Whether I like a song or not depends heavily on whether that song has a mood. By mood, I mean a kind of strong atmospheric sense of… something. For example, one of my favorite songs ever is Keep Tryin’ by Utada Hikaru, because I feel that song pretty much captures the feeling of trying to do your best and work hard at a time when you’re stuck in the doldrums, feeling like you’re getting nowhere.
With that in mind, I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite K-Pop songs and what mood I believe they set.
Blue – Big Bang
This song perfectly captures what it’s like to be… depressed. (Yes, we’re starting off right in this list!) The thing is, in a lot of other “sad” songs, the artist apparently feels the need to moan, wail, and cry, and just sit there and do that for three or four entire minutes. It’s usually super cheesy and sappy, very heavy feeling, or else there’s someone (usually a girl) sitting at a piano and tossing her head around whinging about her lost love. Ugh. No. That’s not what it’s like to be sad.
Big Bang’s Blue gets it right in that when you’re depressed, when you’ve really been hit by something terrible, the fight just goes out of you. You just want to curl up in your bed and sleep for days. You’re not past feeling joy, but you’re just tired. Tired, tired. You’re sad, but it’s a very restrained and mellow kind of sadness. Depression is about absence of feeling, not heaping shovelfuls of sadness. That’s where Big Bang gets it right. And considering what went down just before they made this song, I’m not surprised they did.
Come Back Home – 2NE1
This song just came out, but I have a hard time not listening to it. Although it’s supposed to be about a lost love or some other “super sad” b/s like that, I feel what the song really captures is the loss of some beautiful time in the past that you can never get back. Kind of like the moment just before graduating from a school, it’s a song about being in the midst of a situation you really like and realizing that it’s either leaving you or will leave you and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s what I feel like they’re singing when they sing “Come back home.”
I contemplated putting the Unplugged (acoustic) version up instead, but that version comes with a rap bridge that I kind of despise. Instead, you get the MV which is a combo of the actual song and the unplugged version. I can see some people hating the breakdown just after the chorus, but for me it cements the feeling of the song. After a period of being vulnerable enough to ask someone who left you to come back to you, and it doesn’t happen, and the song hardens, and the girls’ pleading instead turns into a kind of haughty demand, as if they already know you will come back. At which point it switches back into the meditative, almost thoughtful kind of verse before building back up to the chorus. Which is pretty much what it’s actually like when you’re in that kind of situation.
Whatever. I think it makes sense. This is my list. Go away.
Crooked – G-DRAGON
What? I can’t help it if Big Bang makes good music. This song totally captures that kind of restless feeling you get when you have a problem but you’ve been trying to ignore it for a while. It’s buzzing around in the back of your mind and you’re just shoving it down as hard as you can, and as a result you feel chaotic, out of control, restless, a bit like you’re not in your right mind or part of this world. It’s basically that moment when you’re saying “I don’t care” despite the fact that, no, you really do.
My favorite part about this song is the shouting of “eopseo!” in the chorus. In Korean, “eopseo” is a verb that means “to not be” or “to not exist.” So naturally, attaching it at the end of a sentence is basically like “This is a very true statement that I am definitely saying… NOT.” Except much more natural and less similar to a teenage girl. It makes me feel rebellious. Bite me.
YUM YUM YUM – Lip Service
Oh my goodness a song that K-Poppers might not have heard of before! (:o) I foresee some of you clicking play and immediately clicking “stop.” This song doesn’t necessarily sound pretty, but that’s precisely why I like it. When I hear it, I feel bright, energetic, strong, and rebellious. It makes me want to stop where I am and start dancing like I know how to dance hip-hop. The best thing about this song is that it’s basically an “I don’t care” kind of attitude, but instead of being directed towards “people” or “haters” it’s more directed at yourself.
The song is about dieting and how completely it will rule your life. Although the lyrics are more directed at the girls’ managers (one of the girls wrote the song about the diet her manager made her go one – near the end of the song, she says, “Diet, diet, the man says diet, diet, diet, man I’m tired!”) I feel like this applies just as well to the stupid things we make ourselves do out of some ridiculous social code or idea, and not because we particularly feel like we should. Thus listening to this song gives me a feeling of saying “screw you and your ideas of what I should do, I’m going to do as I like.” If you’ve ever been told (repeatedly) to do or be something by someone else and complied until one day you woke up and were like “what the hell am I even doing?” and full-stopped, then you probably know what I’m talking about.
You Don’t Love Me – SPICA
We’ve made it to the end of the list! I love everything about this video/song to death, to the point that I actually started to memorize the lyrics so I can sing along. I love the meaning of the song, I love the aesthetic of the video, how they portray sexuality, how confident the girls are, the amazing shot of the exploding toilet at the end, and how the video complements the song but doesn’t overshadow it.
My favorite part of the song, however, is that it’s a message I haven’t actually heard before. While most songs (especially K-Pop songs) focus on a guy who is totally awesome, or a guy who left you and you definitely want back (for some reason), or a girl you mistreated who you are now asking for a second chance (I’m looking at you, Bad Boy and Come Back When You Hear This Song), this song is rather about redefining the concept of love within a relationship. Just because he says he loves you, and probably honestly believes he loves you, doesn’t mean he is actually loving you. It doesn’t make it inherently what love is. It’s a song about a girl who is finally waking up and realizing that there is something missing, looking her boyfriend in the face, and saying, “This is what you think love is? Ha!” The girl realizes that love isn’t selfish, and that it reciprocates freely just because it wants to, and not because love is a 50/50 transaction. This is most obvious in my favorite lyric, “Calculating and measuring every little thing / Is that what you call love?”
But just as interesting as the message is that the beginning of the song makes it clear that the girl was in denial about the relationship beforehand. “Today, I’m ready / … In the end, it’s a simple story / You don’t love me” implies that the girl didn’t want to believe that the relationship she was in and the wonderful guy she was in love with simply wasn’t cutting it, and thus turned a blind eye to it, until she finally came to the point where she had to acknowledge it. Let’s be honest, there’s a big difference between pretending to love someone, or saying that you love someone, or even feeling that you love someone, and actually acting out the process, the actions of loving – that there’s a big difference between “I love you” and honestly loving someone. This is a really good message for many fans of K-Pop to hear, especially in contrast to all the romanticizing of dysfunctional relationships most songs go on about, and it’s what I love about this song.
Phew. Okay, I’m done. I hope you guys ran into some interesting songs that you want to take a close look at. I might end up doing more of these in the future, because I love analyzing things. Forever. YEAH!