Among all the idols out there, ZE:A, otherwise known as Children of the Empire, has some of the worst luck out there. Not too long ago, Paloma described instances of ZE:A’s bad luck in a previous article, and it seemed like their curse only worsened when their comeback, originally scheduled for mid-June, was delayed due to the injury of leader Junyoung. Now already a few days into July, ZE:A was finally able to come back with album Spectacular. Led by lead single “Aftermath,” was ZE:A’s fortune able to improve this time around?

Well, ZE:A’s comeback is pretty solid, at least musically. Spectacular is filled with strong, quality tracks, lead single “Aftermath” being one of them. Talking about the aftermath full of longing and regret after a breakup, despite the sad themes present in the lyrics, “Aftermath” was surprisingly a lot more upbeat than expected. Especially after seeing the darker and tougher teaser pictures, I was expecting a more melancholy and serious track. What was given, however, was a dance track that’s a bit too chipper for my liking considering the message of the song.

That being said though, the song itself isn’t disappointing. While brighter than expected, there is still a sense of melancholy in the song. The intro was pretty successful in conveying a more mournful feel, and while it picks up very soon after, the synths used throughout the song have a sort of emptiness to them that fits well with the theme. Furthermore, some of the members’ vocals were able to convey that sadness pretty well. The vocals were soft when they needed to be and strong when the situation called for it, leading to pretty satisfying track backed by a pretty addicting melody. But while the song itself was successful, the MV accompanying it is a whole different story.

To sum up my main complaints about the MV: overall, it’s just unappealing and unorganized visually. There were so many things that were off in the aesthetics of this MV from the styling of the boys to the evolving sets to the unsatisfactory editing. Very little of these visual additions actually helped the quality of the MV , actually worsening it, as they distract from what we’re supposed to be focusing on, and that is the song and the boys singing the song.

First of all, there were three evident motifs in the music video — a time motif, a floral motif, and an architectural motif — but only the time motif was even relevant to the song itself, as it relates to the one line wishing for time to reverse. The other motifs were irrelevant and useless, only further cluttering up the video.

A floral theme could be clearly seen in the boys’ styling which, like many other aspects of this video, was very tragic. The Hawaiian shirts, floral prints, and the very large detachable flower accessories present in their first outfits were very unappealing and unflattering. The vibrancy of the outfits clashed unsuitably with the mainly monochrome background, and they just made the boys look cheap. Also unappealing were some of the boys’ hair. While Dongjun has a pretty enough face to work his silver-blond hair, he looked much better in previous promotions. Similarly, Siwan and Kwanghee weren’t looking their best in this MV either, causing me to wonder what ZE:A’s stylists were thinking.

Thankfully, the boys change into a more suitable set of clothing near the middle of the video that aren’t as hideous. These outfits had a black and gold theme that fit with most of the things depicted in the evolving background, and while the occasional flower still showed up in their brooches, these outfits ended up more successful.

On the subject of the projected background, the use of that wasn’t very successful either. Not only did the projections look cheap, but they were also very distracting. Instead of having a background that calls attention to the — albeit badly dressed — members, the way the background kept on changing only called attention to itself, missing the entire point of the music video. I never once thought that I’d be wishing for one of SM‘s boxes for an MV, but at least those sets were stationary and brought proper attention to the members being highlighted.

The editing of this video was similarly lackluster, too. From the random flowers petals falling from the sky to the clocks and gears floating in the background during solo scenes, their additions were random and nonsensical. They didn’t really contribute anything at all to the MV, once again serving as a distraction instead.

While the visuals of this video are very much lacking, the music video is able to somewhat redeem itself in its choreography. Leader Junyoung was unable to participate due to his injury and could be seen sitting throughout the MV, but the members who did dance were able to pull it off well. Judging from the bits shown in the MV, the choreography looked clean and neat. Admittedly, the head-bopping of the members kneeling during the chorus looked a bit silly, but some creative and interpretive choreography made up for it. The leg movement in the chorus where the boys appeared to be kicking the floor and the move where some of the members look like they’re about to fall down were fun and fitting for the lyrics. While relatively simple, the choreography is enough to keep attention in a live stage.

While the song itself was a nice surprise and a step forward for ZE:A, the MV was definitely a step back. Confusing and unappealing visuals end up being the main downsides of this MV. What little of plot present in this video is underwhelming and unoriginal as well. Hopefully, the tragic MV doesn’t distract from the fairly strong lead song and album, but for now, I have no choice but to give ZE:A a 1.5/5 due to its very low quality visuals. What do you think, Seoulmates? Do you think ZE:A could finally turn their luck around? Or do you think this song and MV aren’t enough to elevate them, especially considering the higher profile acts they’re competing with?

(Star Empire Entertainment)