The Beauty in “O Sole Mio”
I’m literally so in love with SF9’s latest comeback that I haven’t shut up about it ever since. Like, it’s getting bad enough that I think people are tired of talking to me. But what is it exactly about “O Sole Mio” that captured me at such an intense degree, especially when the K-Pop market is so saturated with groups?
Hispanic & Latino Cultural Influences
There’s no question that K-Pop as a whole is incredibly influenced by Western cultural movements, but the most common among them is African-American Hip-Hop influences or pop culture trends in the U.S. We also often hear Eastern influences in K-Pop, but it’s very rare to find any other cultural influences in the genre. Hispanic and Latino culture, especially, have barely made their way into K-Pop, if at all. Off the top of my head, the only thing I can think of even remotely related to Latin influence is EXO performing “Sabor A Mi” at KCON Mexico in 2014.
“O Sole Mio” is unique in its extensive use of Hispanic and Latin influences. Beginning with the Spanish acoustic guitar at the start of the track, the Latin influence continues through the pre-chorus as Dawon elegantly sings the first non-Korean lyrics “Oh ego dormio,” and continues through the chorus. Did I mention that the lyrics feature not only Korean and English, but Spanish, Italian, and even Latin as well? How often do you hear that in K-Pop?
It’s not just the music and lyrics, though. The aesthetic of the music video is very true to the traditional Hispanic vibe. One of the most obvious examples of this is the architecture in the church scene, which features bright and colorful stained glass that is traditionally seen in Mexican Catholic Church architecture. The grandiose and colorful aesthetic in architecture is a staple of Hispanic culture and was recreated beautifully in this scene.
Another example is the room featured in Taeyang’s dance solo. As he’s a small feature in a large room, the characteristics of the building design in the background are quite apparent. The light fixture, arched hallways, and railing designs are often seen in Hispanic aesthetics even today, adding to the authentic execution of the concept.
And finally, we have the choreography and outfits. In each performance, SF9 wears long coats that are used in a flashy move during the chorus, coupled with smooth footwork. Though not nearly as flashy, this outfit is reminiscent of a traditional matador outfit. These outfits are worn by bullfighters, and the cape represents the large cloth matadors use when tempting the bull. Smooth movements attributed to matadors are used as well in many points of the choreography.
As a member of the K-Pop community with Mexican origins, I’m absolutely delighted to see how SF9 and their company successfully added elements of my culture into their concept, without resorting to appropriation. The spreading of cultures via music and art is a beautiful thing, and it’s nice to see SF9 doing their part in adding a unique element that has yet to be incorporated into K-Pop. In my opinion, this was an excellent decision on FNC Entertainment’s part to get SF9 to stand out in a sea of talented groups and interesting comebacks. I look forward to seeing more of this kind of representation in the future!