A combination of a notably beautiful melody and lyrics is one apparent element needed to produce a successful Korean drama. But why is the music exactly there?
Let’s start with a little bit of history. Kdrama OST (original soundtrack) was always on top of trends which began in the 1990s, where the impact of its growing influence went across Asia. From then on, it joined the best hits on music charts and had been awarded in different categories in award ceremonies. Aside from the fact that OST dovetails with the popularity of a Korean drama, it also plays an important role in the show itself. The soundtrack is customarily written to reflect the mood of the scenes or emotions of a character. Some lead actors who are singer themselves lend their voices to contribute a song—a strategy that could boost the popularity of the drama. Of course, who wouldn’t swoon over a singing oppa?
Actually, before the 1990s, Korean dramas had only instrumental music as audio background. Now, can you imagine a similar situation? Well, until now instrumental music is still used as a stand-alone supplement to some scenes. But since the birth of OSTs, we always expect at least one song to play in the background. At present, the show will become dull, boring, and rigid without any OST. Try to replay the rescue clip from episode 2 of Goblin over dodgy earphones where the background music doesn’t play alongside the voice. (Well, it happened to me one time. The audio played out of one ear and it didn’t even work properly. Aargh!!!) The effect intended by the director could hardly be achieved if the hero and his grim reaper friend walk so gracefully without “Never far away” playing in the background. Suffice it to say that without an OST, the show lacks that factor that makes you feel happy or extremely sad. That’s because an OST brings the emotions to the table.
But aside from making us deeply invested in the drama that we are watching, Kdrama OSTs have this kind of effect that goes beyond driving us to appreciate the series more. They bring back personal memories which are triggered by the happiness, anguish, sadness, pain and personal realizations that tugged at our heartstrings while watching the drama.
One of my long-standing favorite OST is “Perhaps Love” from Princess Hours, which is on my playlist every time I do solo road trips. No matter how down I was feeling on those trips, this song has an endless charm that refreshes my most beautiful life memories. Most of us Kdrama fans have had an OST that left a lasting impression on our hearts. For the inspirational and motivational ones, they leave behind a deep self-reflection that motivates us to never stop believing in our own abilities and talents. They never fail to make us feel good about ourselves and to come back to life after hitting rock bottom.
No doubt, there is this self-imposed necessity of OSTs in Korean dramas—for them to become more likable, enjoyable, and relatable.