Yesterday, today and tomorrow are terms regularly used to indicate a general, but not specific, moment of time. It refers to events that took place yesterday, events taking place today, or those that will take place tomorrow. In music, the words are used to further emphasize themes. Yesterday is frequently to discuss past traumas or heartbreak — the singer is either wallowing in their past memories, or breaking free from the constraints from yesterday. Today is commonly used to denote the freedom that comes from living in the present, of not worrying about what comes next or what happened in the past. Meanwhile, tomorrow connotes an uncertain future and thus, used either to reflect an eagerness to see what tomorrow holds, or a nervousness of loosing what it is the person has surrounded themselves with today.
Block B recently returned with “Yesterday,” which is seemingly a continuation of the image change that started from last year’s “Toy.” Gone are the carefree men portrayed in previous tracks, they are now mature and grown-up. They have moved past those rebellious days where their songs reflected how noisy and chaotic they could get. The group has somewhat mellowed down in terms of public image, and seemingly to reflect this, their songs have as well.
Stop pretending you’re innocent like a bear
I know you’re sly like a fox
But I’m letting it go
What did you do yesterday
A bit different from some of their title tracks (“NanlinA,” “Very Good,” and “Nilili Mambo” come to mind), the track is more similar to “Toy,” which had the boys telling their lover that it’s alright if they treated him like a toy, using him as a glorified stress ball for their frustration. “Yesterday” centers around an unapologetic girlfriend who is the carefree one in the relationship, not caring if her lover knows of her indiscreet indiscretions. She is characterized as a fox — cunning, devious, sly, and always up to something.
I know but I’m pretending that I don’t
That’s how much I like you
Just don’t get caught
Then I’ll just let everything go
I’ll do anything for you
Despite expectations that the lover would either a) beg for her to stop, b) rage in anger at being deceived, or c) have a jealousy fueled, angst ridden, cry, none of these happen. Instead, they beg her to not get caught, just as long as she continues to come back. This is not a regular relationship, and it can be easily argued that it isn’t a healthy relationship either. Despite continually asking what she did yesterday, they will take the lies for their face value and interrogate no further, because at the end of the day, she has returned.
Another track that has a yesterday theme is Dynamic Black. Not a lot of people will remember this project group and the song they released, but that’s okay because I listen to this angst-filled song on the regular and will continue to bring the group up. Formed in 2012 as part of the SBS Colors of K-pop stages for their end-of-the-year gayo, the project group consisted of MBLAQ‘s Lee Joon, Beast‘s Kikwang, Teen Top‘s L.Joe, Infinite‘s Hoya, and 2AM‘s Jinwoon.
Like a habit, I think of yesterday
Although I tell myself several times that it’s wasted time
It’s still awkward for me that you’re not here
So I try to hold onto you but
Yesterday is fading away
Your face becomes clearer
You, who is filled with tears, are turning away from me
So what should I do?
This track is more similar to the expectations of the theme of yesterday. It is angst-ridden to its very core — in every chord, in every breath, and every lyric. It is about a man trying to hold on to his yesterday, his past love, and trying to remember as much as he could. Not that it’s any particular hard thing to do, because it is a habit he cannot let go of. He cannot move on, and continues to wallow in his yesterday, and is lost in how to proceed.
Moving on from the yesterday tracks, the representative for today is “Today” by G-Dragon featuring Kim Jong Wan from Nell. As a whole, it was a different sound from the rapper back then — a weirdly endearing collaboration of sounds between the two artists, with the song largely carried by Nell’s general sound.
At first listen, if one just focused on the chorus, it would seem like this is, like several other tracks from the mini album, another song about being young, wild, and free — about letting your hair down and enjoying life. However, a further examination of the lyrics reveals that this isn’t so.
I know I shouldn’t do this
I know it’s an affair
Breaking up with my lover
and saying that my new girl is you
My girl who are waiting for me,
is she falling a sleep?
Instead, the song takes today as a marker of where the singer is at that time — he won’t worry about tomorrow, or the consequences of his action, and focus on his surroundings at present. This is how today is used to emphasize the theme of borderline recklessness that is suggested in the overall theme of the song.
Finally, for tomorrow is Trouble Maker‘s “Now (There is No Tomorrow).” Released in 2013, the track is the first, and so far, only comeback from the sub-unit, composed of Hyuna (of the now disbanded 4Minute) and Hyunseung (who left Beast in 2016). Following the sexier sound of their debut, “Troublemaker,” the track amps it up and resulted in the arguably better “Now (There is No Tomorrow).”
Come to me now, talk to me
We don’t have a tomorrow
Before it’s too late now
Don’t push me further and further away
Us two, right here, right now
Before it disappears
The track, in almost the same vein as G-Dragon’s “Today,” the lyrics speak of living in today, in the now, but for completely different reasons. In the Troublemaker track, today is used as an anchor for the relationship — live in today because we do not know what comes tomorrow. The relationship portrayed is not outrightly like that portrayed in G-Dragon’s track, but there is a hint that this affair is one with consequences and roadblocks.
It further claims that there is no tomorrow for the couple, and that is why they must forget about tomorrow. The tomorrow here is of the more uncertain and bleak future, instead of the hopeful future some tomorrow songs, such as 4Tomorrow‘s 2009 track, “Tomorrow,” or BTS‘s “Tomorrow” from Skool Luv Affair which speaks of breaking away from the bleak and repetitive today they are stuck in for the tomorrow that might be near.
These are just some songs with the theme, and there are likely to be more. What are your favorite songs with this theme?
(YouTube, ColorCoded Lyrics ; Images via YG Entertainment, Cube Entertainment, Seven Seasons, SBS)