Artists often use their platforms and music, including K-pop songs, to talk about issues that affect them personally. Music as a medium easily lends itself to discussions over topics that might be difficult to address otherwise.
Despite the fact that mental health in South Korea is still considered a taboo topic, K-pop idols have often dug deep to talk about the issues that affect them, ending up with poignant musical pieces that will resonate with many around the world.
The discussions that arise as a result can help to foster a more inclusive environment in which openly discussing mental health is the norm, while also allowing fans to better relate to K-pop songs. This article takes a look at five such K-pop songs that delve into the topic of mental health.
Trigger Warning: This article contains mentions of mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and panic disorder.
5 K-pop songs addressing mental health: Agust D's The Last, Sunmi's Borderline, and three more
1) Breathe by Lee Hi
Running in this fast-paced life can often get exhausting, with too many expectations from people around. Breathe reminds one to take a pause and be aware of the reason one is on this path.
Apart from the pervasive nature of the K-pop song, it specifically refers to Lee Hi's experience with panic disorder, whose symptoms include breathlessness. Composed by SHINee's Jonghyun and written by Lee Hi, Breathe is comforting on the days things get a bit too overwhelming.
"Someone's breath, that heavy breath/ How can I see through that?/ Though I can't understand your breath/ It's alright, I'll hold you"
2) Lonely by Jonghyun feat. Taeyeon
Rarely will a K-pop song address the realities of being lonely and disconnected from people in a candid and passionate manner. But Jonghyun's self-written music was always an outlier, and Lonely managed to touch upon the agony of solitude while acknowledging the difficulty of sharing your emotions.
Jonghyun and Taeyeon sing about not wanting to burden others by talking about one's mental health, despite knowing that they might understand—because one is used to bearing it by oneself. Lonely's lyrics will strike a chord with listeners, no matter their age, because not wanting to hinder loved ones with problems is a universal experience.
"I feel like I'm alone/ But I don't want to make it obvious to you/ I'm just more used to enduring it on my own/ Please understand me, please let me be"
3) The Last by Agust D
Using his alter ego Agust D, BTS' SUGA has been able to address his struggles with depression, social anxiety, and self-loathing in a palpable way without mincing any words.
In The Last, Agust D talks about slowly working through his mental illness and how success affected him (this was in 2016, when BTS was just becoming successful). The rapper's ability to bite back haters and comfort those with mental struggles within the scope of the K-pop song is both impressive and intimidating.
"On the other side of the famous idol rapper/ Stands my weak self, it’s a bit dangerous/ Depression, OCD/ They keep coming back again from time to time"
4) Nosedive by Dynamic Duo and Chen (of EXO)
While most K-pop songs on this list come from personal experience, Nosedive is unique in that it takes on an outsider's perspective. The song wishes to comfort people going through difficult times in their lives, promising to console them and wipe their tears.
Chen's melodious voice comes as a life-jacket, offering support when one is in the throes of depression with no end in sight, while Dynamic Duo's fluid rap seems to carry one peacefully over the abyss.
"When sadness disappears, and tears begin to stop/ I'll wipe your tears underneath your eyes with my thumb"
5) Borderline by Sunmi
As an all-English K-pop song written with her songwriting partner FRANTS, Borderline allows Sunmi to delve deep into her personal experience with Borderline Personality Disorder and the scrutiny she experienced after going public with her diagnosis.
Sunmi now has her mental illness under control, even going off medication recently. However, Borderline is an interesting take on the price that idols have to pay for fame.
"I'm trying to be a good girl/ Didn't mean to fake it/ Getting used to saying I'm okay/ And yellin' to myself/ Don't push me away"
People often turn to music as a way to destress and keep their worries at bay for those few precious minutes. These K-pop songs prove that music heals, no matter the language, and can provide solace to those suffering alone.
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