Depending on where you are in the world, winter can be a cold, grey, damp, unpleasant affair. Some of the countries with the highest rates of suicide, such as Finland, are the ones where darkness overtakes the light during winter months, leaving people deprived of vitamin D and the upbeat mood sunshine brings with it. The depressed feeling some people get in winter has a name, and that name is SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Although SAD applies to feelings of depression associated with any season, the winter depression is the most commonly thought of when this disorder comes up. Some common treatments for the condition include bright light therapy (to simulate sunshine), certain anti-depressant medication, and structured winter activities, such as working and playing outside.
This year, the K-pop industry seems to be suffering from SAD, or maybe they want us to suffer from it, because since October hit there has been a distinct shift in the theme and sound of the songs being released. It isn’t unusual for music companies to tailor their song releases to the mood they feel like people will be in, and summer is usually a party season as opposed to winter which is an introspective season. K-pop is no exception to this trend; in fact it may be one of the more obvious examples of it. If we are to believe the K-pop songs, summer is a time to fall in love, be in love, and travel, whereas winter is a time to fall out of love, break up, and reflect. Obviously not all songs fall into these seasonal categories, but a good number do.
Let’s look some of the songs released this summer: “Baby Goodnight” by B1A4 started off the fun, upbeat songs off in May, followed by “Electric Shock” by f(x) and “Loving U” by SISTAR in June, then “Spectacular” by ZE:A and “Beautiful Night” by B2ST in July, and lastly “Busan Vacance” by HaHa & Skull, “Be Ma Girl” by Teen Top, and “Crash” by B.A.P finishing off the summer in August.
Some of these songs were the most popular songs of summer 2012, and with good reason, they have a feeling that fits playing in the sun and getting butterflies in your stomach. “Loving U” was particularly popular, and it is the best example of a perfect summer hit song. The song is catchy and upbeat, the outfits are cute and girly, the MV is shot in Hawaii (the ultimate in summer vacation spots), all the colors are bright, and the song is about love, basically a sickening sweet combo.
However, when summer ended the feeling switched, and we got more subdued song releases: “Please Don’t…” by K. Will and “Men Are All Like That” by Kim Jong-kook in October, then “Tried to Walk” by B1A4, “Janus” by Boyfriend, “Return” by Lee Seung-gi, and “Caffeine” by Yang Yoseob in November, and finally “Talk That” by Secret and “Guy Like Me” by 100% in December.
These months are either fall or winter, depending on how northern your home is and how rapidly winter weather begins, but the shift in music certainly went towards the more emotional quickly. It is difficult to pick one of these songs as the most winter-feeling, but “Return” probably takes the cake for most monochrome video with the most sad sounding music to go along with the introspective lyrics (although, “Tried to Walk” has a little more crying). “Return” tells a story that wrenches at the heart, while the smooth piano combined with Lee Seung-gi’s voice is enough to make anyone want to break into tears.
Ballads are important, they help singers show off their vocal abilities, and let’s be honest there are times when a good cry is needed, but for people who already have a hard time with emotional regulation during the dark, cold months, too many ballads can be overwhelming. If all the ballads are getting you down this winter, instead of (or in addition to) buying a fancy sun-light lamp try going back through your favorite K-pop releases of the summer and having another listen. “Loving U” is almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, even during this season, and “Beautiful Night” will have you dancing around the room. Keeping up with the current releases is good, but sometimes you just have to listen to something cheery to keep your mood up with all the pensive songs coming out. If you just can’t get into the summer songs right now, try some K-pop Christmas, such as “Dashing Through the Snow in High Heels” featuring Orange Caramel and Nu’est, for a wintry, but cheery, feel.
How about you, Seoulmates, do you like the ballad season? Or are the up-beat summer tracks more your style?