The Harry Potter series didn’t create a fandom so much as it did a massive cultural phenomenon whose effects are still felt today. And with the books being both written the lingua franca English, as well as being translated into numerous languages, said phenomenon’s reach was — and remains — global. Even within the Hallyusphere, the influence of Potter and friends lingers, whether it’s Taemin‘s reading of a passage on a sitcom, Jonghyun‘s caption for his ‘unforgivable’ selca with just a hint of shirtlessness, or that riddikulus parody Shinee shot (I am also beginning to feel like there’s something Shinee isn’t telling us, but that is a matter for another day).
But the Potter influence I am here to talk about is musical: songs relating to the Wizarding World. The Harry Potter fandom actually has its own genre of music: Wizard rock, or Wrock, a type of folk music pioneered by Harry and the Potters, especially with their 2003 eponymous debut album, including the classic “Save Ginny Weasley.” Though based in indie rock and folk, there are a variety of sounds within the genre, such as “Wiz Hop,” among others.
But there are also songs from established musicians: Switchblade Kittens released an album of Potter-themed music called The Weird Sisters, while the band itself was portrayed in the films by actual band musicians, including members of Radiohead and Pulp, who recorded three songs for the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire soundtrack. It is to this particular group that the three following songs, named for spells used in the Harry Potter universe, belong: 2AM leader Jo Kwon‘s “Wingardium Leviosa,” IU‘s “Obliviate” and JYJ member Xia Junsu‘s “Tarantallegra.”[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeufLuIDysc]
Wingardium Leviosa is the first spell we see Harry’s class learn; and despite all the grief it gives Ron, and later Hermione — and a Mountain Troll some time after that — the spell does play a role in bringing our golden trio together.
From his awesome debut solo album I’m Da One, Jo Kwon’s “Wingardum Leviosa” is more about bringing two lovers together. Though we start with a count-down to lift-off, the rest of the song has Jo Kwon up in the club, feeling good and with his eyes on you. Though he comes off as clingy (almost creepily so):
Stick to me a bit closer
If you’re going to the bathroom, leave your cellphone here
Even if you try to go, you’re a rookie playing an obvious game
If you want to play, know these things and play
Jo Kwon still has faith in his (levitation) charm to get him what he wants.
Wingar dium dium dium dium dium Leviosa
I will make you fly, I fell for you
The mood is wingar – she is winking yeah
Wingar wingar dium Leviosa
Wingar wingar wing wing wing
Ultimately, while others turn to other references, and even cheeky wordplay, to sing about being high, Jo Kwon uses Wingardium Leviosa instead to refer to the heightened good mood — though whether that mood is drug-induced or not is up to you to decide.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wph-YYBfr5Q]
Obliviate may be Gilderoy Lockhart’s specialty, but most readers will remember it as the most painful spell Hermione has ever had to cast in the series. That same kind of pain is mixed with desperation in IU’s “Obliviate,” off her sublime third album Modern Times. Here, she attempts to forget a past love on her own, but soon finds that, perhaps, she needs a bit of help:
Ten steps is not enough
A thousand steps might still not be enough
In the end, I cast the nonsense spell
Of making bad memories disappear and having good memories stay
It doesn’t help, though, and IU discovers that not everything can be solved with magic:
Head, obliviate, heart, obliviate
It hurts, how much more do I have to break down?
This isn’t right, it can’t be true
Your face gets clearer and I hear that voice again
The music builds with the desperation, both reaching a crescendo with IU’s final ad lib. The idea behind Obliviate itself, that of forgetting, makes it a potent phrase to use in music, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. There are a fair few wrock songs out there about forgetting; and while The Hermione Crookshanks Experience‘s “So Long” remains my number one song on the matter, IU’s “Obliviate” comes a pretty close second.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBIinq84324]
Draco Malfoy memorably uses Tarantallegra on Harry during the first and last meeting of the dueling club in Chamber of Secrets; it makes Harry tap dance uncontrollably, the slapstick further emphasising the eccentricity of the world of magic. The other time we hear it explicitly used, in Order of the Phoenix, it’s actually a sad moment which underscores the lack of control Harry and his friends have over the situation in the book’s climactic battle.
Junsu’s “Tarantallegra,” however, takes on a more sinister, even sensual, connotation. Here, the word does not mean the loss of control so much as the willing surrender of it, even if said surrender is gained through trickery. We begin with Junsu describing a lack of freedom afforded by society, with the Tarantallegra spell positioned as a favourable alternative to the daily grind:
The world is gradually moving faster.
The trend will change in the blink of an eye
Get a hold of yourself.
Or you’ll tumble down once again.
Get up by yourself.
Now aren’t you tired of the world controlled by them.
Just stop thinking this and that over again.
Dance with all your passion in this moment
The listener is exhorted to dance to their own tune. But while “Tarantallegra” is Junsu’s song, featured rapper Flowsik (of Aziatix) is the one who comes to personify the spell itself:
You have been chosen, let the music start controlling
Your mind, heart, soul will shine like gold, baby girl you know it
Your wish comes true, the thing that everyone wants
Is in your heart right now yeah, in your heart yeah
You and me together, yeah forever
Move to the beat, show me how much you want me
You don’t need to hesitate anymore, How’s that sound?
You may notice, though, that there is no real self-control: it is the music, and the spell, which controls now, in place of social mores. We are never truly free. If Flowsik is the spell cast to take control of us, then Junsu is just the voice inside our head going against all reason and instinct to survive to ask “why resist?”
That there are only three K-pop songs inspired by Harry Potter does make me a little sad, especially as these songs take a more grown-up approach to the spells: something that you don’t get a lot of in the books themselves, especially when it comes to everyday things like heartache over a break up. The stakes were very high in the latter books, and while Harry does get to have some time to be a teenager in Half Blood Prince, there is so much more to that world that we don’t get to see.
This is what fandom offshoots, like fanfiction and wrock, often try to create, and these K-pop songs are a part of that as well. I would even argue that they are even more normal as, beyond the spells themselves, they do not refer to the actual Harry Potter stories in any way. This may be to avoid copyright issues, but it is still a refreshing way to see the wizarding world without the Boy Who Lived and his story hanging over our heads.
Readers, what spells would you like to see turned into K-pop songs, and by whom?