Sweet Lies

Are people cheese? I mean, think about it: cheese comes in different colors, just like people. Cheese comes in different sizes, just like people. Cheese even changes shape and color over time, just like people do! Well, that analogy might not be quite scientifically correct (cheese doesn’t sweat, after all), yet you can see how it might be used to convince some poor unassuming soul that people are indeed the same as cheese. As weird as that sounds, communication with other people tends to be that way at times. We string together words that sound one way, while meaning something slightly different. It’s a difference of intention and expectation

Like a chameleon, my music tastes tend to change color depending on what I feel at a particular time. As a homeschooler, I went through the requisite phases of only listening to Christian worship, into that edgy phase of listening to Skillet, my weeaboo days of slurping exclusively Asian pop, and now I’ve stabilized somewhat into a tasty mélange of Korean vibes and American charm. In particular, I have a special affection for songs that explore, rather than simply express, an emotional journey. Anyone can say they’re in love, but few can guide another through those twisted, uncertain paths. Enter Baek a Yeon, one of my favorite Korean artists of late, and her song Sweet Lies.

Through her soulful vibes and resonant harmonies, Baek spins a tale of metamorphosis. Love doesn’t simply happen – it evolves. Ideally, a relationship brings two people closer together as they explore one another. Conversation leads to harmonization, fertilizing the soil for affection to grow.

“Let’s meet up someday”
“Let’s grab some food someday”
Yes, Yes
I wait another day
“You’ve gotten prettier”
Why is it so sweet?
so sweet so sweet
You got me waiting again

Like your starter Pokemon, the early stages of a relationship are often clouded by the giddiness that underlies newness. Excitement for the journey coupled with hope for a future ignite a nervous, borderline anxious energy. Eating up every word, hanging on each sentence, the first bites of this sickly-sweet infatuation leave Baek wanting. Longing for more, for real substance. It’s this uncertainty that hedges her words as she asks

You’re being serious this time, right?
You’re not lying, right?
We’re really gonna see each other
(Even if you are, I’m gonna believe you)
It’s not like It’s a big deal

Probing, inspecting, playing it safe. At this point, while interested in a relationship, what’s even more alluring is the promise of a relationship. The desire for intimacy is there, but it takes a backseat to the idea of being with her special one. Her infatuation is really apparent as the song transitions to its first chorus:

I like it even if it’s an empty promise
I like it even if it’s an empty promise
Because I can dream for days with this one
Even with just a few words, I’m okay with it
Even with just a few words, I’m okay with it
The words that make my night and day

Like a puppy chasing a purple car, Baek is happy just running after this love, even if she doesn’t truly have it. Just the idea of it is enough to keep her moving, keep her hoping, keep her believing that she’s finding her fulfilment. A comforting poison, it’s the type of lie we all tell ourselves. “It’ll get better”. “I can change”. “As long as I’m happy, it’ll be fine”. Chasing, hoping, dreaming, but even the pursuit grows tiresome, as Baek discovers

“Let’s meet up next time”
When was the last time you said it?
I don’t even know, I don’t even know
I wait for another day again
You’re saying I have gotten prettier
It’s the 12th time you’ve said it
I hate it, I hate it
Your empty words

An elegant masquerade, gilded masks shadow lifeless eyes. Tender morsels can only whet the appetite for so long; without true substance, trust begins to wilt. Hope begins to fade. Love begins to die. Baek begins to struggle as her infatuation slips away, bit by bit. Expecting a return on her investment, she grows frustrated.

You’re being insincere again
You’re lying again, aren’t you? I’m not buying it
(Your sweet words I’ve been holding on)
You don’t know that I’m hurting

I hate your empty words
I hate your empty words
I dream for nothing all night thinking what you’ve said
Now I hate your empty
Now I hate your empty words

The mirror has been broken. Self-projection, self-deception, both forms of reassurance that are truly empty shells. Baek has become tired of believing lies, those she’s heard and those she’s told herself. With the veil torn away, what’s left?

Your words are empty like a hollow heart
Your words used to keep me going
My expectations have gotten too high
Now I hate you for making empty promises and being gone
Have I changed?
Was I expecting too much?

I hate your empty words
I hate your empty words
I dream for nothing all night thinking what you’ve said
I hate your empty words now
I hate your empty words now

Your words are empty like a soulless heart

Her realization frees her from these emotional shackles, but it comes at a price: she feels…empty. Alone. Hurt. Winning the war, yet realizing she lost all the battles along the way. Inasmuch as her pain reminds her she is alive, it forces her to remember that she could have avoided it. Gone are the rose-colored glasses, and we see her begin to close in on herself. She pulls inward, trying to escape the hurt she found. Stronger…yet vulnerable.

Sweet Lies explores a very specific viewpoint underneath its pastel colors and harmonized vocals. Expectations on Baek’s side never changed, but her reaction to her special one’s intentions did. She went into the relationship expecting mutual investment, yet her basis for that investment was fundamentally flawed in and of itself: she wanted to be complete. Her initial infatuation is all about simply knowing that she has someone and being happy because of that fact, not because of a real relationship. While her expectation was that the relationship would flower into something greater, the relationship faltered because her expectations and the intentions of her lover simply weren’t the same.

Like a bad contract, emotions are subject to change. Life a rudder on a ship, emotions often guide how we perceive the world around us, tempered by our personal convictions. When emotions become the focus, however, life takes a different turn: the world is then subject to the emotions, rather than the other way around. Thus, life becomes a game of seeking that next fix, whatever will provide the next emotional high. Entering into an intimate relationship with this mindset only leads to ruin, as Baek discovers. People change. People adapt. People aren’t always what they appear to be. Without the tempering effects of a stable self-identity, a mind enslaved to emotion will never truly be content, forever looking for that next emotional high.

The greatest lie isn’t that we can’t find ourselves, but that we can find ourselves through others.

 Baek’s lesson in Sweet Lies isn’t that it’s wrong to seek love in others, but rather that seeking love in order to fill emotional needs alone leaves one lacking. Truly healthy relationships focus on mutual benefit, thriving on trust and people working with one another, not for one another.  

As a person of faith, my trust in Jesus is what guides me though relationships, both intimate and platonic. I don’t need to find completion in people because He’s already completed me, and His love is what drives me in all of my endeavors. I love, because He loves. His grace empowers His people, and in turn we find our true selves in Him.

We are always surrounded by sweet lies. Those we tell ourselves, and those we tell others. In truth, these falsehoods are masks, used to hide our brokenness. We lie to hide the tears. We smile to hide the pain. Yet, it’s in those moments when the mask is torn off do we really find ourselves. Ashamed of our ugliness, but ignorant of the beauty waiting to be revealed. Looking for love, but finding we’re still in need. Sometimes we need to take a step Baek: realize that we can’t change others. We can only control ourselves. This game of life is scary, but the controller is in our hands. Rather than look for completion in others, let’s look for completion with others. The future can only be what we make it.

Sam

I'm a student who loves God and manages to balance school, games, books, anime, and Asian culture while staying slightly sane.