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[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Festival - Guitars and Hot Pants"


Tae-joo (played by Kim Da-hyeon) once was a member of an up-and-coming band. After a rather preventable accident it's a time-skip to the present day where his prospects are a bit more dismal. Tae-joo has given up the fame of the high life and instead just gives out vocal lessons. Thanks to his connections in the entertainment industry, Yae-joo does get the occasional high-level client. In this case, Anna (played by Han Seung-yeon), a girl band lead singer who can't sing.

"Drama Festival - Guitars and Hot Pants" has a definite opinion on K-Pop, and I'll just let you know right now that it isn't a terribly positive one. From what we can see, Anna's desire to actually be a competent singer is mostly an internal one. In the modern music world of auto-tuning and an emphasis on spectacle rather than sound, this is rather unsurprising. And don't get snobby about the inferiority of K-Pop here- as the drama notes these exact same trends exist in industry-produced music worldwide.

Consequently, "Drama Festival - Guitars and Hot Pants" goes in a somewhat predictable direction. Our two lead characters learn to rethink their ideas of what music is supposed to be through their continued collaboration. And to the drama's credit, writer Ryoo Moon-sang doesn't undermine this message by throwing in obvious crowd-pleasing romance tropes. The focus is entirely on the music, and even to a tin ear like mine it's very obvious what the difference is between Anna pre-training and after-training. Even her intermediate voice was, while an improvement, still not really all that good. A credit to Han Seung-yeon's performance.

The drama's sense of purpose is ultimately its main undoing, though, because the story is such a simple uncomplicated one that there's not really any real twists or hooks to demand viewer interest. Tae-joo's backstory is surprisingly irrelevant, except to the extent it forms his ideas regarding music philosophy. Mostly we just get a portrait of why the man felt all right not trying to take his career all the way to the top.

"Drama Festival - Guitars and Hot Pants" is competently enough executed that I didn't seriously dislike it in any way, and it does present a decent emotional case for why selling out is considered to be bad. Did you really want to get involved in music for money? Does it actually matter whether or not anyone appreciates your work? While these are simple questions with predictable answers, they do offer enough of a perspective that I'm fine with their being asked on a regular basis.

Review by William Schwartz

"Drama Festival - Guitars and Hot Pants" is directed by Park Sang-hoon-III, written by Ryoo Moon-sang and features Kim Da-hyeon, Kim Young-hoon, Jang Won-young and Oh Jong-hyuk.

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