Even if rare, K-pop songs that embodygirl power do exist, as we’ve noted in our four past versions of this list. And if this latest version of anthems is indicative of anything is that more and more women empowerment songs are coming out nowadays.Which is great! Because how many more silly songs about being head-over-heels for a guy and then completely devastated over a breakup do we really need? We do, however, need more songs that make women feel badass and capable, like the songs on this list.
1. Lee Hyori “Miss Korea”
In most of our K-pop girl power anthems installments, the queen Lee Hyori makes an appearance because women empowerment is one of the many things she embodies. And this time it’s time to talk about “Miss Korea.” Sure, beauty pageants don’t necessarily represent the most positive messages to girls, but Lee Hyori isn’t talking about competing with other girls over looks and “talents.” Oh no, the singer calls herself and anyone who is confident in herself “Miss Korea.”
Her opening line, “Hey pretty lady in that glass mirror, is something wrong?” is a bold and powerful statement, given that many girls don’t necessarily see themselves in a good light when it comes to their looks. “Miss Korea” builds up confidence in one’s looks, because even if it’s superficial, everyone has the right to feel pretty and desired and like they’re “the best girl in the world.” This song isn’t about her being the prettiest, it’s about everyone being “Miss Korea.”
2. 4Minute “Crazy”
Another song celebrating the self is 4Minute’s “Crazy.” In the song, they own and reclaim the negative term “crazy” and use it in their favor. People call you crazy? That’s fine because they think so too and they don’t think it’s something bad. To them, “crazy” equals being fun and having fun. By reclaiming the term that is often attributed to women when they display any kind of raw emotion, they’re really saying that your feelings are valid and being oneself is the only way to be. “Find your hidden self in the world before you tonight,” they sing, meaning that knowing and liking you who are is key.
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3. Amber “Beautiful”
Being a woman is a burden. We’re expected to act, dress, talk, and just overall be a certain way that society dictated a long time ago. And even with all the social changes and technological advances we’ve experienced over the years, some women are still being looked down upon for being “different.” No one encapsulates this feeling better than Amber with “Beautiful.” In the song, she talks about feeling trapped and words cutting deep into her heart, and yet, enduring it all. Because being a woman also means being strong. Despite the hate, Amber talks about rising above it all and continuing on, and there’s no more powerful message that a woman can emit than “I am happy to be myself.” Beauty standards, misogyny, racism and everything else can be against you, but if you’re comfortable with yourself, you have one less important battle to fight.
4. KARA “So Good”
There’s something very problematic about raising girls telling them they need to be “good girls.” But what does a “good girl” even mean? Is there a concept? A consensus? Probably not. So if a confident woman with agency attributes her own definition and owns it, it works out fine. Case point KARA with “So Good.” People talk about them because they’re confident in themselves and their looks. And it’s not that they’re cocky when they say they have “the most charm” or are the perfect girl with no imperfections and flaws. It means that, in a world where every magazine, movie, TV show or whatever makes you feel ugly, you laugh it off because you know you’re fabulous just the way you are and don’t have time for the haters.
5. Wonder Girls “Stop!”
Knowing one’s self comes with also knowing one’s worth and being confident, especially when it comes with dealing with the opposite sex or the same, depending on your preferences. Like 4Minute, people call Wonder Girls “crazy” for pushing away what they perceive as a “good guy” in their song “Stop!” “Stop!” is the song most leading ladies in romantic comedies should be singing because no one understands where this “love” came from all of a sudden. The girls don’t believe the guy truly loves them because they haven’t even know each other that long, and because of that, they’re telling him to swerve. But like every other entitled guy, he’s a pest and doesn’t respect their decision so Wonder Girls are left to tell him to just stop. Stop loving them, following them, having interest in them, and thinking about them because they don’t like it.
For some, being able to tell someone to piss off is second nature. But for a lot of women, this comes difficult to them, especially if the other person isn’t complying. So having agency and the confidence of saying all this is applaudable.
6. EXID “With Out U”
While on the topic of boys as significant others, more often than not, girls are the ones who get the short end of the stick. So if you need an f you song that’s unapologetic and shows a break up is not the end of the world, EXID’s “With Out U” is a good option. Because if you feel cheated (which is very valid, whichever the case!), you’re certainly entitled to let your dissatisfaction known. And what’s more satisfying than telling that boy you’re freaking good without him and moving on easily?
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7. Michelle Lee “Without You”
Few songs in K-pop embody intersectionality, which studies intersections of oppression, as Michelle Lee’s “Without You.” For this song, Michelle put out her life’s struggles for everyone to see. If you listen to this song and think it’s about a significant other, listen again. Michelle actually sings about growing up as a black Korean and being discriminated for it and acknowledges the pain it all caused her. However, she declares boldly “I’m beautiful without you/ I’m meaningful without you/ I’m still beautiful even if I wasn’t loved by you.” Having an ethnic background different than the norm of the country we reside while being a woman only adds to the grievances of our life experiences. So “Without You” represents those struggles for Michelle, while telling society to go f themselves because she’s much more than what they reduced her to. She knows she’s different, but still beautiful, inside and out, and she fully understands that now.
8. Kisum “#WhiteStyle feat. Kim Ho Yeon”
Unlike boys, girls aren’t born with automatic privileges. In some ways, being a woman can be a disability in some eyes (cough, cough, medical industry), so of course women need to be heavily encouraged. Telling girls they’re beautiful, capable, intelligent, strong is not feeding their ego, it’s reinforcing notions that we all need to strive in life, especially since society tell them everything but a lot of the times. And that’s what Kisum’s “#WhiteStyle” does. Even if the song is a CF for tampons and tells girls to be confident during their periods and wear white clothing, if we take the tampon context out of the equation, it’s still a pretty encouraging song. Girls need to be told from a young age and throughout adolescence that they’re stars and to have confidence always. “#WhiteStyle” is basically Kisum being a cheerleader for us all, and hey, some of us do need encouraging words and support.