All people, as a condition of living in society, agree to abide by the social contract. The stipulations therein range from the serious (don’t murder people) to the mundane (don’t lick other people’s doorknobs). One of the more innocuous examples of the social contract, though, is the general expectation that people around you are honest. Things can be smoothed out with politeness and tact, but we still expect the core of any sentence to be truthful. This is why any time the truth is invoked or demanded, it adds an extra punch. It shifts a situation from a general assumption of truthfulness to raw honesty.
Sometimes that shift is invoked to ensure the full weight on one’s intentions come across. This is the case with Taemin’s “Truth”. A plaintive, sorrowful piano ballad, “Truth” is Taemin laying himself bare, desperately trying to make the apple of his eye understand how much he loved her.
It’s only for you, truth, truth, truth
Full of my heart, truth, truth, truth
I want to tell you my truth
I want to tell you my truth
It’s only for you
He abandons flowery speech in favor of a simple yet heartfelt plea. He loves her, he has loved her, and he will always love her. Then there is the phrasing of “my truth” rather than “the truth”. This changes his devotion from an objective fact to a core aspect of Taemin as a person. His love for her is the realest and most honest thing about himself.
Of course, there are times when laying yourself bare mean exposing some very ugly things, which can be seen in Jay Park’s “The Truth Is”. This is the anti-flex anthem. It is a painstaking recitation of all of his faults and bad habits post-break up. He Instagram-stalks, plays around, he wishes a thousand petty vengeance on his ex-girlfriend. However, the most gut-wrenching truth is his statement of why he is the way he is.
Oh girl, I still regret every single day
That I lost you
The truth is, girl, like a fool
I’m just waiting for you to come back
Baby, this might be pathetic
But the reason I’m doing this
The truth is, girl girl
I still love you
The real truth that Jay Park is trying to get at is not his smaller failings, but rather him owning up to the fact that he has lost the best thing that ever happened to him, and he is not over it. His misery is entirely of his own making: his insecurities, his bad treatment of his girlfriend, and his inability to move on. This confession of his worst self might allow Jay to improve on these self-destructive tendencies, but such an ugly truth is a stark reminder of why we can shy away from them.
Of course, some truths are not viciously ugly so much as unpleasant. One of the most difficult of these scenarios is when a relationship fizzles out, such as in Eric Nam’s “Honestly”. When a relationship has a serious problem, it’s easy to end. No one questions why you broke up with someone if they cheated on you. But when things just don’t quite fit? That’s much harder to do.
Let’s break up, those words are so cruel
I open my mouth but I swallow it back in, why can’t I say it?
I do love you but I’m a bit tired
I’m too scared to hurt you
I’m not being nice, I’m doing this for myself
This lie of saying I still love you
Eric Nam has found himself is a mildly unhappy romance. Nothing has really gone wrong, but nothing is right either. While he does admit he does not want to be in this relationship, he has a hard time breaking it off. Eric Nam’s stumbling block — the only reason the couple is still together — is his unwillingness to be the bad guy. But as he becomes more honest with himself, he is forced to accept that someone needs to bite the bullet. The song ends with him being truly honest and admitting that it is over, and he never loved her.
Of course, such internal truths are often painful to reveal and thus rarer than hen’s teeth. The need to hear the truth can be found on HA:TFELT’s “Truth”. She has seen the bits and pieces that have been hidden away, but desperately needs to see the full picture.
I need truth, I need truth
I need truth
While on the surface she is talking to a partner, it is just as easy to imagine HA:TFELT raging at herself here. She is someone who has buried dissents, doubts, whole parts of herself hidden beneath pretty lies. Those lies could have come from professionalism, a desire for career advancement, or even self-preservation. But right now, she is a place where she is totally alone, and feels secure enough to figure out who she is at her core. Stripping away the deceit is harder than it looks though, and HA:TFELT cannot face her truths, only plead for them.
The truth is something we tend to take for granted, but when faced with its deliberate invocation, we can find something freeing in it.
(Images via SM Entertainment, AOMG Entertainment, Stone Music Entertainment, Amoeba Culture)