K-drama Flashback: Revisiting ‘Boys Over Flowers’ through its OSTs
As a forerunner of Korean high school dramas and a key influence of the ‘Hallyu Wave’, this series boasts one of the finest OSTs
Some say it’s a cult classic, some feel it’s overrated, and yet others think it’s cringy. But, for me, Boys Over Flowers was the first Korean drama I truly enjoyed watching, and I owe it all to whatever I am doing professionally right now. My passion for the Korean language, culture, cuisine, K-pop, and, of course, K-drama stems from the genuine joy I felt after watching the show. It provided me with the mental space I needed to deal with the trying times of the last few years. I’m sure this hits a nerve with a lot of people.
Another reason this series carved a niche in my heart is due to its incredible OST playlist. You know, Oh Joonsung, the music director of Boys Over Flowers, faced criticism for the overuse of songs at the time of its broadcast in 2009. But the entire album became such a big hit, scoring high on several music charts. Today’s ‘K-drama Flashback’ piece, therefore, is a homage to the tracks that still make me grin every time I hear them. Let’s go over ‘F4’ and ‘Geum Jandi”s story again through the best of their superhit songs.
“Paradise” by T-Max, served as the drama’s opening theme. The plot follows a dry cleaner’s daughter, Geum Jandi (Ku Hyesun) whose heroic feat grabs media attention, landing her at the ultra-elite ‘Shinhwa High School.’ Despite poverty, Jandi soon becomes the cynosure of the school’s most influential clique, F4, led by ‘Gu Junpyo’ (Lee Minho), a filthy rich heir to the ‘Shinhwa Group’ of Industries. A spoilt kid that he is, Jun Pyo targets Jan Di for her obstinacy (as she doesn’t give a damn about her affluent classmates or the F4 boys) and keeps bullying her, much to his chagrin. While the girl challenges him and refuses to surrender, her strength and simplicity catalyze a swoon-worthy romance.
“Stand by Me” by SHINee is an evergreen classic, the reason I came to know of them and fell in love with the group. The song appears in the first leg of the series when Jun Pyo slowly but surely falls for Jan Di. In the stage version, SHINee worked magic. Every time I see the video, I feel both happy and sad. Happy as the song is beautiful per se, it speaks of falling in love, of the emotions and changes one goes through in a phase of first love, and sad because the video leaves me teary-eyed to see Jong Hyun: a phenomenal singer, gone too soon. Regardless of the hackneyed premise (as many would suggest), I reckon Boys Over Flowers is so much more than just a drama. It propelled K-dramas to new heights of worldwide fame, influenced ‘Hallyu’, and firmly established K-pop as a global phenomenon.
“Yearning Heart” with the vocals of A’ST1 is a fun, sweet, romantic number featuring montage shots of good times, happy moments, and the moments of blossoming romance between the protagonists. The idiosyncrasies of an overprotective Gu Junpyo, an “I’m not going to submit no matter what” Geum Jandi, and the very caring, warm, and matured ‘Yoon Jihoo’ (Kim Hyunjoong), who’s always trying to strike a balance between Jun Pyo and Jan Di as they would keep fighting, come across in this music video. Yoon Jihoo’s character cemented Hyunjoong’s status as an actor; he became a household name in South Korea alongside Lee Minho and for me, his enactment of Ji Hoo made me understand the term ‘second lead syndrome.’
“Make Me a Lover”, one of the best renditions by SS501, was used as the second theme song of Boys Over Flowers. It’s a cheerful song about innocent romance that’s interspersed throughout the story. The music sounds balmy acoustically, and the diverse tonal characteristics of each band member add to the song’s immersive nature. “Make Me a Lover” acts as the BGM for the sweet-cute scenes involving Ji Hoo and Jan Di in the drama. Ji Hoo, like a protector, always shields Jan Di from the raging seas while secretly loving her and longing to confess his feelings, “To the world, I want to shout ‘I love you’/To love you and have you as my girl/Dazzling, you’re always my star/I’ll protect you/I can always (be) waiting for you”
“Wish You’re My Love” by T-Max, is another amazing musical addition to the drama; it’s yet another love song about how the archetypal pompous snob Jyun Pyo becomes increasingly drawn to the working-class Jandi, who also can’t help but fall in love with him. Jun Pyo saving Jan Di from being bullied at school, nursing her wound, spending a weekend at the beach, announcing his love in public, gifting her the ‘JJ’ (denoting Junpyo and Jandi) locket necklace, risking his life in the snowstorm for her sake, going against his evil mother (who constantly plots to separate them), and so on, are all heart-warming scenes in the drama that I can watch over and over again.
“Because I’m Stupid” by Kim Hyunjoog and his band SS501, is a ballad with a melancholic strain. A soulful rendition, and a perfect example that music doesn’t need a language. Whether you understand the words or not, this track touches your soul for sure. It speaks of Ji Hoo’s broken heart that yearns for Jandi’s love. “I’m really, very foolish/I know of no one other than you/You’re looking at someone else/Yet you have no idea of my feelings like this,” represents Ji Hoo’s dilemma, torn between his feelings for the girl he loves and his best friend, Jun Pyo, who loves her too, and vice versa.
“Lucky” by Ashily is a vivid portrayal of Jan Di’s unspoken feelings for Jun Pyo. She is well aware of their social standing differences and is unable to express her actual sentiments for him. Jan Di may appear rustic and boisterous to some, but it is a masquerade. She knows that their class differences are far greater than their love, hence she strives to keep it hidden lest things get harder for both of them. “I smile like this, always, even when the world makes it hard/I don’t ever want to show my tears even though you don’t know my heart yet/Since I can still keep your smile, even from afar, it’s a relief.”
“Something Happened to My Heart” by A’ST1 and T-Max is an emotional song expressing the ups and downs in Jun Pyo and Jan Di’s relationship. There are misunderstandings, jealousy, agony, separation, and a lot more the lovers have to deal with till the end of the narrative, and this song is about that; the ongoing emotional upheaval they go through as the story develops. The passion with which the singers have performed this song has made it sound so good, and I’ll say it again: I’ve never felt so many emotions watching a series before. It began as an addiction I didn’t realize I needed, and the music that accompanied it was like a drug.
“Starlight Tears” by Kim Yookyung comes as Jan Di’s epiphany and confession of love for Jun Pyo. She has been trying very hard to keep him at bay, but to no avail and now that he has left, she misses him. “I know that I might’ve been a bit cold at times/But that was just the way I dealt with all my fears/You took the first step to show/ I don’t have to be alone/And now I know, I love you.” The song is deep, intense, heart wrenching, and the singer’s amazing vocals add to the feel, especially in the chorus part–“I’ll be waiting for you/Don’t care how long it may take/ I’ll always be right here/When you need to laugh or cry/You let me know/When You’re ready to love/And I will rush to your side/ To sweep you into my arms.”
“One More Time” by Tree Bicycle sounds like a lullaby: smooth, soothing, and pleasant. It elicits a combination of emotions, thoughts, and manifestations of Jun Pyo’s true feelings for Jan Di, which is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Although the high schoolers’ trials and tribulations seem to be tough, sentiments beyond words keep them together. Jun Pyo promises, “One more time/I promise to find tomorrow for us/I promise to find happiness for us/I’ll always be with you,” and he keeps his promise till the end.
This series is well-rounded musically. Other songs appear from time to time throughout the story, in addition to the ones listed above. It’s incredible that so many Korean musicians contributed to this production and placed their imprint on it individually.
Boys Over Flowers a screen adaptation of the Japanese shojo manga series Hana Yori Dango is widely considered a forerunner in Korean high school dramas, as well as having aided in the spread of the ‘Hallyu Wave’. It also inspired South Korean men to take their looks more seriously, prompting them to emulate the metrosexual or “pretty boy image” (kkotminam, which means “men as beautiful as flowers”). The series became a cult hit in Asia and an object of affection for K-drama fans like me, all around the world.