Most of the time I don’t really mind not understanding the lyrics when listening to Korean music–after all the language barrier is what prompted me to get invested to begin with–but every now and then there’s the odd artist that makes me wish I had allowed myself the time to study the language properly. Lang Lee being the latest example.
Gathering songs made by Lang Lee from 2008 through 2010, her first full-length album 욘욘슨 (Yon Yonson) offers one intriguing tune after the other. Lang Lee is said to be “ddorai” (또라이), that I’ve taken to lovingly mean peculiar in an eccentric way, and it is reflected in her lyrics to the extent that it’s noticeable even to me. Already opening track “잘 알지도 못하면서”, title translating to “You don’t even really know”, where she sings of being the ugly sister offers quirkiness in the shape of:
나 예쁘니? 어디가? 진짜? Do you think I’m pretty? Like how? Really?
그럼 나랑 사귈래? Then can I ask you out?
And it continues till the very end, the album closing with “로쿠차 구다사이” where Yoda gets help ordering green tea in Japanese (see translation by Gord Sellar for full context) which has been a favorite with me since the Star Wars Project Compilation 2008.
So is there anything to Lang Lee also for those without any grasp of Korean whatsoever? Definitely! In essence it’s the standard singer-songwriter girl with an acoustic guitar and fairly simple melodies, but paying closer attention every song is a standout track in its own way. There’s a slight psychedelic folk feeling to many of the arrangements and Lang Lee has included several hooks and other clever constructs inviting anyone to sing or hum along to their best ability.
Borrowing the words from my own favorite song on the album, the Kurt Vonnegut inspired “하하하 (Hahaha)”: 좋아 좋아 정말 좋아. Good, good, really good~