Generation Avex: ‘Return’ by Seung Gi Lee

If you would have asked me, I would have sworn that the song that would be at the top of the Mnet charts would be a Christmas song, but that song has been relegated to the number two spot. This week’s number one is something a little different. Something a little more sentimental.

This is my first time hearing something by Seung Gi Lee, charming crooner that he is, and I hate to say it but his voice reminds me of every other Korean male pop singer in every band ever. This isn’t to say that it’s a terrible voice; indeed, it suits the song quite nicely and is pleasant to listen to, but if you played it against other males around his age in the pop scene, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. For a sentimental song like ‘Return’, though, I think the unobtrusive vocals really lend itself to the believability of the song as a whole.

Musically, ‘Return’ is a nice ballad song that sounds as if it could easily be used as an image song for a drama—which makes sense as Seung Gi has stared in a couple dramas and seems to be more actor than musician—or easily inserted in any romantic movie at the point when the heroine is either a) left by male love interest or b) surprised by the return of said male love interest. The usage of the latter option would show that the lyrics were totally ignored, but when have lyrics ever stopped anyone? There’s ultimately nothing new going on here, though, as the piano parts are very simple and swell in the places where you’d expect them to. Yet, I do feel like the simplicity of the instruments also lends itself to the piece: ‘Return’ is first and foremost a song about the memory of love, not the exciting, new feelings that come with love but a somewhat wearied look back on a relationship that was sweet and confusing. Simple. The music reflects that. We all know that feeling, so the music should follow suit and be something we can recognize not in a boring way, but in a nostalgic fashion.

Whereas the music is so perfectly planned, the lyrics have a gorgeous sense of imperfection in them. This ballad, while still about being in love, is not a straight up declaration of eternal longing. The first line sets this up perfectly with:

The mysterious end of that season

I think, did I really love you?

All in all, the song is a bittersweet reminder of that relationship that maybe didn’t work out, but still had an impact on your life. About that person you’ll never forget because they were important but the reality of the world is that you both had to go your separate ways. These feelings can be complicated, and indeed the lyrics present this (although simplified due to the fact that it’s a song) which is why pairing them with the simple melodies of the violin and piano is a perfect compliment.

The video also fits well, being a short about an awkward, bumbling high school romance where thing don’t work out. It’s clear that there are a lot of miscommunications between the two characters, but none of them leave the relationship feeling slighted. They both still appreciate the other one despite having to leave each other at the end. Stylistically, the muted colors and the very slight sepia filter adds to the sense of nostalgia. While, again, it’s nothing new, it’s very well thought-out.

In the end, I can see why they chose to release this song during this season and also why it over took a more holiday-inspired song in popularity: this is the time of the year where people get introspective about what they’ve done in the past year and just the past in general, making promises based on them for the new year. For doing what it set out to accomplish, I give ‘Return’ four out of five piano keys: as much as I like the song, I wanted it to do a little bit more (even though it makes me tear up every damned time). Give a little bit more feeling. However, without a doubt this song will find a home on my iPod and make me cry while I’m driving to visit people in the new year.