Asian Beat: Korean pop throwbacks for break

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It’s been a heavy few days for news, especially those pertaining to Asian and Asian Americans. For me, nothing is more healing than music, especially during these times of discrimination, fear and blatant racism.  

Something that has made me smile and want to do a shimmy are some good classic throwbacks. Since I work at a Korean BBQ restaurant (ironic for someone who doesn’t eat meat) it has to be Korean Pop or K-pop, a popular music genre that came from South Korea. 

My younger cousin in Vietnam first introduced me to this genre of music in the 2010s, so the only real K-pop music I listen to is almost 10 years old. They still bop though, even if they aren’t your classic BTS. Unfortunately, many of these groups disbanded a few years ago, but their music still lives on. 

“Fiction” by Beast 

Before listening to this song, many of the K-pop I had heard was really upbeat and fun. This song took it down a notch and went really deep into the “fiction” of love so to speak. The three or four notes sprinkled throughout really hit, melancholy and echoey. My cousin showed this by the “penguin” like dance that this song is most known for. This six member band of Yoon Doojoon, Yong Junhyung, Yang Yoseob, Lee Gikwang, Son Dongwoon and Jang Hyunseung was formed in 2009, according to their Spotify biography.  

“I GOT A BOY” by Girls’ Generation  

This was one of the largest, most empowering girl groups for me when I first started listening to K-pop. Their discography is wide, and all nine girls in this group — Hyoyeon, Jessica, Seohyun, Sooyoung, Sunny, Taeyeon, Tiffany, Yoona and Yuri — brought a different personality to the group. Each girl also had her own loyal following. I swung between Jessica and Tiffany. What drew me to the group was their powerful sound all together when they sang. In this song in particular, you can really hear how powerful their vocals all come together. Their album “I Got a Boy” in particular topped Billboard’s World Album Chart in January 2013, according to their Spotify biography.  

“EYES, NOSE, LIPS” by TAEYANG 

This is another one of those songs that shocked me because it was so moving and not at all a dance club or party music that I usually associate K-pop with. The artist was originally part of boy group Big Bang before branching off on his own. The song is part of his “RISE [+SOLAR & HOT]” album released in 2014. The piano and the vocals blend together really well; the first time I heard this song, I got chills. There is also an English version of this song, which is helpful for understanding the meaning. I truly believe the Korean version sounds much deeper and soulful. The lyrics that go along with the title of the song share a story of sadness and reflection, “Your eyes, nose, lips / Your touch that used to touch me / To the ends of your fingertips / I can still feel you.” 

“I Am The Best” by 2NE1  

If you want a hype, empowering song for when you’re feeling down, look no further than this song. The four member girl group comprised of CL, Bom, Sandara Park and Minzy pack a punch in every other part of the song. Listening to the song truly feels like a punch to all the bad that might be happening in your life, with the “I am the best” synth sung in Korean throughout the whole song. My favorite part of the song is baddy and rapper of the group, Minzy, cutting into the song with her own voice. 

“200%” by AKMU 

This last song is one of my favorite feel good K-pop songs, it just makes me really smile. The light, upbeat sounds of this song make my head nod every time I play it  at work. AKMU debut in 2014 with Lee Chan-hyuk and Lee Su-hyun, the South Korean sibling duo. I particularly love Lee Su-hyun, it’s so sweet, yet raw and very “girl next door.” When she sings, “I want you really I mean really,” you can really hear how endearing her voice is. 

If it’s your first time listening to K-pop, I suggest listening to some of the classics that really set the stage for modern K-pop songs. The genre is also known for its very theatric, involved music videos and these songs are no different. Some of the songs I wrote about even have a visual twist and storyline, making the songs even more engaging. Happy listening! 

Thumbnail courtesy of billboard.com


Kimberly Nguyen is the associate digital editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.nguyen@uconn.edu.

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