After almost a decade of flirting with the market by organizing concerts in multiple cities and webbing Latin American styles into the music, 2018 signals the year K-pop finally catered directly to Spanish-speaking fans. Following “Lo Siento,” the trilingual Leslie Grace and Play-N-Skillz collaboration with Hallyu legends Super Junior in April, GOT7, one of the scene’s most popular groups, released the first K-pop track sung entirely in Spanish. The ambitious move comes after playing sold-out arena shows this summer during their Eyes On You World Tour in Mexico, Argentina, and Chile.
The seven-member outfit debuted in 2014, represented by JYP Entertainment, the biggest South Korean entertainment firm. Mark Tuan, JB (real name Jaebeom Im), Jinyoung Park, Youngjae Choi, Bam Bam (Kunpimook Bhuwakul), Yugyeom Kim, and Jackson Wang quickly garnered a global fanbase, in part by being one of K-pop’s most diverse groups. Tuan is Taiwanese-American, Bam Bam hails from Thailand, and Wang calls Hong Kong home. Together with the Korean members, GOT7 are able to communicate and relate to a wider range of fans. The group has appeared on Billboard’s Social 50 chart for 56 weeks so far, and recently placed ninth on the Hot Tours list with their Eyes On You World Tour stop in Los Angeles. Soompi Español, one of the most popular Spanish-language websites that covers Korean pop culture, lists GOT7 among its most popular groups across their social media.
“When we were on tour in Latin America, we were there for the first time yet the connection felt so strong,” Tuan told Remezcla. “We were so moved by the love and support.” In return, they decided to gift their Latinx fanbase, known as IGOT7 or ahgase, with a Spanish-language version of their latest Korean single off of their new album Present: You, which dropped on Monday. “The love was so overwhelming, it became [our] motivation,” explained Wang. “It was an experience that we could never forget, and we wanted to express our thankfulness to the fans.”
GOT7 prepared four versions of lead single “Lullaby” in Korean, Chinese, English, and Spanish. The song is a bubbly deep house-pop concoction with lyrics about a girl’s voice being a sweet lullaby they want to hear. Though the Korean, English, and Chinese lyrics are a bit more saccharine, Kim pointed out that the fans think the Spanish version is “the sexiest.” And with lyrics like, “Cuando estás sobre mí, al fin todo está bien,” it’s safe to say it’s true.
But nailing the Spanish for the song wasn’t that easy for the group. “It took us quite a lot of time to practice the pronunciations. All of our members put in a lot of effort [and] we had a native [speaker] helping us,” said Kim. The guys pointed out that Park studied the language the most diligently, but it came the most naturally to Kim, even though Tuan took a course on the subject in high school. GOT7 worked on their album during their world tour and, according to Choi, the version of “Lullaby” in Spanish took the longest to record. Im shared his thoughts on his favorite part of this rendition. “I especially like ‘Es mágico.’ The sound of this word is so cool.” Tuan agreed. “I like JB’s part. I like how it sounds, and I like the meaning also. It’s different from other versions, and very straightforward.”
Together with the other versions, GOT7’s choice to sing in multiple languages acknowledges their international fans’ own endeavors to learn Korean to connect with their music. “Lullaby” in Spanish, however, stands out for being a first, and for further tearing down the language barriers between the group and their Spanish-speaking ahgase. “We got to think how much effort our fans put in by practicing the Spanish version,” Tuan reflected. “It was a chance to realize once again how valuable those efforts are.”
While “Lullaby” was produced by the Korean production team Full8bloom, the Spanish-language lyrics were written by composer Alejandro Gonzalez. Just like Super Junior with “Lo Siento,” JYP’s A&R team looked for songwriters in the Spanish-language music industry for the project. “Lullaby” is a K-pop song through and through – it just so happens to be in Spanish, and not a gimmick intended to mirror trends prevailing in the current global pop scene. And given the massive impact that both K-pop and Spanish-language pop are having on global music markets in the current moment, the song is reflective of how archaic attitudes around music consumption are shifting in the industry.
“If we get a chance to perform on a bigger stage, we want to try performing the whole song in Spanish in Spanish-speaking countries,” Wang said about the future. “I think it would be another unforgettable experience.”
This interview was translated from Korean and was edited for clarity.
Update, 9/20/18, 10:12 a.m.: A previous version of this post referred to “Lullaby” as the first-ever K-pop song in Spanish. A band called Lunafly released a Spanish-language album in 2015, making GOT7 the first major K-pop group to release a song in Spanish. This post has been updated to reflect the change.