Roundtable: Can’t Resist the Aegyo
Ah, aegyo. We at Seoulbeats have stated our views on this particular part of Korean pop-culture and K-pop sub-genre multiple times; and all that talk of aegyo music can only mean that, sooner or later, some of those songs were going to find their way into our heads and hearts.
So our question for this week’s Seoulbeats Roundtable is a simple one: What are your favourite aegyo songs, and why?
Amy: Easy: SNSD‘s “Echo.” This is as aegyo as aegyo goes, but I have an extremely high tolerance for this song, maybe because it sounds so earnest. I also think it’s because the pitch of this song is lower than most of SNSD’s most aegyo-fied songs. I like “Gee” fine, but the chipmunkiness of it can get too much. I never feel that way about “Echo.” It’s a shame this song never really got promoted!
Gaya: I like “Echo” too, Amy! It’s a remake of a song of the same name by ABC, but the SNSD version is definitely a lot perkier than the original, and the lyrics are the best part. Also, Hyoyeon looked gorgeous for the three seconds you see her in the music video.
Fannie: I’ll be the first to admit I’m quite partial to Orange Caramel‘s weird brand of aegyo-humor. I also can’t get enough of boy groups doing covers of H.O.T‘s “Candy“.
But my favorite aegyo song of all time? Super Junior-Happy‘s “Cooking? Cooking!” never fails to put a smile on my face!
Nabeela: I too am a HUGE Orange Caramel fan, but my other aegyo guilty pleasure is Girl’s Day. I could have ”Twinkle Twinkle” on repeat for hours with no shame whatsoever.
And I also loved “Echo,” Amy! Also, SNSD’s “My Best Friend” from the Hoot mini! It actually is pretty weird how I like SNSD’s aegyo B-sides better than their title numbers…
Johnelle: I don’t hate aegyo–there’s a time and place for it, but I usually can’t stand the aegyo explosions during a whole song’s MV. The only aegyo-y song/MV that I can stand is Secret‘s “Shy Boy.” And I know people just love them, but I really can’t stand anything Orange Caramel.
Cynthia: I’m not big on aegyo, but for some reason I will jam like no other to SNSD’s “Oh!“. Maybe it’s because it was one of my first memories of venturing into K-pop outside of just SuJu stuff, or because it was one of the first K-pop dances I ever learned, but this song holds a special spot in my heart that other aegyo songs do not. And I thought the whole cheerleader concept looked really nice.
I’d never admit this in front of my friends though, otherwise I’m never going to hear the end of dance requests…
Mark: I’m more of a fan of the music than the concept. The best thing about aegyo-inspired music is that it tends to have a very gentle and uplifting tone that can brighten anyone’s day. What’s paradoxical about the idea of an “aegyo song” is that sometimes it’s actually hard to determine what songs classify as aegyo without viewing the song’s accompanying MV. On the other hand, there are songs that obviously belong in the aegyo genre upon first listen. With that said…
“Oh! My God” and “Lipstick” are fabulous upbeat dance tracks which are much enhanced by their over-the-top MVs and “Shy Boy” is both insanely catchy and arguably has the best display of vocals (and least display of autotune and vocal synthesizers) in the aegyo genre.
At the moment, Rainbow‘s “Tell Me Tell Me,” Two X‘s “Ring Ma Bell,” and Tiny-G‘s “Minimanimo” have got me hooked on their delicious hooks, but because they lack one of the memorable traits of the songs mentioned above, chances are that they will fade into the aegyo sea of oblivion in due time.
Nicholas: I’m going to give a real off-beat choice for eegyo song here: T-ara‘s “Apple Is A,” featuring every single hallmark of an aegyo song. Clichéd word choices such as “banjiak” (bright) and “dugeun degeun” (heart beating in anticipation)? Yes. Really awkward but catchy English? Yes. In fact, the whole thing is pretty much terrible but strangely addictive.
And that I think sums up most aegyo songs for me. For how they are so laden with the musical equivalent of saccharine, but you just end up wanting more of it. And the silly OTT music videos that come with most of them are probably just more (synthesised) icing on the cake.
Lindsay: I’m going to have to second, third, and fourth the Girl’s Day aegyo appreciation. As far as a group goes, they seem to have the formula down-pat. They are over-the-top but not annoying with their cuteness (still trying to figure out how they do that).
As for boy-aegyo, I’ve always enjoyed SHINee‘s “Hello” and Super Junior‘s “No Other,” and recently I’ve also enjoyed BIGSTAR‘s “I Got the Feeling.” Not going to lie, aegyo confused me a lot when I first discovered K-pop, but it has since made it’s way into my heart. Watching aegyo MV’s has become one of my favorite ways to de-stress if I am having a bad day and the lovey-dovey songs by boy groups are a great mood booster when I’m not feeling confident in myself.
Subi: I don’t even know if this counts and I welcome the torrent of shit that is to come my way, but I quite like “I Got A Boy.” Conceptually, it’s like the Badtz Maru of K-pop songs in that it’s aegyo married to a perversion of angst. It’s a cute and, yeah, a ridiculously funny way to make this urban, rebel-without-a-cause badassery fit this cutesy, pretty, archetypically feminine template. Musically, I like how the song structurally runs parallels with baroque era concertos, compressing the three-movement that plays with a few, select phrases in variations. I’m never bored and the fact that is keep me on my toes is exciting.
It could be a number in a modern adaptation of West Side Story. A stretch — but I believe in it.
Ambika: I liked the bits of aegyo in miss A‘s “Breathe” that made the song fun and quirky while still staying in the group’s style established with their debut song. The choreography was still really cool to watch, and it was more the facial expressions, music, and whatever else they brought to the stage that made the song light and a little whimsical. From the last year, I also enjoyed “Venus” from Hello Venus which was full of everything nice and an attractive hook.
From the guys, I’m with Lindsay about Super Junior’s “No Other.” The song had an adorable music video along with even better live performances from the group as they just played around on stage. Also making my list is B.A.P‘s “Crash” because as unexpected as that turn was for the group, they rocked it on stage, hearts and Bang Yong-guk‘s stoic face and all, not to mention the piggyback rides and jump-roping on stage.
Jasper: I can actually stomach aegyo pretty well. I even admit to (gasp!) enjoying the cutesy, childish, and colorful fanfare every once in a while. A shocker, right? But considering that my all time biases are Sunny and Sungmin, renowned aegyo royalty in the K-popverse, I think I’d have some level of aegyo tolerance at this point.
So I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising that I have a fair share of aegyo songs that I admit to enjoying. I’d easily jump boat with all the “Echo” love; it’s as cute as a song can get, but it’s just so endearing that it’s hard to like. I also appreciate really IU‘s stuff as well, since she always manages to balance all the cute with something whimsical and quirky.
But if there’s a song I’d take this chance to admit liking, it’d be Hara‘s “Secret Love.” On paper, it seemed like the train wreck just waiting to happen, but it turned out quite well if I do say so myself. Of course, Hara is lightyears away from being the best singer, and it’s not the most innovative listens either. But it’s lovable, earnest, and quirky, traits I’d apply to Hara herself as well.
And if we’re counting B-sides too, Kara’s “Strawberry” and SNSD’s “Way to Go” are the epitome of cute and bubbly, but I happen to adore to bits them no less. And as for boy-aegyo, B1A4 and their signature cheesiness will forever do it for me.
Mark: I totally forgot about the guys! I also like “No Other,” ZE:A‘s “Here I Am,” Boyfriend‘s earlier work, and B.A.P’s “Stop It,” despite my mostly negative reaction to the MV of the latter. But like I said, there is no contradiction in the way of enjoying the musicality of a song while not particularly feeling the same way about its accompanying visual concept. I think the smooth vocals and uplifting melody of the above titles set them apart from the rest.
Sophie: So I love aegyo! I got into K-pop through J-pop, so bubblegum cuteness was always part of the appeal. For my favorite song, I’m with you Ambika on loving miss A’s “Breathe”. It managed to throw in all the best elements of aegyo (I’m looking at you giant heart-shaped pillow) without losing a great beat. “Today” by BP POP was also a more recent catchy but aegyo-filled track.
And, while I don’t think it’s a great song, I’ve listened to the title track from SNSD’s 2nd Japanese album, “Girls & Peace,” so many times that it ranks in the top 25 played songs on my mp3 player. I think it’s the repetition of “Swing, swing swing” in the chorus – gets me every time!
Gaya: I don’t think I can go past “Balloons.” The members being all cute as a button, back-up dancers dressed as penguins, the game they play during the bridge, mini-DBSK… really, it’s a wonder I haven’t yet exploded from all the adorable. Even the many instances or murderous intent and violence seem cuter!
(Images via: SM Entertainment, )