[music] Yonghwa and sad songs

I hate sad songs.

Through my job, I already see how the world is sad and so f*cked up that if I listen to a melancholic song, especially at work, it’s like putting a soundtrack to it all.

A friend once said Barry Manilow’s and Air Supply’s songs would make you want to jump off a building and kill yourself after listening to them. And yet, they are karaoke favorites.

People love sad songs, in fact, nine of the world’s best-selling songs are melancholic, if not sad and depressing, according to this BBC article. Perhaps it’s because more people can relate to sad songs? And if that’s the case, then what does that say about the psychological state of majority of people in the world?

jyh x swja


Today, CNBLUE’s Jung Yonghwa released his collaboration project with singer Sunwoo Jung-a: Hello and Fireworks. JYH composed Hello while SWJA did Fireworks. The songs are as different as night and day. Hello is a bluesy, jazzy ballad while Fireworks is classified as dance. I like both songs but Fireworks wins for me, all because, as I said in the beginning of this post, I hate sad songs.

Hello has the same effect on me as One Fine Day. Many of my friends are so in love with OFD while it leaves me in despair every time I listen to it. I was just telling a friend earlier that even the piano notes in the intro of OFD would be enough to send me pressing the remote to the next song. My post on OFD says it all.

What’s with Yonghwa and sad songs? “What’s JYH without sad songs?” said friend retorted. She’s also the same person to remind me that many CNBLUE songs are, in fact, about heartbreak. Even the rock I’m Sorry is a break-up song.

In their most recent albums 2gether and Colors, but most especially Colors, the melancholic songs are littered everywhere like pieces of broken hearts. This streak of sad songs bothered me so much I had to Google “sad songs” and I found two interesting posts.

This post is by a songwriter whose father wished she would write happy songs. And he made a good point that he’s talking about the lyrics, not the music, because true enough, there are also sad songs that sound “happy”. The comments section is interesting because the insights come from other songwriters, with a couple of them saying it’s hard to write happy songs without being cheesy. How can happiness be cheesy when it’s a desired state for human beings? I haven’t heard anyone saying “I want to be sad”. But what I find even more interesting is one of the comments that makes a case for uplifting songs, of wanting to leave her audience with a feeling of hope. (And that’s my beef with JYH’s OFD tour, he ends it with “that day that day that day”; I get it that it’s the OFD tour but did he have to leave with the title song instead of, say, Goodnight Lover, which would have been apt in many ways. But then, the tour is all over so it’s moot and academic to debate it.)

The second post is by a music editor who muses: “do you have to be sad to write sad songs?” She reckons that musicians/songwriters dig into their own experiences to create music. I find it interesting that both posts I found were written by women. Maybe women are more sensitive to this issue than men, just as she makes a case that perhaps, artists’ experiences are more magnified compared to the rest of us mortals?

“Maybe artists feel everything more intensely than the average individual.”

One of the comments in the first article above says it’s harder to write happy songs compared to writing sad songs. Maybe because sadness is a more layered emotion than happiness so it gives more material for a song, a book or a film.

Yonghwa did say before that not all the songs he has written are snippets of his own life (though that doesn’t stop delusional people from making connections). He takes inspiration from the people around him and at one point, even sitting in a cafe in Hongdae. He also takes down notes whenever ideas hit him. I’m curious about his songwriting process because I find his musicality very visual. He has this talent of painting the scene for you through his words and creating the mood through the instruments he chooses to play for each song. In my book, that makes him a master storyteller-slash-musician. And perhaps that’s why when he writes sad songs, it pulls at your heartstrings.

It would be interesting to see how Hello and Fireworks would fare in the digital charts, but I don’t think it would be any indication on whether fans prefer the sad or the upbeat song. Instead, it would be an indication of loyalty and my guess is, Hello will win because JYH composed it. And that’s not really sad.

But I would still like to make my case for–all right, forget happy songs–let’s settle for uplifting songs that may start with hello and end in fireworks.

The winter sings the love of you

You light a fire
Right here in my heart

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6 thoughts on “[music] Yonghwa and sad songs

  1. Oy, I just listened these two songs few minutes ago. I don’t hate sad songs but these days I seem to prefer uplifting more, hence Fireworks better for me too.

    These releases caught my eye not just because of Yong Hwa but because me and couple of pals went to this music festival last summer and one of the performers was Sunwoo Sung-a. Her part was one of the best there, she is really likeable. We bumped into her a fiew times later on, while watching the other acts. 🙂


  2. What is it about sad songs and people?

    I have often heard the saying if you are happy you listen to the music while if you are sad, you listen to the lyrics. That must make a perpetually sad person because all I hear is the lyrics. Even when I stepped into the unknown world of Kpop (with my depressingly limited understanding of lyrics) I struggled but found ways to remember the meanings until I felt comfortable enough to love the melody and appreciate the song as a whole. To put it out there nobody has accused me of being a sad person, like ever. So I can safely say that I have a cheerful disposition, now that’s established, getting to the point, which is that I love sad songs. Not to say I don’t love cheery songs or warm, happy songs but some of my absolute favourites can be easily classified as sad.
    I can’t help but wonder, why?. The first time it struck me was when I was singing an old Hindi song in which the lyrics translates to give me a hug for I don’t know if we’ll ever meet like this again in this lifetime. It’s beautifully haunting and I have been so struck by the lyrics that it’s the song I sing for days on end, sometimes. Now, in spite of having a normal share of heart breaks, nothing in my life warrants the love for the song. Almost paradoxically, I am not especially fond of sad dramas or tragic endings. Melodrama is the bane of my existence. So when it comes to songs why is it different?

    Take the song that truly brought me into Kpop. Yong Hwa’s Missing you from Heartstrings. I’ve lost count to number of times I have sung along as the song triggered a certain sadness and an under current of passion(?) in me.
    The only reasonable conclusion I have drawn from this slightly unhealthy obsession with sad songs is that, these songs touch a part of the heart that other songs do not. There is a beauty to the melancholy especially if set to music. Because sometimes when we are the happiest, we get tears in our eyes. Just as when we listen to an especially great piece of music. Maybe a similar reaction is triggered in us when we listen to sad songs?
    Or it could be that there is some part of our lives that is touched by sadness and that part often repressed is brought alive by the sadness in the song?
    Maybe there are researchers out there working this problem but to me it feels like one of the many mysteries of the human mind.


    • well I guess it all boils down to personality and personal taste. I used to like melancholic songs that you could sing your heart out to, there’s a psyche in being able to release all that angst and emotions while singing haha. but I just gravitate to happier, upbeat tunes. as Mr White said in That Thing You Do: ” I don’t want any of this lover’s lament crap. I want something peppy, something happy, something up-tempo. I want something snappy.” omg, am I Mrs White? hahahahahaha

      thanks for the insightful comment!


  3. Thanks so much for the great blog! I just discovered JYH and CNBLUE a couple months ago and it’s nice to find someone writing posts about them that’s not just fangirly stuff (though I like fangirly stuff as well!) I might blog about JYH someday soon (since I’ve been pretty obsessed since finding him) but for now I’m just enjoying all of the great things that he does. I hope he’s able to make great music for a long time to come–


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