“Baby Don’t Cry” is a song EXO fans have been waiting for ever since it was first introduced, a song made extra special with lyrics inspired by the Little Mermaid. It references the ending of the Hans Christian Anderson version where the love of Ariel isn’t returned and she is given a second chance to live if she kills the prince. If not, she turns into sea foam. “Baby Don’t Cry” tells the story from the point of view of the prince, telling her to go ahead and kill him so she “won’t turn into sea foam tonight.”
Another recent release that takes on a work of literature? Vixx’s “Hyde”, the title track from their first mini-album. “Jekyll and Hyde are part of me,” the song’s lyrics croon — and if that line doesn’t tell you where the song takes inspiration, then you need a better literature teacher.
These only make up a few of the other literary references in K-pop — but what other potential concepts could K-pop take on?
Korea’s own K-pop version of the “Cell Block Tango.” We’ll leave a song that strong in terms of imagery and lyrical content to the big girls who can tackle this anthem, so groups like Girl’s Day and A-Pink can sit down. For an angsty, vocal performance type song focused on the vocals, Brown Eyed Girls readily comes to mind. Not only do they have the image and daring for this kind of song, they have the vocal cords to pull it off. From the sultry tones of Narsha, the angsty voice of Ga-in, the powerhouse Jea and a strong rap from Miryo, it would be a strong single and a potential k-pop Female Empowerment Anthem. Instead of killing a lover, the lyrics could instead tackle the double standards in society. The background would be reminiscent of “Sixth Sense” but with that raw edge found in “Cell Block Tango.” Now that is a female empowerment anthem done right.
But let’s be honest, Brown Eyed Girls aren’t the most show-stopping dancers in k-pop. And one of the appeals of Chicago — especially “Cell Block Tango” — is the dance. The dance is powerful, seductive and have an anger in their steps. So for the K-pop version of “Cell Block Tango” that had intricate dances, why not After School? As a group, they are known for their dance skills and their dedication to learning whatever new skill they will be showing off in their comeback. From the drumline, tap dancing and pole dancing, learning the tango shouldn’t be a problem at all. Lyrically, the song probably wouldn’t be inventive, but After School is more known for their concepts then poetic lyrics anyway.
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The only published novel of Oscar Wilde, this would be a concept that would be a challenge seeing as the novel has duplicity, aestheticism and indulgence as its themes. Considering that Wilde supposedly got inspiration from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, who else should have this concept but Vixx? They have shown that they have the acting skills that would be necessary through their single “Hyde.” The imagery would be just as dark as those in “On and On” and “Hyde.” To keep the song from being tagged as Hyde 2.0, the producers could combine the synth pop sound that Vixx is known for — heavy piano at the verses, violins at the chorus and then, during Ravi’s rap, the song would do a 360 and, like in “Hyde”, they would use dubstep in a subtle way to enhance the feeling of suffocation. I would love to see Hongbin take his ‘artwork’ persona to an extra level by being the lead in the music video, live the hedonistic lifestyle and have his portrait be as disgusting as the one in the movie. All I ask is that Ravi says nothing in English during the intro. I think.
Fairy tales and EXO may just be a match made in heaven. Why? Because they’ve proven they can handle it and their fangirls love it. After Little Mermaid and Peter Pan, what about them trying a song inspired by The Ugly Duckling?It’ll be all about the boys falling in love with a girl they used to tease but then they discover how beautiful she really is and they all live happily ever after. And if Yoo Young-jin is feeling up to it, he can make the lyrics about how the inside is more important. And the song? What about a mix of “What is Love” and “Black Pearl” with a dash of “365” in the chorus to brighten things up? And if SM is feeling trippy, then what about a song based on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf “as the follow up song to “Wolf”?
Another group that might make this concept their own is A Pink. For A Pink, A Cube would most certainly have the girls stick to what is now their trademark — sweet songs that are reminiscent of the S.E.S days. A specific fairy tale for them? One of the more known fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty could serve as a good fit. With “Sleeping Beauty” as their inspiration, the lyrics could be all about waiting for the right person to wake you up — and no, not literally wake you up but rather to give some excitement in a rather boring life. The lyrics aren’t groundbreaking, but A Pink isn’t exactly a group you go to for groundbreaking songs. Brownie points if Naeun is the lead female and Taemin is the lead male.
Granted, it’s more than likely that these will never actually come into fruition, but hey — it’s nice to imagine, right? There are certainly many more literary-driven concepts in K-pop that could work. What are some of your ideas, readers?
(SM, Jellyfish, A Cube, Pledis, Nega Network)