K-pop is a hugely popular genre these days, marked by ultra-danceable hits and intricate choreography. But it’s not all upbeat dance tunes. If you’re in the mood for a cry, turn on these 25 sad K-pop tunes and let yourself get into all the emotional drama they have perfected.
1. Beautiful Pain — BtoB
Have you ever gone through a painful part of life but been glad to have had the experience? Beautiful Pain by Korean band BtoB is about the anguish and joy of a failed relationship. The singer says that, even though losing the person he loved was hard, he is grateful for the pain because it means that he knew love at all. That’s why he calls his pain beautiful; he believes it was all worth it.
2. Wasted — Younha
Relationships end for all kinds of reasons, but one of the worst is when one person seems to just fall out of love. Wasted is about feeling betrayed that your partner wants to break up after making grand promises about how you will be together forever. The singer is frustrated and ashamed that they ever believed them. Most of us can probably relate to having a relationship fall apart in the same way.
3. LOSER — BIGBANG
Sometimes when we find love, it feels like we finally find ourselves for the first time. Sadly, Loser is about the next chapter of the story—when the relationship ends. Without the person that they loved, the singer feels like the same aimless nobody that they were before knowing them. There is nothing worse than losing someone you love and feeling like you lost your identity at the same time.
4. Rain — Baekhyun & Soyou
After losing the person that you love, you might be reminded of them in all the small things. Rain is about watching the rain after breaking up with a partner and thinking back to walking in the rain together when things were still good. It almost seems like the rain will make everything go back to the way it was. But ultimately, we know that that can never happen. It isn’t the first song to compare rain to heartbreak, but it does it in a particularly beautiful way.
5. Goblin — Sulli
Sulli’s Goblin is shrouded in poetry, and fans have ascribed many different meanings to the song. Some people think that it is about unrequited love or missing a person who has died. Another theory is that the song is about a mental disorder such as dissociative identity disorder, and the singer is struggling to unite her personalities. Whatever it is really about, there is no doubt that Goblin is rife with feelings of longing and loneliness.
6. Sailing (0805) — Girls’ Generation
We have all lost someone, and that is what Sailing is about. Ultimately, the song doesn’t spell out exactly how the person was lost. It may have been a breakup, death, or forced separation. But at the end of the day, it isn’t really important how it happened. The song is about remembering the relationship and promising to wait for one another, even if they don’t know if they will ever be reunited.
7. Breathe — Lee Hi
You can read so many emotions in the way someone breathes, especially if they are close to you. Panic, calm, fear, comfort, and grief can all be communicated in that heavy breath. In Breathe, the singer speaks about hearing someone’s breath and then comforting them, reminding them to breathe deeply until the pain goes away. It is a simple and lovely song about a quiet moment between two people who care about one another.
8. Call Your Name — JBJ
One of the worst parts about breaking up is wondering where it all went wrong. Were the two of you moving too fast, or did you make a mistake without realizing it? JBJ’s Call Your Name is about this intense reflection, asking whether they could have done anything differently to have stayed together. Ultimately, of course, there is no way to answer that question. The singer is left to hope that they will be reunited.
9. It Was Love — Zico feat. Luna
Few genres do a breakup song like K-pop, but every song describes the experience from a different angle. Zico and Luna’s duet It Was Love isn’t just about reflecting on past mistakes and wishing they could be together again. It is rife with the assurance that what the couple had was love, which makes their breakup even sadder. There is nothing like a bittersweet breakup song to get the tears flowing.
10. Goodbye — 2NE1
Saying goodbye to someone you love is one of the hardest experiences in life. No matter how that parting happens—through the end of a relationship, moving away, death, or something else—being separated from that person is a unique pain. Sadly, it is something that we all experience at one point or another, making 2NE1’s song so relatable.
11. Untitled, 2014 — G-Dragon
Have you ever tried to convince an ex to give you another chance? It’s an incredibly hard thing to do, especially if you messed up and hurt them. G-Dragon’s song is about baring your heart to an ex and owning up to your mistakes. Of course, the sad part is that there is no knowing how the ex will respond, especially after being hurt.
12. Eyes, Nose, Lips — Taeyang
Ending a relationship is hard no matter how it happens, but the worst is when one person wants out and the other… definitely doesn’t. Taeyang’s Eyes, Nose, Lips is written from the point of view of someone who has been dumped. Yet it is obvious that they are still deeply in love with their ex, and the breakup is killing them. Many of us can probably relate.
13. Promise — EXO
How does a relationship survive after a promise has been broken? It makes you think back on all your time together and wonder if, ultimately, all the promises were just lies. EXO’s Promise describes this struggle. There is nothing worse than wondering if you never experienced the relationship you once took for granted.
14. The Fool — Jung Seung Hwan
Running into your ex in the street is everyone’s worst nightmare. It’s not just awkward, but it can also bring up painful memories—even undoing the progress you thought you had made. Even seeing their face brings back all the pain that you went through during your breakup. The Fool also expresses how stupid the singer feels for ever having loved his ex in the first place.
15. Wildflower — Park Hyoshin
Wildflower describes the deep loneliness that people can feel after losing a loved one. It isn’t clear whether the relationship ended because of a breakup or a death, and it can be interpreted either way. Ultimately, it isn’t important; the song is still relatable no matter how you have experienced loss. It describes not just loneliness but all the complex emotions of grief, including anger, sadness, happiness, and love.
Next: Songs about flowers
16. Ending Scene — IU
When you’re grieving for something—whether it is a lost relationship, a dead dream, or a missed opportunity—one of the hardest things to remember is that you will be OK again. One day it won’t all seem like it is falling on top of you at every moment. Ending Scene is about telling yourself that things will be better again, even while it feels like they never will.
17. One of Those Nights — Red Velvet
One of Those Nights is about thinking back to a single moment and how things were—and how much things have changed since then. In this case, the singers describe remembering the moment in a dream. Dreaming of a time when you were happy—a time you have since lost—can be one of the most painful experiences.
18. Stay With Me — Chanyeol/Punch
Some people have an easier time moving on after a breakup. Stay With Me is about the opposite—being unable to let go of your ex even after the relationship is in the past. It is a terrible experience, especially when you know that there is nothing you can do to turn back the clock. You can stop and imagine things being different, but ultimately even during your fantasy, you know that it can’t be true.
19. Will Be Back — Im Sun Hae
Will Be Back is about missing someone who has gone away yet feels certain that they will return someday. Sadly, not all of us have experienced that level of confidence when it comes to a failed relationship. In this way, the song might be sad, but it also has a bittersweet feel thanks to the way that the singer expresses their feelings. Sometimes hope is the most painful thing there is.
20. Fear — Mino feat. taeyang
Not every sad song is about a relationship ending. Mino’s song Fear is about struggling to come to terms with who you are and what you are meant to do. The inspirational track describes taking strength in your loved ones, who support you and love you. There is always the fear that you could fail, and it will all be for nothing. But, as the song describes, you have to find the strength to do what you need to do anyway.
21. Let Me Out — Jonghyun
We all have moments where we feel so defeated, we just don’t know what to do anymore. Let Me Out is a song that speaks from that depth of despair, where all you want is for someone to hold you and tell you that it’s going to be okay. Whatever you have experienced, this song is a cathartic listen that is sure to get the tears flowing. We can all relate to the feeling of being so exhausted by the pressures of the world that we just break down.
22. Memories — Super Junior
Sometimes it feels good to just embrace the cheesiness and the over-the-top feelings when you’re feeling blue. K-pop is definitely good at that, as exemplified in Memories by Super Junior. The song is about the anguish of looking for a person that you love and not being able to find them. Don’t be embarrassed by the sheer emotion behind the lyrics. Just embrace it and let the tears flow.
23. Missing You — BtoB
There are a lot of stages of a breakup and the healing that follows. Missing You is a sad song about looking back at a failed relationship, but it also has a note of hope in it. The singer is heartbroken about losing the person that he loves, but he wishes them well and looks forward to the day when he finally feels whole again. It is a bittersweet feeling, one that makes you want to cry and smile at the same time.
24. House of Cards — BTS
BTS is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in K-pop, and their songs range from upbeat and danceable to heartbreaking. House of Cards is one that will tug on your heartstrings. The song compares an unsustainable relationship to a house of cards. They keep trying to build it up, but it falls to pieces every time. Ultimately, the singer realizes that there is no winning in the fight, no matter how hard they try. It is a heartbreaking thing to recognize that your relationship is doomed to fail.
25. You Were Beautiful — Day6
Some of the best things about being in a relationship are the little things—even the things that are part of an everyday routine. Those are also the things that you think about if the relationship ends. You Were Beautiful is about thinking back about an ex and remembering the small parts of your time together that is the most important, like waking up and just looking at how beautiful your partner is. It can be both beautiful and painful to remember those details.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.