I love love songs. They way that music conveys emotions so subtly and yet so effortlessly still surprises me with its potency, and this is especially true for love songs. From the euphoria of falling in love to the mellow sweetness of being in a committed relationship, songs have been used for generations to express the emotions associated with loving another person. As much as I love the cheery, feel-good side of love songs, personally I find more depth and worth in songs that explore the darker side of relationships. One learns more from sadness than one does from happiness, and I find that sad love songs tend to leave more life lessons than more joyful ones. So today, we’re going to finally take a long-awaited look at BIGBANG’s song “If You Do” and what it explores about human relationships.
She is leaving
And I can’t do anything.
Love is leaving.
Like a fool, I’m blankly standing here.
The song’s opening lyrics don’t pull any punches when it comes to informing the listener that the singer’s loved one has left him. Unlike a lot of other sad love songs, however, the song doesn’t color the loved one in any specific way: it’s not a song that accuses her of being unfaithful or selfish, but rather it simply states her actions and his response.
South Korea is a country that places a high emphasis on marriage, especially when young. Like Japan, dwindling birthrates due to a workaholic culture have left their numbers small, so their cultural influences combined with the present-day threat have made the influx of love songs from most music artists something to be expected.
The increase in the quantity of love songs has tended to reduce the overall quality of those songs: from America to Asia, we all know a “generic” love song when we hear it. A good artist avoids that by focusing on specific aspects of the relationship and exploring them well, from an established perspective, rather than focusing only on the results of the relationship. Like most groups, BIGBANG has done a little bit of both generic and deep love songs, and their experience as artists is evident in “If You”.
I’m looking at her, getting farther away.
She becomes a small dot and disappears.
Will this go away after time passes?
I remember the old times. I remember you.
I find it really interesting how Taeyang, the only member of BIGBANG who’s in an actual relationship (although recent rumors might point to G-Dragon) has the least amount of lines in this song. He had a more minimal role in Let’s Not Fall in Love, and I wonder if that’s intentional. Nevertheless, this song presents the singer in a quandary: stuck still sorting through his emotions as he watches the woman he loves leave him. The song doesn’t drag the listener through the gutter of his emotions, but rather it lightly brushes the listener with the most important feelings he’s experiencing.
IF YOU, IF YOU
If it’s not too late,
Can’t we get back together?
IF YOU, IF YOU
If you’re struggling like I am,
Can’t we make things a little easier?
I should’ve treated you better when I had you.
As the writer of the song, G-Dragon takes a less involved role in the song and really only adds his voice during the chorus of the song, emphasizing the crux of the singer’s emotion. He recognizes the struggle that he’s having, he understands and acknowledges his mistakes, and he asks for another chance. This is the main difference between a well-written happy love song, and a well-written sad love song: despite the approach you take, the happier song is going to focus on the present feelings of the relationship and the benefits that they bring, while the sad song focuses on self-reflection and an increased drive to understand the other person.
Character is forged through self-examination, and the circumstances that cut us tend to be the ones that cut out the parts of ourselves that are unnecessary. Where our happy moments motivate us, our sad moments help to define us, to bring out our true nature. The way we react to events that sadden or anger us help shape us into the people that we will be for the rest of our lives. Songs that help the listener to understand those feelings and the realizations that come alongside them offer a way to experience the singer’s journey to catharsis, and it helps us to find easier avenues to peace should we experience the same.
How about you?
Are you really fine?
I guess our break up is setting.
I should forget you but it’s not easy.
The balance to the focus on the singer’s personal feelings is his concern for the feelings of the woman he loves. He’s just starting down the path of coping with what happened, but he wants to understand the emotions of the woman who is leaving. His mistakes forced him to face himself and the consequences of his actions, and he wants to make things right by putting the time into understanding her. The emotions have come full circle, the situation is realized, and the singer knows his circumstances but wants to correct things: this is why I love the song, and sad love songs in general. A story told, an experience felt, and a lesson learned.
While “If You” isn’t my favorite sad love song, it definitely touches on elements that I consider essential to a good, deep, thoughtful love song. The purpose of music, as it is an art, is to help the listener to understand some aspect of themselves through the words of the singer and the performance of the artist. In both performance and lyrics, the song presents the melancholy world of the man filled with regrets, and yet tinged with hope. A bleak picture, but one we can learn from.