[Music and Dramas] Plots may fade, but music lasts
by Guest Beanie
I’ve always thought that some people are born more inclined to love music than others; while I am always plugged into my earphones, my sister does not have a single song downloaded onto her phone. For me, music has always been a comfort, a motivator, a symbol of a good memory and an expression of emotion. A good OST might not save a bad drama, but it might make it slightly better. The right music paired with a drama evokes and expresses stronger and deeper emotions.
For instance, Bride of the Water God 2017 had a fantastic OST—in particular, “Glass Bridge“, with its ethereal tones, made the scenes feel that much dreamier and more fantasy-like, which I really appreciated, given that the plot itself was lukewarm at best. Hearing “Round and Round” in The Lonely Shining Goblin’s opening credits never failed to make me think of the wistful love story between Kim Sun and Wang Yeo that spanned several lifetimes, and the loneliness of the centuries-old Goblin.
On a deeper, more emotional level, music makes a drama that much better if I can relate to the lyrics. The harder a song hits home, the more memorable it is for me.
Dream High, “A Goose’s Dream”
Dream High’s “A Goose’s Dream” by Insooni came at a time when I was a teenager, frightened with the uncertain prospects of my future, much like the students in the show. I felt their struggles deep within myself, and hearing the song gave me hope that I would, like these students, eventually find a path in life that I would be happy walking on. I remember a particular episode in which they sang a cover of “Genie” by Girls’ Generation to cheer up a depressed hyung, and I teared up listening to it, because the song was just so apt for the moment. As a viewer, I very much felt like I was in the position of the hyung, and for those few minutes, I too gained the motivation to press on with life.
As a young adult now, the fear of being alone is a very real one, and hearing the opening lines of The Liar and His Lover’s “I’m Okay” was a comfort for me. I learned a bit of Korean, and every time the song played with the opening lyrics, “It’s okay, I’ll be here,” I felt a bit less lonely, as though I were right there beside the characters in the show. In these aspects, music has almost been like a comforting, omnipresent friend. Plugging in my earphones made it a little easier to escape from the daily grind, if only for a while.
The Liar and His Lover
On a lighter note, there were also dramas made more memorable simply because the songs playing in the background were just so darned catchy and appropriate. Hearing those songs now makes my mind latch onto the fond memories associated with the drama more than the plot itself.
One of the most iconic songs in that category would be Temptation of a Wife’s “Can’t Forgive.” Hearing it always made me feel like I was sharing in Eun-jae’s victory and living vicariously through her as she took her sweet revenge on her cheating husband. I remember watching it daily on the television with my mother almost 10 years back, the two of us glued to the screen making snide remarks about the villains in the show.
I also recall watching Queen Seon-deok religiously (I was very much obsessed with Kim Nam-gil’s Bi-dam) and to this date, I haven’t forgotten “Mishi’s Theme.” And let’s not even talk about “Almost Paradise”—you sang it in your head just now, didn’t you—every time I hear this, I think of a handsome quartet striding in slow motion, with flower petals flying around them. I think of all the time spent squealing with my fellow teenage friends over which of the four we preferred.
You From Another Star
The strangest phenomenon is that even though I barely remember any of the scenes in these dramas, I remember the OSTs far more clearly. It’s almost like the music has woven itself into every thread of my memory, and there’s no distinguishing between drama and music anymore. No doubt I would still have loved these dramas regardless of the music, but the messages those songs sent made me feel the emotions in the show much stronger, and my firm belief is that while memories of plotlines fade, feelings last for a much longer time—and a truly successful show is one that captures the hearts of its audience.
Naturally, it only works if the music is deployed at the right moment. It leads you to believe in what the characters are feeling in that moment. It insidiously creeps into your mind in the background and reinforces those emotions. Whenever I heard “My Destiny” in You From Another Star, I felt inclined to believe that indeed, the stoic alien and the unapologetically loud Hallyu star were made for each other, their fate written in the stars.
Man to Man
And of course, it’s not just the OSTs. Instrumental background music plays an important role in setting the mood. In Man to Man, the aptly timed background music made the deadpan scenes that much funnier. I know we would all have given the music director on that show a raise if we could. Music and dramas simply go hand in hand, often without our noticing it.
I think the magical thing about music is that it is a universal language that allows you to relate to a character in a story, regardless of any language or cultural barriers. After all, dramas are simply stories in a visual form—good stories are ones that make the audience feel like they’re walking in the paths of the characters themselves, and the accompanying music is like the pair of shoes that enables us to tread on those very paths and understand the characters better.
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