With spring around the corner and Valentine’s Day reminding us of romance, February is the month of love. Love is a powerful emotion, and countless poems, stories, and songs have been written about it. Happy endings abound, as do tales of heartbreak, loss, and eventual recovery. But what happens when love goes horribly wrong? When someone betrays you or tries to sabotage you and bring you down? Do you mope about it and beat yourself up, or do you go out and get your revenge? Obviously, the latter — and K-pop classics tell us how.
In “This is War,” MBLAQ’s girlfriend leaves them for another man. They are heartbroken, but even more angering is how this new man keeps making her cry. MBLAQ mourns the loss of their love, and the fact that she is now with “a coward.” In their song, they direct their anger at the friend who betrayed them:
I trusted you,
You were my friend.
How could you do this to me?
I will curse you from now on.
Will you please shut that dirty mouth?
I will give back these painful tears to you.
Engrave this in your ear,
I will never leave you alone.
The song is more of a threat — mere words — rather than any actual, concrete action towards revenge. MBLAQ depict the anger and resentment one feels at such a betrayal. Their ugly feelings fester without an outlet for release. The song is accompanied by a fun MV that depicts the story. Lee Joon is an assassin who saves his target instead of killing her, and while he is out doing whatever assassins usually do, his friend Thunder takes care of the girl and they fall in love. The ending does not fare well for Joon, but the dramatic orchestra in the background makes it clear that he means business.
If MBLAQ are all talk in the lyrics, the ladies of Brown Eyed Girls are all about swift and painful retribution in “Kill Bill”:
Don’t beg me just yet
Why, you don’t need to start crying already
The girls acknowledge they did something bad, but they enjoy watching the pain on the face of the person they hate (most likely an ex-lover), and watching him break down. They even taunt him.
This is too good to see alone
Seeing you break down
So don’t you wanna kill me?
This is the beginning, there’s still a long way to go
You need to learn a little bit more
Keeping up with the intent of the lyrics, the beat in “Kill Bill” moves fast. This is a pure pop melody, fun and catchy despite the anger underlying its lyrics. The girls practically yell at their ex, “Don’t live like that!” The MV and the song’s title parody the famous movies that provided inspiration for the titular concept, thoughinstead of killing “Bill,”, the girls hunt each other down.
However, there is more than one way to get even. You can take your enemy down, or you can show them by being the best, most amazing version of yourself. Ailee resolves to do just that in “I Will Show You“:
I will show you a completed changed me
I will show you a way prettier me
I don’t wanna cry like a fool over love, over you who left
I will meet a hotter guy and I will show you for sure
A me who is happier than you
Her emotions on full display with beautifully controlled vocals, Ailee expresses her anguish at her former lover now wearing the clothes and cologne she bought him as he meets the girl he left her for. The song moves forward as she resolves to show him a new, changed version of herself — according to the accompanying MV, one much more glamorous than her previous self.
“I Will Show You” starts off with a somber piano, seemingly a ballad, but soon picks up the pace as Ailee makes up her mind to “show” him. Energetic and powerful, the song is incredibly encouraging — until one watches the MV. Ailee changes herself, but for all her hurt at his betrayal and her lyrical determination to find a better guy, she accepts her old boyfriend back at the end of the video, with visible relief. So much for “showing” him — the overall message is immature, exasperating, frustrating, and quite simply pathetic. Ignore the MV, and the lyrics tell a good story.
What remains surprising is that when I set out to write about revenge, all the songs I found date back to the early 2010s. Revenge, vengeance, and retribution for betrayal by a romantic partner appear to have fallen out of favor with K-pop lyricists. In the modern day, the theme has changed to something more individualistic. We move from vocalists delivering fun pop songs against exes to rappers delivering diss tracks against haters, and I had to change the way I approached revenge.
BTS take revenge against haters by living their best lives and being untouchable and unreachable in their present success. Looking down upon those who once mocked them, the group’s vocalists say it all in “Mic Drop.”
No need to see each other ever again, this is my last goodbye
Nothing more left to say, don’t even apologize
This is the best approach indeed. So this February, pick your choice of revenge against those who have wronged you, and with the blessings of some of K-pop’s most fun lyrics, go for it.