Destiny and fate are some of the most common themes in pop music. Songs about star crossed lovers are part of pop lore and continue to be evocative stories. One reason why I love K-pop is that it regularly breathes life into old concepts like this. Now that two songs have been released within a week of each other that incorporate these very ideas, I thought it would be a good time to examine how K-pop deals with such inevitable love.
Aesthetically Lovelyz and Berry Good are immediately similar. They represent what we expect from cute girl groups, predominantly white clothing and soft fabrics emphasising innocence and purity. They have had much different shots at success though. Lovelyz, coming from Woolim Entertainment the home of INFINITE, were expected to make it big not only due to backing but because their concept was tried and tested. Berry Good have gone unknown since their debut in 2014 under Asia Bridge Entertainment and, like many small groups, have lost a number of members. Both groups however, whether with the help of their company or some divine powers have arrived at the best songs of their careers.
Since debuting Lovelyz haven’t dared leave their comfort zone. I’d usually be critical of groups like this but the quality of every one of their songs has defied that. Heavily influenced by J-pop, Lovelyz have proven themselves the best when it comes to innocent concepts by being youthful but never childish.
Harking back to their debut “Candy Jelly Love,” “Destiny” is driven by heavy synths that keep the song from ever feeling too serious. These combine wonderfully with a string section that gives the song a sense of fantasy. It’s in the chorus where these sounds all come to fruition as lighter synths twirl up and down while the strings and distorted synths drive the song along. Vocally it’s their best work too. Aside from the usual stronger vocalled members, the other girls are arranged to fit with each other, adding harmonies that were previously absent from Lovelyz songs. Yein and Jiae especially come together nicely with their fragile voices. Small ad libs of “oohs” in between add layers as well.
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“Destiny” is polished pop perfection. Each part balances so well. The verses have an added length to them that seems incongruous but is justified by the huge chorus. It is worth the wait. Big moments like this tie in well with the subject matter of the song. “Destiny” is something that is predicated on having a lot of blind faith. It’s something that one has to believe whole heartedly or not at all. Who else better for something like this than a group of young girls?
Lovelyz’ idea of destiny stays big by referring to the solar system. In “Destiny,” the girls are the moon and the boy they love is the earth. This is a destiny that can never be fulfilled though. Like the earth and the moon, these two people are inherently connected yet can never touch. “You’re my destiny, the gravity that pulls me,” sings Lovelyz. The moon spins around the earth in cycles totally focused on it while the earth remains preoccupied, “Why do you keep circling around her? When I revolve around you like the moon.” These are extremely clever lyrics that highlight a Romeo and Juliet style of destiny. It’s beautiful and exciting but this love will never prosper.
Circles are used a lot in the choreography and video to reinforce this idea. Constellations and solar patterns are seen in the video, the girls form rings while on stage, evoking ideas of infinity. Pairs are also used in interesting ways. When split into pairs the girls rarely look at each other, they always touch but seem distant. The same happens when they split 50/50 as a group too. The two halves, while aware of each other, maintain a spiritual distance.
“Destiny” is a decidedly melancholic look into the fates of love. It taps into youthful abandon. You fall madly in love with someone and claim it as destiny with no other way to express it. It’s inevitable and unavoidable even if you’re aware of it. “I can’t look away, You’re all I see,” the girls cry as the song comes to an end. They are destined to be stuck in a cycle of impossible love.
Berry Good “Angel”
That thing I said about big moments, Berry Good go all out in search of them.
With Lovelyz and Berry Good we can get a distinct image of the difference between groups with money and groups without it. Lovelyz are polished, their music is clean and focused, and their choreography tight and impressive. A rookie group ready to be the unnies right from the start. Berry Good are their little sisters, a bit messy but full of energy and passion, despite debuting first. They have to do more to be heard and they certainly try.
Like Lovelyz, Berry Good have had a clear J-pop influence on their music. In “Angel” it isn’t quite clear until the chorus though. The song starts off with a piano and string section before adding a guitar and drum rhythm section. The introduction of the guitar and drum is a bit stilted but nicely changes things up a bit. It also serves as a warning of what is to come; this slightly dissonant sound makes us sit up and listen. It primes us for a huge chorus of distorted synths and power vocals. The violins lift alongside soaring vocals taking us into heaven. After taking it easy again with an odd little whispered post chorus, “Angel” begins its ascent once again. It doesn’t let up and finally reaches a euphoric climax. Vocals let loose to unimaginable heights, synths, strings, and guitars crash together, and small harmonies add a kinetic energy. It’s an incredible last forty seconds or so.
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With such cathartic gusto in “Angel” you would think this is all about a great, impossible love. Berry Good are doing things differently though. This is a song about the most important kind of destiny, a personal faith. The lyrics regularly mention a ‘you’ as if the girls are singing to someone but looking closer, it can be seen as self-motivating. In the first verse member Sehyung sings “I’m so lonely, I need someone,” to which Seoyul replies “Have strength, You’re not alone.” The girls are speaking to each other, giving each other help in times of need. “I have a faith, By destiny,” “Angel” is a song about learning to trust your own destiny. “I’ll tell you in the mirror, You’re going to be fine,” Berry Good are singing directly to themselves, not worried about other people or boys. What else could they be so passionate about? They are the only people that deserve the incredibly strong emotions that come from this song.
The video plays up their distinctly feminine traits. A room covered in white veils, the girls dressed in clothes to match this. Time stands still in this room that traps a girl from taking a chance. She slowly starts to take the veils down. It isn’t until we reach the chorus that things start to change, in this case a single tear drop and confrontation of the mirror give the room colour. An outpour of emotion, even if internalized, can change a destiny. When the song begins its climax, the girl finally leaves the room, the bright sun is piercing but a comfort. She did this herself and it feels so much better because of it.
With the best songs of their respective careers so far, Lovelyz and Berry Good have also given us new ways of looking at old themes. They both used big emotions articulated by excellent vocals to breathe life into our ideas of destiny in pop music. Whether we see destiny as being between lovers, friends, or a personal faith, these two groups have shown us that it can be beautiful and terrible. This was all done with a youthful vigour that feels so right for themes like this too. Young girls are taking back these ideas and showing how it can hurt them but also how they can be used to heal them.
What do you think of these songs by Lovely and Berry Good? Would you like to see more concepts like this? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.