[Music and Dramas] How an OST can save a drama
by Guest Beanie
Can I just say that this is a theme I really love? K-drama OSTs are such an essential part of my drama-watching experience, and often times my liking of a show is greatly affected by the choice of background music and OSTs it uses. The swelling violins, the heartbreaking sorrow behind a talented singer’s beautiful voice, the lyrics that just seem so apt for the story, a good OST truly enhances each moment in a drama, allowing it to shine (as you can probably already tell, I’m a real sucker for sad OSTs).
OSTs become especially important to me when I start losing interest in the main characters of the drama and their romance. This unfortunately happens pretty frequently to me, especially in longer dramas or those in which the relationship becomes overly draggy and loses its spark. One of my favorite examples would be the saguek Dong Yi, which I watched when I was about 11. It was a great drama, and while I felt the romance between Dong Yi and the king was adorable, I never rooted for it as strongly as I did for other drama couples (say, the pair from Queen In-hyun’s Man for instance).
That all changed in a particularly tragic episode, where Dong Yi, who had been attacked somewhere outside the palace, tried to call out to the king (who was seated in a palanquin) for help, but was unable to do so because she was too weak. He passed her by without even realizing she was there, and the full tragedy of the couple’s separation hit me the moment “Walk in a Dreamy Road” by Jang Nara started to play.
Dong Yi, “Walk in a Dreamy Road”
From then on, this OST was to me, the theme of this couple’s often bittersweet but eventually blissful romance. It underscored so many memorable moments in this drama that I was brought down memory lane every time I heard it, especially because of the traditional instruments and melodies used in it. Coincidentally, this was the beautiful song that prompted me to start playing Korean OSTs on the piano, and I haven’t stopped since.
There are also some OSTs that truly save otherwise shoddily written dramas, and these sometimes end up giving me hope that the drama would improve because evidently, the drama’s music directors knew what they were doing. The most recent example would have to be Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. I was as disappointed as anyone else about this adaptation, especially since I was a huge fan of the original Chinese series. What surprised me however, were the numerous wonderful OSTs that were created for it.
Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo
Yes, there were A-list singers involved in it, and yes, there were many OSTs that did feel quite out of place in a period drama with their modern feel, but there were also beautifully heart-wrenching ones, with Jung Seung-hwan’s “Wind” and Im Sun-hye’s “I Will Be Back,” the latter of which soon became representative of the most tragic moments of the series (like Episode 11). Without these songs, the drama’s scenes would have been way less powerful, and they ultimately kept me watching the drama till the end because they helped engage my feelings.
The best thing about OSTs are that they serve a variety of different purposes (there’s the cute theme, the romantic theme, the sad theme, and so on), hence they are created in vastly different musical styles, with a wide variety of artists brought together each time. I especially enjoy this diversity because there are musical styles that are not often seen in modern K-pop anymore but can still be enjoyed occasionally in drama OSTs.
Finally, I love OSTs the most when the entire collection of them ties in so closely to the drama and its overall vibes or message, be it through the lyrics of each song or the type of emotion conveyed through the singers. It really takes a musical director with a clear vision in mind to be able to coordinate such a feat, and when that happens, it shows such unity in the direction and production of the drama that it deserves to be applauded. The best example that comes to mind would be the OST for the drama Memory.
While woefully underrated by many, this was one of my favorite dramas from 2016 because I absolutely loved the pensive tone and bittersweet realism. The soundtrack definitely played a huge part in creating this drama’s atmosphere, with meaningful songs written to reflect the main character’s (Lee Sung-min) regrets, his longing to hold on to his slowly receding memories, and most importantly, the comfort offered to him by his family members that they would never forget him, even if he eventually forgot about them. The OST, much like the drama, is both devastating and uplifting, but the well of emotions these songs open up in the hearts of viewers allows them to understand on a deeper level how the main character is feeling.
For me, OSTs are such an integral—and maybe even the best part—of K-dramas because of how much my viewing experience changes due to the music, whether it’s understanding characters or getting invested in a romance. So kudos to the music directors out there, y’all rock. <3
Memory, “If I Lived Again”
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