The Curious Case of Chris Golightly
Over the past couple years, Korea really got bit hard by the reality/audition “become a star” type show that has been sweeping the rest of the world for a while now. One of the first to bring this wave upon 대한 was SuperstarK on Korean cable’s M.net. This near carbon copy of American Idol has also been one of the most popular shows, despite stiff recent competition from network audition programs, and many top competitors have been able to have some success on the Kpop scene following their time on the show (probably thanks in no small part to M.Net‘s powerful music label).
Last month saw the third iteration beginning and while I am not personally a huge fan (I can’t stand the “joke” auditions during the opening auditions) the wife does enjoy the show so I am catching most of the episodes. Now down to the final 9 and in the real teeth of the competition, one contestant does most certainly stand out.
Ardent fans of American Idol might just be able to recognize the waygook in the above picture. Chris Golightly was an announced as a final 24 contestant on season 9 until some controversy about prior contracts resulted in him getting the boot from the show. He gained a bit of notoriety for his sad orphan back story and big, curly hairdo. Well now he’s landed here, just with much bigger hair.
The trail of Idol loser to SuperstarK final stage had already been set by gyopo John Park, a fellow season 9 contestant with Chris and K second season runner-up. Alluded to in the show, Golightly was already in Korea working as a songwriter for Star Empire Entertainment groups such as Jewelry and ZE:A, including some writing on the girl group’s semi-hit Back It Up. The story goes that John encouraged Chris to try out for Superstar K and, despite worries about his ability to succeed on a Korean show, the judges were wow’ed enough by his talent to keep bringing him back.
Now, call me a skeptic, but really this story seems a little too coincidental. I think all TV watchers realize that “reality” TV really doesn’t have too much of it and even in these audition shows, there is a lot of script and planning done (especially in the early going before it goes to audience voting) to create the mix and stories they want to present. It just seems a bit convenient to me that a foreign singer with a pedigree and backstory like Chris just happened to already be in Korea and decided of his own accord to try out. This isn’t to take anything away from him as a singer, because really he is among the most talented on the show and by far the most polished performer, I can’t help but feel that all the screen time he’s gotten, the emotional response to being cut and then brought back and everything just feels a bit scripted. This seems especially true to me given a sudden trend of audition shows featuring one completely non-Korean contestant. Probably the most notable example of this was on MBC’s Star Audition over the summer, where Canadian Youtube cover artist Shayne Orok, aka 셰인, aka The Most Awkward Looking Teen in the World (as I called him), made it all the way to the final 4 on the back of strong vocal talents and a bristly, teenage mustache.
I would be remiss in failing to note that Golightly is not the only wayguk remaining on the show (a few gyopos made it to the final stage as well) nor even the only white guy as finalist band Busker Busker features be-soul patched, Caucasian hipster drummer as well. Although, outside of a couple lingering camera shots and getting called Nicolas Cage by the show MC, really nothing has been said about him, nor could I find anything on the net (if any readers out there are heavy into the Seoul indie music scene, got any clues?). I can appreciate the producers trying to make the show a bit more global, but really I’m not quite sure what the goal is. I can say that I am nearly certain that Chris will not win as, like Shayne before, his curiosity-based appeal will eventually give out to a native (looking) son or daughter. I do really wish him the best, however, and think if he keeps working on his Korean skills he could probably forge out a minor celebrity career here much easier than he could back West. As said before, he does have legitimate skills and I’ll keep watching, even without the wife, to see how far he winds up going. So I guess I might as well leave it with a hearty, 크리스 아자 아자 화이팅!
For those interested, here’s Chris’ performance from last week that got him into the top 9. The song is 진심 (Sincerity) by Kim Kwang-jin. (Not sure why the video is inverted right-to-left, copyrights maybe? Still the best quality I could find). Strong performance, the wife even commented that his pronunciation was good, so enjoy.