From its recent re-package of Taeyeon’s second album, Purpose, “Dear Me” was released as the title track amongst three new songs.
“Dear Me” isn’t the ‘purest’ example of a ballad, but instead, you can classify it under the ‘pop ballad’ sub-category. What would separate the two is usually how the song is produced. I will explain in further detail in the analysis that follows.
I had high hopes for “Dear Me” immediately as it began. The trio of Taeyeon’s voice, a soft yet catchy guitar riff, and a piano for good measure was setting up for what I thought would be an emotional piece of music. Instead, I found myself slightly disappointed as it immediately jumps into a ‘hard-hitting’ chorus. In this case, I mean hard-hitting in the literal sense. Setting up no transition whatsoever, the chorus enters with a full-band accompaniment. It’s a complete contrast from what was introduced moments before, almost as if it’s a chorus taken from another song and pasted right into this one.
Let’s use this as a teachable moment! As it is a ‘pop ballad’, it would be conceivable to understand why this method was used. In a ‘traditional’ ballad, however, there is a story. There is a narrative. If done correctly, the story is not only expressed through its lyrics, but also by the music behind it. As the story unfolds, the musical texture becomes thicker. The journey or process is just as important as its destination. This is not the case with a pop ballad, or its generic pop music counterparts.
In other words, this is just a really drawn-out way of saying that the pop ballad has more in common with stereotypical pop songs than it does with its ‘traditional’ ballad half-sibling. Perhaps the only similarity is their slow tempo. Pop ballads are more like stereotypical pop songs because the focus is solely on the chorus. There is no musical set-up or any emphasis on an over-arching narrative. The entire point is to get to the chorus! The chorus. The chorus. Get to the chorus! You could argue it doesn’t even matter how you get there. It took just over 30 seconds for the chorus in “Dear Me” to appear. That’s fast!
With this information and a deeper understanding of the context surrounding pop ballads, the song actually becomes a lot better in my opinion. I become less disappointed and more appreciative for what it is. While I would consider most of the lyrics as ‘fluff’, the chorus, as it should, conveys a nice message that connects to the title of the song, especially in the last time it appears:
“If I can only tell myself someday. I love myself. I trust myself. Will you remember?”
It’s cute. I’m all for self-empowerment and self-belief. It’s not very deep, is it? But hey, it’s catchy. I can’t say anything bad about it. It did the job it was set out to do. I find myself singing the chorus line over and over again only after a couple of listens, and I even forget about how cheesy it may actually sound.
You don’t have to love “Dear Me,” but you can’t deny its relevance in today’s world of K-pop :