Don’t Judge Music By Its Language

By Annie Chong

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http://www.bbc.co.uk, BBC Radio 6 Music

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. –– quite a popular saying if I do say so myself. Although considering the amount of times this has been said, I don’t exactly see people genuinely applying this to their judgment.

Everyone always seems to preach about being open-minded and non-judgemental, but where’s that attitude when it comes to K-pop?

Remember how Despacito was a huge hit, although it was sung entirely in Spanish? The majority who enjoyed that song most likely didn’t even understand what was said, however, no one questioned it and accepted it with open arms despite all the inappropriate references it includes.

Many assume K-pop is just a bunch of groups that are manufactured based on looks with poorly written songs, clearly expressed by a grown man through a post, “…and in the process proves itself to be the unoriginal, uninspired, corporate produced SH*T that it is”. However, that is not the case, there are more than enough songs giving out important messages. An example would be “Answer: Love Myself” by BTS which has an intended message of learning how to love and accept oneself, “Why do you keep trying to hide under your mask? Even all the scars from your mistakes make up your constellation.”  But of course, BTS are not the only artists who write songs with meaningful messages, other Korean artists such as Jonghyun from SHINee, Epik High, AKMU also have such music.

K-pop isn’t only popular because of the visual appeal that it has, it’s also due to the talentry and hard work the artists have that draw people in. Including the connection they have with fans and the message they wish to convey.

Let’s use BTS as an example; their popularity has risen as high as a mountain for the fast few years. They are mentioned nearly 600,000 times a day on twitter and have recently once again broke the record for having the most views within 24 hours on YouTube, with 78 million views for their new single “Boy With Luv ft. Halsey”. BTS even became the first artist to give a speech at the UN General Assembly in 2018 due to their influence towards the young generation, having launched a campaign with the UN called Love Myself and being very social conscious with their lyrics, it allowed the younger generation to better relate with their message.

Music is Music; it’s a universal language. According to an article by David Ludden, a professor of psychology at Georgia Gwinnett College, “You won’t understand the content, but you will understand the shifting emotional states of the speakers.” This proves that music in any language is still able to convey the artists’ message to the audience. Although you may not understand what is being said in a Korean song, you can still feel the emotion the artist has through his/her tone; whether it be upbeat or a ballad.

Another thing many don’t pay attention to is how this all affects the ones who enjoy kpop and are fans of Korean groups. The experiences that I have had with judgemental people showing their scorn for my liking of k-pop have made me anxious of what people might say behind my back, and what they think of me. It makes people feel like it’s wrong for them to like kpop, that it’s an embarrassment.

All everyone wants to feel is acceptance; I definitely know that i don’t want to feel conscious of the things I like, especially not about music, which is a way for me to express myself and harmlessly enjoy. So why do people still treat others like this when they wouldn’t want to be treated like that themselves?

Just like how BTS’ Suga said in an interview, “You’ll like our music if you listen to it without prejudice”.

With that in mind, don’t judge music by its language.

Works cited:

  1. Ludden, David. “Is Music a Universal Language?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 31 July 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-apes/201507/is-music-universal-language.
  2. Nguyen, Anne. “Why Hate KPop?” Medium, Medium, 31 May 2016, medium.com/@oNIELy__/why-hate-on-kpop-35ffbeb1199c.
  3. Hanlon, Allegra T. “’Despacito’ English Translation Reveals Luis Fonsi’s Less-Than-Innocent Lyrics.” Billboard, 25 May 2018, www.billboard.com/articles/columns/latin/7873132/despacito-lyrics-translation-english-meaning.
  4. tharp42. “TOP 5 REASONS WHY I LOATHE K-POP AND YOU SHOULD TOO.” HOMELY PLANET, 18 Jan. 2013, homelyplanet.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/top-reasons-why-i-loathe-k-pop-and-why-you-should-too/.
  5. “Genius Translations – BTS – Answer: Love Myself (English Translation).” Genius, 24 Aug. 2018, genius.com/Genius-translations-bts-answer-love-myself-english-translation-lyrics.
  6. (J-14), Jana. “BTS J-14 (Interview) | ARMY’s Amino.” ARMY’s | Aminoapps.com, AminoApps, 5 May 2017, aminoapps.com/c/btsarmy/page/blog/bts-j-14-interview/1JVb_3JlU6u1p71lrxPXWM45DvkgaWxDL3m.
  7. Herman, Tamar. “Jonghyun’s 15 Best Songs: Critic’s Picks.” Billboard, 20 Dec. 2017, www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/8077764/jonghyun-best-songs-top-15.
  8. Heytoto. “Epik High Lyrics That Will Hit Home With Every Listen.” Soompi, Soompi, 1 Jan. 8808, www.soompi.com/article/1045057wpp/epik-high-lyrics-will-hit-home-every-listen.
  9. “AKDONG MUSICIAN.” Genius, genius.com/artists/Akdong-musician.  
  10. Joyce, Gemma. “K-Popping Data: 15 Amazing BTS Statistics and Facts.” Brandwatch, 2019, www.brandwatch.com/blog/react-15-amazing-bts-statistics-and-facts/.
  11. Cantor, Brian. “BTS & Halsey’s ‘Boy With Luv’ Music Video Breaks 24-Hour YouTube Record.” Headline Planet, 13 Apr. 2019, headlineplanet.com/home/2019/04/12/bts-halseys-boy-with-luv-unofficially-breaks-24-hour-youtube-view-record/.
  12. “BBC Music Introducing Mixtape, The BBC Music Introducing Mixtape With Tom Robinson.” BBC Radio 6 Music, BBC, 26 Nov. 2018, www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06sn8z9.