I started actively listening to K-pop around 2009, when a string of addictive songs were released, such as “Fire” from 2ne1, “Abracadabra” from Brow Eyed Girls, “Gee” from Girls Generation, “Sorry Sory” from Super Junior, and “Nobody” from the Wonder Girls. The tunes were addicting, fun, colourful, and their music videos were absolutely captivating. It wasn’t until the end of 2012, during the Christmas holidays that I started to delve away from K-pop, and more into contemporary, indie artists that South Korea had to offer. It wasn’t until then that I started seeing the beauty of music. From then on, I started taking music more seriously and critically, and my musical taste changed for the better. I learned all I could about music since then so I could continue to enjoy songs I love and appreciate more music that isn’t mainstream pop.
So the song that really captivated me, and made me re-focus my attention in pop music was “The Real Reason We Broke Up” or “우리가헤어진진짜이유“, by Younha. “The Real Reason We Broke Up” is a song that I not only still listen to constantly, it’s a song that, more than half a year later, still gives me goosebumps. It’s a song that is technically strong, that is musical and well-thought through, and therefore can pay full attention to being a beautiful song, as opposed to scrambling to become an actual song.
What I like the most about “The Real Reason We Broke Up” (and I like a lot of things about it), is that it’s unpredictably predictable. It’s a song that doesn’t make you expect much at the beginning, but slowly builds on that, and by the middle you’re at the edge of your seat waiting for what’s next. You don’t know what’s going to happen next, but when things do happen, they make sense. It tells a story, and it achieves this gracefully.
My initial reaction to the song was bad, because when I heard the intro of “The Reason Reason We Broke Up“, I was preparing for the worst – the worst being a boring acoustic ballad with no life. But I was in for a surprise when the song did a complete 180 and exploded into this beautiful mishmash of an ethereal melody and a confidently sharp guitar line. And just thinking about how all it took for the song to achieve that effect was two elements, vocals and guitar, is such a reassurance to me of my point that there are musical people in pop.
The song has an element of complexity, and it’s executed perfectly. The complexity is subtle, but it’s there. There is intensity to the song, there’s dynamic to it, and there is a forceful grace to the delivery.Those aren’t things you’d associate with a run-of-the-mill female acoustic act these days, but Younha does it, and does it well.
It’s a song that instead of trying to push listeners away by trying so desperately to be “avant-garde” in “breaking boundaries” (and most of the time failing), actually brings the music closer to the audience by challenging that. It’s a song that shows an audience what music can be, what pop music can be, when it’s in the right hands. That’s what “The Real Reason We Broke Up” is – it’s a pop song. It may be better executed and thought about than a lot of others, but that doesn’t mean it’s not longer a pop song. To me, this song proved that there is art in pop music.
Strap on a good pair of headphones, close your room door, turn off the lights, lie on your bed in complete darkness and silence, and enjoy the beauty of the song.