As summer makes itself increasingly felt in the Northern Hemisphere, many people travel for pleasure and fun. A common mode of travel due to its simplicity is through an airplane. For those who live in cities, being able to look overhead and see airplanes above was a commonality.  Due to the airplane being a subtle fixture in modern living, it makes sense that many songs have used airplanes as a way to convey a theme in their songs. This is perhaps taken from how airplanes also have a myriad of meanings that are associated with it: freedom, escape from the pressures of reality, and airplane crashes have meant that something is coming to an unexpectant and crashing ending. This Music and Lyrics looks into some K-pop songs that use the airplane as a recurrent theme.

The first is f(x)‘s “Airplane” from their second full-length album, Pink Tape. In this song, they use flying on an airplane as a metaphor for love. Specifically, it starts with a gentle admission: “I was scared of flying on this plane called Love that carries us/ I already know it will fall down soon.” This sets the mood, not just music-wise, but also in the lyrics as it automatically makes the connection that the airplane is to mean love.

This plane that flies in the sky, that twirls the wind,
That walks in the clouds, has taken off but
I believe in you, the one miracle,
The only person whose hand I hold
The flight that twirled the wind, walked the clouds, is over but
I believe in the long-time fate,
I believe in eternity
The only person whose hand I hold

An airplane as a machine has a limited flight time and a predictable cycle  – it will go up in the sky, experience turbulence, and then there will be a bumpy landing back on the ground. This is continually evoked by f(x): the feelings can’t be stopped and goes “past the tall building, across the horizon” making one feel overwhelmed by the emotions. The lyrics continue evoking this cycle – love will begin and you will feel like flying, but eventually, you must come down. This doesn’t necessarily mean a breakup – instead, it could also be that one will come back to reality when it comes to their relationship.

Another song that uses airplanes as a theme is iKon‘s 2015 track, “Airplane.” This is a different take on airplanes. In this track, the airplane is to mean departure. Like f(x)’s track, iKon’s “Airplane” is also a love song. What differentiates it is that iKon’s song speaks of the moment where a lover is leaving the other behind. The song, and even the music video, evokes the drama trope of farewells at the departure area. One person leaves on the airplane, and the other is left on the ground, looking up.

Stop for a moment, if we keep this up
We won’t ever see each other again after
the airplane leaves I’ll be good, you be good too
If you say that and leave, you think I’ll be fine?
Stop pretending to be calm,
there are tears in your eyes
I see a sadness like you’ve lost the world
Stay one more day, unpack Let’s go watch
a movie later, I’m crying right now, please

J-Hope from BTS also has a track called “Airplane” from his mixtape, Hope World. Airplanes are given yet another meaning – it is a symbol of dreams. The song unfolds in a narrative matter, where J-Hope easily tells the story of how when he was young, he would look up and see airplanes. The airplane is used as a device to emphasize far-off dreams, and the world one would find when that dream is fulfilled. In J-Hope’s case, being able to fly around in an airplane was his wish – something that he now does on a regular basis as part of BTS.

I remember me from that time
When the parched grounds set me on fire
I ran looking at the blue sky
I wanted to fly in that airplane airplane

I still can’t believe it
A native of Gwangju’s admiration for flight
In my dream’s place that was up high, high
I’m flying above the beautiful world
Always, when I’m onboard
I still think about
The excitement I felt flying towards Japan for the first time
Because that launched my dream
Because it made the present now

There are other songs that also use airplanes as a theme in some way. One such track is “Airplane pt. 2” from  BTS’ recently released album, Love Yourself: Tear, and is a continuation of J-Hope’s song and includes the other members as well. Another is “Airplane” from Hanhae, released in 2017, and has a similar theme to J-Hope’s track. The airplane is seldom used in lyrics, as most lyricists opt for more usual symbols such as flowers, fire, and colors. However, when the airplane is used, it is used effectively.

(YouTube, ColorCoded Lyrics [1][2][3], Images via SM Entertainment, Big Hit Entertainment, YG Entertainment)