English in Korean songs

10 Aug

Last week, we posted the live performance of Junsu’s “Intoxicated”–his raunchiest and dirtiest lyrics ever–that features one of the most heinous use of English in a Korean song yet. It’s a common thing among native speakers to make fun of foreigners who can’t speak the language properly, who often use bad grammar, or have accents that suggests English wasn’t your first language (I belong in the last category). K-pop stars are not exception to the mockery. They’ve been the subject of major flubs with English lyrics and pronunciation.

If this was the early 00’s or the late 90’s it would have not been a major deal since K-pop wasn’t a worldwide phenomenon that it is today. But once you branch out of the hermetically sealed bubble of Korea and into a world where English is widely spoken, it’s time to make some big changes.

English is becoming more and more important in Korea as its economy grows exponentially with all the trade it does with other countries. Brands like KIA or Samsung have become staples around the world. In addition, the growth of interest in Korean culture, art, film, music, food, etc have drawn many foreigners to this country. Thus, it has become important to be able to speak English since it is the “unofficial” international language of business.

If you watch variety shows or dramas, you can pretty much see how everyone is in awe of whoever speaks English decently. Still, Korean stars rarely get their English correct. In fact, whenever they attempt to speak English, it comes off laughable, trying-hard, and uncomfortable most of the time.

Remember Boys over Flowers where one of F4 members (the mob guy) repeatedly says random English words like “Yo”, “cool”, etc? It happens in most dramas where the rich kids speak English because their characters studied abroad and have American friends. Yet, the actors themselves struggle to convey any sense of aptitude in the language when they speak it onscreen.

If we focus solely on K-pop music, there are even worse errors committed there when it comes to English. I can’t really fault the K-pop stars most of the time because they don’t often write their own material. However, songwriters, record producers, and record label honchos–we need to sit down and have a talk. I understand that since K-pop is a worldwide phenomenon, it’s important to sprinkle some English in the lyrics here and there for there to be a connection. Still, I’d appreciate it greatly if you try to write lyrics that make sense or are correct grammatically. Or at least achieve some sense in your lyrics.

But to a certain extent, K-pop stars must take responsibility for what they sing. Remember Purple Line by TVXQ? Oh have you already forgotten? Let me remind you:

Did you hear that: “It’s looks like purple line”, “I really wanna touch myself”, “Show your what’s my trick”, “You gotta purple like that”, etc.

Such a travesty. Talent wasted on such lyrics.

Shinee’s Ring Ding Dong features one of the most unnecessary use of English words. Finding two words, whether if they make sense or not, just to rhyme is stupid.

Finally, B2ST’s Beautiful has very ridiculous English lyrics (“make a love baby, make a love”) and even funnier pronunciation.

Luckily, for ever Purple Lines and Ring Ding Dongs in the world, there is YG Entertainment whose artists make songs that have great use of English (even with some slight accents, their English is fine).

All of this is to say that, as big of a fan I am of K-pop music, I am mortified by their lack of awareness of their English lyrics’ meanings and some songs that weren’t meant to be funny comes off as hilarious as a result. Please please do us a favor and ask an English-speaker. Especially now when you have a global audience, such silly flubs in English can make a dent on the stars’ images.



2 Responses to “English in Korean songs”

  1. Anon October 26, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    You see how nobody comments this post because nobody cares? Lulz.

    • dramapop October 27, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

      I think that since somebody commented on this post, somebody cares.

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