10 Candid Songs In Which Idols Showed Us Their Vulnerable Sides
Beautiful, talented, and composed, K-pop idols are often seen as images of perfection. But this is rarely the full picture, and even our favorite idols have insecurities and struggles that make them feel vulnerable, whether it’s how they look, their past mistakes, the pressure of the spotlight, or something else entirely. The artists in this list have been candid and open about their vulnerabilities in their music, and the result is 10 stunning songs that are not only relatable but also inspiring: because if these idols can embrace their imperfections and insecurities, so can we all!
1. “Beautiful” — f(x)’s Amber
f(x)’s Amber is known for defying stereotypes in K-pop, and the singer has faced plenty of undue criticism for choosing to express herself in ways that don’t always conform to the industry’s rigid standards. So it’s no surprise that she would release a song about the difficulties of self-acceptance, and in the self-composed track “Beautiful,” Amber opens up about feeling insecure and hurt by the negativity aimed at her. But “Beautiful” is more uplifting than sad, delivering a message of hope that is so important to the singer that she got the notes of the chorus tattooed on her arm. Amber herself said it best: “‘Beautiful’ is about accepting who I am: it took me a while to gain confidence to say, ‘Screw it, I just wanna be me.'”
2. “Complex” — Zion.T feat. G-Dragon
Zion.T wrote this multi-layered song about his complexes, from those about his appearance to those about his music. As an artist who writes personally meaningful songs in an industry that seems to favor more generic, manufactured music and idols, Zion.T wonders if his life would be easier if he were an idol himself. To make things even more interesting, G-Dragon’s featuring rap offers an opposing view, wishing for more of the anonymity that Zion.T has: whereas Zion.T is recognized simply for his talent as an artist, G-Dragon feels that he himself has become more of a persona and wishes for more emphasis to be placed on his music — and so the two become each other’s complexes in the song.
3. “Ugly” — 2NE1
While all gorgeous in their own unique ways, the former members of 2NE1 do not necessarily conform to traditional K-pop beauty standards, which was not easy for the girls in an industry that unrelentingly judges idols for their appearances. Even their own CEO has shared his brutally honest opinion on their looks, and when leader CL had a discussion with YG producer Teddy Park about public criticism towards her appearance, “Ugly” was born. It’s a power anthem with deeply impactful lyrics that listeners will identify with no matter what their insecurities.
4. “Trauma” — SEVENTEEN’s Hip-Hop Team
SEVENTEEN’s hip-hop subgroup members Vernon, S.Coups, Mingyu, and Wonwoo wrote the lyrics to “Trauma” about personal struggles they’ve experienced: Vernon’s verse is about feeling isolated and lonely at school, while Wonwoo raps of self-doubt. All four feel trapped in their past traumas, unable to forget old mistakes and sorrows even as they feel the mounting pressure that accompanies increasing recognition in the public eye.
5. “Be I” — iKON’s B.I
iKON member B.I composed “Be I” for “Show Me the Money 3,” but there’s more to this rap than its intense beat and his powerful delivery: it’s about B.I’s personal struggle with making mistakes on stage. After forgetting lyrics during live performances on the show, the rapper wrote “Be I” about the tremendous pressure he felt before performances, the nerves and anxiety that caused him to mess up, and the ensuing criticism from the public. But the rap turns this negativity into fuel for self-improvement, as B.I shares his determination to do better and prove himself. Check out his inspiring live performance below:
6. “In Front of the Mirror” — GLAM
Another song that deals with physical insecurities, former girl group GLAM’s “In Front of the Mirror” is a refreshingly open take on being dissatisfied with your appearance. The girls sing about trying to mask their insecurities by playing it cool and confident, but coming to the same conclusion when they must confront themselves in the mirror every day: that they’re not pretty. Of course, the members of GLAM are all beautiful, which shows us just how universal such insecurities are.
7. “Reflection” — BTS’s RM
BTS’s leader RM wrote the lyrics to “Reflection” at Ttukseom, a spot overlooking the Han River that the rapper used to frequent when something was troubling him. In “Reflection,” RM touches on feeling anxious, lonely, and directionless, but the song’s prevailing, achingly raw sentiment is the difficulty of self-acceptance, found in the repeated line “I wish I could love myself.” RM is also not the only BTS member to open up about vulnerability in a song, and for a more intensely descriptive track about mental health issues, check out Agust D’s (Suga’s) release “The Last.”
8. “Expiration Date” — Epik High’s Tablo
Epik High’s Tablo got real with “Expiration Date,” a song about the fear of being discarded. He said of the track, “I constantly feel like I’m walking on thin ice. Where there is a rise, there will be a fall. I wanted to talk about that fear.” Like the piano melody that carries the tune, the song’s lyrics are elegantly simple and vulnerable:
“I’m afraid I’ll be a book that no one reads
Music that no one listens to anymore
I’m afraid I’ll be abandoned like a movie playing in an empty theater.”
9. “Is Being Pretty Everything?” — Fat Cat
In “Is Being Pretty Everything,” singer Fat Cat laments the fact that people place so much importance on appearances: she wants to be in love, but wonders if she will be able to when it seems like physical beauty is the only way to find romance. She implores guys to look past the external and into her heart in this catchy and hopeful track.
10. “Loser” — BIGBANG
Loneliness, failure, misfortune, and more: BIGBANG’s “Loser” tackles just about any vulnerable feeling you can imagine. The song, which G-Dragon, T.O.P, and Taeyang helped produce and write based on the members’ personal experiences, will resonate with any listener: according to G-Dragon, its message is that “not only BIGBANG, but also all the famous people who stand under the spotlight in front of the public are just human beings.” But the rapper also expressed a desire for all listeners to connect with the song, saying that “depending on how you accept it, this song could be your story.”
Hey Soompiers, which one of these vulnerable songs is your favorite? Do you relate to any of them? Let us know in the comments!
hgordon stays up way too late on weeknights marathoning K-dramas and trying to keep up with the latest K-pop releases.