The Korea Herald


Classic spring K-pop songs: Voices of the young, in-love or melancholic

Korea's spring anthems reflect conflicting feelings about the season of romance

By No Kyung-min

Published : April 2, 2024 - 15:39

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Illustration for single Illustration for single "What the Spring??" by Indie band 10cm (Magic Strawberry Sound)

As spring approaches, many Koreans eagerly tune in to timeless spring-themed songs -- joyful yet poignant melodies that signal the arrival of what is thought of here as the season of love.

These songs consistently occupy top positions on national record charts every spring, reflecting Koreans’ enduring affection for these tracks, as the season adorns the nation with colorful blossoms and new leaves.

Yet, of four popular songs about spring, the themes they deal with are divided between positive and critical views about spring's romantic allure, indicating two conflicting feelings about the season.

(Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Anthems for the enamored

"Cherry Blossom Ending" by Busker Busker

“Spring, Spring, Spring” by Roy Kim

"As the spring wind blows/

The scattering cherry blossom petals/

Spread out on this street/

As we walk together." ("Cherry Blossom Ending")

Just as young couples in Korea celebrate Christmas Eve together, springtime events such as cherry blossom festivals teem with people on dates.

The pink hue of blooming cherry blossoms is often employed as a metaphor for blossoming romance in popular culture here.

In a 2022 survey conducted by South Korean polling app Cratos, of four popular spring songs in South Korea, more than 60 percent of 10,798 respondents selected Busker Busker's "Cherry Blossom Ending" as their favorite.

Despite the band remaining inactive since 2013, its 12-year-old serenade still resonates with people, evoking images of lovers strolling beneath the cherry blossoms amid the falling petals.

Respondents rated singer-songwriter Roy Kim’s “Spring, Spring, Spring,” released in 2013, as the second-most popular spring pop song, at approximately 27 percent. It is a song that utilizes spring as a trope for rekindling a past relationship.

"These songs take me back to college," shared Kim Joo-wan, a Seoul resident in his 30s. "It gives me butterflies, as I used to listen to this music with my then-girlfriend."

The refrains of these songs make them worth playing again and again over the span of a decade, Kim said, heightening the excitement and romantic atmosphere of the season.

As spring nears, commenters on the music video for "Cherry Blossom Ending" on YouTube have shared their excitement. One comment praises how the song never seems to get old, while another recent comment reads, "Spring 2024 is on its way."

As of February this year, the music video had gotten over 28 million views on YouTube, whereas “Spring, Spring, Spring” had surpassed 34 million views.

Busker Busker (Genie Music) Busker Busker (Genie Music)

Anthems for spring's skeptics

"What the Spring??" by 10cm

"Not Spring, Love or Cherry Blossoms” by IU and High 4

"Do you really like spring you fools?/

Are cherry blossoms really that pretty you idiots?/

Flower petals eventually fall, I hope you all fall too/

I hope you all break up." ("What the Spring??")

However, the hope that spring will lead to romance falls short of meeting everyone's expectations.

While the top two favorite songs chosen in the survey praise the romantic essence of spring, the latter two tracks, indie band 10cm’s "What the Spring??" and a collaboration between singer-songwriter IU and boy band High 4 titled, "Not Spring, Love or Cherry Blossoms,” with 7.16 percent and 5.16 percent, respectively, capture the voices of those left unloved, providing a contrasting perspective on the season.

These songs bear bitter undertones and express discontent with typical images of the season of love. Such contrasting attitudes toward romantic relationships in spring are responses to popular images of spring idealizing young romance.

Beneath the surface resentment toward spring and happy couples, both songs reveal an undercurrent of isolation and longing. They lament the misfortune of lacking a romantic partner with whom to share the season's joys.

"I find it amusing that some songs reflect the voices of singles," shared Park, a college student in her 20s. "Many of my friends are not in a relationship, making these songs more relatable to them."

Indeed, the theme of staying single during the spring season has aroused significant sympathy among Koreans, echoing the growing trend of individuals choosing to embrace singlehood.

According to a survey conducted by local pollster PMI Research and Consulting last year, which involved 3,000 singles aged between 20 to 69, nearly half of respondents said they are currently not in a relationship. Approximately 35 percent reported being in one, while close to 20 percent said that they had never been in a relationship before.

However, the largest percentage of respondents -- at 33.6 percent -- stated that they feel more comfortable being alone.

An official from the polling agency attributed the rising trend of singledom in modern society to individuals seeking higher life satisfaction, stronger personal values and self-realization.

Kim also said that he is quite content with his life without a romantic partner, as he remains occupied with pursuing his life goals. He has been single for over a year now.

"I would be open to dating if I met someone whom I could dedicate myself to. Until then, I don't plan to actively seek out a romantic partner," he expressed. "Right now, it's better for me to focus on myself."

Yet, immersing himself in the romantic ambiance of spring still brings a sense of joy, with or without a partner, he said.

Cover of album Cover of album "Busker Busker," with title track "Cherry Blossom Ending" (Stone Music Entertainment)