• (Big Hit Entertainment/SM Entertainment/JYP Entertainment/YG Entertainment)
Fear of failure, societal pressure and intense loneliness are all explored in these songs
9 Apr 2019 - 12:20 PM  UPDATED 7 May 2020 - 12:30 PM

It's no secret that idols have to go through some intense experiences to reach their dreams. From the rigorous training to rules surrounding public appearances and dating lives, there's a lot of pressure put on entertainers. Often idols find the best way to express their struggles through music, and it makes for some seriously relatable music. 

Although not all of us aspire to the idol life, the idea of facing adversity to reach your goals is a human experience to which we can all relate. 

Here's just some of the songs with lyrics that give insight to struggles idols face and sometimes the comforting messages they've written to help themselves and others.

Stray Kids: Hellevator

Diving into the worries of trainees, this debut song went straight into the issues without pulling any punches. The 'hellevator' in the song is lifting them out of hardships and towards their goals, but the mental and physical strain of reaching for their dream is the focus of the lyrics. 

Key lyrics: "No worries for me, just stone cold 'Give up on your nonsense dreams'/Their words on giving up hit my ears, my despair only gets bigger"

BTS: Sea

A hidden track that's become beloved by the fandom, "Sea" is bittersweet in its recounting of BTS' story from the bottom to the very top, and the sudden feeling that it could all disappear. They align imagery of success with the sea, while referencing a desert from their past and the mirages that became real. But even the most successful of idols still have doubts, and this song nails the feeling when they say, "where there is hope, there are trials".

Key lyrics: "The desert I was once afraid of became that sea by our blood, sweat and tears/But what are these fears among all the happiness/We all know too well that this place was originally a desert"

MINO: Fear

Performed on Show Me The Money, the lyrics trace MINO's career from his days as a trainee through to debut. He maps out the loneliness, fear and pressure he felt from his family, peers and seniors to become successful, and how he feels still too young to deal with the things thrown his way.

Key lyrics: "You're the mirror to your younger siblings, you're the star of your family/Only when you cut back on your sleep can they sleep peacefully/Hey you idiot don't make it obvious/Be strong I know you're lonely/But you need to get through it, are you crying?"

Jeon Seyeon ft. DAVII: Smile

In the Unpretty Rapstar semi-final, the now leader of (G)I-DLE rapped about her trainee years and the sacrifices she made, from restricting her diet while still being judged for her appearance through to watching others debut ahead of her. She encourages herself in the song to move past tears and failure, and reassures her family that she's going to be okay.

Key lyrics: "I saw it once in a book: being successful is to be lonely/In fact, I was envious of friends going on school trips/But I thought I'd act like an adult, just without the time/I'm a female rapper so I don't want more pity"

Agust D: The Last

BTS' Suga has never hidden his struggles with mental health and in "The Last" he displays all his vulnerabilities, from the strength needed to get on a stage to debut through to fears of greed swallowing him whole as he sees the path to success develop. It's an internal battle that highlights how music can be a burden but also a saviour for artists.

Key lyrics: "The memories I want to erase of that day I had that concert/I was afraid of people, so i hid in the bathroom and stared at myself/At that time I thought I could compensate for success/But here's the thing as time passes by, it feels like I'm becoming a monster"

G-Dragon: Divina Commedia

G-Dragon's 2017 solo EP highlighted the contradictions between intense fame and solitude, with songs tracing the highs of fame matched by the low of being without close connections thanks to the very thing that makes him wanted by so many. In "Divina Commedia" he reflects on falling into his own image so much that he can't see the difference between himself and his persona.

Key lyrics: "What kind of face am I making right now?/It doesn't matter what kind, it's all a mask/Putting our lives on the line to self-hypnotise ourselves"

VIXX: I Don't Want To Be An Idol

This song tackles the renowned but seldom spoken of rules surrounding idols dating. The lyrics talk about falling in love with someone and wanting to date them openly, but knowing it can't happen because they're young idols and can't be publicly in love. Not much has changed in regard to this since this song came out back in 2013.

Key lyrics: "Because I'm an idol/Because I'm a celebrity/I can't hold your hand when we walk"

Chanyeol: Hand

This song, performed live during EXO's ElyXiOn tour has Chanyeol rapping about dreams coming true and the consequences of fame, along with how he finds comfort in his fellow members to overcome the difficulties of being an idol - whether that's public opinion or fame-induced loneliness.

Key lyrics: "My dreams came true earlier than I expected/And the despair found me earlier too/The happy moments might have stopped somewhere between the two"

Bang Yonggyuk: AM 4:44

B.A.P. had a rough time working with their entertainment agency, and their leader Bang Yongguk was especially outspoken in his lyrics, detailing the frustrations of idol life along with his mental health struggles. In "AM 4:44" he struggles with being a leader while shunning comfort for his own pain, feeling worthless as an artist and the trappings of reality as an idol.

Key lyrics: "My fans hold my two hands and hold me so I won't fall/I know I want to leave and put down the weight of reality that trapped me and just cry/I think I need it, I'm my own refuge right?"

NCT 127: My Van

In "My Van", NCT 127 detail the tiring schedule of idol life as they work endlessly, driving from one place to another. The lyrics are about how it feels like they live in that van, endlessly moving on a busy schedule, feeling disconnected from their friends and family but aware that they have so much to prove as a new act from a well-known agency.

Key lyrics: "'SM Idol, you're not fit for it'/Won't compromise/You might wanna be me though/'You're weaker than I thought'"

BTS: Young Forever

Honing in on the moment when a concert comes to an end, BTS sing about the low that follows the high and how what's seen on stage isn't a reflection of their inner thoughts all the time. As they sing about their doubts - whether the audience liked the show, did they make any mistakes - the song transforms into a bittersweet musing on being young, successful and fearful all at once.

Key lyrics: "I stand on the middle of the hot empty stage/and suddenly I feel so afraid of the void"

Hui: For You

PENTAGON's leader broke down into tears while singing this on Breakers, a song that lays out his concerns about becoming a successful artist, feeling that time is passing by and whether he's doing good by his family and members. All the while saying that he doesn't mind being exhausted, so long as his music is helping someone else.

Key lyrics: "There's heavy baggage on my shoulders/But for the nine families that trust in me/My shameless determination/I'll never collapse"

What song by an idol talking about their struggles has given you comfort?


Hear us on SBS PopAsia Digital Radio

Listen in 24/7 on Digital Radio, by downloading our free mobile app or by streaming live here on our website.

Download the app here:

The K-pop groups that would've turned 10 this year
Disbanded, on hiatus, name changes: a lot happens in 10 years
7 shows to make you fall in love with Cha Eunwoo
It will not take long to fall in love with this guy
25 iconic instrumental K-pop song intros
The second you hear these, you'll get hyped!
7 K-pop idols who opened up about mental health
They are some of the most famous people in Korea, but they go through difficult times just like everyone else.