DBSK’s “Wae (Keep Your Head Down)”: A Defense

DBSK / Wae (Keep Your Head Down) / Jan 03, 2011

It would be easy to sit here and poke fun at the promotional video, one of the ugliest in the history of pop music, but there’s so much going on musically here that I’m going to ignore the ridiculous costumes and the fake fire and the persistent, eerie trope of male solidarity via face-offs between the two surviving members and talk about the song.

The structure: there is none. I listened to this song for an hour straight at one point and I still have no idea what’s going to come next at any moment: a verse, a chorus, some rap, perhaps a marching-band interlude? Like any relationship experiencing pent-up frustration, it’s messy and made up entirely of visceral reactions, a scribbled laundry list of grievances and accusations meant to inflict as much hurt and damage as possible.

This month we’ve been seeing a lot of puppy-love pop songs, stuff about shy boys and visual dreams, but this is one of the rare aggressive songs to come lumbering out of SM Entertainment. There are no tears here: no pining, no pleading, just hatred from the gut and raps with enough spite to fill that massive bass. There’s a notable repetition of rhetorical questions, the restless need to go over the same territory again and again until it resembles a broken record of resentment. Finally he bids her goodbye, this two-faced, lying, immature woman who made him the bad guy before he even knew she left and wishes her happiness, by this time a sarcastic, poisonous farewell, a promise of revenge he would carry out if she wasn’t already dead to him.

There’s only two of the five members left now and that’s what makes this all the more an oddity, maybe, that it’s possibly a message from the record company to the three members who filed lawsuits, that it’s the best song DBSK ever released, and that there’s an 85% chance this group will never release anything as relatable or as real as this again.

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