Trot Lovers is a 16 episode 2014 Korean drama about a trot singer in a world that prefers pop. Ironically her manager is a disgraced pop star that does not like trot. Choon Hee (Jung Eun Ji) is forced to become the breadwinner when her debt ridden father leaves. She meets pop star Joon Hyun (Ji Hyun Woo) just before his downfall. He erroneously blames Choon Hee for the downfall. To earn a comeback chance, Joon Hyun agrees to become Choon Hee’s manager. Shine Star record interim president Geun Woo (Shin Sung Rok) supports Choon Hee because his father (taking a break from the presidency) wants her to succeed to repay a debt owed to Choon Hee’s deceased mother. Choon Hee’s primary rival is Soo In (Lee Se Young), former girlfriend to Joon Hyun, who values success as a singer above all. Soo In’s mother is a director at Shine Star records and places roadblocks in Choon Hee’s as she struggles to make it the music business.
Nutshell Pluses: Trot Lovers leading actors delivered a cute couple. I must confess I am a “cute-aholic” (addicted to cute couples). This couple was a winner. Both actors worked together well and with their engaging smiles and charming chemistry their cute factor was high for me. The writing gave them opportunities to shine as a couple.The second male lead Geun Woo started the series adorably quirky but that went by the wayside (as did his story) later in the series. This show had fun moments and smiles most episodes. The secondary characters grew into meaningful characters. The music was good. I had no idea about the trot music genre before this series.
Nutshell Minuses: Trot Lovers was a cliche heavy show. The writer, Oh Sun Hyung, used too many cliches in the series. Unfortunately the story line started strong but waned as cliche after cliche was inserted creating a B grade show. The actors did what they could but “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage”.
What I liked about Trot Lovers:
* Choon Hee (Jung Eun Ji), female lead, was the shining star of this series. She has a wonderful smile. Her pluses:
*** Fabulous voice. Jung Eun Ji FELT the music and delivered lovely songs throughout the series. I simply cannot believe the OST was released without a song by Jung Eun Ji, the primary star and singer of this series. This is a major gaff in my book. In the OST section of this review, is my youtube playlist. Included are snippets of videos where Jung Eun Ji sang during the series.
*** Excellent Chemistry with male lead Joon Hyun (Ji Hyun Woo). Both these actors worked hard to bring the cute to their pairing and delivered. If not for their appeal this series would not have been as successful as it was.
* Joon Hyun (Ji Hyun Woo), male lead, was the strength for this series. His pluses:
*** Experienced actor. What can I say? I am a fan of Ji Hyun Woo from Queen In-hyun’s Man where he portrayed one of the best male characters, Kim Boong Do, in any kdrama I have watched. Trot Lovers was his “come-back” drama after he completed his military service. Ji Hyun Woo took a character that started out as an obnoxious jerk and transitioned him to knight in shining armor for our female lead. The show’s production was a bit on the campy side in the initial episodes and Ji Hyun Woo ran with it delivering big facial expressions and physical comedy. He handled the dreadful amnesia twist when his character reverted to an obnoxious jerk. His appeal with Jung Eun Ji increased each episode. This couple was the crux for the series. Surprising moment for this character was when the writer had him briefly consider suicide in episode 3. The character’s styling emphasized his muscled upper body (thank you military service). His sunglasses were a crucial fashion accessory. He exuded a cool vibe. His hair color transitioned from a sandy blond to a darker auburn hued tint later. Darker is better for him. Most of the pants for his character were above the ankle (and on such a tall man). May I add Ji Hyun Woo is a good looking man and I loved watching him.
While he singing voice was not overly strong, he seemed to play the guitar well, and contributed to the music of the series. The character’s signature song is included in the OST.
* Geun Woo (Shin Sung Rok), second male lead, was likable as a potential rival for Choon Hee. His pluses:
*** Quirky character. Geun Woo started out unconvential in the initial episodes, forgetful, lazy, but with a charm that drew you to this character. As the series progressed this character was featured less and lost the wonderful initial charm. Once Choon Hee picked Joon Hyun and NOT Geun Woo, the writer allowed the male leads to become friends. These actors ran with that olive branch and delivered bromance style scenes in the last several episodes. This was my first time enjoying Shin Sung Rok in a kdrama. He is watchable. He performed a cute song that is in the OST.
* Byul (Yoo Eun-Mi), Choon Hee’s younger sister, had terrific chemistry with all the actors. She ratcheted up the cute factor with every scene. The adult actors that were featured in scenes with this little darling, benefited and seemed to relish the opportunity. Standout chemistry was with Joon Hyun. They delivered several sweet moments in the series.
* Debt Collectors With a Heart. The debt collectors, Lee Chul Man (Jang Won Young) and Lee Yoo Sik (Yoon Bong Kil), initially hassled Choon Hee but soon became supporters. Frankly, the first couple of episodes when Joon Hyun was in obnoxious jerk mode, these two delivered heart and likability in the episodes.The two actors did a terrific job playing scenes off each other, they understood they were a pair, and never forgot that during the series.
* Supporting characters that grew on me. I was surprised that I grew to like almost every secondary character. Coach (Kim Yeo Jin) was a love interest for Tae Song and Chul Man; Tae Song (Son Ho Jun) had terrific chemistry with Joon Hyun and an interesting seduction scene with mean girl; Mean girl (Shin Bo Ra) started out a cookie cutter bully but evolved to a friend and love interest for Tae Song; Hyo Yeol (Lee Yi Kyung) was a jerk but a catalyst for many plot reveals; President Jo (Yun Ju Sang) had wonderful chemistry with his son’s character Geun Woo and they delivered some lovely scenes.
What I did not liked about Trot Lovers:
* Cliche, cliche, cliche. The writer, Oh Sun Hyung, relied heavily on cliches in the series. They did NOT strengthen the story line. Here is my list:
- Debt Ridden Father
- Parent with Illness they keep hidden
- Main lead goes Noble Idiot to protect the one they love but only end up causing misery for all
- Second lead says “I will wait for you” when the female lead tells him to give up
- Hit and Run Accident with culprit unknown
- Main lead goes to America to create a time jump epilogue in the last episode
- Referenced the “Little Mermaid” fairy tale
* Villains always had the upper hand. Soo In’s mother was able to skew everything in favor of her daughter. How many times did Soo In go running to her mother to fix some problem she was having? It was cruel when Soo In did NOT allow Choon Hee into Joon Hyun’s room after the accident (which I still do not understand how she blocked Choon Hee). Both mother and daughter had some evolution in the final episodes but they had it TOO easy during the series.
* Scandal, scandal, scandal, so many scandals! Here is my tally:
- Choon Hee: 1) Picture of her taking money in a bar, 2) Picture of her sleeping family style with Joon Hyun, 3) Congressman scandal (ridiculous)
- Joon Hyun: pictures taken of him asleep in hotel room with a lady and leaked them to the press
- Soo In: Drunk driving
- Hyo Yeol: I was never sure what scandal humbled him
Trot Lovers has a 6 part OST. Trot songs featured in the show are not on the OST. This is a huge oversight as Jung Eunji, who sang beautifully throughout the series, is not on the OST. What? No trot songs on the Trot Lovers OST? An odd choice as viewers that purchase the OST would have watched and enjoyed the trot songs along with the kpop songs featured on the OST. Songs 8 – 14 in my youtube playlist, are video snippets with some of the trot songs in the episodes.
Favorite Songs from the OST in my YouTube Playlist (link or embedded below)