“Bang bang bang,” “du-ddu du-ddu du,” “pew pew” and “ppangya ppangya” — gunshot noises are ubiquitous across K-pop from the main earworm refrain of a chorus to a swaggering killing part guaranteed to K.O. fans and haters alike.
The phrase “bang bang” is often used as a straightforward gunshot sound in boy group songs like BAP‘s “Warrior” or BTS‘s “We Are Bulletproof Pt. 2.” It can also have layered meanings, such as referring to both guns and the bangin’ beats of the bass drum in Big Bang‘s “Bang Bang Bang.” “Bang” can even evoke the “smack,” “pow” and “wham” sound effects of comic books in superhero-themed songs like Monsta X‘s “Hero.”
But when the ladies of K-pop use the phrase, its meaning becomes more nuanced. The word “bang” when used in relation to women evokes female sexuality. “Banging” is a slang term for sex, and an attractive woman’s body can be described as “banging.” And when Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj go “bang bang into the room” in their hit song “Bang Bang,” they mean their bodies are gonna “blow your mind” in bed.
“Bang” and its offshoot phrases are thus ways to inject innuendo into a song without actually broaching the taboo topic of sexuality, especially female sexuality, in K-pop. Used in a song like AOA‘s “Bingle Bangle,” for example, “bang bang” could be perceived as an innocent, fun sound effect in a ditty that is about AOA shaking their booties while also pursuing their physical attraction to someone.
While female K-pop stars are often portrayed as the object of sexual desire in songs, girl group members are often the ones in control when it comes to the word “bang.” In songs that heavily lean on shooting metaphors, the lyrics play on the literal gunshot meaning and the underlying sexual meaning, combining them into a phrase that asserts their feminine sexual power.
These girl group gun metaphors can be found in both cute and girl crush concepts. The girls in Laboum‘s “Shooting Love” might sound bright and bubbly, but they are ruthless in using their feminine charms to shoot the object of their desires and win his heart.
I’m shooting my love arrow
Into your steely heart
So it can softly melt
Oh bang bang bang boy
There’s no use in hiding
I’ll shoot my love arrow
My target is you
Oh bang bang bang boy
Bang bang, set completely, aim for you
It’ll go my way, shooting for your heart is my sport
Once I bite, I won’t let go
I’m a sharpshooter, I’ll keep going
You and me, chu chu, love shoot, bang bang
Dal Shabet‘s “Mr. Bang Bang” follows a similar story, but its lyrics are more clear that the woman is the one choosing to take action in spite of the man’s inaction. While Laboum justifies their romantic aggression by describing their boy as “lazy” and “steely,” the ladies of Dal Shabet are much more miffed about having to defy gender norms and be the one to chase their man. Though they’re frustrated, they don’t pine over their feelings waiting for him to make the move, but decide to fight to get what they want.
I know you have your eye on me
You’re a guy with no guts
longeris it gonna take?
Oh OK, Let me make the move
Bang Bang look at me Babe
Stars in front of your eyes, K.O.
I won’t let you go
I won’t let you off easily
In their ’80s synth jam “Fingertip,” the girls of GFriend similarly attack their suitor with their feminine wiles in order to “control [his] heart.” All they have to do is lift a finger, and he won’t be able to escape their magnetism.
The moment I pointed at the flawless you
You became mine
Bang bang bang fingertip
I will aim for your heart
Bang bang bang fingertip
So your heart can stop
Who cares? I’m gonna go closer to you
At the tip of my finger, you are there
This time, there’s no talk of the man not making a move first. GFriend simply and shamelessly pursue what they want, which is to win a boy’s heart. While all the above lyrics talk about love, they also discuss feelings that could also describe lust and pure physical attraction. The singers feel hot, they feel electric, their hearts are fluttering, their pulses are pounding. These words dance around the ideas of sex and sexual desire while remaining respectable at face value.
Even Red Velvet allude to “falling in love” when romantic, long-lasting love isn’t at all what is on their minds in their single “RBB (Really Bad Boy).” They are well aware that the object of their affections is a bad boy, but they’re pursuing him with a “bang bang pow” regardless because the sexual attraction is so strong.
My friends say he’s not right, he’s too bad, I’ll get hurt
But who can stop me? If I like him, I’m going in
Bang bang pow He’s a really bad boy
He just lives with that good-looking face alone
If it’s alright with you, let me tame you
A good-looking but no-good guy that they just can’t get out of their heads? Sounds like pure lust. Even though it seems the five women are under this bad boy’s spell, they’re still willing participants in the relationship, giving their consent for his behavior, singing: “Do whatever you want, I’ll give you permission, be as bad as you can.”
Even when the women of K-pop aren’t single-mindedly winning over a guy when using “bang” sounds, their sexuality is still at play. The members of After School and Black Pink lean more heavily on the literal, swaggering aggression of gunshots in their respective girl power songs “Bang!” and “DDu-Du Ddu-Du” but part of their power in both anthems comes from their sexual appeal.
After School “bring it” and blaze a bombastic new trail in “Bang!” but they also “cast a spell” on men with their dancing and “make fellows go crazy.” The “pretty savages” of Blackpink also brag about their ability to make you fall for them.
If I want it, I’ll take it from you straight up
Even if you want something, it’s like cutting water with a sword
In my hands is a fat check
If you’re curious, do a fact check
My standards are way up top
Like a fish in water
I’m kind of intense, I’m toxic
You fall for me, I’m foxy
In male K-pop stars’ braggadocious anthems, their sick beats, slick rhymes,
Thankfully, whether their “bang” lyrics are about puppy love or taking over the world, these ladies have managed to have agency and harness their femininity for their own ends. For many female K-pop stars, their sexuality is their weapon of choice to make a “bang.”