Song spotlight: All about “Playaplayaplaya” by Samuel Seo

“Playaplayaplaya” is a song from Korean R&B/Soul artist Samuel Seo(서사무엘)’s third studio album “The Misfit” released in 2019.

This album won the “Best R&B and Soul Album” at the 2020 Korean Music Awards (KMA), making it the artist’s second win after his album “FRAMEWORKS” won the award in 2016.

The title of the groovy introspective track is a reference to the song “Playa Playa” by American neo soul artist D’Angelo. But how is Samuel Seo using the word “playa” in his song?

Find out the story behind this reference and how the song is also connected to a Korean mime artist who has paved the way for the art in the country and a Korean visual director who has worked on projects with some brands and artists that you’re likely to recognize.

Jump to the English translation of the lyrics here.

Listen to the content of this page (excluding the lyrics) here or on your podcast app by searching for “Unfamiliar K-pop.”

The “Playa” in “Playaplayaplaya”

Since his debut in 2013, Samuel Seo has been writing and producing songs himself, so the changes in his approach to life and music are captured particularly well in his songs. This was evident in “The Misfit” album which was released after a 4-year gap from his previous studio album release.

As he explains in an interview for the album (English closed captions available), he took a minimalistic approach compared to his previous work and started removing unnecessary stylistic sounds from his songs when he worked on “The Misfit.”

The song also exemplifies how Samuel Seo has matured as a person who was heading into his thirties at the time the album was being put together.

He explains that the origin of the song can be traced back to when he was younger and came across “Playa Playa” by American neo soul artist D’Angelo.

When he first heard “Playa Playa,” all he was hooked on was the word “playa” and what that word represented. At the time he thought it was about having a big house, a nice car, and outward appearances. But when he reflected on this past self, he realized how foolish he was back then.

“Playaplayaplaya” is a self-diss track, Samuel Seo coming to a point where he’s able to laugh at this younger, more vain, self.

The veteran mime artist in the MV

The music video to “Playaplayaplaya” is long take of a single man dressed in black neck down, in the backdrop of a barren rocky landscape.

But what captures the attention is his dance-like movements – the way he expresses himself as the song flows is powerful, dramatic, and even poetic.

The person in the music video is Yu Jin-gyu (유진규) – the veteran Korean mime artist born in 1952 and referred to as the first generation of mime artists in Korea who helped to spread the art in the country.

From his start as a theatre actor, Yu Jin-gyu jumped into mime art after it was introduced in Korea through a show by a German pantomimist (Rolf Scharre) in 1968. Yu Jin-gyu had his first performance in 1972, becoming Korea’s first professional mime artist.

He’s also responsible for creating the Chuncheon International Mime Festival (CIMF) in 1989, which is referred to as one of the three mime festivals in the world and continues to run annually since.

In May of 2021, Yu Jin-gyu held a show to mark his 50th anniversary as a mime artist (The Korea Herald interview in English).

The visual director of the MV

The music video for “Playaplayaplaya” was shot in just three takes according to the director.

This is visual director Sung-whee (성휘), real name Kim Whee-sung (김휘성), is the co-founder of the Korean visual studio “nvrmnd.”

Head over to the “nvrmnd” studio’s official website and you’ll see that they have worked for some of the recognizable brands and artists as you scroll down the long list of preview images. This includes videos for the collaboration between BTS and sports brand FILA, various product ads for Samsung, the launching show for Disney+, and solo music videos for K-pop group EXO members among other projects.

In a 2020 interview with Korean performance and exhibition web magazine “All That Art” (link in Korean), director Sung-whee said that his approach to his work is to be trendy but to not fall into trends. The work from him and his studio seems to reflect this philosophy.

Check out the different collaborations that he has done with Samuel Seo to get a taste of how the young director’s philosophy is manifested.

In addition to the music video to “Playaplayaplaya,” there is a fun, visual treat served on the music video to the song “Happy Avocado” from Samuel’s Seo’s 2018 EP “Unity.” For a completely different, negative photo effect visual, check out the videos for “Mango,” a track from Samuel Seo’s 2017 EP “Elbow” with rapper Qim Isle (김아일).

Translated lyrics to “Playaplayaplaya” by Samuel Seo 

Note: This song contains a mix of Korean and English lyrics. In the below translation, the parts that were originally Korean and have been translated are italicised. Also, there are Korean expressions that are particularly difficult to pinpoint into English here given the lack of context provided in the lyrics. The intention of these expressions were inferred based on what information is available.

Official music video (Samuel Seo version) for “Playaplayaplaya”

Always dreamed of being a playa
Only money, money when I was a kid
Playa, playa, playa, playa, all the same playa
What a waste of gold

Always dreamed of being a playa
But what I needed was just a little cash
Playa, playa, playa, playa, a superficial playa
What a waste of gold, gold

Wrinkled bills and a few cigarettes
A single dry matchstick and all was good
Easily swayed by what was frivolously hip
Anything I breathed and felt was all good to me

The raw smells and harmonies in nature
It wasn’t a coincidence they felt comforting
Goodbye to my blurry twenties
Approaching my thirties I say to my twenty-year-old self (Hey)

So you wanna be playa, playa, playa, playa 
So you wanna be playa, playa, playa, playa
So you wanna be playa, playa, playa, playa 
I see you wanna be playa, playa, playa, playa

Just a couple of whips and a bike for fun
Some 600-square-foot studio, well, what else do I need?
Do I need a diamond? Do I need a yacht?
Do I even need to flex upon your heads?

I’m just being honest, I’ll be blunt since
There are thousands of truckloads of impressive guys in this world
I’m going to live as myself, I prefer feeling comfortable this way
Will be a relic of the past in the future anyway

Clothes stuffed in and paper bills
It was honestly nice if there was enough money to leave 
My ears made to rot from frivolous things
As usual time is ticking today

Dates and the time given to me are short
Would be a waste to end my life tiptoeing around you
Goodbye to my blurry twenties
I’m sorry you’ve wasted your time

Trying to be playa, playa, playa, playa 
So you wanna be playa, playa, playa, playa 
So you wanna be playa, playa, playa, playa
So you wanna be playa, playa, playa, playa 

Since I’m going to hate myself for being me
Then I’ma just live me, me and love me
Given options love it or hate it
Love it or hate it then love over hating

Since I’m going to hate myself for being me
Then I’ma just live me, me and love me
Given options love it or hate it
Love it or hate it then love over faking

Related links

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top