Disclaimer: This is Cloud fanservice from a fellow Cloud.
While there is a little objectivity in this post (I wouldn’t put crap on the list…but Rain doesn’t make crap so that wasn’t a possibility to begin with), I will admit to letting my love of this singer cloud (hehe) my judgment a little. Yes, I made this site to be fair to all artists…that’s why I’m warning you up front of what to expect.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, allow me to give you a more thorough intro to one of my favorite singers. While Seo Taiji is the father of all things kpop (we’ll do something special for him later), Rain is the one that has reigned (hehe) supreme for the last ten years and has influenced the bulk of the current crop of stars in one way or another. There was a reason we featured him in our Asian Artists To Know post. He was the first Korean singer to reach beyond the borders of the country in a significant way. While he is better know for his movie appearances in America (Ninja Assassin being the best example), he established the path that others were able to follow and extend.
The tracks here are in no particular order. I listed them in the order that seems to flow the best.
My Way – I’m going to start this off the same way Rain started off his signature 2008 MKMF performance. The autobiographical track from his fifth album speaks of the singer’s rise from poverty to becoming the man he was and feeling that there was still more for him to achieve. He proclaims that, while the path was hard, it has given him the strength to persevere. The fact that this track sounds like it’s a love song may have some fooled, but it is an inspirational song from beginning to end.
Bad Guy – Any Rain playlist has to include his first single from his debut solo album. Made in 2002, the track about a man that struggles between his player ways and letting himself fall in love showcased the sensitive bad boy image that the singer would showcase for the bulk of his career.
One – From his 2010 Japanese EP Back To Basic, this track Rain as the wronged party in relationship that he doesn’t want to end. The smooth production teamed with his baritone vocals and (at the time) increasingly better use of English and you get a track that, if translated, could have made it onto American radio. The added reason this song made the list? See him perform it live; you’ll know why this is a personal favorite.
It’s Raining – The first single from his third album of the same name, we see the beginning of Rain starting to name-drop his stage moniker into his album titles. It does fit, however, since the track is about the singer’s return to the stage and the emotions that fill him as he performs for the crowd.
30 Sexy – The first single from his long-awaited 2014 comeback album, it was a bold decision for him to take aim at his own age. While American’s may not consider a man in his 30’s to be old, it is in Korea. When a group like Big Bang is on the verge of being considered a dinosaur group despite the fact that the oldest member hasn’t even turned 28, a man at 32 has to be careful how he comes to the younger set. The play worked, however, as he set the tone for being a different kind of sexy than he had been in his 20’s; smoother and more sophisticated.
Love Song – While the live and music video performances of this this track are burned into any Cloud’s memory, the vocalization of this song about a man lamenting the end of a relationship as he is being pushed out the door is just beautiful. Korean ballads can be a tricky thing for many non-Koreans to get into because they can sometimes lack the supporting instrumentation and adlibs that are required to maintain listener interest. That has never been a problem for Rain as his vocal styling is inspired by R&B singers like Usher and the late, great Michael Jackson. He fills the blanks spaces with emotional tone and the instrumentation is stellar.
Ways To Avoid The Sun – If you are a Stephen Colbert fan, you saw him parody this song during his 2009 “beef” with Rain. The track about avoiding being seen (as a man) crying over a woman made people consider Rain as more than a singer who was just a flash in the pan. From his second album of the same name, the vocals showed considerable growth from his first album as did the content, making a lot more people sit up and pay attention. Teamed with a music video that showed off his yet unseen acting skills and a surprisingly strong dance routine for a mid-tempo track, Rain had a winner.
Friends – The piano intro of this song has you before you even know what’s hit you. Rain teams up with one of the founders of Korean hip-hop, Tiger JK, for a track about how having a true friend in the down times can mean the world. The backstory to this song is actually pretty sweet. At this point in his career, Rain had become such a big star that the man who discovered and mentored him, JYP, could no longer handle his career without sacrificing the careers of his other singers. Rain decided that he would take the opportunity to strike out on his own but wanted his teacher to know that the relationship that they shared would continue on…and it has. Nearly ten years later and the two still communicate, encourage, respect, and lean on one another like brothers.
Baby Baby – Okay; I have to specify. This is Baby Baby from Rain’s fourth album, Eternal Rain, not from his debut album or from his latest, Rain Effect. And while it might be really odd for a singer to have three songs with the same title, they all sound different. This one is my favorite of the three just because of the laidback vibe in the production and the vocals. About being completely in love with someone that you can’t help but spazz out a little when you think about them, you can hear him coming into his own.
Hip Song – Also from his Back To Basic EP, this track is a little bit of a clapback to people who thought that Rain’s sexualized image was too much for any singer, but especially a man. While there had always been idols who got a extra mileage out of being attractive, the term “Korean Sex God” wasn’t really thrown out like it was until Ji-Hoon took the stage. He took the chance to do a little bragging about the people following his style lead and unapologetically suggest to others that they could do it, too, if they wanted. The song was a huge hit even without the benefit of a video (although the live performances were amazing) and is still a fan favorite.
To Me You Are – Apparently, in Korea, when you say you’re going to protect someone is right on par with telling them you love them. In this dancy track, Rain promises to bear the burdens of the person he loves, even though she sees him as nothing but a friend. This track took on extra significance when, a year later, Rain starred in the KDrama Full House, which focuses on two people reconciling their feelings for each other.
Love Story – If there is an Rain era that most of his fans would agree was his best, it would be the Rainism era and, of all the amazing tracks on that album, Love Story is the best of the best. Even people who are not fans admit that his vocals on this track are so emotional and engaging that you can’t help but fall in love with it. The song follows the story of a man that gave up love for personal gain only to regret it when he realizes that love is lost forever. And, as good as this track is on the album, there is nothing like a live version. While his 2011 Chinese concert is probably the best version (that breakdown is just too much), even the one with the broken mic is great ear candy.
Dear Mama, Don’t Cry – One of the more tragic aspects of Rain’s life is that, due to the poverty that he and his family lived in, his mother died of complication due to untreated diabetes a year before he made his debut. He often speaks about her and publicly longs for another chance to be with her. While he as always shown respect to his mother privately, he took the opportunity on his last album to write a song for her expressing his regret at her passing and his gratitude for all that she sacrificed to make a better way for he and his little sister. It was his way of saying that she didn’t have to worry about him from heaven and that he would always make her proud.
Free Way – While this is probably ranks pretty high on my personal favorite’s from Rain, I also realize that I’m in a minority here. Likely because the video closely mirrors Justin Timberlake’s Rock With You video, it is relegated to a lower status even among Rain’s faithful. For me, the upbeat feeling of the production and his vocals is enough to suck me in and keep me hitting the replay button.
Sad Tango – It can feel like a dance when you are trapped in the swirling emotions of an old relationship. While Rain wants her back, she’s ready to move on. The upbeat track has the singer aching to rekindle things with his lost love before it’s too late. This would eventually become a specialty of Ji-Hoon’s; the heartbreaking song over a beat so danceable that you get stuck in your own emotional whirlwind.
Handshake – People always say that they want to remain friends with exes when they end the relationship, but that can be difficult if one of you still harbors feelings for the other. The second single from his debut album, this track showed Rain’s talent with a ballad and showed the people who liked Bad Guy that he was more than just a pretty face with some good dance moves.
In My Bed – Just like Love Story, In My Bed is one of the iconic Rain videos that cements just how good the track in question is in your head. Essentially about the singer wondering if he’s been taken by a woman who seems to be following a playbook with every guy she meets, it’s another emotional ballad that just makes you want to comfort all his pain away. (And yes, Clouds; the temptation to put I’m Coming on this list before this track was really huge.)
La Song – The second single from his comeback album, Rain Effect, the production of this track (which was produced by Rain himself) is an amazing layering of eclectic sounds. You can hear a little 70’s funk, some Spanish influences, and a little electric guitar. Add to that Rain’s strong vocals entreating us to party with him and you have a fun, multicultural track that would be hard for many other singers to pull of successfully.
No No No – Rain is too fed up with his lady’s lying love (a direct translation from the song) and he’s ready to walk away, even on the night he was going to propose. The production of this track mixes with his vocals in a way that you don’t often get to hear from the singer. There is so much attitude in this track and yet it’s so sexy that you will wonder what the hell is wrong with the woman in question.
Rainism – Of course, no Rain playlist post-2008 can not have this song on it. Rainism is the track that cemented his status as a world star. With its high-energy production, amazingly athletic and sexy dance routine, and absolutely filthy lyrics (he wants to take us on a ride on his magic stick that’s guaranteed to make our bodies shake), it’s no surprise that this track was banned on several radio and television stations in Korea and few other countries due to content. Unfortunately for the censors, the song became so popular that they had to relent and allow him to perform it over and over again for about three years. While there is an all-English version of this track, the genius in original of making the dirtier lines dual language means that you THINK you know how dirty what he saying is, but you really have no idea.