Or night. It is utterly cliché, but there is something enchanting about listening to music on a rainy day. All our senses seem amplified under the umbrella of clouds. The pouring rain traps the melody and rhythm within its walls, creating echoes that permeate into our beings, letting us succumb to the endless waves of emotion. Ah, yes, it’s extremely easy to become sappy and sentimental.
Even more cliché is listening to songs about rain when it rains, but it’s very difficult not to enjoy the appropriateness of it all, which is why many Korean radio stations play the same songs during a rainy day. Not many people complain, however, because the songs which go on air are usually those called “classics”, which have been on air endlessly, year after year, so that it’s just natural that they be played. (Like those perpetual summer songs you’d hear at Korean beaches or the pop/rock song “November Rain” when it rains in November.) Anyhow, it’s monsoon season. Lots of rain, lots of songs. Here are some of the songs which will show up on a typical playlist for a Korean rainy day.
Kim Hyun-sik “Like Rain, Like Music” 1986 (김현식, 비처럼 음악처럼)
For a rainy day, this is the song. No contest. Unless you’re asking a post-2000 K-pop fan, this song is it. The lyrics are like poetry, the music just enhances the message. “When it rains, and when music plays, I think of you”, the song begins. (It sounds much more poetic in Korean.) The cadence flows like an inner soliloquy accidentally exposed or an unsent letter. Kim has a unique tone which makes the song even more poignant, which many tried to emulate. (Back then, guys would attempt to sing this song to prove they understood “real music” while showing off their tender side.)
An exceptionally talented musician, Kim Hyun-sik died at the young age of 32 in 1990 from illness. His legacy has been carried on, however. Many of his songs, and especially this one, has been covered and rearranged by many, many singers in the years that followed.
Kang In-won, Kim Hyun-sik, Kwon In-ha “Watercolor of a Rainy Day” 1989
(강인원, 김현식, 권인하, 비오는 날의 수채화)
It’s really impossible to pass a rainy day without Kim Hyun-sik. Here he is singing in a trio with Kang and Kwon. The song was in the same-titled album with almost all of the songs written and produced by Kang. (Singers used to write and produce their own songs back in those days. Shin Hyung-won, the only lady of the group, didn’t participate in this song.)
“Wish everyone in this world would be as happy as the scene painted on the [watercolor] paper”. Once upon a time, the lyrics to Korean pop songs had a sense of innocence, without making it sound too corny or fake. Sincerity is put into a light melody – without being shallow or weak or too energetic or bubbly – which changes tempo as the song progresses. It’s a great song with which to start a gloomy rainy morning to lift up your spirits.
Five Fingers “Red Roses on Wednesday” 1985 (다섯 손가락, 수요일엔 빨간 장미를)
Five Fingers got together in 1983 and debuted their first album in 1985. This soft rock ballad would inevitably be played on a rainy Wednesday, no matter what the season. Then you also get roses. Red roses, in fact. Rain and red roses, what could be more perfect? “On a rainy Wednesday, I would like to present her with red roses. Should I give her one? It’ll probably look lonely. Then how about a bundle? It might look too heavy…” From the mid-to-late ‘80s, I am pretty sure many a woman looked forward to red roses from her beloved on rainy Wednesdays and many a man cursed this group on those days as well. The group dispersed after their last album in 1989, so couples from the ‘90s and onwards probably don’t feel the pressure of this song as much.
Lee Seung Hoon “Rainy Streets” 1997 (이승훈, 비오는 거리)
Mellow. Simple. Uncluttered. No frills. Lee Seung Hoon’s voice is accompanied by the guitar and there is no dramatic climax or fancy-schmancy melodic movement. This song isn’t a thunderstorm or a sudden shower; it’s that light refreshing rain that you’d been waiting for to wash away the gloom and grime, that cleanses the atmosphere with happier thoughts. It’s actually a song reminiscing about lost love but there is a tenderness which makes you hopeful. The song was so successful that Lee couldn’t follow up with another hit; he is now teaching music. However, although he has stopped creating music for the public, you will hear this song at least once every single year, it really doesn’t get old.
Brown Eyes “Apgujeong in the Rain” 2002 (브라운 아이즈, 비오는 압구정)
The duo of Na Ul (나얼) and Yoon Gun (윤건) got together in 2001 and their first album was a huge success. (Personally, it’s one of my favorite Korean pop albums of all time.) After releasing a second album the following year, the team went on a long hiatus with Na forming the group “Brown Eyed Soul”. They came together again in 2008 but have been doing separate activities since then. “Apgujeong” was in their second album, a jazzy pop ballad – if we must categorize – that sounds like it should be the BGM at an Apgujeong café. Waiting for a loved one until the wee hours of the night, the song laments that “the rain, which sounds like your voice, falls mournfully”. Another song which sounds like a soulful silent plea sung aloud.
www.santamusic.co.kr/BES/ (Brown Eyed Soul)
https://twitter.com/theyoongun (Yoon Gun)
Epik High “Umbrella” featuring Yoon Ha 2008 (에픽하이 ft 윤하, 우산)
Probably the most well known and most active group on this list, Korean hiphop trio Epik High’s rainy day song features the melodic voice of Yoon Ha, boosted by the rap of the original group members. Formed in 2001, Epik High has been involved and helped make the Korean hiphop scene what is it today
“Alone in the rain, rain, rain / Nothin’ but pain, pain, pain /Girl, I just want you to know / Alone in the rain, rain, rain / Nothin’ but pain, pain, pain / And I just can’t let you go…”, the English part goes. The Korean lyrics state “You are the umbrella over my head; your shadow is my shade…” I am particularly fond of the official music video which has a nice mélange of style with storytelling, imagery, and animation, like many “old school” Korean music videos before idol groups took over.
Rumble Fish “Rain and You” 2008 (럼블피쉬, 비와 당신)
Have you noticed how there are a lot of breaking-up scenes in the rain in Korean movies and K-dramas? And have you noticed how those scenes would be backed up with the saddest sounding melodies ever? Well, this song would be a perfect candidate, and it was actually in the OST for the movie “Radio Star”. The song is so heart-wrenching. Not in the ‘my-heart-is-being-torn-into-a-miilion-pieces’ kind of way, but the ‘my-heart-is-slowly-trickling-away-happiness’ kind of way; just so, so, painful. Like sorrow consuming your entire being, while taking all the time that it wants.
Rumble Fish debuted as a four member rock band in 2004 but has been a solo artist act since 2010 with vocalist Choi Jin-yi (최진이). It’s her voice which draws you in. And it’s very hard to get out.
Lucite Tokki “Rainy Day” 2007 (루싸이트 토끼, 비오는 날)
Some may describe indie pop duo Lucite Tokki (토끼, rabbit)’s music as too “twee”, but who says “serious” music has to be ridden with angst? Besides, not all rainy days are filled with gloom and doom. Yes, in the monsoon season rain can get dreary quite fast, but there are those refreshing sun tinged rainy days in spring, and rain in the midst of mountain’s summer greenery is just splendid. Those rainy days when you’re going on a date? Taking a walk together in the rain under a small umbrella as raindrops dance merrily around you, wouldn’t you want the rain to last forever? The happy anticipation of spending a rainy day with a loved one is what this song is all about.
Kim Soohee, “Southbound Train” 1980 (김수희, 남행열차)
Okay, so I was a bit reluctant to include this song because it doesn’t quite fit into the ambiance of a “rainy day song”, but I just added it in at the last moment, because it’s just so darn famous. In fact, it is probably the most covered Korean pop song of all time.
If you’ve ever attended a hoesik (회식, Korean business dinner); with some of the seniors and went to a noraebang (노래방) afterwards, you’ve probably heard this song already. It is the “Don’t Stop Believin’” of Korean karaoke. EVERYONE knows the lyrics. The younger generation probably have learned to sing this for their seniors and elders, or heard the seniors and elders sing it, and as for the seniors and elders, well, it’s the closing song for any group occasion.
The tempo is what throws it off from the usual rainy day song atmosphere; it is just too upbeat. Never mind the song is about breaking up and leaving on a southbound train in the rain, staring at the rain streaming down the windowpane, saying “I loved you” while tears are streaming down your face – by the time someone belts out the first phrase, another would be working those noraebang tambourines while others would be out of their seats and adding in “ahssa! ahssa!” (앗싸, whoop whoop) while throwing their hands in the air (like they don’t care). I don’t think anyone really pays attention to the meanings of the lyrics anymore. I did mention it here, but I honestly believe this song would be more appropriate in a “popular Korean noraebang songs” list.
As for the singer Kim Soo-hee, this song was one of her biggest hits. She knows how to play her voice according to the characteristics of the song and she has this magnificent growl which is prominent in this one.
Last but not least, I’d also like to mention two songs for kids. We grew up with these songs and unlike the let’s-fiddle-the-heartstrings songs for grown-ups, the songs for the children are quite delightful.
“Marble Rain” (구슬비) describes how silver marbles and jade marbles cling to clover leaves and spider webs, while “Umbrella” (우산) depicts the scene of three umbrellas – blue, black, and one which is torn – as they go side by side to school. (I remember all the kids saying whatever color they wanted but all getting the torn umbrella part right. In fact, I only realized it was a blue umbrella while I checked the lyrics to write this post. My favorite color is red and all these years I’ve been singing it as red. How typical.)
I only mentioned the songs which are mostly to be broadcast on a rainy day, and I’ve skipped songs before the ‘70s altogether, because even Koreans aren’t that familiar with them. There’s no rule you must listen to songs about rain on a rainy day and my rainy day playlist isn’t limited to these songs, either, but they are most definitely included. So what are some of your favorite rainy day songs? Are there any particular songs which are popular in your country when it rains?
*All album cover photos courtesy of www.maniadb.com
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