South Korean music and South Korean TV dramas are both hugely popular internationally, and right now there’s a place where they’re colliding: Descendants of the Sun.
Starring heartthrob actors Song Joong-Ki and Song Hye-Kyo, this wartime drama isn’t the first K-drama to land original soundtrack songs atop Korea’s music charts, but it is the most popular Korean show since 2013 both at home and abroad — and it’s making a huge impact on the Korean pop culture scene.
The show has already been viewed over 1 billion times in China alone, causing such a stir that it reportedly led to China’s Ministry of Public Security issuing a warning about it. In Korea itself, Descendants of the Sun is the most-watched primetime series, and its soundtrack songs have been dominating the local music charts.
Combining the talent and popularity of several singers with the emotional barrage of Descendants of the Sun, these songs have gone all but uncontested on Korean music charts throughout March, and are expected to continue to soar on the highly competitive Korean music charts throughout the end of the series.
While more songs from the soundtrack will drop before the final episode airs, these eight songs set the tone so far.
“Always” – Yoon Mirae
The first song of the Descendants of the Sun soundtrack was released on Feb. 18, about a week before the show first captivated K-drama audiences. Yoon, South Korea’s most groundbreaking female hip-hop artist and a talented balladeer, carries the heartfelt song. She’s backed by an acoustic piano at first, and later joined by orchestral accompaniment. The lyrics’ promise of being together forever sets the tone for much of the series.
“Everytime” – Chen & Punch
To counter the sentimental “Always” comes the mid-tempo pop melody featuring K-pop idol Chen and the female soloist Punch. The harmonious blending of the pair’s voices create a backdrop for some of the series’ earliest moments depicting the springtime romance budding between the lead characters. Like other songs from the soundtrack, “Everytime” has been sticking close to the top ten on Korea’s music charts. The song’s popularity is increased by the fact that Chen is a member of the widely popular boy band EXO.
“This Love” – Davichi
Vocal twosome Davichi can do little wrong when it comes to evocative ballads, and the poignancy of “This Love” proves that. Davichi’s back-and-forth, conversational duet is utilized as a stand-in for the unsaid words by star-crossed lovers, played by actors Jin Goo and Kim Ji Won. Simple piano arrangements play a key role in “This Love” before building up via strings to a power ballad that acts as a backdrop to some of the most emotionally wrought scenes of the drama.
“You Are My Everything” – Gummy
Like the other songs released, “You Are My Everything” contains an integral piano melody. Gummy, who has been recognized time and again for her ability to create ballads reflective of complex matters of the heart, leads listeners through the path toward falling in love. Beginning soft and slow and taking more than two minutes to reach its climax, the song is composed of two distinct parts to depict the conflicting emotions of the characters throughout the series.
“Once Again” – Mad Clown and Kim Na Young
With hip-hop’s rise to mainstream in South Korea over the past few years, Mad Clown and Kim Na Young’s “Once Again” offers up an alternative to the pop ballads that make up much of this chart-topping soundtrack. With a thumping bass and an overall haunting melody amplified by the recurring distortion of Kim’s otherwise breathy voice, the track succeeds in creating a different listening experience. Even as it offers musical variety within the soundtrack, “Once Again” is neatly tied into the overall styling of the Descendants of the Sun soundtrack with the light piano melody laid beneath Mad Clown’s dramatic rap.
“Talk Love” – K.will
A pop song veering toward the realm of R&B, K.will’s “Talk Love” is the brightest song released through Descendants of the Sun. Like other songs from the soundtrack, “Talk Love” incorporates a piano intro before jumping into a cute tune that wouldn’t be incongruous on an early Bruno Mars album. The singer’s impressive vocal range lends itself to the tune, but it’s the memorable whistling refrain that is the most iconic part of the track.
“With You” – LYn
LYn’s inclusion on a K-drama soundtrack ensures excellence, and the aching “With You” doesn’t disappoint. Aired during the second half of the series, “With You” provides an audible sense of angst and urgency faced by the war-torn characters. Again, the song revives the piano elements that have woven their way throughout each Descendants of the Sun song, this time as an element of the building desperation vocalized by LYn.
“By My Side” – SG Wannabe
Continuing the trend, SG Wannabe brings soulful angst to the soundtrack in “By My Side.” Epitomizing the heartbreaking relationship of two of the characters, “By My Side” was introduced during the 12th episode of the series. The song, sung by the Korean ballad trio, went to the top of local charts thanks to its tragic tone and stirring vocalization during a turning point in the plot of the blockbuster Korean drama.