“Sweet talk to me, babe
These are the few English words in GOT7’s latest song, “Lullaby,” which has earned its seventh win, making it the K-pop boy group’s most awarded song to date. Though I don’t possess any knowledge of the Korean language, the song’s vocals, beat and production are pleasing enough for me to keep on repeat. As I walk across campus, I am miles away from South Korea, yet GOT7 keeps getting closer to fans around the world.
GOT7 has earned themselves a strong international following due to the ethnic and geographic makeup of their seven-person group. Their lineup features a Taiwanese member from Los Angeles (Mark Tuan), a Chinese member from Hong Kong (Jackson Wang), and a member from Thailand (Kunpimook Bhuwakul Bambam) in addition to four Korean members (Choi Youngjae, Kim Yugyeom, Park Jinyoung and their leader Im Jaebum). “Lullaby” can not only be listened to in Korean, but also in English, Chinese and Spanish, never losing the tune’s infectious energy as it is translated. The aforementioned English lines that begin each chorus are perfectly sung as “Hablame dulce/es mágico” In the Spanish track.
Hearing “Lullaby” has made me reflect on how language plays a role in my own life. With a Vietnamese mother and a Chinese father who speaks both Vietnamese and Chinese, I grew up with my family’s words alongside my English education in school. Still a little too young to process his logic, I recall declining my dad’s attempts to enroll me in classes for both Chinese and Vietnamese, a decision I now realize would’ve strengthened my skills of interpersonal communication and connected me to my culture.
Today, while I delve deeper into Korean pop music and its respective cultural ties, I am pursuing a major in Spanish, a language that I willingly took up in eighth grade. When I listen to “Lullaby,” I can’t help but think about the intersection of my identities. I am half-Chinese and half-Vietnamese, yet I understand the Chinese version as weakly as I do its Korean counterpart. Though my Spanish courses have helped me comprehend this form of the song to far surpass these other two, only the English lyrics make complete cognitive sense to me. I occupy all of these spaces together, however their prominence is unevenly dependent upon situations that privilege a single role over another, in spite of their crucial intersectionality. There is not one characteristic that possesses consistently exclusive importance over the others. Without recognizing this ongoing negotiation, our identities would not matter.
Understanding our identities serves as a catalyst for seeing ourselves; similarity is what makes us feel close to others, both of which may provide partial explanations for why Chinese-born Jackson is my favorite member of GOT7. In contrast, my lack of skill in either Chinese or Korean has not led to any less pleasure derived from their respective versions of “Lullaby.” Who we are is built from what makes us alike, along with what makes us unique from life around us. Differences, then, do not detract from ourselves. Rather, they are equally essential to who we are. A lullaby sung in any other language still sounds just as sweet.