These lyrics are more haunting and elegant than I expected. The speaker describes how he’s left in this suspended, dream-like state after his girlfriend leaves him. He connects to his dreams if she appears, and disconnects if she doesn’t. He closes his eyes in the dark and lets memories light his room. He visits places they frequented and projects holographic images of her. As a result of constantly being in a dreamlike state, he becomes an insomniac. After reflecting on why his girlfriend left him, the speaker has an epiphany that the center of the universe is love, life and he regrets being numb to existence. Weary of living in a dream world, he wants to break free from his haunting memories of her, but the cyclic structure of the lyrics’ narrative suggests that it’s as futile as his longing for her to return.
The elegance of these lyrics lies in its wordplay. The lyrics’ wordplay reinforces its motif of weariness. One example of wordplay would be the frequent use of the verb ending and end rhyme, “gon hae” (곤 해), which is a homophone for the Korean word for weary, “gonhae” (곤해). For example, when the speaker says, “I’m smoking,” it sounds like he’s saying, “I’m tired,” since in Korean “smoking” is a homophone for “tired” (담배를 피우곤 해). To backpedal a little, this is a pop song, and in general its lyrics are derivative and formulaic. But they are more interesting than I thought they would be.
Translating Korean lyrics can be like fishing in the dark. Without a pole. On top of an Antarctic subglacial lake with several thousand feet of ice between you and the fish. Okay, I jest. It’s highly unlikely a species of fish could survive in such an oxygen supersaturated, oligotrophic environment. So there are no fish. So I was grossly exaggerating.
To get back on topic, my point is that I find translating Korean lyrics difficult, one of the reasons being their propensity for indirectness. Korean in general can be indirect because Korean sentences don’t require subjects. As such, subjects are often omitted if they can be implied by context, which occurs frequently in poetic writing such as lyrics. The problem arises when your proficiency in Korean is middling at best and you fail to pick up on the clues (i.e., yours truly).
For example, in The Breeze’s How Do I Put This I thought the subject of the speaker’s narration in this line was himself, “혼자일거라는 생각은 사실 못했었어” or “To be honest, [I] didn’t think [I’d] be alone.”Continue reading →