Album: Musik, 2016
Real Name: Cho Hye Ryung
Why it’s on repeat:
I’ll be honest, while I do enjoy Kisum’s first EP, (“Like It”), I find after knowing what she’s capable of, it comes off as a bit of a wash. By the sounds of it, she didn’t have much influence on this EP and four out of the five songs are featuring other artists (with the fifth song being an instrumental of one of the other songs). Although it does have some really enjoyable and catchy songs, (my favourite being “Liar” Ft. Se-A), “Musik” is what will get you hooked on Kisum.
“Musik”, as you may have already noticed is Kisum’s name backwards. This was an album Kisum really wanted to make, and I think it shows. All of these tracks are solely her, and you can simply tell by many of the lyrics that this EP has a lot of herself in it. Kisum wrote all the lyrics herself and is also the first name listed for the composition of every song on “Musik”. The tone of the tracks vary greatly, from “No Jam” to “Cover up”, but she managed to make everything very cohesive. The entire album sounds just that, like an album; none of the songs are disjointed or sounding out of place.
The first track on “Musik” is the single “No Jam”. It surprisingly starts off with a recording of a woman speaking Portuguese, and Kisum wondering “where is Jam?”, and then she jumps right into the song. This one is a fantastic first single as it is upbeat and very fun, plus it was dropped in June so it made for a great summer tune. There’s a great little electric guitar riff every so often in this song and it’s so subtle I don’t even always notice it, but whenever I do, it always puts a smile on my face. Because this song is so upbeat, and so catchy, it’s easy to get a little lost in it and not really take in the lyrics (especially when you don’t speak much to any Korean). And that’s such a shame, because just like all of Kisum’s songs, she clearly put a lot of thought into her words.
Before I get too far into this I should probably explain that “No Jam” is slang in Korea for something being boring. It’s pretty ironic that a song about things being boring is so upbeat and entertaining. I was a little blown away when I finally paid the lyrics any mind, I wasn’t expecting to find lyrics such as these in such a fun and upbeat song:
“Nowadays Everyday anything anywhere
Whatever I do. What I eat I’m on the edge.
TV only tells the scandals.
Everyone is being jealous of someone else.
My head, oh my head hurts
Please leave me alone.”
Generally summer tunes like these are kind of throw away lyrically. They simply talk about drives, parting, and love. But not Kisum, she decided to take a fantastic summer single and say a little something with it. Kisum isn’t bored because there’s nothing going on, or no parties, she’s bored because there’s nothing worthwhile going on.
When I first started looking into Kisum I found “2 Beer”, which is easily my favourite off this EP, and is honestly what made me fall for her as an artist. It has a really nice, chill beat that compliments her voice and her more laid back style of rapping. I find “No Jam” greatly leads into “2 Beer”, both musically and lyrically. “2 Beer” is a tone slower than “No Jam”, but I find the transition between the two very smooth. “2 Beer” is chiller, but I find it still has a great beat so it’s not like transitioning suddenly into a ballad. While “No Jam” has Kisum talking about her boredom, the chorus of “2 Beer” has her talking about how she’s having fun, but can’t stay for more than two beers because she’s so busy. Yet again, it’s the verses that show off Kisum’s true skills though.
“In Seoul city where is rapidly changing
Feel like I’m the only one who stop on the
black road So quiet that it’s almost scary
I hunch my shoulders from
the lonely feeling
I’m nervous already for
what would happen tomorrow
My future is dark but how could others
laugh & live well I walk on this road again
I’m anxious My future seems like the front
of my house at dawn before sun rises
I can’t see anything So dark like
my room before falling into sleep
What I want is simple happiness
But the world wants more and asks more
I didn’t want the loneliness
Wherever I go, here and there, is so lonely
What I want to do”
The verses describe Kisum’s struggle between doing what she wants and loves, and the loneliness that it creates. This seems to be a common theme that shows up in many of her songs for this album. But I find this verse, in particular, to be very sad, and honest. You can hear the remorse a little in her voice, but I don’t find the song itself to have a sad feel to it. I think this is in part because of the horn, which I find gives the song a rather uplifting tone, despite what she’s talking about. I’ve found in some songs that this can be a little jarring, when the song and the feel of the lyrics don’t seem to be saying the same thing, but I feel like Kisum pulled it off excellently. This is one of those perfect songs that will change to fit whichever mood you are in.
Unlike “2 Beer” which seems to fit my every mood perfectly, I’ve found that “Freedom” is a song I need to be in the mood to really enjoy. Because of this it’s my least favourite song on “Musik”. I do think it’s a great song, but when every other song is gold and fits your every mood, the one that doesn’t will surely fall behind in your heart a little. Which is a shame as this really is a great song. “Freedom” brings up the beat a little after “2 Beer”, and has a slightly more upbeat feel to it. Which makes sense considering the song is talking about someone Kisum loves. The chorus is repetitive and more simplistic compared to Kisum’s other songs, and I think this is part of the reason I don’t love it quite as much as all the others. I found I could never get a really good sense of the mood for this song until I read the lyrics for it, whereas with the other songs, I easily fell for them all simply from the beat and the sound of Kisum’s voice. After looking at the lyrics though, this all makes a bit more sense to me. I could kind of tell it was a love song, but only being able to understand “you are my chocolate… baby call me baby baby” wasn’t giving me much to go on. I couldn’t even tell why the song was called “Freedom”. It’s because the entire chorus is “You are my chocolate, you’re sweet to me, you’re my freedom”, which is really sweet, (like chocolate).
What I really enjoy about this song is the progression in the lyrics. By the chorus alone it seems like a stereotypical love song, but as you read through the verses, you can tell something is a little wrong. In the first verse we, again, see Kisum mentioning how busy she is, and how she’s sorry she doesn’t have time for this person. She says how she’ll try and do better and to tell her about your day. The second verse is my favourite as lyrically I find there’s a lot of really great lines:
“It’s hard to hide what I feel, I just moves by itself sometimes. since you’re so pretty I forgot how to breathe.”
“Just by looking at your picture there’s a blossom in the corner of my mouth”
This is also the verse where we figure out that it’s not exactly the type of love song we thought it was. Kisum is again confessing her love, and saying how great this person is, and how they can always talk to her, she’ll listen to everything they have to say, and then she drops the last line of the verse, “except for you telling me to go away, everything’s okay”. It might just be me, and the multiple time’s I’ve read through these lyrics, but I had a feeling the entire time something was off, but once this last line came up I just knew that whoever Kisum is talking to doesn’t actually like her back. Which would explain why they “won’t ever know how much [she] like[s]” this person.
“Oktangbang” slows it down again after “Freedom”, starting with Kisum’s voice and an acoustic guitar. It slowly builds up to the chorus by adding layers of Kisum’s voice, and then an organ until the full beat is there. “Oktangbang” is reminiscent of “2 Beer”, not that they sound alike, but more in the subject matter and how the beat deceives you a little into thinking this is a happier song than it is. Much like “2 Beer”, “Oktangbang” talks about how Kisum wants to see her friends and family, and just relax and have fun, but instead she needs to work.
“Having fun with friends is greater than anything, but reality doesn’t allow it, that’s reality.”
Unlike “2 Beer”, this time Kisum goes a little further into why it’s so important for her to do this instead of hanging with her friends as she would like to. She repeats what her dreams are twice. I find basically this entire song to be fantastic lyrically, and I suggest looking into the lyrics as I can’t do it all justice. I feel they are some of the strongest lyrics on the entire album,
“I want to live like a weed
Although lonely, I want to survive tenaciously
How nice would it be if someone lived my life in my stead
I sometimes imagine strange things and then return to reality.”
I also enjoy, yet again, just how real Kisum is being with her listeners. As I’ve mentioned before, Kisum talks about how busy she is and how she’d much rather be hanging out with friends, but this is the life she choose. What I really love is that the two songs that deal with this the most both have such an upbeat feel considering the material they’re covering. Although Kisum talks about how she’d rather be doing other things, she never sounds like she regrets her choice, instead she talks about how she needs to work harder.
“I go up to the rooftop house that’s colder than a fridge
Although it’s not warm, I’m burning with passion
I fill a computer with my story
Before I know, the sun is already rising again
I think I’m living as diligently as I can
If I keep living this way, I’ll eventually get somewhere
I too know well that I’m still not good enough
I think I have to work more diligently than now”
I really respect how she’s able to write songs about missing time with friends, and living a normal life, but instead of sounding wistful, she talks about how she needs to work harder. It makes me really excited for her next album.
And then there’s “Cover Up”. “Cover Up” catches me off guard every time; it’s beautiful, a little haunting, and yet it still manages to flow from the last song. “Cover Up”, like “ Freedom”, is a love song, but I would say the only other similarity is that both choruses are repetitive. Even that seems like a stretch though, as “Cover Up”s chorus is repetitive in an almost hypnotic way. I get the feeling from the lyrics, the beat, and Kisum’s voice that “Cover Up” is a real love song. Unlike all the other songs on this EP, “Cover Up” only has one verse, the majority of the song is Kisum melodically rapping the chorus. Again, I find this chorus very hypnotically haunting, you could get lost in the chorus for days and not even notice. It always impresses me how Kisum manages to go from the exceedingly hypnotic chorus that she’s basically singing, into the verse where she returns back to her style of rapping. The entire song is almost like a lullaby drifting you off to sleep, plus I mean there’s a harp. If it wasn’t for the steady beat in the background this song may of actually been too hypnotic and too relaxing. Kisum manages to create a fantastic flow between the chorus and verse that’s reminiscent of waking up to the smell of fresh coffee.
Once I finally managed to read the lyrics the different vibe this song gives off started to make a lot more sense. Much like with “2 Beer” and “Ocktabbang”, Kisum is completely putting herself out there with the lyrics of “Cover Up”. From what I could get of the lyrics, the song is about Kisum being in love with someone, but not wanting to be, “The more I bury you in my heart, the more you knock”. And yet again, I’m left very impressed with the way Kisum uses her words. The one verse “Cover Up” has is filled with different metaphors, (or the translation is horrible and weirdly works), about love, and being lost in love.
“A dangerous relationship,
I think I’ll cross the line
When I face you.
I know I cannot do it
But I cannot keep it
I do not want you to grow like a balloon
It makes me afraid
But I cannot leave you…
I do not have the answer,
I need it right now.
I know better.
I cannot get out
Of your labyrinth.”
With lyrics like these, I’m left once again finding another reason to love one of Kisum’s songs more than I already did upon the first listen.
I honestly started this article based on my love of “2 Beer”, and as I looked more and more into Kisum and her work, this article kept growing, and growing. She’s honestly one of my favourite artists at the moment and I cannot wait for her to have a comeback so I can add more of her songs to my playlist. I loved the direction she took with this album and it makes me excited to see what else she’s capable of.
Credit for lyrical translations goes to:
No Jam offical MV for No Jam translation
https://ilyricsbuzz.com/2016/05/kisum-2-beer-lyrics.html for 2 Beer translation
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTp9kDokeDM for freedom translation
http://hiphopkr.com/ for Oktabbang translation
Google translate for cover up translation