Summer is most definitely in full swing (unless you are in the southern hemisphere, in which case, wear a scarf, Gaya!), and that means that K-pop fans are in the midst of what can probably be termed an avalanche of comebacks. For many, this is great news; lots of comebacks means lots of (potentially) great new music, and couldn’t we all use something fresh to listen to while we’re kicking it on the beach (unless you have a job, in which case, you can listen to it on your morning commute)? However, it also means that K-pop’s currently over-saturated market has become even more so — and as competition stiffens and more and more giant names try to toss their respective hats into the ring, it’s easy for some acts to fall through the cracks.
Younha‘s is perhaps one of these easy-to-miss-if-you’re-not-paying-attention comebacks — especially since she has been off of the scene for quite a bit of time now. A rather quiet and naturally lengthy lawsuit against her former agency, Lion Media, precluded her release of any new material, and for a while there unfortunately seemed to be no end in sight. However, the case was finally settled — and in Younha’s favor, to the tune of a cool 100 million South Korean won ($88,000 USD) — in early February 2012. Free to choose another agency, Younha signed with We Alive and began hinting at a summer comeback not too long ago; a duet with John Park, an MV teaser, and a great deal of wild anticipation later, a fourth full-length album titled Supersonic was released alongside a music video for the first promotional single “Run.”
As someone who simply adores Younha but has been entirely dissatisfied with nearly everything she has released since 2009’s “Broke Up Today,” I find “Run” to be a breath of extremely fresh air. It is a song that does what her previous promotions failed to do: combine her enormous talent with a song and image that doesn’t feel forced or overdone. It also avoids boxing Younha into a corner as either a ballad singer or an Avril Lavigne-esque faux-badass rocker. “Run” is, in my humble opinion, quintessentially and authentically Younha — and thus a perfect song with which to make her return to a music industry that has at times lacked some serious depth or breadth.
A good song deserves a good music video, but as we’ve seen time and time again in K-pop, it is rare that an MV is actually up to a song’s standards; MVs are, as my fellow writer Antonia pointed out, increasingly becoming ever more grandiose and over the top. “Run,” however, shuns the trend of overdoing and excess in favor of incredible simplicity, minimalism, and austerity — and indeed, it might even be too simple for some viewers who expected a bit more. Unlike some other MVs that I can think of, there is no complex storyline to be found, nor any far-reaching or other-worldly concept; similarly, there is no dancing, no box in which said dancing could take place, and no blatant abuse of the matrix camera. Interestingly, too, there is no lip-syncing nor any real reference to the fact that Younha is the singer. There is only Younha, her super-cute one piece + Keds
that I must have
And really, if you’re not of the mind to be generously creative, that pretty much sums up the MV in a nutshell: for much of the three minutes and thirty seconds that the video occupies, all Younha does is run — and in the end, viewers are still not really sure what she is running toward. The MV begins with Younha standing on what may be a beach as flashes of light go off around her; in a mini-climax, a burst of light in the shape of what I think (and I welcome corrections) is a whale appears. It glides over Younha’s head and spurs her to take off after it in a sprint. As she runs, she encounters a number of obstacles that crash around her and inspire her to look behind; at one point, she even drops to her knees in exhaustion and defeat, only to rise and continue confidently in the same direction. However, for much of her run — which also includes a fantastic leap featuring an iconic image from the movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, a spontaneously-formed jetpack that boosts her across space and time to finally overtake the whale on its journey, and a breathtaking scene in which she stands and basks in a moment of what seems to be peace and triumph — she is wearing the most joyful smile. Needless to say, she looks absolutely gorgeous; the styling for this video was so on point that it makes me want to burn all of the ridiculous monk costumes, swords, face paint, pink rubber gloves, and god knows what else that has appeared in 2012’s MVs.
As mentioned, the MV is aesthetically very simple, but nonetheless astoundingly beautiful. Shot entirely in black and white, it relies on the use of light in order to create contrast and visual imagery. A color version was also produced, but it, too, shies away from the bold in its focus on muted blues, greens, and yellows. The MV’s animation, which provides its remaining backbone and scenery, was created by well-known company Lumpens and similarly uses shades of black, white, and gray to craft images perfect for the feel of the MV. The phrase “less is more” really comes to mind here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Though I myself have absolutely no idea what the whale represents, or if chasing after the whale was really the point of Younha’s run, I am actually not disappointed by the fact that we never really find out what Younha is running towards. Maybe it’s cheesy, but I think that an MV’s true beauty lies in its ultimate applicability to all of our lives, and not just Younha’s. It doesn’t matter what Younha in particular is running after; like all of us, she has a goal, a dream, a desire, and like all of us, she encounters obstacles and the profound wish to give up when the going gets tough. That the MV is open-ended makes it deeply relatable, and it is perhaps for this reason that I and so many others have found it inspiring in all of its simplicity.
All in all, “Run” currently stands out as something extremely unique in the K-popiverse; perhaps purposefully, it bucks all of the trends currently popular in crafting MVs and provides something of a lesson to those entertainment companies that continue to church out an ever-ridiculous string of MVs that pull cheap party tricks solely in the name of shock value. Though many great MVs feature heart-wrenching stories and bold use of color and accessories, “Run” proves that a great MV can carry on perfectly well without those. If Younha was running towards a triumphant return to the K-pop music scene, then I think she has definitely achieved that goal.
(We Live, Nate)