By Lizzy Hosty
Music is an important theme of My Brilliant Life, especially music by K-Pop stars like the ones listed in this playlist curated by the author, Ae-ran Kim. Included in the playlist below are songs and musical artists that are relevant to the plot, Areum himself, or are outright stated in the book as ones you should listen to. With eleven songs and artists in these two playlists, there’s something here for everyone. It’s the perfect way to get you into the mood to read My Brilliant Life, available on January 26th!
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Author playlist inspired by the book:
1. “A Long Dream” by Se So Neon
In the chorus of this song, the singer croons about wanting to be in a movie with “you,” and the theme of movies and movie making is prevalent in My Brilliant Life. For example, when Mira shows Areum her favorite movie stars while he was still in the womb, and when Areum began posting movie reviews online when he was older, and plenty more.
2. “Dreaming of You (Feat. Kim Sawol)” by Shin Hae Gyeong
I feel like this song choice was metaphorical; the beginning of this book felt very dreamlike, as Areum describes how his parents met each other and then had him, including descriptions of him when he was a newborn, which he wouldn’t have known or remembered.
3. “We” by Kim Sawol
There’s a moment in the book when Areum’s dad, Daesu, is sad for a moment, and says, “you know what, Areum? The older you get, the more you start liking sad songs. And the saddest song in the world is what you listen to when you’re drunk. So when you’re grown up, make sure you’re drunk when you listen to ballads, okay?” So I feel like this is the perfect song to get drunk to. You know. For Areum.
4. “Phenomenon Of October (Feat. Nahm Sang Ah)” by Jaemyoung Doe
This definitely is another sad song that Daesu, I’m sure, has appreciated as he’s gotten older and therefore would drink to.
5. “Square” by Yerin Baek
In this song, the singer is trying to be there for their lover who seems upset enough to not want to go to bed. Comparatively, in My Brilliant Life, there were many moments when Daesu stayed up at night thinking about Areum and his diagnosis, and wanting to talk to Mira about it.
Character playlist inspired by Areum:
1. “One Person” by Sung Yu Ri
At one point, Areum’s dad asks him what kind of music he likes to listen to, and he says, “Anything a pretty girl sings.” To which Daesu excitedly replies that he does too, and they start listing off they’re favorite musicians, including Sung Yu Ri.
2. “Don’t Cry” by Lee Hyori
Continuing from above, Daesu loves anything by Lee Hyori! So this song choice was definitely a wink and a nudge from the editor, who made this playlist.
3. “D.I.S.C.O.” by T.O.P X Uhm Jung Hwa
Another subtle nudge from the editor here, as the pair shared more of their favorite female K-Pop stars, another of which is Uhm Jung Hwa.
4. “Faded Memory” by Park Ji-yoon
Park Ji-Yoon was another singer that Areum says is, “the bomb,” during the favorite music conversation.
5. “Stand By” by BoA
This is the last of the singers that Daesu shares is one of his favorites during his conversation with Areum where they bond over mutual music tastes.
6. “Antifreeze” by The Black Skirts
This song comes at a pivotal moment in the book when Areum receives an email from a girl who said she was just like him and who wanted to be friends, and she shared this song with him. Areum then listens to this song several times as he contemplates pursuing a friendship with her.
7. Star of Olympio” Album by Huckleberry Finn
The album “Star of Olympio,” which has 11 songs and the running time is 45 minutes, contains songs such as, “Time,” “Folk Song,” “I Know,” and one titled, “Fish,” which I thought apt for My Brilliant Life, as the location for the beginning of the story is a town populated by fishermen, and is where Aerum’s parents met and fell in love.
8. “Tear Wind” by 9 and the Numbers
“Tear Wind” is an apt name for this somber song about someone in such pain that they didn’t feel anyone would be able to help them – which I’m sure is what Aerum felt with his unique diagnosis around his relatively healthy friends and family. This book is just as much a tearjerker as this sad melody.
9. “Sometimes I Want to Hug You Like Crazy” by IU
The song, which is a cover, is another one that will tear at your heartstrings. The singer croons about a past love that can’t hurt her anymore, but she still misses “like crazy” and still thinks about them. There are only so many people Aerum has met, but there are definitely a few people he misses like in this song.
10. “A Universal Song” by Broccoli, You Too
The singer for Broccoli, You Too waxes poetic about wanting to do something extraordinary for their love, and even this song feels not quite enough. In My Brilliant Life, Aerum wanted to do something nice for his parents, and writes the story of their life, which kicks of the beginning of the book.
About the book:
Ae-ran Kim’s My Brilliant Life, translated by Chi-Young Kim, explores family bonds and out-of-the-ordinary friendships, interweaving the past and present of a tight-knit family, finding joy and happiness in even the most difficult times.
Areum lives life to its fullest, lives vicariously through the stories of his parents, conversations with Little Grandpa Jang—his sixty-year-old neighbor and best friend—and through the books he reads to visit the places he would otherwise never see.
For several months, Areum has been working on a manuscript, piecing together his parents’ often embellished stories about his family and childhood. He hopes to present it on his birthday, as a final gift to his mom and dad; their own falling-in-love story.
Through it all, Areum and his family will have you laughing and crying, for all the right reasons.
Pre-order My Brilliant Life—available on January 26, 2021!