Music & Lyrics: K-pop Should Be Thankful for Kim Eana
My colleague Paloma has launched a discussion about music and lyrics as a way to measure the evolution of an artist, and this time, I’m going to focus not on an idol or group, but on a songwriter: Kim Eana.
Kim started working in the industry in 2009 and has written mainly for artists who are distributed by Loen Entertainment. The lyricist often gets involved in the making of music videos and is one of those people in K-pop who really looks as if she knows where she’s heading and how she wants her material to look like. Most of my encounters with what she laid hands on have been moments of epiphany, like “I didn’t know K-pop can do that too.”
I want to focus on the way Kim Eana contributed to various artists’ images. She works directly with concepts, videos and lyrics. Her name became more known in the industry around 2009-2010, when besides writing the lyrics for Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra,” she has teamed up with Lee Min-soo, a collaboration which will probably do well in the future.
For starters, Kim Eana penned the song which probably converted Brown Eyed Girls into a mainstream sensation. They were an idol group with some success, but not as big as they became after “Abracadabra,” which also marked an image change. The song was about a desperate attempt to break free from a destructive relationship while subduing the cheater who mistreated them. I won’t insist now further on the song meaning, since it wasn’t really that groundbreaking, but rather on the fruitful collaboration between the idol group and the songwriter.
The first song from Kim Eana that got my attention was “Sixth Sense,” and it would be an understatement to say we, at Seoulbeats, loved that song. While the video goes to another direction (and yes, Eana contributed to that), the lyrics vaguely relate to the MV. The song is about freeing a beloved one from his/her enclosed mindset and make that person give in to temptation. It starts up with common verses, speaking of how their sensuality is powerful:
My eyes that arouse you even from far away
Your thirsty face starts sweating
And your flesh is on the tip of my sharp fingers
The bubble in champagne
Explodes, good pain
But it becomes a speech about convincing someone to discover a truth hidden inside them:
In the dream that you have hidden your secrets
I smear into it subconsciously
Into that freer place
Just follow me as I escort you
Skipping over the awesomeness of “Cleansing Cream,” already discussed before, her work has many facets. Take for example “Hot Shot:” on the same album as the above-mentioned songs, this one is by far more relaxing and more playful. Touching once again upon their sexuality, the lyrics advise people to stop being so serious for one night and enjoy themselves:
Please play a song, so sweet that it makes me dizzy
A song that’s so hot that it easily burns down my throat (…)
Honey, impress me to the point of awe
Like in the 69 movie, if you don’t enjoy life, you are guilty
Kim Eana adapts her lyrics to many images and the concepts based on her lyrics have been usually a tad more complex than the original two K-pop kept pushing down our throats. As much as I cringe to IU’s perpetual coming-of-age, she doesn’t sell sex as obvious as the aegyo machine and has many other things to share besides this. Her collaboration with Eana became a regular one with “Good Day,” a song about an innocent love confession which manages to come off as sincere and even endearing:
My eyes fill with tears, so I lift my head up
I smile a little so they won’t fall
Why are you like this to me? (…)
All the things we talked about go to the sky
The words I have never said
The words I didn’t know I’d say as I cried
I like you, oppa, what do I do?
Neither her short friendship with Infinite didn’t do her harm. “Tic Toc” was the story of a guy who can’t find the words to make the girl stay. This is rather one of the more typical K-pop songs Eana has written:
I’m bad at things like this
Where to start, what to do
Talking about things with no start or end
Look at me acting like that
Don’t leave me
All I can give are blunt words like that
A group that Kim Eana has managed to somehow pull out of their dullness was Sunny Hill. Before “Midnight Circus,” the group released quality music, just not that spectacular or popular. But “Midnight Circus” was an ice-breaker. Not only the concept was amazing, but the lyrics touched upon artistry and what it means to be an entertainer, designed to function for people’s bemusement and then forgotten:
I look down and it really seems like it’s over
I don’t know… I can’t see the end of this moment
When the moment you’re out comes
You’ll know it
Show must go on and never stop
And this only prefigured another fantastic song Sunny Hill will release: “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” The song talks about conformity, with a strong message to preserve the beauty in people and not waste oneself for something worthless, like an illusory feeling of happiness and stability. It redeems the power of the grasshopper of speaking to what’s greater in a human being and places the ant in an unfortunate position, where its dull lifestyle comes with a comfortable existence at the expense of a routine, alienating life.
People go crazy over the habitual competition
They are trapped in the same restrictions
They get buried without anyone knowing
And if we have seen until now the mature lyrics written for Brown Eyed Girls, the adorable and understanding tween verses of IU, the usual K-pop ballad and an attempt at morals, artistry and philosophy for Sunny Hill’s songs, let’s make a last stop to my ultimate favorite: Ga-in. I’d put her under Brown Eyed Girls’ umbrella, but her solo work has been going in a different direction. We saw Eana talk about freedom, about what really matters to her, about a child’s confession, but the two albums Ga-in has released speak more of personal fulfillment and anguish than any of these songs do.
The words of Eana cut like a knife here. Her writing isn’t very pompous or superfluous. It’s not rich in metaphors and doesn’t get entangled in useless expressions. It’s simple, yet it has a powerful effect. Take for example “Truth:”
Those promises that I cherished, not knowing they were withered,
Shaking roots and ruined memories, is it only me that’s alone in this place.
You and I — everything,
It was all merely a prolonged coincidence
Between you and me,
There wasn’t anywhere any fate
Moreover, while Ga-in’s sensual image remains furthermore enhanced by lyrics like “Bloom” and “Esperando,” we find also sorrow filled, yet cruel verses:
I used to shout out “you’re mine, you’re mine”
But I guess that me died a long time ago
I used to be attracted to you as if I was dreaming
It was a melo, melodrama, as short as fireworks
And if Ga-in’s persona is difficult to deal with, Eana does a great job at maintaining it this way, creating through her lyrics a capricious person with a soft heart and an explosive sensuality. At times truthful as in “Bad Temper,” at times hidden as in “Ga-in,” the character she pens is a box full of surprises.
But I’ll leave my admiration here and let you speak too. What do you think of Kim Eana and her songs? What other songwriters have impressed you?