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13 K-Pop Songs About the Hardships and Struggles of Trainees / Idols

Updated on September 30, 2018
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'Fact Fact no Mi' is a three-person team. We like to write articles about our interest that include manga, anime and k-pop in our free time.

Foreword:

Being a K-Pop idol is no easy task. There are numerous hardships, struggles and biases that they encounter throughout their careers. Starting from struggling as trainees; hoping for a debut that might never come; maybe even going through a survival show and watching your fellow trainee-friends be eliminated; the list goes on. Even if they succeed in making a debut and establishing a career, these idols' worries never stop.

Being met with constant biases and harsh looks from 'real artists and rappers' or even the company; fear of losing their dream and returning to the hellish training period; fear of losing their group members; even the fear of disbanding - all of these hardships are a constant part of idols' lives. So here is a list of 13 K-Pop songs that talk about such circumstances.

Stray Kids - "Hellevator"

Stray Kids
Stray Kids

Stray Kids' song "Hellevator" might even be considered the epitome of a trainee's life and worries. Having participated in the survival show 'Stray Kids', only to grasp their long-awaited debut, the members Chan, Changbin and Han wrote the song in accordance to the members' own feelings.

In the lyrics, they compare their circumstances and situation to 'hell', describing the way to their debut as a 'dark tunnel without a map or a road to lead them'. These grim lyrics perfectly depict a trainee's uncertainty and insecurity of ever reaching their goal. Despite that, they never thought about turning back and abandoning the road they have taken, thus comforting themselves with the words that this is just another 'passing shower' and pushing themselves even further. The core of the song, however, is the metaphor of the 'hellevator', which is supposed to take them out of their hellish despair and bring them straight to their 'penthouse' - their debut, making all of their struggles and effort worthwhile.

Stray Kids - "Hellevator"

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Wanna One - "Always"

Wanna One
Wanna One

Though this song may appear as just another sweet and emotional love song, there is a much deeper meaning behind these lyrics. Wanna One, being a group formed on the survival show 'Produce 101 Season 2', have struggled through a loss of many fellow trainees and friends. This particular song was written with that experience in mind.

Having been gifted with this song to perform for the eliminated trainees on the final episode, the lyrics touched, not only the hearts of the eliminated, but also the mentors, fans and the chosen members. The emotions reflect the feeling of losing a friend they have made unforgettable memories with, and promising to forever uphold that unbreakable bond, even though they may not be able to stay by each other's side. The song concludes with a strong message of moving forward with a strong resolution, keeping these precious people ever closer to their hearts.

Wanna One - "Always"

BTS - "Young Forever"

BTS
BTS

Though BTS is a group with worldwide success, that has not always been the case. The members of this group went through their fare share of hardships and dark times. Their song "Epilogue: Young Forever" is just one of the many that word their fears aloud.

In the lyrics, BTS highlight the ever present need, or rather, burden for perfection when it comes to stage performances. "Did I do well? Is the audience satisfied? Did I make a mistake on stage?..." Always trying to uphold the perfect image. They also stress out their fear of 'cooling down' and 'coming down from their high', thus losing the audience's applause and cheers claiming that they 'can't own them forever'. BTS are very well aware of the possible occurrence of a short-lived fame. Therefore, they will try to block out such thoughts and focus on doing even better, singing louder, and dancing harder despite knowing it will not last forever. Masking their fear and turning it into a song, they wish to 'forever stay young' just to be able to experience that sensation a bit longer, just to dream a little bit longer before it comes to an end.

BTS - "Young Forever"

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iKON - "Climax"

iKON
iKON

iKON is a group that went, not through one, but two survival shows. The amount of stress they went through to succeed and form the group is just unimaginable. But, the song "Climax" they performed as Team B on the final episode of 'Win: Who Is Next' left such a deep impression, making even the CEO of YG Entertainment cry.

This song is sure to bring to tears all who have experienced the trainee life and all of the struggles it brings with it. The lyrics touches upon family matters, such as missing one's family and not being able to be by their side; making promises of a better life, only to watch one's mother grow older while waiting for their child without any results in sight. Despite that, they still hope that their effort will not be lost, that it wan't all in vain, and that they will at once be able to 'touch the sky'. Furthermore, this song covers a leader's responsibility, as well as the burden and toll it takes to 'carry, not one, but five lives on one's shoulders'. Having no regrets even if it turns out to be a failure, they will keep singing, they will keep 'flying', even if it's the last time.

iKON - "Climax"

Seventeen - "Smile Flower"

Seventeen
Seventeen

Seventeen is a group with strong bonds and a precious friendship at it's core. The members of the group went through thick and thin from the very start of their trainee days until now, never separating.

Their song "Smile Flower" is a special song that reflects their fear of breaking apart and not being together as a team in the future. 'If we were to one day unfortunately separate...' - they are aware that such thoughts are outright silly, but they are still present, and they can't deny them. They hope that such a thing would never occur and that the rest of the members won't ever think in such a way, because being together makes their 'smiles blossom'. But, if their fear does come true, and they are unable to be by each other's side, they just hope that they will, like always, have 'smiles blossom', even if it's hard to bear. The song deepens with their messages of gratefulness of always being on the receiving end of one's kindness, making them sorry at the same time. They are afraid of taking their friendship for granted and their bond drifting apart. Therefore, 'this is our last... Never ever say it'. Forever hoping to stay together, smiling just like they always do.

Seventeen - "Smile Flower"

I.O.I - "Downpour"

I.O.I
I.O.I

Just like their juniors, I.O.I is a group formed on the survival show 'Produce 101', which went through the same hardships. But, saying goodbye is never an easy task, thus inspiring the song 'Downpour' for the eliminated members.

The song differs from Wanna One's song in the way that it encourages the one's moving forward to let it all out of themselves. 'Will it stop, these raindrops, these tears?..' Farewells are always painful and the lyrics highlight this part perfectly by showing the members' weak sides. 'Wanting for them to return', 'looking for them', 'trembling with cold', 'not having strength to open an umbrella to shelter oneself from the rain'... The song portrays these 'weaknesses' as necessary and valuable moments. In the end, all of them will eventually gather the strength to move on and 'turn the cold rain into warm tears' in that 'passing downpour', finally gaining their resolve to say one final goodbye.

I.O.I - "Downpour"

BTS - "Sea"

BTS
BTS

This is yet another one of BTS' songs which portrays their hidden fears. After breaking through into the US charts and gaining more popularity than ever before, one would think that their hardships would finally come to an end, but this song proves otherwise.

Living in constant fear that all of this success that they have achieved is just a hallucination; that everything is a too-good-to-be-true dream, which will disappear when they wake up, is the main theme of the song. BTS compare their fame to a 'blue sea' which they fear will return to a 'blue desert' of poverty and struggles, because it all just seems to unreal for them - having come from poor families and having trained in a small entertainment company. Therefore, they are unsure whether they are riding on a 'tide wave' called success, or chased by a 'sandstorm' called despair. From 'someone else's stand-in' to a worldwide sensation, BTS created their 'sea' from their blood, sweat and tears. Thus, there is no time to cry or even rest. They will do everything in their power not to lose that 'ocean' they created and to achieve even more.

BTS - "Sea"

Nu'est W - "Where You At"

Nu'est W
Nu'est W

Nu'est W, formerly knows as just Nu'est, is a group that struggled through the fear of disbanding. Having come to a dead-end, cornered because of the lack of interest towards the group, a few of the members decided to join the survival show 'Produce 101 Season 2'.

Already having gone through the hell that is the training period, having to return to it after five years of being active as idols really took it's toll on the members. Then again, it also helped them restore their confidence as debuted idols and reboot their talents. But, some things just don't work out in our favor. In the final episode, it was announced that Minhyuk, now a former member of Nu'est, would be joining Wanna One as an official member, whereas the other members got eliminated. Even though the group avoided their disbandment and have continued to be active with more passion than before, the scar of losing a precious member still remains. Thus, the song 'Where You At' was created. The message is undoubtedly directed to their former group mate, expressing just how much they miss him. As the song is open to various different interpretations, some of the fans like to take the lyrics as a message to Minhyuk that his former group members will be waiting for him to return to their group and continue to pursue their dream together.

Nu'est W - "Where You At"

Stray Kids - "Glow"

Stray Kids
Stray Kids

Stray Kids are 2018's monster rookies. Their various talents include writing their own songs, which gives their group distinctive and unique colors. Another one of their emotional songs would be 'Glow', which definitely touches the fans' hearts due to the traumatic experience from the survival show tied to it.

The song was written by the members with the burden of the survival show on their shoulders. Being in fear of getting eliminated and stripped of their chance to debut with their comrades was the main inspiration of these lyrics. 'I want to rest, but I'm still far'... They are exhausted from training and not seeing the end of their struggles, yet again, they have no choice but to go on, for they still haven't reached their goal. They don't get the leisure of sleeping-in, resting, or turning back halfway on their road. Even if they wanted to, they can't, because they have been pursuing this dream their whole lives. They don't know any other road they could take, 'Where else do I go?'. Still, they can't control their dream. Therefore, they will bear with it and continue on the road they are on, in hopes of reaching their dream.

Stray Kids - "Glow"

Lay - "Sheep"

Lay from Exo
Lay from Exo

I am aware that a lot of you will find my pick questionable. Why would a song like 'Sheep' be on this list? Even though this song may not have a set interpretation or meaning, there is a way in which this song can indeed relate to our list's topic.

Lay is a member of EXO (he has not left the group, don't fight me on this one), and currently the only Chinese member left. In the past years, all of the other Chinese group mates have left EXO under the pretense of the violation of human rights. In which extend this lawsuit is actually true is something that we cannot know. But, there are rumors of SM Entertainment having underestimated and mistreated it's Chinese idols, even having favored EXO-K more than EXO-M. Going by these statements, it would be no wonder for Lay to be going through such a treatment from his company. Even though there is no way of proving it, it is certain that something really is going on between Lay and SM due to Lay's absence in EXO's activities and promotions.

In the lyrics of his song, Lay states that he is the 'China sheep'. Though this might have various possible meanings, the one I like to single out is the following: 'China sheep' in a sense being similar to the popular idiom 'black sheep'. As the only Chinese member left, maybe even being mistreated by the company or even anti-fans, he would surely feel like a 'black sheep'. By using the word 'China' instead of 'black', he transforms the idiom into his own, personalizing his situation of feeling like an outcast just because of being Chinese. But, with his strong personality and mentality, Lay puts a strong point on the sheep being 'untameable', with a warning not to disrupt the 'food chain'; in other words 'don't test me'. This could very well be a form of 'strike' - disregarding the participation in EXO's promotions. The reason why I believe this is because he released the song under SM's name. It doesn't make sense for someone to do that if they are leaving the company. Therefore, I see this song as a counterattack.

Lay - "Sheep"

BTS - "Two! Three!"

BTS
BTS

Compared to the aforementioned songs, 'Two! Three!' has a story of it's own, this time including BTS' fans ARMYs and their shared hardships. Being a fan is not always 'walking on flower paths'. ARMYs, and other fandoms as well, have gone through their share of prejudice.

This is a song that BTS has gifted to their ARMYs to help ease the pain and offering a hand, so that they can overcome it together. This is their way of showing gratitude, but also an apology to their fans. 'Let's only see good things, I can't say that'... They are apologetic to ARMYs for what they are going through because of supporting BTS. Sucking in all of the hateful comments and criticism the anti-fans are throwing on BTS and the fandom, BTS reveal that they don't need anyone else other than ARMYs to be content. That is why they are telling their fandom to forget about the hate, to erase the painful experiences and just smile while holding their hand. This just show us the amount of trust BTS have in ARMYs by showing them just how weak they can become. They are even ready to show the fandom their breakdowns in 'Burn the Stage' due to the strength that they have received in return. By doing this, BTS are hoping for better days to come for them and their ARMYs.

BTS - "Two! Three!"

2ne1 - "Goodbye"

2ne1
2ne1

2ne1's song 'Goodbye' may be one of the most emotional songs on this list because it is accompanied by a great amount of sadness due to the groups disbandment. This was the last song made by 2ne1 as a final goodbye to their fans.

Disbandment is something that awaits all of the groups, but experiencing one is surely never easy, both for the group members and the fans. This song collects all of their shared experiences and time spent together. It is like a film tape reminiscent of the groups time, from their debut, first win, growing success, and all the way to the bitter end. 'Nothing ever last forever' - these lyrics are their way of comforting their fans that saying goodbye was something inevitable and unavoidable. It was just a matter of time. But, this is only a goodbye for until the members of 2ne1 and their fans meet again, giving hope that this is not really the end. Despite the hard feelings that are still lingering, they are hoping for the fans not to forget them or their promises, and also offer a shoulder for their fans and fellow members to lean on.

2ne1 - "Goodbye"

Jonghyun ft. Taeyeon - 'Lonely'

Jonghyun from SHINee
Jonghyun from SHINee

Due to various reasons, I decided not to write about the song's context in respect to the deceased Jonghyun and his fans. It is more than obvious what kind of connection the song 'Lonely' as well as Lee Hi's 'Breathe' had with Jonghyun's life and depression.

Jonghyun ft. Taeyeon - 'Lonely'

What are some other songs about the hardships of K-Pop idols / trainees that you know or like? Write them down in the comments bellow.

Which song is your favourite?

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© 2018 Fact Fact no Mi

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