The tantalizing goodness of Korean dramas don’t just come from romantic angst, historical intrigue and heart-stopping action. The emotional highs and lows would not mean as much without an Original Sound Track, also known as the Official Sound Track, or OST.
OSTs can come from any genre, and often features artists performing in styles that differ from their usual ones. OSTs can feature collaborations as well as solo performances by individuals in groups. They may feature vocals or exist solely as instrumentals.Everyone has their favorites, but here are a few examples to show how K-dramas make effective use of music in different ways.
숨결/Sumgyeol (Breath), Mad Soul Child, Ten OST
Mad Soul Child‘s haunting track, “숨결 (Breath),” plays over the ending credits of OCN’s crime drama, Ten, starring Joo Sang Wook and Kim Sang Ho. The mood of the song fits the decidedly dark tone of the drama. The sonorous piano and cello intro of this slow tempo track leads to the slightly raspy voice of the female lead singer, which is punctuated with a simple rhythm. The song gains vocal momentum in the choruses, where the vocals increase in volume and intensity.
Such a musical arrangement perfectly complements the K-drama. By the time the viewer reaches the end of the show, they have seen an unusual crime explained. The somber music not only underscores the depravity of the crime, but also the unsettled emotional state of the characters. Yeo Ji Hoon, played by Wook, leads this small unit of unusual investigators. While he has a stellar track record of bringing murderers to justice, he is forever haunted by his failure to prevent his own girlfriend from meeting her end at the hands of a serial killer. The song is the perfect capstone for the complicated emotional drama.
Paradise, T-Max, Boys Over Flowers OST
T-Max‘s “Paradise” for the Boys Over Flowers OST shows how a song can become the defining sound for a K-drama. Anyone who has watched the K-drama, starring Lee Min Ho and Kim Hyun Joong, was treated (tortured?) by this track, which made frequent appearances during the show. While it begins with a simple piano intro and chimes, it is not long before the vocal, featuring the phrase “Almost Paradise,” increases the momentum of the track, complemented by showtune-like horns. Its pop-inspired rhythm and reliance on horns contribute to the upbeat tone of the song.
The K-drama featured this track throughout the series’ run. It was often used to underscore the exotic settings and upscale locations frequented by F4, the snobby male clique of the exclusive school attended by the drama’s heroine, Jan Di, (played by Koo Hye Sun). It also served as the background for makeovers or other schemes hatched by the characters. Love it or hate it, this song defined this drama.
Did You Forget, Lee Seung Chul, Feast of the Gods OST
OSTs are a great way to find new vocalists beyond mainstream K-pop artists, and Lee Seung Chul‘s contribution to the Feast of the Gods OST showcases his vocals as it complements this drama focused on food and romance. The K-drama, starring Sung Yoo Ri, Joo Sang Wook (again!) and Lee Sang Woo, follows the development of two female chefs, their romantic exploits and the price of ambition. “Did You Forget” begins with Lee’s voice against the backdrop of simple instrumentation. The mid-tempo song slowly gains momentum through the verses, aided by simple rhythmic elements, such as fingersnaps, as well as the introduction of electric guitar. The music swells during the choruses, carried by Lee’s strong vocals.
Given the complicated romantic dynamics, dynamics further complicated by ambition, resentment and revenge, the song often reintroduced a sense of innocence into the scenes that featured it. It also played during scenes of loss and despair, and gives a nostalgic longing for better times.
No matter the series, OSTs are an indispensable part of the drama.
“Boys Over Flowers OST (2012),” Kdrama Kommentary, accessed September 6, 2014, http://kdrama.omeka.net/items/show/62.
“Boys Over Flowers/꽃보다 남자 (2009), Main Poster ,” Kdrama Kommentary, accessed September 6, 2014, http://kdrama.omeka.net/items/show/40.
“Feast of the Gods/신들의 만찬 / Shindeuleui Manchan (2012),” Kdrama Kommentary, accessed September 6, 2014, http://kdrama.omeka.net/items/show/60.
“Ten/ 텐 (2011),” Kdrama Kommentary, accessed September 6, 2014, http://kdrama.omeka.net/items/show/61.
“Lee Seung Chul (이승철) – Did You Forget (잊었니) (English Hangul Romanization Subs).” YouTube. 3 Mar 2012. Web. 6 Sept 2014.
“[MV] T Max – Paradise (BOF ost).” YouTube. 4 Apr 2009. Web. 6 Sept 2014.
“Mad Soul Child- 숨결 (Breath) lyrics [Eng. | Rom. | Han.].” YouTube. 12 Dec 2011. Web. 6 Sept. 2014.
The Right Sound: K-drama OSTs by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.