Tuesday, December 16, 2014

AAK! Music: 90s Icon by Seo Taiji

Because when Seo Taiji puts out a song like this, it deserves to be introduced to the wider audience.

90s Icon
90s Icon

나이가 들수록 늘어 가는 변명들
The excuses grow as I age
세월이 흘러가도 망설임 따위 뿐인걸
Nothing but mere hesitancy as the time passes
내 기타에 스미던 둔해진 내 감성
My senses that used to soak my guitar are dulled
하지만 난 아직도 멈추지 못할 뿐
But still I simply cannot stop

한물간 90s icon
A washed up 90s icon
물러갈 마지막 기회가 언제일까 망설이네
Hesitating to find the last opportunity to disappear
질퍽한 망상 끝을 낼까
Should I finish this wet delusion

낡아빠진 액자에 갇혀버린 환영들
The phantasms trapped in decrepit photo frames
내 바람과 망상들로 내 방을 채워가네
Filling my room with my desire and delusion
덧없이 변해간 나는 카멜레온
I am a chameleon, changing haplessly
내 피부가 짓물러도 조용히 감출 뿐
Even as my skin rots, all I can do is to quietly hide

한물간 90s icon
A washed up 90s icon
화려한 재기의 기회가 언제일까 망설이네
Hesitating to find the opportunity for a spectacular comeback
질퍽한 이 망상 끝을 낼까
Should I finish this wet delusion

난 꿈을 꾸죠 은밀한 비장함 따위는 아니예요
I dream, but nothing like a secret resolve
전쟁도 끝났죠 나의...
The war of mine is over

눈감은 순간 흩어지는 바람에 밀려 버려지는
The scattering wind sweeps away in a blink of an eye
당신의 삶과 같이한 너와 나의 쓸쓸한 이야기
The lonely story of you and me who were with your lives

해답이 없는 고민
A dilemma without an answer
하지만 밤이 온다면 나의 별도 잔잔히 빛나겠죠
But when the night falls, my star will calmly shine

Briefly about Seo Taiji:  Easily one of the top three most significant K-pop artist in history. Everything about the modern day K-pop is traceable to his brilliant mind.

About This Song:  90s Icon is from Seo Taiji's 2014 album, Quiet Night. 

Translation Note:  As is typical with Korean lyrics, many sentences lack a subject, leaving poetic ambiguity as to the precise identity of the person who thinks and feels. Seo Taiji, in particular, is a master of such lyrical construction.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. Who is your #1 most influential artist and why is it Seo Taiji?

  2. @siliconrex I don't think TK will rank Taiji #1 as the most influential artist. It is a common sense that Shin Jung-hyeon (신중현) brought Rock 'n' Roll to Korean music after the Korean War and created an indelible impact. Without Shin, there won't be 들국화,"a Wild Camomile," a rock band which Seo Taiji mentions and claims to be indebted to all the time. Still, considering the Kpop as we know it today, Taij is definitely the one who planted the roots and laid down the foundations to the form and expression in the early 1990s. His influence cannot be underestimated. You can check out all the albums by Seo Taiji and Boys on youtube. Don't just listen to the hits like "Come Back Home" or "You Know." I was and still am astonished by the range of music genres Taiji managed to traverse in those four albums--and he's only 26 when he retired!. (Seo Taiji is the youngest but the boss of the group--the other two are dancers. He composed all the songs and played most instruments). Regrettably, very few of the late comers demonstrates such an dexterity and versatility when it comes to composing music. Not to mention that most of the lyrics we heard today from Kpop, even K indie, are junk.

    TK, thanks for the excellent translation. Your translation synchronizes English and Korean, which is not an easy feat! Taiji's 9th album feels much more "indie" than some indie bands like Nell (which is also one of my favorites). 2014 has been a terrible year for Kpop, barring Taiji's Comeback. Quiet Night is a splendid and wonderfully rich album, lyrics and music wise. I wish it got more attention.

  3. Thank you very much TK, I only know what he says through your translations, but I love all his songs I listened so far.
    Even non-Koreans say he's the most influencial artist in K-music, I'm not Korean so I can't say how influencial he can be, but I can say he's the most impressive Korean artist I ever heard of.
    Thanks to TK I've silently read about many Korean artist from the past and I've listened to many songs by Korean artists known as legends too, but there's something very very special and outstanding about Seotaiji.
    What kind of music does he make in the first place? I really don't know and I believe even Koreans do not know either, they just named it as K-pop, but still K-pop is not good enough to define Seotaiji's music.
    Quiet Night is a gem. and I agree it sounds more indie than any other "indie" Korean band these days.

  4. Thank you so much, this is just as wonderful as I thought it might be. Amazing man, and so honest and introspective. I hope we have many years of his music ahead of us. I love the ambiguity - it's the thing I enjoy most about Korean poetry as well as music. I'm very grateful to you for this translation.


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