• Streby

    I definitely give major points to good lyrics. Even if I cant understand the lyrics, one can sort of intuitively tell if the song has good lyrics or not. And songs with beautiful lyrics are definitely heard with more feeling and warmth, by me at least. 

    I mean I can listen to a catchy song for a long time but most of the time, it doesn’t stay with me in the long run, whereas it is hard for me to tire of  songs like SHINee’s ‘Romeo+Juliette’ and Bigbang’s ‘Haru Haru’ which have simply stunning lyrics. 

  • http://www.michelle-chin.com/ Michelle Chin

    My first foray into K-pop is more on the music side of things. Like most international consumers, I do not understand a single Korean. So, during this initial exploration, yes, I do not mind K-pop as it is. I take it for face value and enjoy its catchy tunes. 

    However, as I delve deeper into it, I got curious about the language and started picking up bits and pieces of it. It is then I started to feel incredibly frustrated because the lyrics seem too straightforward and also, English words like “Ok, oh my god, kiss, crazy, let’s go” are OVERUSED and just STRANGE. Even my mom is complaining about how almost every other Korean pop song has an English word. 

    Overtime, I came to accept the simplicity and the weirdness of the lyrics on the reasons as stated below: 

    1. Korean have very limited word structure and quite limited expressions, as opposed to Mandarin and English. At least, according to my sister who is studying Korean and Mandarin in uni. So, I kinda accept why the lyrics appear superficial. Having said that, my Korean friends argue otherwise. They said that it could be better if more thought is placed into it. Most of them also feel kinda embarrassed at the sorry state of K-pop

    2.  According to angrykpopfan, English is tied to modernity, progress and at times, sophistication. Also, it appeals to international fans who barely speak Korean. Yoo young Jin also stated somewhere that it adds to the flow of the song (so it is more on the aesthetics than the meaning). Having read this, I sort of accept the weirdness of K-pop. 

    3. The music is still good, hey. I should not complain too much because some American pop songs can be pretty ridiculous too! 

    Despite these reasons or more like self-justifications on why I should continue listening to K-pop without feeling too frustrated, I actually feel that K-pop should really work on improving their lyrics so that it has more depth. I would really appreciate that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jessica-Cottle/1297801414 Jessica Cottle

    I usually look out for self-written songs and then go from there. I feel that when an artist writes their song, they perform it with more feeling and the listener, in turn, also feels it more.

    For instance, JYJ’s “In Heaven” was written by Jaejoong for his best friend that committed suicide while JYJ were recording their album in the States. When the boys perform that song I feel it and because of that I looked up the lyrics.

    If it’s just a poppy and happy song, I must admit that I’m guilty about not spending much time looking up the meaning of the song (although I do try to find english subbed versions of the MVs).

  • ernestinita

    BEG  ♥

  • glacierkn

    I think most pop music, not just kpop, fits this description though, right?  I guess I never really pay attention to even English lyrics since they’re not usually that special.
    I do look up English lyrics to good kpop songs, and if they’re meaningful, that’s nice, but if they’re not, it doesn’t really matter to me.  The melody and beat are emotional enough, and they come before lyrics for me. ^^

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nate-Broadus/100003245734823 Nate Broadus

    In some ways, I have resigned myself to the reality of K-Pop as I have seen it — pretty idols, catchy music, little substance in songs. At present, for me to expect anything more leaves me feeling a little jaded, honestly. 

    If I were looking for deeper meanings from K-Pop songs, I would be very disappointed in the state of things right now. In a sense, you might say K-Pop does, on occasion, delve into more meaningful topics like real love, loss, heartbreak, etc. The problem is, they only dip their feet in the water, but don’t actually jump all the way in. Because of that, the songs often come off feeling — wait for it — horribly shallow.

    For example:

    Me: “Ok, your heart is broken… Why? How is it broken? Do you feel like hiding under a rock when you see your ex? Do you sometimes feel like you could just knock someone on their ass in frustration? Do you feel like the whole world fell right onto your dreams and smashed everything to pieces? Did it screw up your confidence and now you’re trying to find it again? Stop saying “Ooh baby you broke my heart” and start being specific, damn it.”

    The depth of a song comes in the specific details, not broad strokes. Anyone can write a love song — it is those that write a love song and describe, vividly, why they reacted how they reacted that makes the song powerful. It is personal, it is sacred in some ways, and not so easily replicated. 

    The main reason why K-Pop has a hard time replicating the feeling of a truly meaningful song is because it is so blatantly obvious that the lyrics are written by other people trying to conjure up those experiences for young singers who don’t truly understand the context (in many cases). If you haven’t felt like your heart was ripped to shreds by someone, how can you be expected to interpret it in a way that speaks to the listener in a powerful way? That and K-Pop lyricists, as stated above, only dip their toes in the subject, but don’t actually get to the ugly underbelly — the part that hurts to listen to, but to which everyone (who has experienced love and heartbreak) can relate.

    On the subject of girl power, it is tricky. A song that seems like it empowers women on the surface can often be very misleading if you look at it under the microscope.  

    SNSD’s The Boys does seem like girl power on the surface, but the facade really wears off when you look closer. As you read the lyrics, you get the sense that they are deriving the song’s worth from how “The Boys” react to their “mystery” and their “hottest in the spot” looks. In other words, the power of the song hinges on boys and their reactions. That is not girl power to me. That is just my opinion. 

    One group that does it well is 2NE1, and they tend to stand out because of one sentiment they share in their songs that most other “girl power” artists don’t feel the need to emphasize. 

    Love and loss are vulnerable subjects. However, girls do not lose power by feeling them. If you didn’t feel them, how could you say you were human? Girl power, the kind I admire, comes from girls that can say “I love you — but I’ll be alright without you if I have to be.” 2NE1 often approaches love in that way through their songs, which I can respect. I love seeing and hearing girls that are capable of loving, being loved, but also standing on their own two feet when necessary. Those are the girls I grew up with and admired. That is powerful to me, not being able to attract all the guys in the room with their looks.

    On the topic of global accessibility, Engrish is K-Pop’s worst enemy. It really isn’t enough that people UNDERSTAND your lyrics — they also have to be able to absorb them in a way that doesn’t leave them hearing something humorous when the song was meant to be sullen, or otherwise impacting. Mispronunciation can completely destroy the rhythm of a song for all the reasons mentioned in the article. That and the English lyrics often just don’t flow with the music, or are otherwise simplified in a way that saps out all the meaning, such as it had to begin with, even further.

    In my opinion, I think it is possible that someday a Korean artist will break through onto the world stage in a big way. I don’t think it will come from K-Pop, but I do think someone will do it. Hell, Kyu Sakamoto reached the top of the western charts once a long time ago, at a time when no Japanese artists were actually on the western consciousness — all because he hit on a song that just had that “thing”; That mysterious enzyme that all hit songs possess. Some Korean songwriter will hit on that formula one day and earn success in the west. But if I had to guess, I would say it will be an artist from the Korean indie scene, or any other genre in Korea that stresses individuality over conformity. 

    K-Pop is an awe-inspiring regional phenomenon. I think that (the Asian region) is probably where it belongs, and everywhere else will continue to be niche markets. I admire the big companies for dreaming about invading the west, but I don’t see a way it will ever happen. Not like they think it will. 

    The songs lack in depth in many cases; the language barrier stands in the way further up the road; even further up the road you have a clash of cultures waiting. That is just too many roadblocks for an invasion to occur. 

    If K-Pop continues to operate in its region, I think the amount of depth in the songs is probably fine. I would like to see the songs be more detailed, but don’t really expect it when so few songs are written by eloquent songwriters recounting their own experiences in a deeply personal way and then singing them.

    Plus, if I’m honest, it’s mostly about the pretty faces and bodies.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnDeSims JDSono

    It kills me when international fans bash American music, saying it trashy or it isn’t as good as Kpop songs. When 95% of these same people can’t understand a lick of Korean language and still praise Kpop songs to the heavens. Because a truly great song has great production and great lyrics

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2UNQGN7IPNTIRIWBNVHEFBHHV4 a z

      it’s funny because i have heard that quite a few kpop songs were originally written by eurpean and american pop songwriters. Or should i say ironic?
      And another funny bit of irony is everyone bashes Teddy Riley for the Boys, but he only produced it…

  • idontknoe

    I think it depends on what you want out of music. Kpop and even Pop in general tends to be more lighthearted and shallow. Its meant for a quick fix of enjoyment. There are plenty of examples of music digger deeper and being more meaningful and if you spend a little more time and effort, you can find it in every country/music genre. Even in America its easy to go from “Call Me, Maybe” to “Wide awake”and “Payphone”. All are incredibly popular pop songs, but their lyrical value is definitely different. All of them are entertaining and enjoyable, which matters the most. I’ve really been enjoying BEGs new song “A Midsummers Night Dream” and Super Juniors “Y” lately. Both are beautiful to listen to and meaningful.

  • WhoaNellies2

    You know what? I find myself in a group that loves kpop, dare I say, even more than me.

    I mean, I’m into kpop and idols since 2006, but not really up for the whole finding out every new group member names and stuff. Maybe I’m just getting old (19 y.o. lol)
    As far as lyrics go, it has decreased in meaning to me but I was already hooked at a young age, so it suits my ears. But if I were to try to go up to a peer or even my brother and try to persuade them to listen to, idk B1A4 “Baby, I’m sorry we got the better”My brother would be like…..”the better WHAT?””Every night every night yoouuuuuu”It’s not going to compute with him, but well enough, if I start playing it around the house more like when Hyori came back with Chitty Chitty Bang , he’s gonna start mumbling it without even knowing xD 

    So I mean it does the job, senseless English ramblings are catchy, just like Pitbull’s random Spanish words in his english version songs…

    We can excuse it for now because you never know, idols can use it on a serious note too because I still find myself singing Girlfriend-Wonder Girls
    I’m with my girlfriend righttt noowww (not really, I’m straight, just singing the song….going too much in depth here? Stop typing? K ._.)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JSL3RBWW5GFGNB7SX4FDUIC24Y Lucy

    This is probably not relevant to the criticism of lyrics in kpop. But I was pretty impressed with SHINee Jonghyun’s lyrics for Alarm Clock and Obsession when I checked it out. Especially Alarm Clock, the lyrics fit so well with the instrumental that I loved. That being said, lyrics in kpop is not really a thing of importance which is a pity. Although this isn’t “kpop” but apparently Busker Busker has been getting quite a bit of attention for their lyrics too.

  • kelliusmaximus

    Honestly, not understanding kpop lyrics is what makes it listenable for me. Pop music generally has terrible lyrics to the point of genuinely irritating me. Usually either by how dumb they are, or because they’re offensive, or just plain annoying. For example, I can’t listen to that Jessie J song ‘Price Tag’ because of how infuriatingly preachy the lyrics are. Of course it’s not all bad, but it does often ruin it for me.

    If it’s in another language, I can avoid all that and just focus on the music. I’m not looking for meaningful lyrics in kpop. There’s a couple of songs that have meanings I do care about, especially if the artist talks about it being meaningful (ie. songs dedicated to fans, songs written by the artist), but mostly it’s irrelevant to me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001235329632 Luiz Rodrigo Souza

      I actually like voices more as musical instruments than means of expressing lyrics. That’s why I love music I don’t understand the lyrics, or music with no lyrics at all.

  • destined2bebossy

    “A fan can only take so much songs talking of the same topics or nonsensical ones before getting tired of researching up translations altogether, generalizing all K-pop songs as meaningless and lacking in depth”

    Thats what happened too me. But i’m starting to look them up again. I just GOTTA know what they are talking about.

    But hahaha, yeh, i remember when the ladies of f(x) were saying how  even they don’t know what their songs are about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Juicy.Strawberry.1 Choi Reisha

    i feel as if Sunny Hill songs have alot of meaning and some of BIGBANG songs

  • http://twitter.com/seaseesea Janice

    In the movie Music and Lyrics starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, there was a scene in which both their characters bickered for a fair bit as to which matters more. There’s a few lines said by both characters (a composer and a lyricist) which I feel is relevant to this article and according to IMDB, these are the lines:

    Alex Fletcher:
    It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just spit it out. They’re just lyrics.

    Sophie Fisher:
    “Just lyrics”?

    Alex Fletcher:
    Lyrics are important. They’re just not as important as melody.

    Sophie Fisher:
    I really don’t think you get it.

    Alex Fletcher:
    Oh. You look angry. Click your pen.

    Sophie Fisher:
    A melody is like seeing someone for the first time. The physical attraction. Sex.
    But then, as you get to know the person, that’s the lyrics. Their story.
    Who they are underneath. It’s the combination of the two that makes it

    In the context of K-pop, the role of Alex would be the CEOs and Presidents of Agencies or album sales and the she-devil of easy listening. The role of Sophie would be… the rest of us who actually care?

    My first foray into k-pop was through OSTs, where I was admittedly drawn in by the abundance of emotion filled/cutesy music. The dramatic tunes drew in my drama crack addict self and just like what Sophie said, it was the physical side of things. I didn’t know the language and so I didn’t care for the lyrics, but eventually I wanted to know what exactly I was humming along to only to be severely disappointed (lots of noble idiocracy and nonsensical wishes eww). My choco drawn venture into k-pop didn’t help either and it wasn’t long before I arrived into the generalization that lack of lyrical depth was a plague in the world of k-music.

    But going back to the excerpt from Music and Lyrics, the lack of lyricality or the lack of care for it is not just a problem in k-pop, but pretty much everywhere. This can be traced to the rise of club hits and fast beats. It doesn’t matter which language music is in, as of late, it is universally beats and rhyme centered and lyrics is just secondary noise. I guess, in this sense, k-pop groups face less and less of a barrier in expanding to the American/global market– all they have to do now is come up with catchy hooks. There will always be musicians trying to keep their sound and words though, and in k-pop it would be Tablo and the likes of BEG. For that, I give them a golf clap and my listening ears.

    • http://www.michelle-chin.com/ Michelle Chin

      i love your analogy!

  • intheshort

    Run looking only forward, I’ll watch your back
    Spread your wings, I’ll block the wind

    When I first read that while listening to Big Bang’s Until Whenever, I got chills. I find that Big Bang generally has solid lyrics (maybe not so much in songs like Fantastic Baby, but TOP&Seungri’s Because from the movie 19 is pretty deep). 

    I do my best to look up translations to songs, but sometimes I just skim to get the general meaning. Songs with shallow lyrics and stale subject matter usually get relegated to my workout playlist, unless they are extra catchy.

    Another one of my favorites is from SHINee’s Ayo:

    Your IQ is two digits, test scores are also two digitsClass ranks are three digits, why oh why is that? 

    Unfortunately though, my naughty is made of steel and can’t be broken. So I don’t think I can live in The SHINee World. 


  • http://profile.yahoo.com/5K3YAXFNTIWMKDHCCTB7AM7U24 Melani

    Well, I didn’t really thought about song’s lyrics if it’s related to K-pop, but sometimes I got curious too, esp for ballad one. I choose not to really think about lyrics from dance catchy song, because I found most of it said about “how I love you, I lost you, I need you, you’re my woman/man, I died without you, etc.” The lyrics are so generic in my opinion.
    Last time I watch Shinee’s “Lucifer” with english translation, I feel like “hum…so the lyric is just about it…” about the girl that like lucifer and trap their heart, but the song is catchy and I like it.

    For ballad one (even most of it said about love too), I think because the singer depend on her/his voice to deliver the song (with no dance), and most of it need at least ‘decent’ vocal, it make more curious about the lyric’s meaning.

    Last time I listen to Jun. K “Writing a Letter” (the song for his lost father) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsbQD8oivmY&feature=related
    Even I didn’t understand what he sing but the emotion he delivered make me curious about the lyrics.

    Language definitely is the biggest barrier of this K-pop lyric case, when I listen to english song, I enjoy the sound and lyric, but in K-pop, you need to very interested to a song to curious about lyric, and not all K-pop song with “deep” lyric attract you.

  • AcadiasFire

    When I first got into kpop a year ago i remember not caring what the music meant but now that I’ve been listening to it for a while I really like to know. I have to say that looking at 2ne1’s Ugly lyrics I was super confused lol. There are songs though that do have that deep meaning I like to see. Especially some underground rappers before they joined boy groups and what not. Zico’s one of my favorites.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/perfumeah perfumeah

    Eh, not much new information here given the length of the article, but you do bring up a relevant issue. Basically my take on lyrics is similar to everyone else’s: I don’t care unless they are in English and good/bad enough to affect my enjoyment of the song. Like Junsu’s “Intoxication”- I’m no prude, but the blatantly sexual (and painfully generic) English parts prevent me from taking the song seriously, despite it otherwise being a great song.

  • Guest_no2

    I personally feel that lyrics are unimportant then again I mostly listen to classical and jazz will the occasional sprinkle of rock most of which have no lyrics and arguably more meaning

  • black_rose45000

    I’ve always placed a huge importance on lyrics and messages that could be sent across with the help of music. K-pop is obviously not the right playground for me, in that aspect.
    You mentioned BEG, and I just recently discovered them and I was very pleased with what I heard. I haven’t gotten the chance to look their lyrics up, though I’ve set my mind on searching Cleansing Cream first and foremost, I’m really curious about that one. It’s great to know that not only their music is good quality, but also their lyrics. I hope I’m not disappointed.

  • TwistedTruths

    I think that the lyrics really don’t mean anything anymore. This article is so true and I’m glad that I’m not the only one left at my computer, scratching my head at the Korean lyrics and their English translations. It annoys me, because when I first got into Korean music, it was because of LeeSsang. I figured Korean music would focus more on lyrics, like LeeSsang does, and not sound. But I ended up in another world of catchy beats and lyrics that probably started off with a meaning but soon lost it.
    However, with all of these meaningless songs coming out, it really makes you appreciate those songs that have depth to them while also drawing attention. NU’EST is a great example of this. Their songs have lyrical value and also catchy beats that make you want to listen. FACE actually had a meaning to it, though the company did a poor job of executing it, and I was happy to see someone tackle the bullying problem that Korean and other nationality’s teenagers ‘face’. Get it? Haha. And also, Action. It talks about being yourself and escaping the confines that society tries so hard to cast upon people, right? That was a great thing. This is why NU’EST is my all-time favorite rookie group. Whoever is writing their lyrics, they really are trying.
    If more people can jump on whatever NU’EST is doing, then they would gain much more respect from me. Until then, I’ll keep sifting to find those really great songs that leave you with an enlightened point of view and a catchy chorus bouncing around in your brain for the rest of the day.

  • jjjooonnneeelll

    iono. maybe because i just mostly listen to 2ne1, but 2ne1’s songs have
    good lyrics in them. people who don’t speak korean won’t notice
    the messages of the songs because they’re covered with autotune and synths,
    but i like it that way. there’s a contrast between the message of the
    song and how it’s presented.

    like in “ugly” for example, the mv and chorus are so upbeat but the
    lyrics of the song are just the opposite. every time i watch the mv, the
    punk vibe of the video only highlights the loneliness of the lyrics for
    me. because it seems as though their actions are the opposite of what they’re really feeling. like they’re trying to rebel in order to hide their loneliness. so i don’t really understand what the author meant when s/he wrote “it just shows how lyrics are being used as vehicles for music videos and concepts” about “ugly.”

    also, i actually find the lyrics to a lot of kpop songs really poetic. a little too cheesy and cliche at most times, but still poetic. i think the same for a lot of japanese songs too. i’m not saying that they’re better than american music, but i think the role of lyrics have been decreased in some genres of music, in general, whether it be korean, american, etc.

    rihanna’s “what’s my name” for example, i really love that song, the melody, her voice, the whole song just appeals to me, but when you actually take a look at the lyrics, the whole song is basically about sex. so yeah, the problem exists everywhere, particularly in pop songs.

    but, then again, like i said, i usually just listen to 2ne1 songs when it comes to idols, so my judgement may be very far from accurate.

  • http://twitter.com/asucahayashi fei lee

    only thing i hate about kpop lyrics is the butchering of engrish(yes, sometimes it’s so bad that it goes beyond the butchering of regular english).

    i mean how the hell am i as an english-speaking kpop fan supposed to take f(x)’s american-born chinese Amber seriously when she as a native english speaker has to pronounce “gauge” in electrick shock as “ga-gey(as in cagey)”?

    the worst offender lately though is definitely t-ara’s day by day… i really enjoyed the song(least of all because of its infectious melody) and initially didn’t understand the chorus but when i looked at the lyrics i was just “wtf”.

    only YG artists seems to actually run their material through people who actually speak english but even then i definitely remember a slip up or two.

    oh and this is definitely why i respect ballad artists far more since there’s virtually next to no english(and therefore no chance of any butchering) in the majority of their songs.

  • LaurenLCD

    If we’re perfectly honest with ourselves, it’s not simply a problem of Asians who don’t speak English as their first language butchering the English language and having shallow lyrics. It’s a problem of music as a whole that lyrics have become less and less important over the years as the shift of focus has changed. Music itself has become less about ‘How can I inform the masses about the issue of XYZ?’ and more about ‘How can I make the masses forget about how cruel and unforgiving the world can be? How can I indulge them in a fantasy land where they’re not poor, hungry, unable to find decent employment because they’re uneducated/undereducated or despite the fact that they have a Masters/PhD, etc?’ This mentality about lyrics can be found even as far back as the late 60’s and early 70’s when Marvin Gaye’s album What’s Going On almost failed to be released because it had too much social commentary to Motown’s tastes and not enough fun.

    Nowadays we disguise our lack of lyrical commentary and dexterity with ringtone rappers like Gucci Mane, Lil Wayne, and the like and cloak non singers in autotune and nonsensical music videos to hide the fact that they have nothing to say or are saying what’s already been said a million and one times before. The masses have been dumbed down thanks to the educational system in America, so they don’t realize that they’re listening to lyrics that sound like they were penned by a 10 year old when they listen to what’s on the radio. Kpop – always a genre to follow the leader – sees this. Even if they don’t understand the lyrics, if they find translations into Korean (or have learned enough English in ESOL), I’m sure they’re left with a sense of ‘WTF?’ just like we Internationals are whenever we translate the songs we initially thought sounded cool/cute/bad ass only to find out that the lyrical content itself is absolute baby talk and drivel. In Asian pop’s case since they’re trying to go global, they figure ‘Hey, if the lyrical garbage that gets on the Billboard charts there doesn’t actually get raised eyebrows, why should our dumb lyrics or bad Englrish matter? It’s not like they’ll actually notice or take the time to look up the lyrics.’

  • den_ishe

    I have always wondered: “Do English-speaking Idols ever realize what they’re singing in English doesn’t really make sense? Does any of them have the nerve to question the lyricists or blankly point out how weird it is?” I mean does SNSD’s Tiffany realize that “hypertonic” is when there is a higher salt concentration outside of a cell? Seriously what does that have to do with “supersonic” speed (speed that travels faster than light)? Then there’s “The Boys (eng ver),” and the lyrics:

    [Sunny] I know life is a mystery

    I’m gonna make history

    I’m taking it from the start

    [Seohyun] Call all emergency

    I’m watching the phone ring

    I’m feeling this in my heart~ my heart~

    I don’t know what to say? It’s so confusing, I have stopped trying to understand some of these songs…a.k.a..All of Tara’s singles including their latest “day by day” and Kara’s “Lupin.” Does anybody understand that song at all?

  • http://www.facebook.com/ollian.chrollie Ollian Chrollie

    Thank you for this article. It reaminded of this moment. I was enjoying Eli rapping in UKiss’ man man ha ni when he goes, “You make me pissed off”. I know it was to go with the song and all, but it really grated, especially since Eli speaks English. I guess they have little say in the matter when it comes to the music they have to perform.