It might sound cheesy, but if you asked me to list all the times music has helped me through periods in my life I wasn’t sure I would even be able to come out of, I couldn’t count them all on my fingers if I tried. Music has served as my crutch and comfort in the toughest of times and through every little battle I had to fight alone. For as long as I can remember, whether I was in dire need of a big hug, a comforting voice to tell me that I was doing okay, or an escape for when life just gets a little too overwhelming, I could always find it all in music.
The past two years haven’t been easy for anyone. While we’re all trying our best to cope in whatever way we can, we’re all in need of a little comfort and strength whether we admit it to ourselves or not. In the absence of a human hug or a shoulder to lean on, there is still music that offers something of the sort. And I’ve found that K-pop in particular has a plethora of songs that not only feel like warm hugs but also perfectly articulate the struggles I could never put to words. And I’ve compiled all the ones that have personally given me light in some of the darkest seasons of my life.
So, here is a list of K-pop songs you can listen to if you’re in need of a big hug or a good cry today:
1. "Kidult" by Seventeen
Growing up is terrifying, uncomfortable, and exhausting all at once. But this song is a gentle reminder that while we’re all trying our best to fit into adult shoes and act the part, it’s also okay to just be a kid sometimes. It’s okay to want to be loved, to enjoy life, and to cry like a baby when things get tough. You don’t need to be strong all the time.
“Let’s love even our hidden sadness.”
2. "HOLO" by Lee Hi
There is an end to your sadness. When you find yourself stuck under an overwhelming wave of loneliness and despair, this song is a lullaby that will help you through your first gasp of air. As Lee Hi sings, your life is too precious to be wasted in worry and suffering. Have faith in yourself, you will make it through.
“One day it will stop.”
3. "Palette" by IU feat. G-Dragon
Navigating through your twenties is confusing at best and anxiety-inducing at worst. As a song made for her 25th birthday, IU perfectly captures what it’s like to be at that threshold of being a child and being grown-up. And she reminds us to just embrace all of it! You don’t need to know everything. It’s okay to take your time and enjoy getting to know yourself a little bit better.
“You’re not a grownup nor a child. You’re just you.”
4. "For You" by 3RACHA ft. Felix
As Stray Kids’ producing unit, 3RACHA (composed of members Bang Chan, Changbin and Han) had released a few mixtapes pre-debut, among which are songs about the pains of growing up and the journey of finding ourselves. "For You" was a track specifically made for students like them who are growing tired of persevering. (Anyone else feel seen?) It’s a sweet reminder to stop and look up for a minute, and see that there is far more to look forward to beyond our present struggles.
“Blessings wait for you.”
5. "Star" by ASTRO
Sometimes knowing that someone out there is thankful that you simply exist is more than enough to get through the toughest of times. Astro offers a shoulder to lean on by reminding us that when we feel lost and no longer know where we’re going or where to get strength to move forward, still, we’re never alone.
“Stop and rest. It’s okay.”
6. "Zombie" by Day6
When I couldn’t make sense of all that I was feeling, convinced that nobody would ever be able to understand, this song proved that I was wrong. It’s a different kind of comfort knowing that there are words to express even your deepest despair and that you aren’t alone in experiencing it. Sometimes the best way to overcome pain is just allowing yourself to go through it.
“Dried out but I feel like I should cry.”
7. "Hello Future" by NCT Dream
We all need a little bit of hope during these unprecedented times, and this song embodies just that. With the perfect balance of grit and optimism, "Hello Future" reminds us that it’s more than okay to allow yourself to look forward to a future filled with good. In fact, it isn’t as far away as it may seem. (You can also check out "Life Is Still Going On", another comforting song from their recent album!)
“Peace isn’t so far away.”
8. "Campfire" by Seventeen
Whether you need a song to cry to or one that will lift your spirits up a tenfold, believe me, you can find all kinds of comfort in Seventeen songs. (Is it obvious I’m a Carat?) When the pain of grieving the little mundane things about life pre-pandemic gets a little too hard to manage, I go back to this song and remember that there will be better days. And that once in a while, I owe it to myself to smile a little.
“When you’re tired and exhausted, I’ll be your light / Smile brightly, we can be each other’s strength.”
9. "Downpour" by I.O.I
Often, our most difficult moments feel the longest, and as time passes, it gets harder and harder to continue to believe that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. But this beautiful ballad (from one of the best girl groups of K-pop, might I add) reminds us that the rain will always come to an end, and what’s painful now might just become a beautiful memory in the future.
“It’s alright, it’s just a passing downpour.”
10. "Airplane" by IZ*ONE
Who says dreaming was a bad thing? When it feels like the whole world is against you, sometimes the best person to ask for support, faith, and a little cheering from is none other than yourself. If you’re looking for a little happy pill of a song to give you an instant serotonin boost, this one’s it! Because no matter what mood I’m in, it never fails to put a smile on my face.
“It’s my time to shine, to be a little more courageous.”
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