When first finding out about B1A4, the listener might think they have found the happiest, chummiest, most uncomplicated group in K-pop. Their debut song “O.K” was a rock-influenced, straight-forward jam; and their frequently silly behaviour as well as last year’s MV(s) for “What’s Happening?” seem to support this first impression.
But the members of B1A4 are human beings like everybody else, who have encountered hardships and disappointment in their lives. It is admirable that they have not shied away from sharing some of these struggles with the public: Late last year, Sandeul dedicated one of his Immortal Song 2 performances to his aunt who passed away. Just two months ago, CNU also opened up about his childhood which was aggravated by his father’s drinking habit.
This will to confront emotionally challenging situations can also be seen in B1A4’s music, especially when dealing with unsuccessful or lost love. These songs often reflect the speaker’s regret and show them searching for the reasons which led to the downfall of the relationship. It is especially noticeable how introspective these lyrics can get; showing the speaker mulling over their own inadequate behaviour in the context of the relationship.
A good example for this is “Only Learned Bad Things” from the band’s first mini-album Let’s Fly, written by esteemed singer-songwriter Wheesung:
“I let out a deep sigh and always reflect on my actions …
I want to do good, but I can’t
Because I only learned bad words, bad actions, and don’t know your heart …
Because I’m still immature, a deep love is hard
I, who thought ‘What’s love, just keep pushing forward’
But the members do not only try to find fault within themselves. As the listener can hear on their Ignition album, trying to take care of oneself after a break-up and trying to get over a lost love are also important subjects in B1A4’s discography. Yet, such attempts are not always successful – they can indeed lead the speaker to the even more painful realisation that s/he is still very much in love with the person who left. Jinyoung manages to write especially touching lyrics for this kind of subject, e.g. in “Baby I’m Sorry” in which he contrasts the speaker’s resolution with a painful reality:
”It was yesterday when I determined that I’d forget you
I made a big and loud determination
But I only pound the floor as I think about us
I regret it, I want to hold you, who is like a cloud
I want to catch you, who is like a butterfly
I long for it so much, us two that was like one”
When taking a look at B1A4’s releases, it seems like the songs dealing with an unsuccessful love story appear more and more frequently on each new album. On their 2012 mini In The Wind, three of five songs (excluding the instrumental pieces) are based on such sombre subjects. But the songs deal with a(n imminent) break-up quite diversely: While “Tried to Walk” is an advice to a girlfriend to forget the speaker and meet a better partner, “If…” and “I Won’t Do Bad Things” read as a plea towards her to take the speaker back. “Tried to Walk” and “I Won’t Do Bad Things” also once again reflect the speaker’s knowledge of their own faulty behaviour in the relationship:
“I got slapped on the cheek and came to my senses
I learned the pain of an immature love …
I won’t do bad things (I won’t do other things)
I won’t look at other girls (I’ll never do that)
I am looking at you
Just love me please”
As mentioned in the introduction, the really fascinating thing about B1A4 is the contrast between their public image and the content of the type of songs this article is focusing on. This is best illustrated based on their mini-album What’s Happening? from 2013. The cover of the album and the MV of the eponymous title song are colourful and convey a childlike charm.
Meanwhile, the lyrics of “What’s Happening?” illustrate the speaker’s doubt and fear that their partner might be unfaithful. Additionally, all the other songs on the album also deal with failed or struggling relationships. Seeing as how Baro writes his own raps and Jinyoung and CNU contributed the lyrics to the title song and “Good Love”, it would not be a surprise if fans were asking themselves how much of the members’ own experience influenced the lyrically gloomy atmosphere of this album.
B1A4’s latest album Who Am I constitutes the last stop on this little journey through the band’s discography, and due to its more diverse nature it may be able to give back some hope to those fans who might have started worrying about the members’ emotional well-being after the previous mini. This album also sees a massive participation from the members regarding composition and lyrics, and many different subjects are covered.
In the context of difficult love stories and the evaluation of these by the speaker, “Love Then” is an especially noteworthy song. Whereas, so far, the listeners have only heard such stories full of sadness, bitterness, and regret from B1A4, they will notice a decisive change in the speaker’s attitude in this song:
“Love back then gave me happiness
But in the end, it gave me the sadness of breaking up
Breaking up back then gave me sadness
But now it gives me good memories rather than pain”
Finally, the speaker has found a way to cope with the pain of a break-up. Finally, B1A4 have created a narrative in which the speaker can appreciate the good memories from his past without having regret as a constant companion. Whether this triumphant moment is the result of a personal break-through on Jinyoung’s side (who once again wrote the lyrics) is a question which the reader will have to answer for themself.