First generation idols are treasured gems for K-pop fans, with their hit songs bringing back endless memories. Shinhwa might hold the record for being the longest lasting idol group, but g.o.d can arguably be credited for starting a trend of group reunions. In 2014, the idol group reunited after a touching onscreen gathering, initiated by Yoon Kye-sang on his programme One Table with Yoon Kye-sang. A few days ago, the group celebrated their 20th anniversary, adding on to their repertoire of songs with their newest album, Then and Now. The group has been called the nation’s idol, a well-deserved title. Besides their hit songs, the first generation group has numerous songs worth listening to. 

Kye-sang left the group in 2002, leaving behind much misunderstanding between the members. The rest of the group continued their activities in the early 2000s, but the songs produced in their sixth and seventh album, An Ordinary Day and Into the Sky, always feels burdened with another layer of emptiness for the vacant spot in the group. Out of which, ” The Painful Longing Is Worse Than The Break-up” from An Ordinary Day is a particularly melancholic tune. The song is not melodramatic about losing a loved one. Rather, the melody is pensive, making the emptiness even more deeply felt and heartbreaking.

On the same album, “Familiar Strangers” brings with it a recognisable early 2000s sound. Despite having a more rhythmical beat, g.o.d never fails to deliver their characteristic touch of melancholy. The blend of Kim Tae-woo‘s stunning vocals with Park Joon-hyung‘s story-telling rap style, and the choral support from the rest of the members, g.o.d delivers a nostalgic tune of breakup. More importantly, the lines of this particular song are easy to sing follow, recalling their earlier hits like “Lie” and “Love and Memory,” where fans have created legendary fan chants for as they sing along.

The emptiness overflowing from the group’s sixth and seventh album diminishes in their eighth album. After a long 8 years, g.o.d finally reunited in 2014. The group had declared their hiatus in 2006, and only after Kye-sang gathered the group on this final episode of One Table with Yooon Kye-sang, did the members lay out their many misunderstandings. Tears were shed as words that had not been spoken were finally uttered. The show brought together the group for the first time in years, leading to the group’s return with the album Chapter 8.

Chapter 8 demonstrates the group’s maturity and changed outlook of what it means to be a group. “Lone Duckling” is a gift to those feeling alone, reminding them to have faith that they too will be able to soar someday:

It’ll be okay, the sun will rise again
It’ll be okay, you will fly in the sky soon

“Sky Blue Promise” is a dedication to the fans, a musical echo of their earlier hit “Sky Blue Balloon.” They tell a different story, tracing how they have become older while making references to their glory days:

g.o.d, now we’re big daddies
Do we need to go on Daddy Where Are We Going now?
g.o.d and JYP, maybe it’s because we miss those times
Run with us and sing with us tonight
Let’s all sing with a smile

This album even includes an adorable collaboration between g.o.d and IU in the song “Sing for Me.” IU fans would know how much of a g.o.d fan she is that she even jokingly lamented being unable to buy their concert tickets because she had to be on an interview. The song is a playful banter between the two generation of singers and a ball of fun to listen to:

Music is a time machine
Just like building memories
Just like a hiding place in the corner of my memories
There’s no age when it comes to music
Is anyone there?

Speaking of g.o.d does not only mean going forward, but also going back to the start of their careers. For those who really crave a trip down memory lane, g.o.d’s earlier albums are worth looking at for a mix of dance tracks and melodic mixes. “Friday Night” is a classic for g.o.d fans, a tune from their second album. Fast forward a few years and the group presents “The Place Where You Should Be,” a dance track with rap lines by Joon-hyung and a chorus that has become unforgettable among fans:

Like this y’all to the break of dawn
do you feel me every body come on

Other than “The Place Where You Should Be,” g.o.d’s fourth album contains another gem. One of my personal favourite songs from g.o.d’s earlier years is “Again,” a song which brings out the pop ballad nostalgia from the turn of the millennium. The song carries with it the familiar tinge of sorrow in g.o.d tracks, yet it also brings with it a timelessness. Listening to it now, even with the group’s 20th anniversary having just passed, “Again” sounds like it could be a recent release. The lyrics are wonderfully written, telling the longing and regret after a breakup. It is not a desperate and pitiful plea but a pensive sigh at a missed opportunity, allowing the delivery of a matured and ever-relatable story.

Fans of g.o.d will be familiar with the group’s arduous journey pre-debut, with these stories becoming legendary among first generation idols. From starving away their days in their dormitory to being deprived of proper utility supplies, the group has come a long way. There is certainly an unbreakable camaraderie among the members, one that even an 8 year long hiatus and misunderstandings cannot break. Their return in 2014 is truly a blessing not only for g.o.d fans, but also for most K-pop listeners. They have been hailed as the nation’s idol not only because of their relatable songs, but perhaps also the positive messages and hope they continue to share with the public.

Looking back at g.o.d’s repertoire demonstrates how obstacles really translates into growth. It is arguably the tough times that shaped their music and made them even more grounded as musicians. Celebrating 20 years as an idol group is no ordinary feat, with g.o.d conquering the wide spectrum of music. From dance hits to more melancholic tunes, the group has narrated a range of experiences from family, to friendship, to life. I must say, it really is a blessing to have an idol group ever-willing to translate their life experiences into tunes, songs that can offer companionship especially in harder times.

(Colour Coded Lyrics, Genie, Pop!gasa [1][2], YouTube [1][2][3]. Images via Sidus HQ)