Mixing modern K-pop music with classical pieces from over a hundred years ago might sound like a strange idea. But do you know many K-pop songs sample classical music, and the combination is surprisingly impressive?
Let's check out 10 K-pop songs that incorporate old music of the 18th to 20th centuries!
1. BLACKPINK - Shut Down (2022)
The latest title track of BLACKPINK samples the beginning of "La Campanella" (1851), the third movement of Italian composer Niccolò Paganini's second violin concerto. Incorporating the strings into the modern, influential hip-hop repeatedly beat throughout the song not only adds grandeur to the piece but also takes the distinctive girl crush charisma of the group to the next level.
2. (G)-IDLE - Nxde (2022)
(G)-IDLE's genius leader Soyeon has created masterpieces for the group in every album since their debut. Last October, the girls again shook up the K-pop scene with "Nxde." Not only does this song boldly challenges society's sexualization of the female body, Soyeon even brilliantly borrows the squealing violin melody in the chorus from "Habanera" (1875), an aria from Georges Bizet's opéra comique Carmen, which perfectly suits the broadway showgirl concept of the song.
3. Purple Kiss - Pretty Psycho (2022)
The dance break of this underrated b-side track incorporates Beethoven's "Symphony No.5 in C minor". Written between 1804 and 1808, the legendary piece is one of the most frequently played symphonies and is renowned as one of the cornerstones in Western music history. The mesmerizing piano melody creates a mysterious atmosphere for the song that matches the girls' dark gothic concept.
4. Red Velvet - Feel My Rhythm (2022)
The elegant string melody of this beautiful piece actually samples J.S. Bach's "Air On The G String," composed back in the early 18th century. The orchestral elements blend unexpectedly well with the playful synth-pop beat. These two genres together form a refreshing symphony with the members' airy vocals and ballet-like silky dance moves, bringing out the group's soft "velvet" side.
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5. ATEEZ - Wonderland (Kingdom: Legendary War version) (2021)
In one of their stages in Mnet's boy group reality competition program, Kingdom: Legendary War, ATEEZ performed a rearranged version of one of their most famous songs, Wonderland, by incorporating Beethoven's "Symphony No.9". Composed between 1822 and 1824, the powerful strings of this classical piece pour extra energy into the already epic and grand song, confidently declaring the pirate kings' determination to conquer the world of K-pop.
6. Golden Child - Wannabe (Road to Kingdom version) (2020)
Like ATEEZ, Golden Child performed a rearranged version of one of their biggest hits Wannabe in Road to Kingdom, the prequel of Kingdom. This new rendition cleverly samples "Paganini 24 Caprices No. 24 in A Minor Op.1" (1807), adding elegance to this dark and mature song. The highlight of this stage is the main vocal, Joochan playing this stunning violin piece with the other members doing the dance break around him. All the members literally look like prince charming in this performance!
7. Cherry Bullet - Hands Up (2020)
This catchy hip-hop track heavily samples one of Beethoven's most famous pieces, "Für Elise," written in 1810. The creative combination of this emotional piano piece with a groovy mid-tempo hip-hop beat is surprisingly addictive. It showcases the group's unique sweet, yet cool girl crush style, which left fans in awe. Some even jokingly commented, "I love Beethoven Oppa's comeback"!
8. MOMOLAND - Freeze (2017)
This carnival masterpiece interpolates Czech composer Julius Fucik's "Entrance of the Gladiators" (1897), often used as a screamer march to introduce clowns and get the audiences hyped in circus performances. Incorporating this classical circus tune with the pounding electro-pop and trap sounds gives this song a playful circus vibe that matches the girls' bright energy and fun-loving image. Now get your ticket to MOMOLAND's circus and enjoy the show!
9. GFRIEND - Summer Rain (2017)
Interlacing "Dichterliebe, Op. 48:1" or "A Poet's Love" by Robert Schumann (1840) with propulsive new jack swing beats and the signature twinkling synths of K-pop girl groups, Summer Rain expresses the sense of longing and wistfulness towards the loved ones of the original piece in a modern take with nothing lost in the translation. The melancholic piano melody and the girls' mellow vocals demonstrate the group's soft and mature charm.
10. Jimin (BTS) - Lie (2016)
How can we end the list without mentioning BTS Jimin's legendary solo song Lie? This aesthetic artwork incorporates Spanish composer Manuel de Falla's "La Vida Breve" (1904-1905), which tells the story of lies and betrayal between lovers. This piece shares the same theme as Lie, which sings that the sweet words and whispers turn out to be fake and convey the desire to escape from the pain of lies. The dense guitar base from the original music creates a tense atmosphere, symbolizing the agony in Jimin's mind. In fact, this song has been widely considered a buried treasure within the BTS fandom, and many ARMYs revealed that they got into Jimin and BTS after listening to this heavenly work of art!
In conclusion, the fusion of classical music and K-pop has resulted in a captivating blend of genres, showcasing the creativity and versatility of K-pop artists. Throughout this list of 10 K-pop songs that sample classical music, we have witnessed the transformative power of incorporating classical elements into contemporary pop compositions.