Everywhere in the world, there seems to be a tendency to uphold a specific type of beauty as the standard, and people who fall outside of it spend their lives trying to achieve it regardless of its impracticality. The K-Pop idol industry is no exception. While many idols have spoken about the hardships they went through to achieve the ‘ideal’ beauty standards of the industry, some went a step ahead and tackled the issue through their artistry as well.
Body image is not an easy topic to discuss, but here are five K-Pop songs that address the issue head-on:
1. “Diet (feat Whee In of Mamamoo)” by Peakboy
This song gives a dual perspective of two lovers- one who is suffering from body image issues and the other who can’t stand to witness it. Peakboy sings: “You close your eyes in front of that cake you liked/ Even when it starts to bring annoyance/ It brings out scowl on the face/ Baby no need to worry it’s not really needed.” Whee In replies in the song: “What looks so pretty in your eyes/ My reflection in the mirror seems ugly to me/ Even those pretty clothes in the display/ Just bring out groans, I will just start again tomorrow.”
2. “In Front Of The Mirror” by GLAM
This 2013 track is a brutally honest record of what it is like to struggle with body image issues. The second verse goes:
“Again, in front of the mirror
In front of my face
My pride is crumbling once again
“I’m so pretty, I’m so awesome”
I say those useless monologues
And I’m falling down, I’m falling down
The tears keep endlessly falling
The thorn-like truth prickles me – that I’m not pretty”
The first-person perspective accurately depicts how your mind can convince you of your flaws and make your body dysmorphia immune to any outsider positivity.
3. “Shy Ddoong (feat RAVI)” by Bookku Ddoong
The track has a pretty amusing origin story. Comedian Moon Se Yoon (Bookku Ddoong) kept asking VIXX‘s RAVI to write him a song while filming 2 Days 1 Night, and he eventually came up with this song to describe how the comedian is in real life.
The song has a playful sound that matches the vibe of the music video. But the lyrics offer you a picture of hard-hitting reality:
“Saying I look smaller than you thought
Do you know how much this hurts?
More that it seems calm words
Make me think about them all day long
Don’t tell me, “‘You are eating again?’ This’s my first meal of the day
I wake up at dawn I live a busy life, and now
I’m about to catch my breath, I too, live fiercely“
4. “Not Barbie” by Tiffany Young
The first verse of the song goes:
Used to dream about the dayI make a lot of money just to change up Hide all the pain with my makeup Makeup don’t really fix a thing”
5. “LOVE ME” by iKON
The song offers a male perspective on body image issues, which is seldom discussed in popular media. One of the most hard-hitting parts of the song is when the lyrics go:
“I heard of it till I got sick of it, I’m not good-looking
They said I’m ugly and short, I’ll never meet girls
Whenever I open my mouth, girls start cracking up
But why is it that my friend gets all your attention instead of me?”
Body image-related issues are very hard to talk about, especially when you are within a social system that equates chasing beauty standards with self-improvement. While the K-Pop industry has a long way to go in this area, the fact that so many artists have openly discussed this difficult topic in their songs gives hope that change might come eventually.