A Deep Dive Into K-Pop: Songs With Enticing Messages

Alex Malave, Contributing Writer

As  the world continues to globalize and diversify, so do people’s taste in music. K-pop has become a global phenomenon with popular boy group BTS becoming the first K-pop group to be nominated for a Grammy. We see groups like Seventeen, and Twice appearing on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, while NCT and TXT perform on Ellen. Radio stations even play K-pop hits like “Butter” by BTS and “Kill This Love” by Blackpink. 

What distinguishes K-pop from Top 40 music and why is it suddenly so popular? Well, the K in K-pop stands for Korean–meaning it’s sung in the Korean language. The language barrier has traditionally prevented many non-Koreans from indulging in the genre. However, even if you do not fully understand the lyrics, there are translations accessible online. But why go through all that hassle? Because many K-pop groups sing about topics that we all can relate to. Here are a few examples. 


“My Pace” by Stray Kids | Stray Kids are an 8 member boy group who write and compose all of their songs themselves. They tend to sing about personal struggles such as maturing out of childhood, insomnia and coping with insecurity. In “My Pace,” the band raps and sings about loving yourself for who you are instead of comparing yourself to others–going at your own pace instead of trying to match other people’s speeds. Jisung kicks the song off, rapping, “I want to be like him / I’m jealous (Yes I’m), Yes I’m jealous (Yes I’m)/ If I was even half of him I’d be happy.” Hyunjin continues this thread of self-degredation: ”It’s funny / Funny that I’m / Comparing myself with someone / It’s funny. And Seungmin and Chan sing back, “Don’t do that / Don’t do that /Such comparison is meaningless / Don’t do that / Stop it now / You just have to go your own way.” Their message is that every person is unique and different. While some people may be amazing at sports, you may not be, but that’s okay. It’s okay to not be as good as someone else in one thing because you might be better at them in other things. Appreciate your talents and acknowledge your strengths instead of focusing on what you can’t. 


“We Lost The Summer” by TXT | TXT is a 5 member rookie (meaning they have only recently debuted) boy group who are considered by many to be spokespeople for youth. The members are young themselves (the oldest is 22), so they can easily connect to a younger generation of fans. In “We Lost The Summer,” they describe the frustrations many of us have had during this pandemic, lamenting, “Our favorite cafe is now locked shut (and how) / Hiding my sigh behind a stifling mask (left behind) /I hate my face drained of expression (you know).” This song depicts how much we have lost–we missed out on family gatherings, sporting events, enjoying nice weather, even just hanging out with friends. In the music video, the boys speak to each other over video chats and wear face masks. They experience the same things we have over the past year to stay safe but which have also isolated us from one another. This song perfectly describes our current situation.


“Feel Special” by Twice | Twice is a popular 9 member girl group known for their cute album concepts and fun music. Eith the release of their song “Feel Special,” the girls took a turn and sang about topics that were more serious and mature. The song was released during a time where many K-pop idols were going on hiatus due to poor mental health. Before the release of this song, Twice member Mina had been on a hiatus related to anxiety caused by the demanding workload of being a K-pop idol. Being a K-pop idol isn’t all fame and fortune. Many K-pop idols suffer exhaustion from rigorous schedules and burnout due to stress. This song was meaningful for the group, fans and the K-pop community as the singers acknowledged the importance of having someone who can brighten your world in times of darkness–a recognition of the isolation K-Pop fame can bring. Group member Sana sings, “You make me feel special / No matter how the world brings me down  / Even when hurtful words stab me / I smile again ’cause you’re there / That’s what you do.” During the pandemic when I have felt extremely lonely and depressed, I go to my friends and they can make me smile again. Who is that person in your life who is able to reassure you that everything will be okay? For Twice, the members feel that way about each other. Despite any barrier or hardship that they face, despite how hurt or sad they may become, they all know that they have each other to seek out in order to feel special again


“Wannabe” by Itzy | Itzy is a 5 member rookie girl group who release empowering songs about embracing your true identity. “Wannabe” is an uplifting song about being true to yourself instead of listening to haters and people trying to change you. Ryujin sings, “Stop with the nagging, I’ll take care of it / No matter what I become, I’ll take care of it.” Yeji continues, “I do what I wanna /  Whether I live a normal life or not, just leave it to me / I’ll live my own life, because this life is mine.” She later sings, “People like to talk about others (Lalala) / Why do they care so about other people’s lives (Lalala).” And Chaeryeong follows with “Sorry but mind your own business / It’s none of your business / I do my own business.” Throughout the song, they mention people who try to tell them what to do, how to act and what to be. Celebrities are often criticized for what they wear, say and do. Korean idols are put on high pedestals and we expect them to be perfect. We forget that they are just humans like us trying to live a good lives. Itzy responds to this by arguing that they will handle their own lives and troubles–it’s no one else’s business. Many have unfairly scrutinized Itzy member Lia for being a lazy dancer. This song serves as a rebuttal to those critics. No matter what you do or who you listen to, there will always be someone out there who is not happy with who you are. You cannot please everyone, but you can please yourself. Itzy’s message is to ignore the detractors and seek your own fulfillment.


“Afraid” by Day6 | The members of Day6 have recently revealed their mental health struggles publicly. Upon the release of their album The Book Of Us: Demon, the band announced that they would not tour to promote the album as they be taking a hiatus to heal. All of the songs in the album were written by members Jae, Sungjin, Young K, Wonpil and Dowoon about these vulnerable feelings. “Afraid” is a song about someone caught in a paradox. The person has been leaning on someone else for support but feels as though their own negativity and despair has tainted the light from the other person. They feel ashamed at their selfishness, but at the same time are too afraid to let go. There are two fears intimated in this song: the fear that you are making someone else miserable by sharing all of your pain with them and the fear of that person leaving you. “Sometimes when I see you next to me / I feel unhappy with my selfishness / You said that the sky is beautiful / Now you walk looking on the ground / Like you’re looking at me,” Wonpil sings. Sungjin continues, ““You’re like the moon lighting up the dark sky / Your light is gradually being obscured by my darkness.” Young K belts, “I don’t think I can make you happier / I’m so afraid / It hurts me without you.” Oftentimes when we are struggling, we tend to hide it because we don’t want to become a burden to anyone. When we do share, we feel as though we feel as though we are being annoying or dramatic. While these feelings are common, we should not give into them because not all battles can be won alone. It is okay to lean on others at times and that is the message Day6 convey in this song. While not everyone will be able to help you, there are billions of people in the world so you will find someone who can. On a happy note, it seems like the band is taking a cue from their own song; the members have recently returned from hiatus and are doing much better. 


These songs sampled here are only a tiny portion of some of the touching messages conveyed through K-pop songs. When you look beyond the difference in language you will come to realize that you may have alot in common with these artists and their songs. Beneath the difference in skin tone, social status, economic wealth, occupancy, religion, racial origin, and everything else that makes us all different from one another lies the same red blood, same salty tears, the same types of feelings. Don’t let a difference hold you back from experiencing something you might just fit in with. K-pop is music that anyone can enjoy and listen to together.