10 K-pop Feminist Anthems Perfect for Women’s Day
Featuring BLACKPINK, EVERGLOW, MAMAMOO and more.
This International Women’s Day, we’re ranking the 10 greatest feminist songs in K-POP, ranging from BLACKPINK to Girls’ Generation and everything in between.
10. “Solo” by Jennie
Blackpink’s main rapper Jennie’s debut single “Solo” is a 2018 dance-pop track laced with hip-hop influences. Conceptually, the storyline conveys the theme of forsaking a relationship built on pretence, lies and insincerity, to seek happiness in ones solitude and eventually, finding solace within oneself. The music video is decadent and high budget, shot in locations varying from luxurious mansions to lively, bustling nightclubs. Additionally, it features the 26 year-old artist sporting over twenty different, well-curated, versatile looks from couture houses as well as rising labels alike. Besides being a worldwide hit, “Solo” was responsible for cementing Jennie’s status as one of the leading fashion icons in South Korea’s pop music space.
“Used to be your girl
Now I’m used to being the G.O.A.T.
You’re sittin’ on your feelings
I’m sittin’ on my throne
I ain’t got no time for the troubles in your eyes
This time I’m only lookin’ at me, myself and I.”
9. “Adios” by EVERGLOW
“Adios” is the title track of the six-member girl group’s sophomore single album H.U.S.H. released in 2019. Sonically, the track combines pop, trap and EDM while lyrically, it expresses the girls’ audacious warning to their ex-lovers to maintain their distance from them. The members realize that the relationship had driven them into a cycle of sorrow, misery and insanity – when they deserved to be treated much better. With this epiphany, they manifest a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude, refusing to let the other person get away with making them feel small or treating them as a side character ever again. The music video is heavily performance-driven, with the members delivering a power-packed dance routine in black and white military-inspired ensembles, at the heart of a desert. The track is highlighted by member Yiren’s iconic pre-chorus “Goodbye, au revoir, adios” anti-drop, which she voices as a faint whisper with a deadpan stare into the camera.
“Why do you make me feel so small?
I always go round in circles for you
Why do you make me so sad?
I should’ve been the main character in the first place.”
8. “I Am The Best” by 2NE1
YG Entertainment’s four-member girl group 2NE1 are known as the original pillars of feminism in the Korean music industry. Harbingers of the fierce ‘girl crush’ concept in K-pop, the group smashed the glass ceiling for girl groups with this iconic 2011 electro-house empowerment anthem, which is sonically laced with reggae and Middle Eastern influences. Considered one of the pivotal tracks responsible for the spread of the Hallyu wave to international audiences, “I Am The Best” lyrically explores the theme of unwavering self belief. The futuristic music video has the members unleashing their bold and confident sides – from rocking eccentric hairstyles and gothic-punk influenced experimental fashion, to seamlessly wielding lethal firearms. In true 2NE1 spirit, this progressive track broke away from every single stereotype pertaining to the image that girl groups in the industry were expected to adhere to back in the days. And of course, who can forget leader and rapper CL’s iconic “Naega Jeil Jal Naga!”
“I refuse to be compared, I’m telling you the truth
If we’re talking about my value, I’m a billion dollar baby“
7. “Kill This Love” by Blackpink
Much like Beyoncé on our ’10 Most Iconic Feminist Anthems’ list, no contemporary K-pop empowerment anthems list would be complete without atleast a couple of mentions of global superstars Blackpink. “Kill This Love” is the lead single from the group’s 2019 EP of the same name. This electropop track features elements of trap, along with a recurring, blaring military horn instrumental and essentially heralds the end of a toxic relationship that had been detrimental to both the parties involved. With the lyrics embodying an obsessive push-pull relationship, the members discern the bitter reality of the situation, realizing that their love has long been dead and needed to be drawn to a definitive close if they wished to survive. The music video is laced with grandiose, complete with references to Greek mythology and Christianity. It features intricate military-inspired ensembles and an actual, on-set background explosion – talk about high effort. The track visualizes the members choosing to survive by hunting down the weaker, torn down and vulnerable parts of themselves with an intent to kill – in order to let their indestructible, fighter alter egos take over.
“What should I do? I can’t stand being so weak
While I force myself to cover my eyes
I need to bring an end to this love“
6. “No” by CLC
Making up the lead single on their eighth EP No.1, this 2019 number is a synth-pop track with trap and R&B influences. The CLC members are fiercely unapologetic in this one, as they shun the items typically associated with the marks of “true womanhood” and “femininity” like red lipstick, earrings, high heels, handbags, etc. The girls ascertain that they won’t be adhering to norms of social acceptability pertaining to how a woman should look or present herself to cater to the male gaze standards, instead they’ll call their own shots and dress the way that makes them feel happy and comfortable. The members also establish that they won’t modify their personalities to fit into the unrealistic, one-dimensional Korean stereotypes of ‘innocent’ ‘sexy’ or ‘cute,’ and ask men to look elsewhere if they aren’t willing to accept and like them wholly, for who they are. The music video is vibrant and eye-catching, showing the women trashing and setting fire to these so-called ‘feminine’ tropes.
“Screw how you feel, so “I” can look more like “me”
You act like you’re worried about me, to tell me what to do
You can cut that out, your mouth will just get sore
This cold way of talking, it suits me well actually
I don’t change myself for you, yah“
5. “Woman” by BoA
Released in 2018, this song is the lead single to BoA’s ninth studio album of the same name. Penned by BoA, the dance-pop track features a unique ‘clicking-heels’ instrumental. The record ideates Boa’s perception of a ‘real woman’ and condemns the practice of making women compete against each other. The singer out-and-out embraces her womanhood and inspires other women to do so as well by urging them to be comfortable in their own skin and set their own standards for themselves. The music video further emphasises this point, exhibiting a diverse group of women from different ages, sizes and racial groups. The accompanying choreography also went viral on the Internet because of the signature ‘upside-down walk’ intro.
Additionally what makes this track so iconic besides its unyielding message, is the artist herself. The very image of a hard working, self-made power female – the 35 year old singer first started her immensely successful career in the K-Pop industry at the mere age of 14. Soon, she was entrusted with shouldering the massive responsibility of spreading K-Pop outside of South Korea’s domestic borders. As a first generation idol, she was successful in breaking into the near-impenetrable Japanese and US music markets and is now credited with paving the path for bringing in mainstream global attention to the genre. Over her 20 year career, BoA has persisted through several personal and professional setbacks, and today – apart from being one of the industry’s most legendary performers, she’s also the creative director of renowned label SM Entertainment, as she continues to shift new boundaries with her art.
I shine just as I am, I’m beautiful enough
To be a woman.”
4. “I Don’t Need A Man” by Miss A
The OG hustle anthem of K-pop was given to us by none other than the iconic girl group Miss A. Exuding power, confidence and financial independence through and through, this 2012 dance-pop track was a B-side on their album Independent Woman Pt.lll. The music video intro summarizes the essence of what the full track embodies, flashing lines which read: ‘We present this to all those proud women, who refuse to make easy money, who don’t like to live on the money of their man, who don’t like to live on the money of their parents, this is for all the independent ladies.’
The rest of the music video is just as badass, displaying the women embracing both their masculine and feminine sides. The most refreshing aspect of this particular feminist anthem however, is that neither the song nor it’s music video go out of the way to incorporate hypermasculine elements like overexertive choregraphy or violent/war-influenced imagery, thereby establishing that grace, elegance and femininity can be just as powerful as machismo and virility. Lyrically, the song explores the theme of how women don’t need to depend on men to make themselves feel whole and shine just as they are.
“I wake up early every morning
And I’m busy all day
I don’t even eat a proper meal
But I do this because I like it
The money may be little but it’s from my own sweat
This isn’t a ring that a boyfriend bought me
My car, my clothes – I bought it all on my own
I bought them after putting money into savings, after giving allowance to my parents
If you trust men, what will you do when they leave you?“
3. “Lion” by (G)I-DLE
Co-composed, produced and arranged by the group’s leader and main rapper Soyeon, this 2019 single was later included under the 2020 EP, I Trust. The dance-pop track compares the innate strength of a woman to the power wielded by a reigning “lion queen,” and draws parallels on a lion’s method of waging wars, protecting its throne and paving a new path that no one has walked before–symbolic of the fierce leadership, fighter and survivor instincts exhibited by women.
The anthem is a celebration of the women’s wild, untameable spirits and establishes that they can’t be chained down by superfluous factors like love or pain while on the much greater path of ascent to the top of the music industry. In the music video, the members grace their rightful thrones and flaunt their battle scars, whilst donning regal, red and golden, velvet vestments and performing the iconic lion claw-formation choreography. The final scene culminates into a majestic shot of all six, crowned women standing on an ornately embellished platform before a much larger-than-life lion statue, while six lions assemble below to watch their respective queens take the crown.
“I’ll bite off your useless courtesy
We tear down your suffocating prejudice
Who would dare to stop me
Careful with my sharp claws
I create a new path no one has attempted before
All those condescending people will click their tongues
But the applause I receive after breaking that prejudice is thrilling
I’ve had a taste, now I can’t deny it
I’m a queen.”
2. “Hip” by MAMAMOO
“Hip” was released in 2019 as a part of the group’s third studio album, Reality. Described as a dance-pop and hip-hop blend, the track depicts the members calling out obsessive anti-fans who are always nitpicking, criticizing and ‘canceling’ every move women in the public eye make; be it in terms of appearance, fashion or career choices. The track brushes off the presence of such redundant critics as the women affirm immense belief in themselves.
The music video is equally powerful and inspiring, showing the four members taking on different, conventionally male-oriented career roles; with Solar portraying a wrestler and a rockstar, Moonbyul depicting a choreographer and a corporate employee and Wheein depicting a social activist and a gypsy. Last but not the least, Hwasa is seen channeling the portrayal of a country’s president while also balancing the more traditional role of motherhood, all of which cohesively go into establishing the fact that women are capable of achieving anything. Depicting a plethora of confident, determined and career-oriented women, the track aims at honoring and uplifting women belonging to various backgrounds by not letting their life stories be reduced to mere external appearances, degrading remarks or clickbait headlines.
“Beep, beep, People keep talking my fashion
I don’t care, it’s just an action
Keep on click me click me, as if you”re possessed zoom
Close up, close up, close up
Hip, hip Head, shoulders, and knees, hip!“
1. “The Boys” by Girls’ Generation
“The Boys” forms the lead single of the chart-breaking girl group’s third Korean studio album of the same name. The dance/electro-pop track infuses elements of hiphop along with military-style drum beats and has become renowned as a leading empowerment anthem throughout the nation of South Korea. More so than the lyrics or the music video, the Numero Uno reason for choosing this track as our top pick of this list are the circumstances surrounding the group before, during and after the release of this hit record. “The Boys” came out at a time when the industry was heavily male-dominated – while boy groups were thriving in terms of profitability and sales/fanbase numbers, most girl groups couldn’t receive equal limelight.
Drawing away from the archetypal bubblegum-pop sound and the ‘cute’ and ‘innocent’ image that girl groups were known for in the 2000s, “The Boys” moved towards an edgier sound and badass concept – hence highlighting the musical versatility girl groups were capable of bringing to the table. In this track, the nine members draw away from their usual girl-next-door image and transform into sassy divas, challenging ‘the boys’ to show up and ‘feel their heat’ in a head-to-head battle for the Number One spot in the music industry. Apart from its confrontational lyrics, the song also received mass acclaim for the group’s stellar vocal harmonies and the signature point dance choreography. “The Boys” has also been credited with playing a key role in spearheading the Hallyu wave alongside records like 2NE1’S “I Am The Best” and PSY’s “Gangnam Style.”
Also in a one-of-a-kind case, while the track’s official English version highlights themes of female confidence, female superiority and empowerment – the Korean version is hinged towards the facet of uplifting both the sexes by asking men to break free from their limiting shackles and urging them to be unapologetically themselves by following their hearts, hence perfectly encapsulating the progressive notions of present-day feminism. SNSD were crowned as the ‘Nation’s Girl Group,’ becoming the first to rival and surpass boy groups in terms of impact, and giving young girls of the nation strong role models to look up to.
“B-Bring the boys out
Girls’ Generation make you feel the heat!
And we’re doin’ it
We can’t be beat
(B-Bring the boys out)
We’re born to win
Better tell all your friends
‘Cause we get it in
You know the girls?
B-Bring the boys out.”