Meaningful Kpop Songs: Fighting the System

Hi! How are you all? So, I woke up this morning to some ignorant moron dragging NCT 127’s Simon Says because apparently, the lyrics were pure nonsense. Listen, if you lack the intellectual capacity to understand the problem with a simple children’s game, that’s not NCT’s fault. Despite me being sick, I’ pissed enough to do part 2 of this series. Click click to the bang bang bitch don’t make the rest of us look bad.

LEGGO!

Simon Says by NCT 127

(Credit for the lyrics translation goes to @nctfriendly and other NCTzens on Twitter who were kind enough to share their interpretations)

Let me start off by saying that children’s games can be pretty messed up. Simon Says, Spin the Bottle and Truth n’ Dare are all games that we have played as kids (teens are still kids because I’m so old). All these games take away consent from players and give others an unhealthy amount of control over them. That’s a terrible thing to teach your kids. It  makes them vulnerable to predators and may encourage them to turn into predators in the future. The system NCT talks about is not just society or the Kpop industry but fans who are granted way too much power.

There are two sides to this song (real and fantasy) and they are in search of the real “me”. You’ll notice the door frames and the masks. When they put on the masks, they represent the fantasy that “Simon” approves of. The choreo shows how they are being controlled as well. You’ll see them circling around the door frames because that’s what their lives revolve around. Going through the door frame means transitioning from the image to the real “me”. Simon’s perspective is also shown from the camera angles in the boardroom scenes which the boys later take over. There are mics all around them transmitting their voices instead of “Simon”‘s. They reclaim their rights blocking out the voice of “Simon”. The chorus expresses Simon’s complaint about them:

“Simon says that we’re real vibe killers”

“You guys are mine mine mine”

“We don’t need those words from that time

We don’t pay no mind”

Basically, “Simon” tries to control them but they rebel. It’s no secret that NCT’s music is true to SM’s experimental style. They want people to know that you cannot force them into stereotypical boxes because they won’t fit.  “Simon’ treats them like possessions or puppets but NCT says that they don’t pay any attention to “Simon”‘s commands anymore. There is plenty of symbolism in the MV and choreo so check it out. Frankly, Simon Says is pretty self-explanatory for anyone with half a brain.

Awake by TARGET

(Lyrics translation credit to POPGASA)

The fact that people slept on TARGET’s debut is a real tragedy. The boys had a really hard time finding a company that would take them all together so they had to delay their debut. I’m so glad their company allowed them to have such a power and meaningful debut. There are two major interpretations of this song when you combine the MV. In the lyrics, they talk about the hardships idols face as trainees and even when they reach the stage. This can be applied to any dream you have. The fact that our youth has to pay such a severe price for their dreams is sickening. It’s one thing to work hard but quite another to sacrifice your life force for it.

“All day, I can’t get this dirt off my hands
It’s not enough, I’m pushing myself to the edge
Pain became my friend since I was young
It’s been long since I forgot about my mom’s empty spot”

“It’s hard but we have the right to dream”

Considering the terrifying exploitation of both male and female trainees/ idols in this industry, it’s not hard to imagine the things they go through. From starvation and compulsory plastic surgery to sexual slavery, their struggles are not to be forgotten especially with The East Light’s recent case. This actually happens in every field not just showbiz.

“Before my faith disappears
Before that heart disappears
I must decorate myself with red blood
There’s no regrets, so I can kick out my feet and rest afterwards”

Instead of encouraging our youth (and people of all ages) to follow their dreams, society puts hurdles in their path out of spite. Awake is not meant to dishearten you but to give you strength and hope. It tells you that you are not alone.

The MV paints a slightly different picture from the lyrics. The boys lie seemingly unconscious while their blood is drained away. Someone has set this up to drain away their life force. They are drugged and their blood is collected in packets presumably to be sold. This could represent the agencies that profit off idols while keeping them in a state where they are barely alive. However, we see a spirit separate from the body and protest that they are “still awake”. They are aware of what’s happening and they won’t let it go on. I urge you to watch their comeback stage to check out their fantastic choreo ❤

Chococo by Gugudan

Surprise!!! I know most people have not heard this song or dismissed it because its eccentric cute concept. Chococo is a slap on the faces of people who claim that cute/pure/feminine concepts are meaningless. Well, Gugudan begs to differ. Plus, it’s inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so only intellectuals can understand it.

If you blink for a second, you’ll miss the clues. Willy Wonka doesn’t own this particular chocolate factory. The owner/ manager is a creepy doll that spies on her workers and has only three options for them: Sleep, Dance, Work. You can see the doll turning the dial to “Work” as the song starts. So, we see the girls mixing ingredients, supervising quality control, transporting giant chocolate bars and other tasks. When the bridge begins, the mood changes. The girls have a burning desire to taste the chocolate but the creepy doll manager shows up and they drop their chocolates. Even when they are sleeping, they have nightmares where the chocolate is so close yet so far. They are even advertising the chocolate products in what look like TV commercials and printed ads. It’s safe to say that chocolate is their greatest desire. A turning point arrives when two of them sneak chocolate into their bedroom and hide under the blanket to taste it. The significance of this scene is expressed in an advertisement setting where one of them feeds the other a piece of chocolate. The girl nearly cries of joy and we see what happens to the others who have apparently eaten chocolate too. They are not just super happy but it’s like they got superpowers or something. In the end, the workers leave the factory.

So, what’s all this about? The factory represents the system. The creepy doll is the one who supervises or implements the rules. Of course, the girls don’t have basic rights much like the terrible conditions of labourers all over the world. They toil all day but they don’t even get to taste the products that they have created with their own hands. In the context of Kpop, it might be pointing towards the unfair profit distribution practices. Idols work incredibly hard but they don’t get much compensation. Giving employees their rightful compensation and benefits (chocolate) empowers them. The contrast between the before and after / right and wrong is obvious.

Get Down by Boys Republic

Trigger warning: graphic violence

Please turn on CC for English lyrics

Boys Republic is currently on hiatus but Suwoong has just signed with a new agency so please look forward to his activities. They play good old revolutionaries in Get Down who are part of an armed resistance against the rulers/ government. This can be applied to any system of course. The rulers are greedy and want the public to give them everything so that they can live a lavish lifestyle. The lyrics boldly show the mindset of the revolutionaries and the MV shows how they overthrow their rulers when they are pushed to the edge.

“What? How dare you want to compromise with me

You stop and freeze! Stop and freeze!”

“I no longer obey you

Stop and freeze! Stop and freeze!” 

Clearly, the people have suffered under and they’ve have enough. The rulers demand everything yet disguise it as a compromise. The resistance finally puts it foot down and refuses to play their games.

“Shut your mouth! You are guilty guilty

You must be guilty

Don’t move a step, you are guilty guilty”

Not only do they refuse to give in to unfair demands but they want the corrupt rulers to stand trial and get justice.

“You know that the hands you stab me with will get hurt

Baby, get down get down get get get down”

Now, they are ready to take action and tell them to resign from their positions. There is a threat of violence but they give the corrupt ones a chance to turn a new leaf and stop pushing themselves to be villains. In the end, they pay no heed to the rebels warning and are overthrown.

Young Wild and Free by BAP

(Lyrics translation credit to colorcodedlyrics)

This an anthem which is a lot more than just motivational which is why I did not add it to that list of this series. We all know what happened and is happening with the lawsuit against TS Ent. This song was released a year after BAP filled the lawsuit when they had decided to settle with their agency. It’s a declaration of winning against the system that so many are scared to criticize. Of course, others have filed lawsuits for similar reasons before but how BAP handled things with such determination and kept their dignity intact by the end is a lesson to us all. The song maybe personal but that doesn’t mean we can’t relate to it. It is forever iconic for the powerful message it gives those who abuse their power and deny rights to those underneath them. Honestly, all the lyrics are great so I’ll just highlight a few verses.

“We are Young Wild and Free
(I know we better together WHUT)
Even if the sun sets and the darkness comes
keep running til the end
Shout Young and Wild and Free” 

“Ma way the highway
No pain No gain drink it up
I’m a pain that is called caffeine WHOA” 

“We’ll make it
This isn’t the end
You have to break the prejudice to know it “

Ah Yeah by EXID

Ah Yeah’s story has two different parts which are connected in an ironic way. The lyrics talk about women being sexually harassed (at work mostly from what I can understand) and not being able to express their extreme distaste of such behaviour openly in a professional environment. Meanwhile, the MV trolls censorship laws about female sexuality because its such a threat apparently lol. So, the irony is that women being sexy on TV (with their consent) is vulgar so men censor it but the women who are sexually harassed in seemingly safe spaces are just supposed to put up with disgusting words and acts. No matter how many laws you make, they are useless unless you implement them. Women are not safe and it’s your fault not theirs. Instead of safeguarding their rights you make them feel dirty for wearing miniskirts and crop tops. How messed up is that? In the MV, Hani plays an office worker who has to put up with sexual harassment and LE depicts the true feelings of Hani as a completely different woman. Both are inside the same person. She has to hide her disapproval because speaking up against such things only makes it worse for women. Near the end, the censored images turn out to be cute stuff. It kinda shows how those censored images aren’t that harmful after all.

Let’s look at some of the lyrics.

“Why can’t you get it?
I don’t know why I’m telling you this
You softly smile and keep pestering me
Treating me like an other girl
Man don’t do that
I don’t wanna answer those kinds of questions, no way”

Typical creepy guy at work ugh!

“Why do you have so many questions?
What are you, a child?
What is it that you know?
I can’t understand a single thing you’re saying
Your attempts make me despair every time
How about you pay attention and look?
Everyone but you can see this signal”

As always, too dumb to understand basic things like consent and respect.

N.O. by Bangtan

Ah the good old days 😀 Those $3 chains though lol. The system being targeted is pretty specific. Adults vs. kids debates are always heated but it all comes down to extremes. What Bangtan is displaying is an extreme. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It’s not that hard to understand but parents don’t pay heed to it much when it comes to academic competition. The education system in Asia at least is quite strict with students being expected to study till they drop. You take classes, then go to an academy and do your home work. That’s not humane. Besides having no free time, children are pushed towards rot learning which isn’t beneficial in the slightest. The pressure to be “#1 or a failure” is perhaps the worst part. Students shouldn’t have to spoil their friendships and make enemies just for the sake of grades.

“We stand upon even our closest friends”

Those who weren’t #1 in school still grew up to have successful careers. The boys raise another point:

“Good house. Good car.

Would that mean happiness”

Teaching kids to give up their health for an education that leads them to earn more is not a healthy approach. Sure, money is important but it’s not everything especially not at the cost of your health.

“Dream is gone

No time to breath”

“Don’t be captured in other’s dreams”

Too many parents gave up their dreams to raise their children well. However, they should not force their children to fulfill their broken dreams. Every child has their own dream. They have a right to follow it. Instead of symbolism, the MV uses actions to show the rebellion of the students and it’s been incorporated into the choreo too.

 

So, that’s it for this list. Let me know your picks 🙂 Until next time, see ya!

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s