K-POP Disney+ K-drama Soundtrack #2: hit romantic anthology returns with...

Disney+ K-drama Soundtrack #2: hit romantic anthology returns with a muted tune, this time starring Keum Sae-rok and Noh Sang-hyun

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Lead cast: Keum Sae-rok, Noh Sang-hyun, Sohn Jeong-hyuck

Disney+ invites us to tune into Soundtrack #2, the second part of its music-themed romantic drama anthology.

After the star voltage of Han So-hee and Park Hyung-sik (of the boy band ZE:A) helped to launch the anthology in its first season, this time the leads are rising actors Keum Sae-rok (The Interest of Love and Youth of May), and Noh Sang-hyun (aka Steve Noh), best known for playing Baek Isak in Apple TV+’s Pachinko adaptation.

Keum and Noh play pianist Do Hyeon-seo and online media entrepreneur Ji Su-ho. Four years ago, when Hyeon-seo was a brilliant student and Su-ho was a struggling youth working as a delivery man, the pair dated but their relationship came to an end because of their different priorities.

Things are very different in the present, as Hyeon-seo has fallen on hard times. She runs a struggling piano academy for children, helps out at her friend’s restaurant and, in a cruel twist of fate, makes deliveries on her bicycle.

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Su-ho is the head of a very successful business who lives in a swanky hillside palace with a fleet of sports cars parked in the garage.

Part of the reason Su-ho has come so far is how hard he works himself, and this lifestyle finally catches up with him when he collapses in his office one day. His doctor orders him to stay home and recover and also recommends that he take up a musical instrument as a way to manage his stress.

His assistant books him a piano tutor, and who should show up at his door one day but Hyeon-seo.

Noh Sang-hyun as Ji Su-ho (left) and Sohn Jeong-hyuck as K in a still from “Soundtrack #2”. Photo: Disney+

Su-ho may be at home without any workstations – his assistant has confiscated all his computers – but he still finds a way to keep himself busy. Scrolling through his phone he discovers a promising singer-songwriter online, known only as K, played by real-life singer-songwriter Sohn Jeong-hyuck in his screen debut.

He approaches K to sign him and then invites the musician to stay in his home while they work together on a project. Arriving for one of their lessons, Hyeon-seo is very surprised to see K tinkering with his guitar in the garden. It just so happens that they recently met for the first time.

Even more surprised is Su-ho, as he discovers that Hyeon-seo is the mystery collaborator K mentioned when he asked if someone could join their project.

Noh Sang-hyun as Ji Su-ho in a still from “Soundtrack #2”. Photo: Disney+
With seasoned directors Kim and Choi at the helm, Soundtrack #2 is once again a handsome affair, gliding through bright and colourful locations, from Su-ho’s Parasite-esque mansion to Hyeon-seo’s cute hillside academy, where she tries to keep her young charges interested by making them tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes) or playing them NewJeans songs on the piano.

But just as with season one, the show’s glossy appearance masks a certain hollowness in the writing.

Soundtrack #2 has two more episodes than its predecessor, but while it is still a short show with only six 40-minute instalments, that should be plenty of time for us to get to know these characters, especially as no one outside the central trio is given more than a few lines on screen.

Sohn Jeong-hyuck as K (left) and Keum Sae-rok as Do Hyeon-seo in a still from “Soundtrack #2”. Photo: Disney+

Weakest among them is K, a talented, assured and perpetually grinning young man. He is a one-dimensional presence purely there as a temporary obstacle to fire up Su-ho’s jealousy. Furthermore, lacking compelling screen charisma, Sohn struggles to bring him to life.

The performances of Keum and Noh are better, even if their characters are a little dry and stereotypical.

Su-ho is the character we learn the most about in the opening week’s episodes but, save for his drive, his other attributes don’t add up to a particularly appealing package, whether the too cocky Su-ho of the present or his somewhat aggressive youthful persona that appears in flashbacks.

Keum Sae-rok as Do Hyeon-seo in a still from “Soundtrack #2”. Photo: Disney+

More of a question mark at this point, though clearly by design, is Hyeon-seo. We can only surmise that she has had a very difficult few years since their break-up, evidenced by a scar on her wrist that briefly flashes on the screen and looks suspiciously like a memento of a suicide attempt.

Hyeon-seo’s blanks will surely be filled in over the next weeks, but will the added layers help this add up to a satisfying romance?

Soundtrack #2 is streaming on Disney+.

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