to music at any time of the day. There was even a different genre expressing the mood of each hour: dancing at noon with 90s Eurobeat, experiencing the bareness and beauty of the sunrise with Toshinobu Kubota, and feeling the crisp late summer air with smooth jazz. Music makes life wonderful.
During this week-long vacation, I found a new earworm that was so addictive. I listened to this piece nonstop every day during my vacation. I also tried to perfect the dance moves and sing the lyrics, even though I am still a beginner in the Korean language. This song is from the 90s, so let’s go back about 20 years to remember this song.
What were you doing in 1994? For me, that was the year when I started kindergarten. Since kindergarten was half-a-day back then, I remember watching the TV magazine show Extra with a bottle of coke in hand before school. I then raced home with my mom and brother to watch my favorite TV show, Power Rangers, as I wanted to be the pink ranger.
As I was chasing simple things at my young age, a sequel to a semi-cult movie was released at the same time. 3 Ninjas Kick Back is a movie about three young boys who are into the art of Ninjutsu. They go to Japan to compete for a martial arts tournament. It is a Japan-related movie, so it should feature music that is related to the country?
3 Ninjas Kick Back mainly features an abundance of Korean pop songs that were mega-popular back in the day. One of my ultimate favorite Korean songs, “Nan Arayo” (I Know) by Seo Taiji and Boys, was featured in the movie. This movie introduced me to my new favorite Kpop song which is today’s featured song: “Neoneun Wae” (너는 왜 or Why Do You) by Chuli and Miae.
Mashing Musical Genres Together
“Neoneun Wae” is special itself. Composer Seungho Lee didn’t think of just one genre when creating the song. But, he mixed two genres together: house and freestyle. You can hear the freestyle roots within the first notes when Miae sings “Woh-woh-woooh-woooh”. This riff actually samples from the 1987 song “Because of You” by the Cover Girls. After “Woh-woh-woooh-woooh”, the thick, bouncy house beats makes its way before Chuli starts.
The verses are mixed with house and rap as Chuli takes center stage. Frank Kogan wrote on his Livejournal that the “talk-rap that isn’t trying to sound hip-hop”. Kogan’s statement is true, the rap doesn’t sound like 90s hip-hop. It sounds more of the dance-rap that you hear in songs like “Mr. Vain” by Culture Beat or “Get Ready For This” by 2 Unlimited.
After the rap and the banter between the two, Miae sings the chorus in a way like freestyle. Kogan writes that in this part of the song, “the singing takes center stage, coalescing into an unabashed freestyle melody directly in the Mickey Garcia/Elvin Molina style of mournful NYC melodies circa 1989” .
The Perils of Young Love in the 90s
My favorite part of the song is the call and response between Chuli and Miae. I don’t know where to find the full translated lyrics of “Neoneun Wae” anywhere online. But, according to this translated video — done by MAMAMOO — of a skit done on SNL Korea, it seems that the pre-chorus section is about two lovers fighting over a misunderstanding: the boy thinks his girlfriend is cheating on him with another guy. The conversation goes as:
Female: You don’t understand.
Male: Tell me, who is this guy!
Female: It’s not true.
Male: Then tell me what is true!
Female: I only love you!
Male: Tell me you rather leave!
Female: Why do you?
Ahh, the misunderstandings of young love. We had the time of our lives when something like this happened. Chuli and Miae express this type of issue perfectly. How it is done is with Chuli’s harsh rapping, filled with betrayal and hurt, and the innocence in Miae’s soft vocals. I have tried to perfect singing Miae’s part this past week. I love the catchiness of the melody and how Miae performed this part during live performances.
“Neoneun Wae” is a mixture between house, rap, and freestyle that has a danceable beat. This 90s dance song is full of talent as Chuli skillfully raps with feeling and rhythm. Also, Miae is talented with her dancing and singing with innocence and softness.
What do you think of “Neoneun Wae”? Does it make you want to get up and dance? Does it invoke any memories of a relationship like this one or the 90s’ memories? Tell me below in the comments, right after you watch the music video!
20 years after “Neoneun Wae” was released, GLAM sampled the opening riffs in their song “I Like That”. You can hear those opening riffs in their music video below:
About the Artist
Chuli and Miae (철이와 미애) was a duo in the early comprising of members rapper Shin Cheol (신철) and singer Miae Kim (김미애). The group formed in 1992 and released their self-titled album a year later. The group only had one hit from that album, which was “Neoneun Wae”. They didn’t have any others, even after the release of their second album, Ttubeogi Sarang (뚜벅이 사랑) Love in 1994.
The group split after the release of Ttubeogi Sarang. Shin Cheol went on to become a music producer for various artists in the late 90s. In the 00s, he became a DJ on many radio stations. Meanwhile, Miae Kim went onto form the hip-hop group Honey. She also participated in a hip-hop music album in 1999. Since 2007, she has been living in New York.
The duo has reunited a handful of times after their initial breakup. In 2003, they came back to release a new version of their sole #1 hit. They also reunited in 2011 and 2016 for TV variety shows.
You can watch their 2016 performance on the TV show Two Yoo Project Sugar Man below:
 Kogan, Frank. “Chuli & Miae 1993 (Freestyle Tuesday).” Chuli & Miae 1993 (Freestyle Tuesday) – Frank Kogan, 8 Jan. 2013, koganbot.livejournal.com/318767.html.
 Lyrics are translated by the now-defunct Korean translation group MAMAMOO.
 Picture credits go to http://www.sportsseoul.com/mobile/news/read/385687