By Eunice Wu
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Beyond the flamboyant campness of K-pop, there lies a genre of South Korean music that flourishes in surrealist imagery, Kodak film filters and wistful undertones: K-indie. It’s impossible to water down the entire genre to a single sound, but the word K-indie basically comprises Korean artists who started out creating music independently. The Rose, meanwhile, started out busking as an indie band, though have gradually branded out to mainstream pop, creating a unique hybrid of indie-pop music consisting of upbeat melodies and nostalgia.
Although they were faced with critical acclaim for their debut single Sorry, things weren’t easy for The Rose with their social media being hacked once and a lawsuit being filed against their own company. Despite the curveballs thrown their way, The Rose has managed to create a flawless discography, with 3 single albums and 2 EPs under their belt. As the band is currently inactive due to the members’ military enlistment, there’s no better time to dive into the world of youth and soft-rock within the band’s music.
- She’s In The Rain
The song begins with an isolated muted guitar strum, with lead singer Woosung’s raspy vocals complimenting lyrics about a lost soul’s loneliness. As we progress into the chorus, the camera lens shifts to a “she”, though there is still a sense of isolation and detachment with the two characters being labelled as “him” and “her”. There is overflowing poignance in every line, with the singers reaching out to this girl in a downpour of emotions despite being soaking wet themselves. The song then crescendos to an emotional peak, the intensity of the post-chorus guitar breakdown mirroring that of pouring rain. Our two characters are finally referred to as a collective “we”, signalling not the end of suffering, but the start of pain that can be shared.
This was The Rose’s take on summer pop, giving a fresh twist to the otherwise oversaturated genre. The song begins with playful percussive notes, accompanied by lyrics scattered with imageries of light: fireflies, flashlights & shooting stars. The chorus then takes you soaring through a limitless soundscape, portraying the colour red in an auditory manner as the electric guitars and drums follow the chorus with explosive energy. The juxtaposition of the calmness of the verses and the free-spirited nature of the chorus captures the essence of summer – it’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions. While the lyrics are passionate and brimming with hope for a brighter future, The Rose’s signature nostalgic undertone in their music is still distinctly heard, making Red a paradox in terms of themes & style.
As The Rose’s only ballad, I.L.Y., presents listeners a novel side of the band. The melody is largely guided by a piano and the vocals are delicate, for example, the vulnerability in Woosung’s voice as he sings “I love you, our love is true.” The stripped-down nature of the song thus far feels as though the band are wearing their hearts on their sleeves and being genuine about their love for the other person. Of course, a The Rose song isn’t complete without a post-chorus instrumental breakdown, which I.L.Y. offers through a mellow yet emotionally powerful guitar melody. The guitar is careful not to cause giant ripples in the tranquil sea of sounds that the song has established, yet it yields just enough intensity to move the hearts of the listener. The sincerity of I.L.Y. thus makes it the perfect song to slow dance with your partner to.
- Take Me Down
Take Me Down opens and closes with the same “Woah-oh-oh” chant, a melody that tugs your heartstrings and is practically designed to be the last song on a concert setlist. The themes in the song are reminiscent of that of She’s In The Rain: both are about two broken souls trying to find comfort in this unrelenting reality. Take Me Down is, however, more depressing in its portrayal of the fate of its persona as listeners can hear the despair in the singer’s voice when he cries out “please undo my chain of pain” in the chorus. The recurring motif of rain is also prominent in the lyrics, highlighting the consistency and meticulous planning in the band’s songwriting.
My last recommendation is Sorry, which also happens to be the band’s first mainstream release. Despite the word “sorry” being repeated countless times in the song, it never once feels repetitive: the beautiful vocals are laced with sentiments of longing and regret, adding emotional weight to the word with every belt. The soundscape of this song is that of a distant highway, rhythmic tones of traffic lights and a soft night breeze by the river, it is the strange loneliness you feel in a foreign metropolis. The chorus alternates between being vocally driven and instrumental-driven, as if the vocalist wants every letter and note of this apology to be heard and felt by the listener.
Illustration by Anna Kuptsova