Recently I was listening to compilations of Davichi’s songs on Youtube, and I came across “Can You Hear Me” from the original soundtrack for Korean musical Tears of Heaven that premiered in early 2011. I had heard of it then, or maybe a few times in the past – in addition to casting Lee Haeri, the musical featured Kim Junsu of JYJ as its protagonist. For some reason, after having casually heard this track a few times over the years, this time around, the track stuck – just the epic grandeur of the melody and the dramatic effect produced by the instrumental joined with the musical actors’ vocals and dynamics was mesmerizing. As the producers called the musical one of Broadway caliber, I think this track really demonstrates the high quality and grand scale of this production (the musical was composed by Frank Wildhorn). (You can learn more about the musical here.)
I think I like the actual musical version above Lee Haeri’s recorded version, because the addition of the male voice (turning the track into a duet) really makes the track more lovely, especially as the female and male seemingly exchange dialogue through their interjections, and the harmonies reinforce the unity and shared mindset expressed in the lyrics. Also, the choir heightens the drama of it. But nonetheless, Lee Haeri makes her studio version an enjoyable, albeit different, listen in its own right.
The above video is from a mini-concert for the musical, featuring Jung Sangyoon and Lee Haeri as the leads. Below is an English version performance by Brad Little and Lee Haeri, and below that is the audio of Lee Haeri’s solo studio version.
Sometimes it’s difficult to find motivation to translate songs or blog because I’m tired or not in the mood, or the songs that I’ve been listening to are too difficult to translate without much deliberation and head-scratching. But this song, I’ve listened to quite a number of times over the past two and a half years that have elapsed since it was first released. And even without totally understanding the lyrics prior to articulating this translation, I have realized through songs like these that one can sometimes relate to things (s)he doesn’t necessarily fully understand – just hearing bits and pieces, “Live in the moment / ’cause this time’s not your last” and “One more step, even if [you] go slowly / It’s not [a matter of being] so late,” I had come to understand the general meaning of the lyrics. Perhaps I actually came to translate this song after dragging my feet trying to find a song to translate because these specific lyrics resonated with me – that even if I’m not exactly in the mood for translation or don’t have momentum from previous translations as a driving force, I can pick up with one more step, even if it’s a simpler translation like this.
It’s unfortunate that Justin Kim has seemingly disappeared from the Korean music scene since around two years ago, but I don’t believe that diminishes the quality of this cover and the effectiveness of the message the song conveys. (Also, unfortunately, I cannot find the longer studio version of this cover on Youtube, so I only posted a live performance below.)
Although I still can’t completely grasp the meaning of the lyrics of Zitten’s Try, I feel like its title and the sole English word in its lyrics, “try,” says a lot. The song’s instrumental reminds me a bit of pep band music meant to rally its listeners into trying again after failure, although admittedly, I can’t quite justify this with the lyrics as I find myself struggling to understand them even after having let them sit in my brain (and a draft of this post) for a few weeks. I know I’ve said this before (and perhaps it arises partly due to my lack of understanding of the Korean language), but I find Zitten’s songs to have an unearthly character, not only in the instrumentals but in the lyrics – they can be hard to grasp and feel intangible, but that quality gives them a unique charm. Also, something to note in reading my (already flawed) translation – I’m not sure if the song is imperative, overall addressing listeners as “you” and telling them to try, or if it is declarative, overall telling the story of someone who learned to try. (A live performance of Try is above; an audio version of it [and its translation] is below the cut.) Continue reading
A relatively simple song, “First Love” was composed by Kim Dongryul for Exhibition’s third album, Graduation, summoning the end of Kim Dongryul’s collaboration group with Seo Dongwook. Wikipedia claims that the track was fittingly composed by Kim Dongryul when he was fourteen years old. Kind of like “That Day from Long Ago,” “First Love” has a pensive quality in its prolongation of certain lyrics that conveys the thoughtful, reasoned reflection of the speaker on his past.
Despite having worked on three different translations this week, I couldn’t find one that I was confident I could express clearly enough to publish, so I began to translate this song. Not to undermine the elegance and insight with which this song demonstrates the feelings of a first love, I was able to translate it with relative ease in its repeated use of simpler syntax, which may or may not be intentional in illustrating the more foolish and simplistic thoughts that characterize a first love. On another hand, perhaps I found these lyrics rather straightforward because compared to the three others that I worked on, I have listened to this song somewhat consistently over the past few weeks and months.
Another Lee Jeok song. Well, kind of. It’s Lee Jeok’s cover of Yoon Jongshin’s “That Day from Long Ago” for Yoon Jongshin’s “Monthly Melody” of December 2013. This cover, like Sung Sikyung’s cover of “Tomorrow’s Things to Do,” stuck to me for a while and has remained a song I enjoy listening to even as I happen upon new releases or old songs for the first time. There’s a solemn, sorrowful quality to that oddly draws my attention. Maybe it isn’t so odd that I like this song if my previous translations pose any indication of my music taste (and enjoyment of ballads), but this song feels especially slow. Perhaps because of the slow, pulsed piano notes in the instrumental and the sustained notes in the song. There’s an encumbered, dragging pace to it as if something heavy (emotions?) is being protracted and stretched as far as possible, so much so that you linger on every step you take as you bear a heavy weight. I almost feel as if the song drags me with it, making me a bit solemn or sad with each listen even if I’m not originally in a downcast mood. And is it weird that I kind of like the feeling of being slowed down and weighed down by this song? Or maybe it’s just that I feel like I can relate to it.
With this song, I posted a few translation notes that I thought worthy of mention under the cut. Also under the cut is Yoon Jongshin’s original version from 1993. It definitely has a quality different from Lee Jeok’s version, and I think it’s in a higher key (correct me if I’m wrong).
To be honest, when I first heard With You, the title track on Lee Jeok’s fourth album “Love” (2010), the only part of the lyrics I understood was that which talked about being happy and empowered just by being with the “you” mentioned. And although I liked the melody, I didn’t quite enjoy the heavy guitar and drums instrumental that comes into the song around the chorus. But after taking a closer look at the lyrics and understanding them, I realized that the heavy guitar and drums instrumental actually meaningfully reflects the lyrics. It seems that coming to an understanding of song lyrics does much to create or further my enjoyment of a song. The performance is above, with the audio and lyrics below.
While I’m not normally a fan of songs that have a choir-like echo of background singers, the first time I heard “The Way We Live in the World” and understood the gist of it, I really enjoyed its meaningful lyrics. That said, I knew I wanted to translate it; but actually putting the insightful lyrics into easily comprehensible English clauses that sound as elegantly composed/stated as the actual Korean clauses is a quite a bit different from appreciating the Korean lyrics for what they are. The song is part of Kim Dongryul’s album “kimdongrYULE” released in 2011, featuring Yoo Heeyeol, Lee Sangsoon, Yoon Sang, Jung Jaehyung, Na Yoonkwon, Sweet Sorrow, Lena Park, Jung Soonyong, Ha Donggyun, John Park, Harim, Lee Jeok, Lee Younghyun, and Kim Jaesuk (for a total of 18 singers).
Although my translation is inadequate, enjoy the song and hopefully my translation will help you make sense of the beauty of the lyrics: Continue reading