The end of any year usually coincides with a time of reflection and introspection. As 2020 draws to a close, it is easy to get bogged down by how overwhelming this year has been. There’s no surprise, then, that we could turn to the music we listen to to offer us comfort. It can be difficult to envision positivity when life gets difficult, but songs can sometimes help us as we try to look up and forward. While comforting songs in K-pop tend to incline towards lyrics about heartbreak, there are quite a number of dodge that route; instead, these songs sing of a better tomorrow.

One such song is Gfriend‘s “Better Me“. In it, the members sing of the persona as a flower who is waiting for the flowering season in the dark. As someone who has lost their scent and colour, the dark night can be intimidating. However, a flowering season that occurs in the dark might not be worse. Instead, the lyrics explain that all it may result in having a different scent and colour. It’s important to remember that different does not necessarily mean bad.

Black dark night,
I hope you don’t close your eyes on this dark night.
Stay strong,
Even in this rough time.
You lost it, Find it now.
Your color, your scent,
I like me better now.

Through these lyrics, Gfriend use the metaphor of a flower blooming in imperfect conditions to show that less than ideal circumstances may lead to ideal results. Even if everything does not go to plan, it is not reason to be disappointed.

A song that follows a similar note is Changmin‘s “No Tomorrow“. With lyrics penned by the artist himself, the song encourages you to keep pushing forward:

Oh as a result of old scars,
I hope you won’t falter on the path to your dreams.
Keep going, slow but burning bright.
Even unfamiliar, faraway places under the sky
I hope you’ll reach those places.
In every moment, I hope you have no regrets.
You’re gonna live like no tomorrow.

Instead of ignoring discouraging events and anguish, “No Tomorrow” spurs its listeners to take it in stride. Take the time to process and work through your disappointments, and then pick yourself up and push forward. Instead of the fear from old scars holding you back, use that experience to relish in what life has to offer.

RM and Nell‘s “everythingoes” also tackles the idea of moving forward, albeit in a different manner. In “everythingoes”, the idol takes a more lackadaisical approach to the idea of pushing on. Like “No Tomorrow”, “everythingoes” reassures its listeners that disappointments and setbacks are a part of life.

Instead of words like “cheer up”,
Instead of lies like “everyone is the same”,
Simply after staying, like this wind, it passes.
Everything, everything, everything goes.

Rather than falsely cheering yourself up or pretending that significant events are not a big deal, it’s alright to acknowledge your stumbling blocks. Everything goes, so don’t get too caught up in your obstacles.

As we talk about picking ourselves up and looking ahead, we can’t forget Epik High‘s “Up”, featuring Park Bom.

Even though I’m crawling on the ground tonight,
Tomorrow I’m going up to the sky.
Even if the wind is wild, I’m going up.
Even if today it’s at the tip of your toes, tomorrow go over your head
Even if someone blocks my way I’m going up.
Even if it pulls me down and puts me down
We’re going up!

Epik High rely on the motifs of wind and wings to depict the resilient spirit they’re rapping about. Referring to obstacles as hurricanes and tornadoes, they believe in the power of their wings to continue flying no matter how tough it gets. Even though tasks and days might feel too arduous, they’re still stepping stones for the future. The smallest steps forward still count as moving forward.

2020 has tested us countless times as it whirled past us, leaving us trying to grapple with our individual and shared realities. As 2021 steadily approaches us, we can try to press on, hopefully with a few soundtracks to keep us company. These songs display how — even with different tones and metaphors, just like our realities — there are common themes and messages that we share amongst us.

(YouTube. Lyrics via: Genius [1] [2], Color Coded Lyrics, Kpop Lyrics. Images via: Source Music, SM Entertainment, BigHit Entertainment.)