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[Music in drama] Timeless songs central to success of 'Hospital Playlist'

Discover classic Korean pops through medical drama series

May 20, 2024 - 13:49 By Lee Jung-youn
From left: Yoo Yeon-seok, Jung Kyoung-ho, Cho Jung-seok, Jeon Mi-do and Kim Dae-myung star "Hospital Playlist." (tvN)

Stories about family love, friendship and humanity never grow old and there is no better place to witness them than in hospitals.

The tvN series “Hospital Playlist” takes place in a university teaching hospital where fierce battles of life and death take place, depicting the lives of five doctors who have been friends for 20 years and the stories of their patients. The series is renowned for its depiction of the heartwarming struggles of the doctors and its excellent reinterpretation of classic Korean pop songs.

The five main characters – Lee Ik-joon (Cho Jung-seok), Ahn Jeong-won (Yoo Yeon-seok), Kim Jun-wan (Jung Kyoung-ho), Yang Seok-hyeong (Kim Dae-myung) and Chae Song-hwa (Jeon Mi-do) – practice as a band in their rare free time. They perform hit songs from the 1990s and 2000s, allowing older viewers to reminisce and younger viewers to discover the charm of old songs.

Jeon, a well-known musical actress, sang “I Knew I Love” (2006), originally by Shin Hyo-bum. Although her character Song-hwa is a serious tone-deaf, Jeon reinterprets the hit song from nearly 20 years ago in a crystal clear voice.

The lyrics reflect the journey of longtime friends Ik-joon and Song-hwa as they realize their feelings for each other. The lovely melody plays over a scene where Song-hwa admits her feelings for Ik-joon in heavy rain: “I knew I would fall in love / From the day we first met.”

Versatile actor Cho, who also performs regularly in musicals, performed a remake version of pop group Cool's "Aloha" (2001).

These remake versions became as popular as the originals and the series' OST went on to win the soundtrack category at various year-end award ceremonies in 2020, including the Mnet Asian Music Awards, Seoul Music Awards, Golden Disc Awards and Melon Music Awards.

Trio Urban Zakapa's “Beautiful My Love,” originally sung by singer Lee Jung-yeol in 1999, is played during a scene where Seok-hyeong, an obstetrics professor, accepts a love confession from Chu Min-ha, the chief resident of obstetrics, capturing a moment of blooming love amidst the hectic lives of the doctors.

The songs performed together by the five main characters as a band also gained great popularity. "Me to You, You to Me," a song by Trio Scenery of Riding Bicycle best-known as the soundtrack of the masterpiece Korean film "Classic," graced the final scene of season 1 of "Hospital Playlist." The rock band Crying Nut's "Oh! What a Shiny Night" was also reinterpreted by the five actors. The actors, all active on the musical stage except for Jung Kyoung-ho, practiced for several months to play and sing the songs themselves.

Many other contemporary artists added their twist to popular old tunes. Kyuhyun of boy band Super Junior, who is also a skillful ballad singer, sang “Confession Is Not Flashy,” originally by Lee Seung-hwan, while Red Velvet’s Joy covered “Introduce Me a Good Person,” originally released by trio Basis in 1996. Kwon Jin-ah reinterpreted “Lonely Night” (1997) by the legendary rock band Boohwal, written and composed by guitarist Kim Tae-won.

From left: Jung Kyoung-ho, Yoo Yeon-seok, Cho Jung-seok, Kim Dae-myung and Jeon Mi-do star in "Hospital Playlist." (tvN)
From left: Jung Kyoung-ho, Kim Dae-myung, Jeon Mi-do, Cho Jung-seok and Yoo Yeon-seok star in the scene of "Hospital Playlist." (tvN)

This series offers a multifaceted look at the soundtracks of hit Korean drama series, shedding light on how the music enriches the stories -- Ed.