Which K-pop songs would you play to your six year-old self?
I came across this adorable video from James over at The Grand Narrative of his two young daughters dancing to Miss A’s ‘I Don’t Need A Man’ recently and it really struck a chord with me. Watching them dancing and singing their hearts out to their favourite pop song really reminded me of myself. Half of my childhood seemed to revolve around pop music. I was that kid that put on performances for anyone who came round to my house, who insisted on singing along to my collection of Now! CDs on my portable CD player in the car despite constant protestations from my parents and made up dance routines with my friends to our favourite songs. I LOVED it.
But reflecting on this got me thinking: if I got the chance to play that young pop-addict me K-pop and Korean music, which songs would I choose? I also asked this question to my fellow writer, Sasha and after having an interesting conversation about what kind of music is most appropriate for children and what messages we would like to see and hear in music played to kids, we each drew up a list of songs that we feel would be great for the younger versions of ourselves to hear. (For arguments sake we are going to assume that they understand Korean.)
Here’s what we came up with:
Wonder Girls – Like This
As a kid I was always enraptured by sequences in musicals where people burst out in song (it just seemed so much better than real life!) so I know I would have loved the flashmob concept of this video. It’s family-friendly with lyrics that are about dancing and having a good time together. I think it’s important to teach kids to have fun, let them use their bodies and their energy and be themselves and there are few dances in K-pop which are as purely about enjoying yourself as this one. (Although I will give an honourable mention to T-ara’s Lovey Dovey. That dance is great fun. Not that I’ve ever tried it. Never…)
GLAM – Party (XXO)
Their tagline is ‘Girls Be Ambitious’ which is probably reason enough to be included as a good example to young girls but their songs also have unusual but positive messages. Their debut single ‘Party (XXO)’ is widely thought to address themes of bisexuality and LGBT rights but it does so in such a vague, general way that it is completely age-appropriate and offers an interesting alternative view of love to the likes of Disney, that are so often sold to children. It portrays a great message about acceptance of self and others. (I would also play their current single ‘I Like That’ which addresses the idea of being able to rely on yourself and enjoy your own company. Plus the dance is great fun and I like the fact they have a break dancing member, a nice contrast to the dancing done by most girl groups.)
J Rabbit – Happy Things
J-Rabbit are the ultimate antidote to the aegyo overload of much of K-pop. The duo write, play and produce their own music which is full of a genuine sweetness in stark contrast to the affected cutesy poses and calls for ‘oppa’ used by so many girl groups. This song has a musical feel reminiscent of ‘My Favourite Things’ from the Sound of Music in which they state all the reasons to not forget the ‘Happy Things’ in life. It’s 3 minutes of pure joy.
Ulala Session – Beautiful Night
For similar ‘Like This’, this song is just so much fun that I know I would’ve loved it as a kid. A combination of the big musical number style song, silly slapstick humour and general choreographed madness of the music video would’ve entertained me for days on end. This one definitely would have been acted out for the family!
Sunny Hill – The Grasshopper’s Song
I’ve written before about how much I like the messages in Sunny Hill’s music and this song is one of the best. The line ‘I want to laugh while I live’ sums up why this song is a good one for children to hear and take to heart. The chorus has an easy to copy dance which would appeal to kids which follows along with the message of the song and would be more appropriate for children to learn that many other dances by female groups.
DBSK – Balloons
This song is a favourite amongst people of all ages, from small children to teenagers and even adults who would have recalled the original song (Five Fingers – Balloon). Now although the video is full of aegyo, the members in animal costumes and lots of bright colours I find it an uplifting song with a wonderful message about the joys of childhood and the dreams that go along with it. Just have a read of the lyrics and tell me you’re not filled with warmth.
Kara – Step
From the formulated dance that is designed to be learned, to the brightly coloured outfits and scenery Kara’s step is a song that seems to scream out for the attention of both kids and adults. From someone who has a very young sibling I can vouch for it that Kara continuously release songs designed to sell to people of all ages what with their concept that relies on being full of aegyo (for the kids) with hints of sexiness (for the adults). The song itself sounds like a mix between euro-pop and 80’s soft rock and it was even pointed out that it used the introductory guitar salvo of ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’
Infinite – Can U Smile
At first listen a lovely and positive song but this has a story within it. I perceived this as a message from someone who has loved and lost; allowing a person they loved to live on without them holding the loved person back and telling them to remain smiling. Infinite is one group whose songs overall always seem to have little messages within them that always come across as positive so the fact that they are currently such a sought after K-pop group with a strong fan base is a good thing not just for them as a group but also for their company. Being able to sell positive messages to teenagers is never a bad thing in this world.
Girl’s Day – Oh My God!
Girls Day… they bring out an awful lot of aegyo-filled music that could prove very appealing to young children but the Engrish distresses me over and over again. However I am willing to put that aside for this song. ‘Oh My God!” is a fun-loving song which shows that Girl’s Day really try not to take themselves too seriously. It’s a bright and cheerful video that will certainly appeal to younger kids and although there is not much of a message within the lyrics just this alone is enough of a reason from them to find their way onto this list. It’s cutesy comedic video of the girls running around and getting into all sorts of quirky situations (dance battle anyone?). A good lesson about remaining young at heart no matter what age you are.
K.Will – Chocolate
K.Will is one of the only artists that can sing about such simple things like chocolate and butterflies and still make every last word impact on my heart as though the lyrics were meant for me. The song is cheerful and upbeat and helped along by rap verses included which just make the song that much more a delight to my ears. I can also imagine that as a child this would have been exactly the same. Admittedly, as a child I did imagine that I was a crime fighting ninja warrior princess who could freeze time and hung out with the Power Rangers… still the concept of an everlasting love compared to chocolate would have made my heart melt. I imagine that with most children, male or female, this would be the same.
We think there is a really interesting discussion to be had around what the appropriate messages to be sending children through music are and how much impact the ideas found in songs can have on young minds. We’d love to know your thoughts on what music you let a younger you listen to. It would also be great to hear parents’ points of view on this. If you have kids of your own, what music do they like to listen to and do you encourage them to listen to specific songs over others? Let us know in the comments.