As the clock ticked over to 00:00 January 1st in South Korea, music streamers everywhere chose their first few songs of the year on purpose to reflect their hopes and ambitions for the year ahead. These songs included recent hit 'As You Wish' by WJSN, wishes for wealth with 'Lotto' by EXO, and the expertly titled 'Song That Makes You Succeed Just By Listening' by Norazo. Included in that number was 2NE1's iconic hit 'I Am The Best', for those wishing to enter the new decade with confidence. I wanted to take this opportunity to look back on 2019 and shine a light on other female artists who can sing us into 2020 with confidence in our step.
2019.01.30 - CLC, "No" - No.1 EP
"I shine, I shine, I shine - everyone come here, look here, look at me"
CLC started off the year by rejecting red lips (no), earrings (no), high heels (no), and handbags (no!) as what made them beautiful or worthy, and that they were more interested in things that made them "me" ("Forget ways to look more “beautiful” / Screw how you feel, so “I” can look more like “me”"). There were more than a few jokes during the promotional cycle about them rejecting certain things in the lyrics while performing in outfits made of these things, and the members were very happy to explain that they weren't rejecting the items themselves, but the societal demand that someone should confirm to standards that required using those items.
Lesson for 2020: How you express yourself should make you feel like you; don't feel required to express yourself how society wants.
2019.02.12 - ITZY, "Dalla Dalla" - IT'z Different Digital Single
Itzy debuted in February with a bang, breaking several records with their self-confidence single "Dalla Dalla" - most viewed kpop video in 24 hours on youtube, fastest girl group win on a music show (nine days after debut), and fastest debut kpop video to reach 100 million views. The song received some pushback for its chanted bridge and for coming across a bit young - but this is kpop after all, and what group needs confidence taught to them in this modern world more than young girls? Itzy pushed back against the demand that they be more grown up with lyrics such as "Unnies tell me I still have a long way to become mature / I’m sorry sorry, I don’t want to be mature" and "They look at my looks alone and say I’m a punk, so what?", as well as celebrating their differences from others as something to be confident in with the title refrain.
Lesson for 2020: Be confident in your differences, and don't let people use your youth or inexperience to put you down.
2019.05.14 - Weki Meki, "Picky Picky" - LOCK END LOL Single Album
"I just want to be honest - whatever they say, I'm just what I am, yeah"
In May, rather than complaining about not being able to find love, or shyly expressing their feelings for their object of affection, Weki Meki opted to confidently explain their 'pickiness' when it comes to finding a partner. "I like someone warm, someone kind / but interfering with my life like this and that is too much" raps member Lua in the second verse, and honestly, who can blame her? Don't we all want someone interested but not so invested in our lives that we can't get them to go away? Don't we all "like being risky" but also "don't like being scared", as Sei and Lucy tell us? Weki Meki definitely aren't complaining about their high standards, and early in the song Suyeon tells us that "They say I look picky, oh I love it / Fake things, I don’t want it", and there's value in that.
Lesson for 2020: Don't be ashamed of expressing your wishes and desires when looking for love.
2019.07.24 - Twice, "Breakthrough" - Breakthrough Maxi Single
"No matter what people say about me / I’ll shake it off, going my way"
Twice have become infamous through the years among non-fans for sappy, somewhat childish love songs, but even longtime fans had a pleasant surprise when Twice released this bold, driven number. The song carries sentiments of pushing forward to a bright future, despite any adversity the members may face. "There is only one time to live the story of 'me'" sing Tzuyu and Jihyo, while Jeongyeon declares "don't turn back, I want to progress fowards". Unusually for a Twice lead single, the song doesn't mention love or a love interest at all, and focuses entirely on the declarations of seeking a bright future and living life for ourselves. Repeatedly throughout each chorus, in an almost military fashion, members call "say say don't give up" to the listener.
Lesson for 2020: Live life for yourself, and actively go after your dreams, taking any setbacks in your stride.
2019.08.27 - Sunmi, "Lalalay" - LALALAY Digital Single
"Because if the mood is good, I’m okay / If I’m criticized until I crumble to dust, I’m okay"
Sunmi's last few singles have dealt with themes of public persona, internet likeability and negative media attention, and Lalalay didn't stray too far from that. "Lalalay" is a simple translation of the word "날라리" or nallari, a word that usually refers to people, often teenagers, who try to act cool, usually through partying, smoking. The word is usually used derogatively, though can be positive depending on context, and Sunmi seems to use both here. She claims that she's not nallari, but "If I am, what are you gonna do about it?", and the chorus of 'lalalalay' is actually 'nallalalalalari', with her seemingly claiming the word for her own use. Sunmi references criticisms of her being naughty and about her being gossiped about, but she takes these things and claims all these things for herself; "You know I’m naughty" and "I’m a small pied piper captain", thus neutralising these criticisms by claiming the power she gets from them.
Lesson for 2020: Does what you do deserve criticism, or are they trying to put you down? Reclaim insults as a badge of honour.
2019.10.21 - AleXa, "Bomb" - BOMB Digital Single
"If you were looking for a girlish attitude / You’ve got the wrong address"
Oklahoma-born Alex Christine's long-awaited debut ignored most people's expectations by landing in style with a post-apocalyptic inspired, high concept music video to accompany her high energy, latin-inspired and synth driven debut single. Her company, ZB Label, explained that they picked Alexa and her concept in order to explore new ideas within the wide kpop genre, and the lyrics express that with Alexa both expressing her confidence in herself and her abilities ("Blow it up I’m your fantasy / This is like me"), and encouraging the listener to join her ("Don’t hesitate and raise the volume, it’s your melody, very different"). The song all the while is accompanied by strong choreography that expresses power, rather than simply the sexiness or pureness that's found in many choreographies for female idols.
Lesson for 2020: Have pride in what makes you different, and use it to open up a future for yourself and people like you.
2019.10.25 - Oh My Girl, "Guerilla" - QUEENDOM Final Comeback Single
"This is the moment that we longed for so do it"
The second half of 2019 saw a lot of artists tackle the subject of confidence and being yourself, and that was contributed to in part by the program Queendom, which pitted six idols against each other to remix old tracks, perform each others' songs and, ultimately, release a new single in a 'comeback battle'. From this finale, two songs stood out, and the first was 'Guerilla'. The whole song uses an allegory of storms and raging seas as allegories for passion, running towards one's goals, and having the drive to continue despite hard times. From the opening lines ("Before the storm / Hold your breath, do it, do it now") to the close ("Take your last stand, attention do it, do it") the song commands its listeners to go out and seize the chances and dreams that they've been waiting for. With the rising orchestral arrangement that's a definitive feature of OMG title tracks, the song rises to a victorious peak in its choruses ("You and I wait for the right moment to attack \ We fevershly fight and shake up \ Swallow them up like raging waves").
Lesson for 2020: You've been waiting for this, seize the moment, do it (do it!).
2019.10.25 - (g)-idle, "Lion" - QUEENDOM Final Comeback Single
"I’ve had a taste, now I can’t deny it, I’m a queen"
While Mamamoo won the show on the night, it was (g)-idle who won the war of longevity. After their extravagant and powerful performance on the show's finale, 'Lion' suddenly sprinted up the charts, and remains in the top 100 of melon, bugs, and genie (77, 25, 54 at time of writing) to this day. The lyrics compare the members to lions and queens ("Destroy the boring rhythm and devote a lion’s dance"), celebrating their youth and fire ("All those condescending people will click their tongues") and referring to recently-fought battles ("Footsteps lingering beside my crown") to sing about overcoming adversity. The song, co-composed, co-produced and written as usual by member Soyeon, starts of with a quiet but firm statement that "nothing can confine me, even pain" with little bit a steady, sparse drum beat for backing, and slowly builds through verses and choruses to its final crescendo in the last chorus as the members repeat their proclamation "it looks like a lion, i'm a queen like a lion".
Lesson for 2020: Like a lion, you are a monarch; don't be afraid to fight for what is yours.
2019.11.12 - Nature, "Oopsie (My Bad)" - NATURE WORLD: CODE A EP
"Like oopsie daisy / I’m stealing your glance again / Like diamonds we’ll be shinin’"
Nature might keep insisting 'oopsie my bad' but they're anything but sorry for the attention that their style and beauty brings them in their most recent single. Nature had been releasing upbeat, bright songs about love and life since their debut, and this time they bring their high energy personality to this bass-driven, brassy number about how it's really not their fault that you keep falling for them, they're just too amazing. It's a sentiment that's been expressed before in kpop (Ladies' Code 'Pretty Pretty', Orange Caramel 'So Sorry), but one that's always welcome. New member Kim Sohee slides into this concept like it's a well-fitted glove, and member Loha gets to shine when given longer raps for the first time ("Can you move? This is our spot / Oh my goodness! I feel bossy"). The choreography is lighter in this track than their previous singles, allowing the members time to posture and pose and live out the lyrics.
Lesson for 2020: You're great, people will fall for you; but you don't owe them anything, and there's no need to apologise.
2019.11.14 - Mamamoo, "HIP" - reality in BLACK Album
"Now, everything is easy, veteran / I cut up and eat success like Michelin"
Mamamoo's brand lives off the members' self-confidence, ability to be themselves and capability to play on stage, so for them to release a track like 'Hip' when riding the wave off their Queendom win is no surprise. The song references various things, and celebrates all the individual things that make Mamamoo themselves, which often happen to be things that draw negative attention, but how they welcome the attention and encourage others to be like tem. "It becomes a controversy, my fashion \ I don’t care much" sings Solar, and after all, isn't ridiculous fashion a part of the show? "Keep on click me click me, like you’re possessed" replies Wheein, pointing out that spending so much time on something you supposedly don't like reflects more on you than them. Hwasa encourages others have positivity and confidence, "There’s only one you in the world \ but what are you doing, spitting on your own face". The bridge references their famous free-spiritedness and how comfortable they are with having an unglamorous image, with Hwasa and Moonbyul rapping to each other, "T-shirt with snot on it, mouth sticking out \ greasy hair, it doesn’t matter to me". The song ties all these sentiments together to point out that this is what makes them the title of the song, Hip.
Lesson for 2020: People's opinions of you are more about them than you, don't feel obliged to keep up appearances to pacify them.
2019.12.14 - CL, "+안해(I QUIT)180327+" - In The Name Of Love Album
"I ain’t wasting my energy and time playing games with you"
At the beginning of November, the k-pop world received the news it had been waiting for: CL's contract with YG Entertainment had run out, and she would not be renewing. Almost instantly after this became official, CL set up her own youtube channel, and began putting out more material in one month than what we'd had from her since 2NE1 had been disbanded. The eclectic project album showcased just how much work and improvement CL had done in her years in YG's infamous dungeon, but also let us in to some of her thoughts and feelings and frustrations with the situation she'd been in when they were written. In 'I Quit', CL explores a different kind of confidence to the bolshy bangers that k-pop usually releases; the quiet, calm kind of self-confidence one needs to know when to walk away from a situation, whether that be a relationship, a job, a friendship, or an entertainment agency that's paying you dust. In the song she expresses not being afraid of what she might lose, or the consequences of her actions ("I’ll be the one smiling at the end of the day / Whether you win or I win"), as well as that while this wasn't an easy decision ("No not an easy quitter / Yeah but I quit / After everything I put up with / No that ain’t quick"), it's one that she's totally at home with ("Walking my own way, that’s my style"). Confidence doesn't always need to be loud and proud - sometimes it's just a quiet feeling that you know best.
Lesson for 2020: Sometimes things aren't easy, but you know what's best for you, so don't be afraid to leave a bad situation.
Hope you enjoyed my write up! If you'd like to listen to all these tracks on the go I made a little youtube playlist for you. I hope the 20's are good to you!
can we have a nature tag please we've been asking for a while (✿◕‿◕)
sources: CLC 씨엘씨 (Official YouTube Channel), jypentertainment, Weki Meki 위키미키, TWICE JAPAN OFFICIAL Youtube Channel, 1theK (원더케이), AleXa • ZB Label, (G)I-DLE (여자)아이들 (Official YouTube Channel), Mnet K-POP, NATURE OFFICIAL, MAMAMOO, CL Official Channel