Bad Boy, Good Boy: Gender and Sexuality in Kpop

by Raizel Liebler

We are launching a new series focusing on gender and sexuality in kpop. We will be writing about several women performers and G-Dragon & TOP from BigBang to start. We will also write about the switched gender songs from live performances, like award and variety shows.

To get things going and to contextualize how gender and sexuality are commonly portrayed in K-pop, we’ll be discussing how Kpop dichotomizes gender and sexual behavior through songs called either Bad/Good Girl or Bad/Good Boy in the past couple of years. And strangely enough, there have been plenty! This post covers Bad/Good Boy songs, so if you want the Bad/Good Girl post, go here.

I needed to stop adding songs to these posts because there are just so many songs with this theme — there are nineteen songs in these two posts. (Left off is Kahi’s Come Back You Bad Person (2011) because I couldn’t find a good version with an English translation, for example.) But the genres covered include mainstream kpop, as well as ballads and rap.

Overall, the message is — being a bad boy is something that can be excused, despite how controlling he can be, and being a good girl is right. Because bad girls are just wrong!

Because the visuals of the music videos usually support the lyrics, demonstrating how “bad” or “good” someone is, I’ve tried to include mostly the original music video.

Led Apple — Bad Boys (2013)

Yes, this is a salsa-style Korean song. Overall, party time, yo, and have a good time. The lyrics don’t actually call the band “bad boys” because what seems to make them “bad” is that they are interested in a one-night stand, for the usual “until the break of dawn” timeframe. It might also be due to giving everyone in the band, including the bass player, an odd solo.

Epik High — The Bad Guy (2012)

Considering there isn’t an official video, a live performance is the best I can do. Of all of the songs here, this is the one that takes the furthest step to say that bad boys are antisocial and not to be trusted — in a fun, rap, teenage bravado way. The narrator compares himself to an amazing array of Western villains to prove that he is a bad boy — Tony Montana, Bane, Hannibal Lector, Dexter, Gordon Gekko, Vincent & Jules, Magneto, Don Corleone, Loki, Tyler Durden, Kaiser Soze, and Darth Vader. (There is also a mention of the villains from the anime Death Note and Monster). He only likes villains in popular culture rather than heroes– and likes bad girls. Bad girls are defined as rough girls rather than angels. At least bad girls aren’t killers like everyone name-dropped by the narrator (except for Gordon Gecko!).

BigBang — Bad Boy (2012)

Of course, BigBang would want to get on this trend, considering the way BigBang overall has a playboy/fun-time image. So what makes this bad boy bad? He is ill-tempered, starting fights with his girlfriend, blows off dates, clingy, and claims that his “good girl” girlfriend is the only one who will understand him. So in all — a really great catch that she should run back to immediately after this latest breakup. This song is very similar to group member Taeyang’s Only Look At Me — a song from the perspective of a boyfriend who wants to cheat, but wants his girl to “only look at” him. And the video gives me all the LOLs, considering New York was picked as a filming location because of its bad reputation. But of course, TOP’s blue hair (and doing the dougie) brings it all home.

100% — Bad Boy (2012)

So to get over this heartbreak, the bad boy and his ex should “laugh happily”? Rather than crying? No mention of what makes the narrator a bad boy, except for possibly wearing black through part of the video. Of all the “bad boy” songs reviewed this is by far the worst.

Tritops — I’m a Bad Guy (2012)

He’s a very sensitive bad guy, who is crying like a girl, because he loves his girl so much, but must say goodbye to her. His guyliner never runs, and we never find out why he is a bad guy — beyond abandoning the girl who loves him.

Mighty Mouth — Bad Guy (2012)

This cutesy song is told by a girl who falls in love with a bad boy — and the bad boy who isn’t really a bad boy because he would never cheat and is a bad liar. Will these two crazy kids finally get together?

Baek Ji Young — Good Boy (2012)

These two people deserve each other — the controlling older woman who wants her younger lover to behave and be a “good boy” (yes, like a dog) and the younger lover who starts acting badly when she starts treating him well.  Since she is supposed to be read as the “bad” one, she infantilizes her dude and controls him because she, like love is cruel.

Joo — Bad Guy (2011)

In this ballad, the narrator, a self-proclaimed “good girl” is brokenhearted over a “bad boy”. She apologizes to him, claiming she will never be able to get over him, despite his cheating. So she uses a bubble gun as a weapon …

Son Dambi — Bad Boy (2008)

So he’s a bad boy because he broke her heart, talked bad about her friends, flirted with other women, leading her to realize that their entire relationship was a sham … but he is “her bad boy”

Rain (Bi) — Bad Guy (Rainism) (2008)

Likely this trend started with this song by Rain, who can continue to be a “bad boy” now he is out of the army. I’m not sure of what makes Rain a bad boy beyond wanting to dance in a three piece suit and sneakers. The lyrics don’t help. He does, however, possess a magic stick that he wants to use effectively, and according to the video, it makes both men and women go crazy. Where’s the bad? Rain’s guarantee to make one’s body shake with his magic stick was too much for the Korean censors, causing this song to be listed as unsafe for those under 19!




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