Western songs about North Korea? We found some!
Inside North Korea, almost every song is about either the national Leaders (Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un) or about the country itself and all it’s manifold virtues and beauties.
Outside though….not so much.
However, there is an awful lot of music, and a lot of music requires a lot of lyrics. So here are a few tracks that drop in a mention of North Korea, read on, and listen on too (We hope you like hip-hop!)
There is the occasional swear word in some of the tracks below, those with sensitive ears proceed with caution
The lyrics of this track mention almost everything, from Zhou Enlai to Bernie Goetz, from the fall of Dien Bien Phu to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. President Nixon gets two shout-outs (“Richard Nixon back again”) and so does North Korea;
The second line of the song is,
Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe
And the very next line we get a reference to one of the most popular sites for tourists to visit,
Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, "The King and I" and "The Catcher in the Rye"
Listen to ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ below.
Greatest human of the century or an omnipresent, overblown megalomaniac?
Of course, we are referring to Kanye here (who else?).
In his track Yikes ‘Ye drops a reference to NK in, somewhat context-free, but there it is anyway.
We interpret this as Kanye wanting to take Wiz Khalifa on a trip to the DPRK, and there is a suggestion that they might not tell their wives about going there.
The lyric in question;
Uh, just a different type of leader
We could be in North Korea, I could smoke with Wiz Khalifa
Uh, told my wife I've never seen her
After I hit it, bye Felicia, that's the way that I'ma leave it
Listen to ‘Yikes’ below.
Another hip-hop number in which a rapper (this one also with a claim at one point to be the world’s greatest) seems to suggest they want to join a tour with a friend, this time Lil Jon, who apparently lives in the south!
That would be the southern US though, rather than South Korea (we checked online, Lil Jon is from Atlanta rather than the ROK, so that theory is confirmed).
Here’s the line;
More drama than the President with North Korea
Gettin Krunk wit Lil Jon, he da livest in the south
Listen to ‘Quick to Back Down’ below.
British rap legend Tinie Tempah also has evidently been considering a trip to North Korea, although his reasoning seems somewhat idiosyncratic.
This track is pretty braggadocios to say the least, but Tinie is a fine rapper and so he has some grounds for the boasts he makes.
I might move to North Korea because my career is headed north
...seems like it might reveal a bit of bad judgement though; there is no rap or grime scene in Pyongyang at all, and Tinie is unlikely to sell many records there. Koryo Tours suggests a visit with us first to check it out and then maybe a return to the theme in a follow-up track to reassess this plan?
Listen to ‘Shadows’ below.
Stepping away from hip-hop to some dadrock here are the once-mighty Status Quo Pictures of Matchstick Men is a bonafide banger, even if the later stuff is less epic). With a deeply problematic track with some very dodgy lyrics, a deep undercurrent of orientalism (I guess we are warned by the title), and some utterly inept rhyming too; “oh the Oriental, will drive you mental” facepalm to that.
This song opens with a mention of North Korea;
Her name was Mia, From North Korea
I said come over, Bring your Land Rover
I don't like sushi, She said that suits me
I take a shower, On every hour
Where to start? Sushi doesn’t come from Korea, nobody in North Korea is called Mia, nobody in North Korea drives a Land Rover, and taking a shower every hour is hugely wasteful, impractical, and also probably a red flag denoting some kind of damaging obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Listen to ‘The Oriental’ here (if you must, it's a crap song with racist lyrics).
Method Man, rap giant and Wu-Tang co-founder, refers to North Korea on this track which expresses his support for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (yes, really), in which he warns of the rapid-deployment of the DPRK’s military capability;
Hit the strip, I drop a bomb in thirty minutes like I'm North Korea
It take a lot to beat us, you better join us
Still keep lookouts on the corner, they be on us
I still rep the P-L-O like I'm everythang
Thank for the warning Method Man, much appreciated indeed!
Listen to 'P.L.O Remix' below.
So that’s the list.
No exhaustive at all but containing a few excellent tunes, and one that is so sleazy it makes you want to take a shower (every hour). We mentioned above that there isn’t a hip-hop scene in Pyongyang, but there was once a rap video shot there, here you go!
Listen to and Watch Pacman & Peso’s ‘Escape to North Korea’ below.
Note: when we mention above a rapper with a claim to once being the world's greatest we do mean Nas, not Lil Jon.
Just to make that clear to anyone who scratched their head at that one!