Those of you who follow The Bias List regularly know that I have certain pet peeves when it comes to music. I think we all do, and they’re not automatically a deal-breaker. But, layer enough of them on top of each other and you’ve got an impenetrable wall that makes it hard to objectively write about a song. T1419’s Red Light, Green Light (무궁화 꽃이 피었습니다) is one such example.
Though the translated title of “Red Light, Green Light” refers to the North American iteration of this popular children’s game, the same concept appears in a countless number of cultures. I’m partial to a version invented (?) by my former summer camp called “Where’s My Water Bottle,” where the participants not only strike the game’s familiar stop-and-go poses but also work as a team to steal a water bottle from their counselor. Maybe I’m just conniving like that. At any rate, the Korean version of this activity is called “The Rose of Sharon has Bloomed,” and you see it pop up often during variety shows. T1419 have gone and designed a whole K-pop song around it, blustering and grunting around the titular refrain. It’s pretty obnoxious, but I guess those are my pesky pet peeves talking.
The thing is, we’ve heard this children’s song referenced in many K-pop tracks already. It’s almost as ubiquitous as “머리 어께 무릎 발,” which elicits similar eye rolls. It feels odd to be exhausted by a cliché that’s not even part of my own culture, but here we are! And the thing is, the song itself has redeeming factors. The actual chorus is fun in a needlessly aggressive way, and I appreciate the instrumental’s single-minded desire for clanging and crashing. T1419 bring plenty of power and intensity to the track. But, other acts have covered this ground in more interesting ways and I just can’t get past the reductive nature of the concept.