Alcohol is a hell of a drug. It is one of the few mind-altering substances that is both legal and socially acceptable to consume, and we do. A lot. More than we should, to be honest. Alcohol can provide anything from courage to honesty to the mystery of why you’re in Tijuana and where are your pants. Drinking can be stress relief, a celebration, or a need to escape, but once the booze hits the bloodstream, whatever intentions you had fall to the wayside in favor of the swirling, sparking, impulsive influence of alcohol.
Few songs capture the frenetic chaos of a drunken night out quite like “One Black Night” by the Wonder Girls. People often wake up wondering why they made bad choices, but this is the moment when those choices feel good.
One black night getting dark dirty naughty
We gone wild we gone wild o o out of control
One black night getting dark dirty naughty
We rock it roll it swing it drop it
take it blow it shake it, shot
They have decided that for one night, they’re going to let their inhibitions run wild. The Wonder Girls will drink whatever, dance however, and kiss whoever they want to, because this night does not count. It is a break from the shackles of normal life and so they willingly hand themselves over to their darker impulses. One night where the only thing that matters is what they want to do. Practicality, propriety, common sense; none of it matters when stacked against the blackness creeping in, pulling them under, and compelling them to simply have what they desire.
Of course, sometimes drinking is less than helpful. In Eric Nam’s “Potion”, booze is seen as a functional item. Tormented by the thoughts of an ex, Nam decides that time is too slow to fix his broken heart and indulges in a little binge drinking. Eric views alcohol as a mystical fix, something that will change his emotions and allow him to wake up cured of his heartache.
Let’s go one more round, pour it up, pour it up
The saying time is medicine is a lie
The answer is in this madness
Pour it up, that potion
Here, potion plays on the image of old-fashioned herbal medicine and the more fantastical meaning of something capable of doing the impossible. And like magic and miasma theory, it doesn’t work. He’s still lonely, still crying, and still drinking, utterly convinced that this one will do the trick. Sober, this is obvious, but when each drink provides hope and a temporary rush, the prospect of euphoria dangling just out of reach, it’s too much for the inebriated mind to put together.
Sometimes, though, a little dutch courage does what you need it to. Suzy’s “SObeR” captures the feeling of still being aware of what’s going on, but just drunk enough to be able to blame the booze for anything you do. Which is something Suzy openly weaponizes, using the freedom of the bottle to confess her feelings.
I don’t like it, don’t like it, don’t like it anymore
Tell me your feelings, feelings, today
I’m not sober, I’m not sober
Yeah I’m not sober, I don’t care
Yet the alcohol is a hindrance as much as a help. She can’t focus on anything; veering away from the confession due to her own rambling, her sudden fears of rejection, and the fact that she’s too drunk to understand what he’s saying to her.
Then there’s the implication that this guy is rejecting her, repeatedly, but her drunken haze leads her to simply write it off because she doesn’t like it and pester him to try again. This leads to the fantastic closing line, where Suzy sobers up at precisely the wrong moment– when things get real and she no longer has the excuse or emotional shield of intoxication.
That said, a complete loss of control is not a mandatory side effect of drinking. In “abittipsy”, Youha falls into a bit of a mope for the most hilarious reason. The memory of an ex she’d mostly gotten over is revived when she gets a little tipsy and doesn’t have anyone to take care of her.
Usually in this situation,
I would be able to forget you
I’m just a bit tipsy today
She balances longing with a resigned introspection. One the one hand, she allows herself to indulge in the lingering feelings, and hopes for her ex to call her because she values what they had and genuinely misses him. On the other, she knows this is only because of the alcohol. She doesn’t reach out; allowing the buzz to carry her through without acting on the impulses that will be gone in the morning.
Alcohol can provide many things: freedom, courage, truths, chaos, pain, and regret are all on the menu. But when under the influence, the important thing is that those choices and desires are still yours. Expressed differently, but no less real for the fact that you had to be drunk to let them out.