5 K-pop Songs I Sing to My Kid

One of the fun parts of having kids is being able to share your interests with them, things like Star Wars and superheroes.  I have been into K-pop for the better part of a decade, so naturally I am passing that on to my kid, too. Here are some songs that I sing to him (even though I don’t speak Korean haha).

DNA

by BTS

This song came out while I was pregnant, so my kid heard it a lot starting even in utero.  Though it’s a love song, the concept of a connection through DNA always seemed really fitting to me when talking about the relationship of a mother and a child.  Some of the lines translate to things like “We’ll be together forever, DNA” and “The DNA in my blood is telling me/That it’s you who I’ve been looking for.”  Since BTS is one of my favorite groups, I of course sing lots of other songs of theirs, but this one reminds me most of him.

Fire Truck

by NCT 127

This one is pretty simple: my kid loves fire trucks.  For a long time, he called them “wee ooh wee oohs” according to the sound their siren makes.  The chorus in this song simply goes something like “Whoop whoop whoop whoop fire truck.” I really have no idea what the song is actually about, but my kid thinks this phrase is pretty hilarious.

Lion

by (G)-Idle

This is the most recent release on my list; it came out last November, around the time my kid turned two.  One day when I was trying to entertain him, I sang the chorus and did some of the choreography and got the sometimes-desirable/sometimes-dreaded “More!” in response.  Now he asks me to sing the “Ba ba” song, and can even sing it a bit himself. The chorus goes: 

Bababa bababa bababa

It looks like a lion

I’m a queen like a lion

Ay-oh

Which is all just phonetic sounds and English words, including picture book staples “queen” and “lion,” so very easy for a toddler to pick up.

Lollipop

by BIGBANG and 2NE1

I sang a bit of this one to my kid one day, the part that goes “Lolli lolli lollipop,” and he thought it was funny, so I showed him the music video on YouTube and for some reason he absolutely loved it.  He’s never been interested in any K-pop video before, but this one is…some kind of special.

It was 2NE1’s first video back in 2009, so they are very young and the fashion is…interesting. I love 2NE1, they are my favorite K-pop group of all time, but this video is not good.  The best I can say about it is that it made me truly appreciate TOP’s charisma and visuals. But I guess I can’t be too harsh on it, because it was actually just a commercial for a cell phone. And it is colorful, repetitive, and dancy, plus it’s about candy, so I guess it would appeal to toddlers.  We like to put this on and dance around the living room sometimes when we are getting a bit stir crazy.

 

My Star

by Lee Hi

Ah, this one is a bit more personal.  I had just discovered Lee Hi around the time I was pregnant, and after my son was born I spent many, many hours in the dark of night singing to try to calm him.  After quickly running out of lullabies, I moved onto Rufus Wainwright, The Decemberists, and K-pop songs, and I happened to know a lot of the lyrics to this one from listening to it so much.  Again, it’s a love song, but it starts with the lyrics

넌 나의 STAR

넌 나의 SUN

넌 나의 MOON

Which translates to:

You’re my star

You’re my sun

You’re my moon

So I thought it was something sweet to sing to him.  I sang it to him so much that it became part of our nightly bedtime ritual: read books, put on sleep sack, sing My Star, turn out light, get in bed and sleep.  (When my husband has to put him to bed, he just hums it haha.) Nowadays, he cries when I sing it because he doesn’t want to go to bed! Hopefully it’s just a phase and I haven’t scarred him for life with this song.

The New Queens: Successors to 2NE1 in the K-pop World

You guys have probably seen that I post about K-pop from time to time; to briefly recount my love affair with this genre, I started listening around 2012, even though I don’t speak Korean, partly because it was way more accessible than J-pop on streaming platforms, and many K-pop groups release Japanese music anyways.  I was immediately drawn to 2NE1 (pronounced more like “21”), a charismatic group of four girls from a label known for hip hop and rappers. Their music and fashion have huge Western influence; their style is neither too cute nor too sexy, but instead a powerful, confident vibe known as “girl crush.” 

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CL, Dara, Minzy, and Bom of 2NE1 in 2012 (Mirza.A.H [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)])
You can check out some of their music videos in my previous posts about them from my K-pop 101 series:

  1. Surface Pro 3 Says 내가 제일 잘 나가 (I am the Best)
  2. K-pop MVs: 2NE1’s “Clap Your Hands”
  3. K-pop MVs: 2NE1’s “Hate You”
  4. K-pop MVs: 2NE1’s “Do You Love Me”
  5. K-pop MVs (Star Wars Special): 2NE1’s “Follow Me”

Unfortunately, the group disbanded in 2016, and while the members are pursuing solo careers, the loss of 2NE1 has left a hole in the K-pop industry as well as in the hearts of all their fans, called Blackjacks.  In the years since, many new groups have stepped forward, and while no one will ever replace 2NE1, there are three groups in particular I think are doing a great job picking up and carrying their mantle.

1. Blackpink

This group is the most obvious, direct successor to 2NE1.  They were put together by the same label, YG Entertainment, to debut in the same year that 2NE1 disbanded.  The two groups even share a producer, Teddy Park. Blackpink also has a girl crush vibe, with a similar Western influence in their music (both groups have fluent English speakers).  However, they are not quite as avant garde in their fashion and visuals, or as experimental in their music, sticking with more of a straight pop feel.  

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Blackpink performing in 2017 (RAS 99 [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)])

On stage, both groups have a similar lively energy, but Blackpink focuses more on choreography over live vocals, typically using head mics to allow for more intricate dancing.  They are very polished, consistent performers.

When I started listening to Blackpink, I quickly realized that YG copied the successful group composition formula of 2NE1 by bringing together four girls each with a different specialty.  The vocal/rapper/dancer/visual combo works very well for both groups, allowing each member to shine in her own way.

2. Mamamoo

On paper, Mamamoo and 2NE1 don’t have much in common, except each being composed of 4 women.  Mamamoo consists of three powerhouse vocals and an unconventional rapper, and their most famous songs have a jazzy feel.  However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see why so many Blackjacks are also “Moomoos:” it’s all in the attitude.

Like 2NE1 before them, Mamamoo is renowned for their stage presence and live performances.  They recently won the girl group reality competition show Queendom (where Park Bom of 2NE1 was also participating).  Their live vocals are the some of the best in K-pop, and like 2NE1 they typically use hand mics. They frequently change little bits of their choreography or lyrics, doing some ad libs or shout outs to fans that make each performance different and compelling.

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Mamamoo in 2019 (NewsInStar [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)])
Although they don’t come from a hip hop background like 2NE1, Mamamoo can successfully pull off a number of styles, both lyrical ballads and energetic numbers.  Recently they have been switching it up even more, with some straight rap and pop dance songs.

Perhaps most importantly, the girls follow in 2NE1’s footsteps by challenging cultural ideals of beauty and feminine behavior, especially Moonbyul with her androgenous style and Hwasa who has been criticized for her looks and fashion.  From a country like South Korea where idol culture and plastic surgery are ubiquitous, the body positivity in their songs and presentation is very refreshing and affirming.

It also helps that the members of Mamamoo are themselves fans of 2NE1.  Lead vocalist Wheein was very excited to collaborate with Park Bom on her single “4:44,” and you can see some moments of Mamamoo fangirling on Queendom as well.

3. (G)-Idle

This is the youngest group on my list: they were rookies last year but have already taken the K-pop world by storm, and this year really cemented their status as a spiritual successor to 2NE1.

Pronounced “Idle” (the G is silent), this group contains six young women, including members from China and Thailand, which probably enhances their international appeal.  They are from Cube Entertainment, the label that launched Hyuna and her girl crush group 4Minute, though their main singer Miyeon trained at YG with the girls from Blackpink.

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(G)I-dle performing in 2019 (PlayIN [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)])
I fell in love right away with (G)-Idle’s version of the girl crush concept, and this year they’ve expanded to include Latin influences and American hip hop in their music.  They also participated in Queendom, putting their own spin on 2NE1’s debut song by covering “Fire.” While their style is not avant garde, they are definitely trendy in the same way as Blackpink and use fashion purposefully.

(G)-Idle is led by rapper Soyeon, whose incredible stage presence brings to mind 2NE1’s leader CL, a legendary performer.  Soyeon has the same huge charisma, plus she’s the best female idol rapper of her generation (not to mention she produces the group’s songs).  She’s already been featured in two League of Legends promotional songs with Western artists (once with Miyeon), and I can really see her going far in the industry and even having appeal in the US.  One more cute touch: she uses a bright yellow hand mic in performances, bringing to mind the colored mics still used by 2NE1’s members.

5 Favorite K-pop MVs of 2019

And just like that, another year of great music has come and gone.  I have no idea how many of you guys care about these posts but I love going back over all the K-pop music videos that came out every year to pick my favorites.

1. “ICY” by Itzy

2019 has been a great year for rookie groups, and Itzy is at the top of the list.  This is actually their second big hit of the year; they may be rookies but they have become known for their catchy, self-confident songs, energetic choreography, and great live performances.

And as cool as this video is, it doesn’t even have the best bit of the song’s choreography (frankly, my favorite bit of choreo I’ve seen anywhere, all year).  Feast your eyes on the “neck snap:”

ITZY_ICY_M_V_TEASER_2

2. “Breakthrough” by TWICE

TWICE had a landmark year, morphing from their original, cute image to a more mature concept. (It reminds me of when Girls’ Generation released “Run Devil Run.”)  This is one of their Japanese releases, probably lesser-known, but the song is catchy, the video has great atmosphere, and TWICE is always good in Japanese (they have three Japanese members).

3. “+I Quit 180327+” by CL

The leader of the former group 2NE1 is finally back with solo songs, releasing an EP herself after leaving her company.  The numbers in the titles are the dates the songs were written, showing that she’s been doing work all along, her company just wasn’t releasing them or promoting her.  “I Quit” is one of the better songs on the album (though the rap section is sub-par), and the video takes it to another level with colorful sign language that almost morphs into interpretive dance.  CL does not appear in the video at all, which is an interesting choice considering her natural charisma, but the video is art anyways.

4. “Lovedrunk” by Epik High ft. Crush

You wanted a wuxia movie to go with your K-pop?  Okay, then!  This beautiful cinematic MV features a fraught relationship between two martial artists, one played by K-pop idol IU.  The black and white cinematography goes perfectly with the haunting song from one of my favorite hip hop groups.

5. “Kill this Love” by Blackpink

Blackpink is back in your area with another killer hit.  There’s so much to love in this one; it just blows you away from the first trumpet notes.  The production value is incredible, and I love Rosé and Jisoo’s acting, as well as Lisa and Jennie’s interaction in the rap part.

I also had a lot of fun watching dance practice videos this year!  I love seeing the full choreography in a more informal setting.  Here’s two that I thought were particularly good.

Plus, if you enjoyed the League of Legions promotional video “POP/STARS” by K/DA last year, I think you will also enjoy this gem featuring Soyeon of (G)I-dle.

 

5 Favorite K-pop MVs of 2018

We had lots of videos from some heavy hitters this year, plus one surprise League of Legends crossover.

1. “POP/STARS” by K/DA

This one is a little complicated, but just watch the video and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

K/DA is a virtual band whose members are the League of Legends game characters Ahri, Evelynn, Akali, and Kai’Sa. But the vocals are provided by real singers, including two K-pop idols of the group (G)I-dle, Soyeon (rapper/Akali) and Miyeon (vocalist/Ahri).  Basically, Riot Games wanted to promote some new skins for LoL characters and ended up creating the most awesome music video of the year.

Soyeon is one of the fastest rising stars in K-pop right now; she’s a great rapper, has amazing stage presence, and is a wonderful leader for her rookie group (G)I-dle, which had two hits this year.

See also:

2. “Sober” by Hyo

I’ve been thrilled to see Hyoyeon, the main dancer of Girls Generation, putting out more solo stuff.  This video just makes me want to dance around the house every time I watch it.  Also, I appreciate the diversity and body-positive visuals.

3. “Idol” by BTS

You knew BTS had to be on this list somewhere.  I love this video for its spunk and energy, its Korean cultural influences, and its drawings of leader RM with kitty ears.  This video was so good it got a Bad Lip Reading treatment.

4. “Egotistic” by Mamamoo

K-pop follows US music trends, so it’s no surprise that many singles this year featured Latin music influences; Mamamoo is one group that did it very well and will have you yelling “bicho malo” right along with them.  They are such a wonderful mix of talent and confidence, and their live performances are some of the best in K-pop.

5. “Ddu-du Ddu-du” by BLACKPINK

Another killer hit by one of my favorite girl groups, BLACKPINK.  I don’t know what else to say about this except that it has all the swag you’d expect, including a glittery tank, and that Lisa is about the only person alive who could make those green gloves look cool.  Rapper Jennie also released a solo with a great MV this year.

Live Performances:

I’ve been watching more live performances from music shows and awards shows this year, so here are a few that I thought were really special.

  1. “Woman” by BoA on KBS Music Bank.  The legendary BoA makes her entrance by walking upside-down, then flipping over and performing the whole song live with the energy of idols half her age.
  2. “Latata” by (G)I-dle on SBS Inkigayo.  Can you believe these girls are rookies?? I can’t!  I think I watched every single stage promotion of this, their debut song.
  3. “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Key on You Hee-yeol’s Sketchbook. SHINee’s triple threat Key had a solo debut this year, and while promoting his song he also performed this lovely Coldplay cover.

Just try to get either of these out of your head

I know this isn’t my typical subject matter, but two things I love have come together, and I have to share this with someone, and you guys are it.  One of my favorite K-pop groups, BTS, recently released a new single (or “comeback” in K-pop parlance).  You may have seen them performing it on America’s Got Talent.  Here’s the music video:

There is also a version for their collaboration with Nicki Minaj.  Both great videos: crazy, but entertaining.  The song is super catchy and has great, positive lyrics.

But wait, there’s more!

I’ve previously featured the Star Wars episodes of Bad Lip Reading, which is a YouTube channel that is exactly what it sounds like: the producer re-dubs video based on what it looks like the actors are saying.  He also occasionally makes songs out of it, and they are really good songs.  So thanks to him, BTS is now singing about a “Sample of My Pasta.”

My favorite part is at 0:43 where V yells “Cute bird!” because that seems like something he would do anyways in real life.  He is my favorite singer of the group (aka my “bias”) because he’s kinda weird and crazy (a “4D” personality).  He’s also sporting what looks like lemonade-colored hair in this video.

I’m happy to talk about BTS all day, so I’d love to answer any of your questions in the comments 😀