Heartstrings: First Impressions

A new summer drama to refresh my palate. I actually liked it! I’m on board for this drama because it’s got good music and a simple plot. While it did take two episodes to get the storyline up and running, it does remind me a lot of Coffee House last year. Both are light and refreshing, and it doesn’t hurt that Park Shin Hye is just so fun to watch.

I watched it on DramaFever, where there are also actor shout outs in the first two episodes. Jung Yong Hwa and Park Shin Hye greet viewers in English. It’s awesome.

I won’t belabor too much on the plot, since it’s been recapped already on Dramabeans. However, to put it simply, Lee Shin is a Western Music major (read: rock/pop music) and Lee Gyu Won is a Traditional Music major (read: well, traditional Korean music). Shin is too popular for his liking in their school, but if anyone can get him for a gig, that person is sure to make a lot of money in ticket sales.

And that’s exactly what Gyu Won does with her music group, Wind Flowers. In order to raise money for her ailing teacher’s hospital fees, they hire Lee Shin and his band (The Stupid) to perform during their fundraiser. Because Shin’s sister falls ill with appendicitis, he doesn’t make an appearance, forcing Gyu Won to take the stage and sing in his place. She’s bitter about him breaking the promise, and they end up in a bet over whose music is better.

Shin’s band does an impressive performance, but so does Gyu Won’s, until Gyu Won’s string breaks. She automatically loses, and the punishment is to be Shin’s slave for a month. All the other girls would kill for that job, but she doesn’t, as she thinks Shin is a pompous ass.

So there you have it – for the next few weeks we’ll watch Gyu Won try to avoid Shin but still be forced to do things for him. Meanwhile there’s also the school’s 100th anniversary event that Broadway director Suk Hyun (Song Chang Ui) is producing. He’s at odds with the dance professor Yoon Soo (Song Yi Hyun) because they have a “history” (read: relationship where she dumped him, probably after her ankle surgery and she didn’t want to be a burden on his rising career). So we’ll have that performance to deal with too.

The Characters:

Jung Yong Hwa is your typical cold guy… until you see him with his friends and family. He’s actually pretty decent (and not at all like Hwang Tae Kyung), but he’s very aloof to girls. Every girl he’s encountered has been hitting on him or has a crush on him, and he probably thinks Lee Gyu Won is no different. However, she sasses him and has loads of talent, which seems to make him think twice about her. Jung is doing a decent job so far, but I don’t think he’s really done a lot with his character. There’s more that he could explore in his character, but his face betrays emotions in increments. It’s not extreme, and therefore not as obvious. He doesn’t express much with his eyes, which makes him seem pretty stiff. I hope he improves.

Park Shin Hye is really doing well, and she carries the scenes that she and Jung are in together. Whenever she talks to herself, she reminds me a bit of Go Minam; however, in You’re Beautiful she was ditzy. Here, she’s just a young, honest girl who…talks to herself a lot. I like that she plays a more real, relatable girl.

Song Chang Ui is really fun. I love him because he’s like a bounding ball of energy, especially around Park Shin Hye. His character is a little arrogant, but because he has the credentials that allow him to be a little more arrogant. His scenes with Park spark, but that’s because I’m comparing it to Park’s scenes with a cardboard Jung. I want to ship both Song Chang Ui and Park Shin Hye, but the age difference is too weird.

Song Yi Hyun is boring. She’s plastic and boring. But then again, she hasn’t done much except dance and cry. She’s a really elegant dancer though – and I hope one day I can see her complete a dance routine without falling in the dark.

Woori can bust her moves though! It’s amazing seeing her dance to Beyonce like nothing. She’s immensely skinny though, but one thing I like is that her character has issues with bulimia – just like any other dancer with weight issues. It grounds her character to a darker reality that I’d like to see explored, and provides another shading to her otherwise bratty personality. The bulimia factor doesn’t let me write her off as some simpleton that I should detest. As for Kang Min Hyuk – this kid is ADORABLE. He steals every scene he’s in because of his simple love for food, and his constant dreamlike, whiny state. He’s like the little dog who sniffs for food all the time – literally. I love this guy. And then he transforms into a hot drummer!?!??! Yeah – everyone in the school can’t believe it either.

The Story

It’s a little old – love hate relationship turns into love; two characters who hate each other have a connection through their parents. However, I buy into it because it doesn’t feel old. The production company and director had said they hoped to create a “bright drama” – and literally this drama is bright. The colors are vivid, the sun is shining, everything about it screams “SUMMER!” Plus, they have Song Chang Ui to liven things up.

The conflict that is being set up here is the difference between Eastern and Western music, which is a step further than old versus new. I love that they use the gayageum and all the traditional instruments to play faster, modern beats, so I would like to see the guitars and drums be used on folk songs. As musicians, it’s important to the characters that their music touches the soul. It’s not about being popular or having catchy beats, but about touching the listener’s heart. I think this conflict helps make the drama feel different; you’ll see conflicts between tradition and modernity anywhere, but do you see conflicts between Eastern and Western music often? No.

On top of that, why do the teacher-student relationships have more chemistry than the student-student relationships!?!!?

Side note: I think the excursion to Jeju was short and wasted.


You may say that I go for quiet dramas more (Prosecutor Princess, Dr. Champ, Romance Town, etc), which is sometimes true but not always. (I liked Secret Garden and 49 Days too) But why does this beat Lie To Me and Greatest Love? For me, it’s because those dramas felt like they were trying very hard for a specific type of frenzy that is usually associated with romantic comedies. They may be successful at it, but the exaggerated acting shows that they are stressing on bringing out the comedy, rather than letting it come naturally. It’s like, “I will glare at you until my face contorts into a weird expression because we’re aiming for cheese. It’s so sappy but you know you like it!”

On the other hand, the funny moments are played out quietly in Heartstrings, as well as Prosecutor Princess, Dr. Champ, and Romance Town. Everyone has a straight face – but it’s somehow just so funny! Or maybe I just have a very weird sense of humor.

And that’s why I like this drama.


3 thoughts on “Heartstrings: First Impressions

  1. i never thought i’d say this, but…

    i like…
    …quiet dramas too!!!

    i find myself coming to your site more and more KJ to read your fabulous recaps/updates/behind-the-scenes-news of our quiet drama contenders! on the recent DB open thread, i actually mused about this and said,

    the only drama of the MAY dramaEXTRAVAGANZA that i have continued to watch via livecast is ROMANCE TOWN!

    while i stopped watching LTM altogether and just read ‘caps, and still have yet to finish BL, and marathon CH on weekends, and NEVER started MR, I have watched RoTo each week to my own surprise!

    i think i like it and am able to keep up with it because it is so laid back and i don’t have any expectations of it. i know it will end well (and cute!) but episode to episode i can simply just enjoy it without all the heartache or drama or insanity (although the romcom has all three!).”

    so thank you, KJ, for your spotlight on our slightly silent but winning dramas. 🙂

    • 🙂

      Thanks ohemgee! You have no idea how happy your comment made me today! I’m glad you’re sticking for the RT ride – it’s a bumpy one to be sure, so I’m happy to see that I’ve got a seat mate on this one!

  2. “On the other hand, the funny moments are played out quietly in Heartstrings, as well as Prosecutor Princess, Dr. Champ, and Romance Town. Everyone has a straight face – but it’s somehow just so funny! Or maybe I just have a very weird sense of humor.”

    Don’t worry.. . I’m with you. And yes, I think people like us have a sense of humor not so common. Btw, love Romance Town, too. Thanks for the review/recap of Heartstrings!

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