A very popular topic within the K-pop music industry is vocal ability. Fans usually get into very heated arguments over who’s the best of the best vocalist in the industry. So naturally, many websites take advantage of that and release articles with answers to everyone’s questions. However, those answers are never truly clear nor are they based off of enough credible sources. Many times news websites like Kpopmap and Soompi use catchy titles such as “Industry insiders choose…” or “Vocal professionals rank…”. But who are these professional industry insiders, and how is vocal ability being truly measured with such rankings? Is there truly an objective consistent measurable way to rank these vocalists; and if so, are these industry professionals truly credible enough to judge singing with such confidence?
When talking about professionals within the K-pop industry, it’s important to note who these professionals are and what their careers revolve around. If readers took their time to ignore the names of their favorite idols being mentioned in the article and instead paid attention to the names and professions of each professional in these articles, they’d realize that they’re often not singers and rarely are they actually vocal instructors or coaches. In an article by TVReport, there is never any mention of vocal instructors, but there is mention of specific roles in the music industry, such as “insiders through King of Mask Singer” (Soompi para 1, Koreaboo para 1, TVReport para 1). This generally refers to those who works in the TV show production, PDs, assistants, who may not necessarily understand vocal ability. Another article mentions the best vocalists in no particular order, but gives credit to their insiders and names each one of them. Other judges from King of Mask Singer were mentioned and their job titles were PD, indie musician, pop music critic, producer, composer, and editor-in-chief (Ize para 1, Koreaboo para 3). None of these are professions directly related to singing ability. If these people were asked to judge one’s music, producing, or composing abilities then their opinions would be more relevant. However none of them are credible enough to talk about singing ability since none of them are vocalists or instructors themselves.
There is no way to truly be objective about singing ability when considering opinions from people who are not knowledgeable of vocal ability. When truly analyzing this article, there are holes in their methods of evaluation. Evaluation methods such as votes can often seem more like a popularity contest than an objective process. In no moment is it mentioned why one voted for one over the other. If this was truly an objective look into vocal ability, the decisions should be unanimous. A score system might also be utilized. For example, Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon scored the highest grade with 93 points out of a 100, followed by Sistar’s Hyorin with 87 points, and JYJ’s Junsu with 51 points (TVReport para 5 – 11, Koreaboo para 4 – 6). However, nowhere in the article is it explained how these numbers came to be. There’s no explanation as to what the criteria scores are based. The use of vague words and explanations for each position such as “He’s got an explosive voice, he’s succeeding in the musical world, and his husky voice is especially charming” or “He has a charming tone and outstanding singing ability, and his musicianship can be seen in his writing his own music and lyrics” (Soompi para 8 – 9) may compliment their voices, tones, or songwriting abilities; but these statements have nothing to do with vocal ability. Although each one of these professionals is entitled to their opinion, simply using generic explanations to rank a top 10 with misleading scoring systems is subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt.
In order to rank vocal ability, one must have sufficient knowledge of singing. The aspect to consider is one’s control of their voice. A beautiful voice is nothing without the skill to use it. A voice is an instrument just like a piano or a violin. If you give these beautiful instruments to amateurs, they won’t be able to play them as well as a professional. The same applies to singing, so complimenting one’s tone is much too personal and broad and doesn’t speak to singing ability. One must first think of a vocalist’s control of pitch, breathing, the control of volume, and dynamics. One must consider if a singer is able to sing with healthy technique. Speaking of songwriting ability or charms has nothing to do with singing ability and should not be part of an objective ranking system for vocalists.
Although articles are often hot topics and can be used to gain views, they don’t truly serve as anything more than a cause for arguments and fan wars. For an article to have enough credibility, the people who are interviewed should have sufficient knowledge of singing in order to properly talk about it objectively like vocal instructors, instead of just entertainment industry professionals. Moreover, in order to truly rank these vocalists, professionals interviewed should carefully listen to every single main and lead vocalist of every active idol group in order to be as thorough as possible. Not only that, but they must watch more than just a few performances in order to be 100% accurate with their judgment of vocal ability. Of course such an article would take time but it’s completely possible and should be the aim for such rankings, instead of simply trying to gain views. The final ranking should be objective and if they were to truly listen to all idol vocalists in every idol group, the result of this top 10 would be very different.