It’s no secret that K-pop has successfully pervaded the international music market, with infectious tunes, flashy getups and dance numbers choreographed with seamless precision. Many K-pop artists have released English-language versions of their songs, including BoA, Se7en and Girls Generation, to name just a few, and fans all over the world have been eating them up and asking for seconds. There’s no disputing that K-pop industry is a well-oiled machine with a high success rate in luring listeners from overseas, but how might a foreign artist fare in the Korean music market?
Little Mix wants to find out. Britain’s sweethearts, the first girl group to win The X-Factor, just released a Korean version of their hit single “Wings” on online music store Melon. This is reportedly in response to a cover of the same song, performed by four female contestants on SBS’ K-Pop Star.
The chorus of the Korean version is still performed in English, and takes up a significant chunk of the track’s runtime, which is like pulling an Avril Lavigne in reverse; the pop-punk princess released a Japanese version of “Girlfriend,” with only the chorus chanted in mangled Japanese. Speaking of pronunciation, Little Mix’s Korean rendition of “Wings” isn’t completely butchered like Anna Kendrick’s attempts at singing in Korean in a Funny or Die video with f(x), but one Melon user commented, “한국어 맞음? (Is this really Korean?)”
The lyrics in the Korean version are really simple, which isn’t uncharacteristic of pop music, but you can assume that whoever wrote the translation didn’t stay up any nights over it. But hey, apparently Little Mix is a fan of K-pop and they just wanted to emulate the style; as long as they don’t start sporting hanboks and declaring themselves “Korean on the inside,” no cultural appropriation, no harm, no foul.
This would all have made a little more sense if Little Mix’s songwriters had rewritten a few more songs in Korean (and put a little more thought into the translated lyrics), and released a Korean-language EP, but that doesn’t seem to be in the stars for the near future. Perhaps it’s for the best, and the girls can work on their pronunciation in the meantime.
Still, the Korean version of “Wings” appears to be generally well-received by South Korean pop lovers. The jury’s still out on whether this British pop group’s experiment in the Korean music market is a good idea, but with Missy Elliott’s recent collaboration with Big Bang frontman G-Dragon—Elliott also featured in Little Mix’s single “How Ya Doin’?”—future ventures don’t sound too far out of the realm of possibilities.