Exploring the Acoustic Aesthetic with Lunafly’s “Clear Day, Cloudy Day”
The last time we touched upon Lunafly on this site, they were described as the poster boys for K-pop’s movement away from idols and towards the industry’s new-found inclination for artists, creating in the process a hybrid known as the idol-artist. Through their first round of promotions, it is safe to say that they’ve left quite an impression upon some of us here at Seoulbeats. Overall, we’ve been notably impressed by their previous releases as we anxiously awaited their upcoming ones. After ending their string of promotions for their debut, they’ve returned by releasing “Clear Day, Cloud Day” as their new lead single.
Perhaps what we like most about Lunafly is their unorthodox methods of promotion which culminate in their image of idol-artists. Firstly, they embrace a “simplicity” concept which is quite refreshing in today’s K-pop scene. No fancy, overly produced MVs accompanied by catchy choreography and flashy editing are needed. Lunafly’s debut song, “How Nice It Would Be,” came with an MV of the members simply performing in a studio.
Secondly, Lunafly embodies the everyday artist appeal through their grass roots methods of promoting. They perform and promote as if they were an indie band without much monetary backing, relying mostly on their talent to gain people’s attention. What’s even more fascinating is that they’ve refused to promote on music shows! They have set themselves apart from the industry’s standard promotional process by not observing their privilege, as an idol band backed by a recognized management company, to promote on any of the music shows sponsored by the major networks. Instead, they choose to promote through holding live performances on the streets, in cafes, and in small venues. They are essentially idol-artists who have borrowed (or stolen?) the vices of the indie scene and applied them affectively into separating themselves from other idol acts.
Thirdly, Lunafly emulates the YouTube artist persona through the videos they release on their official YouTube channel. Other than their official MVs, they’ve made available videos of their live public performances and practice clips which showcase exactly how well these boys perform live. They sing, harmonize, and play their instruments; all without the aid of intrusive backtracks for their vocals and their instrumentals, a most welcomed and refreshing change in today’s overly processed K-pop scene. Like YouTube artists, they perform covers of hit songs. Live covers have ranged from songs by Justin Bieber, to Bruno Mars, to Hirai Ken. My personal favorite is their cover of Jessie J’s “Price Tag.” Check out how well they interact with what is most likely (based on the look of the venue) a small yet intimate crowd.
Their image as unassuming, striving artists is further enhanced by their MV for “Clear Day, Cloudy Day.” Again, the MV looks cheap in budget but rich in execution. While it provides quite more detail than their debut MV, it’s still nonetheless quite simple and non-processed. As seen in the MV, some of the clips were shot by the members themselves holding a handheld device during their trip to and promotions in Japan. The candid shots are few but they are rightfully spliced in between shots of the boys aimlessly wandering the streets of Osaka, striking meaningful poses, and performing next to a tree or in front of a live audience. Despite the increased production value of their latest MV, it feels at most like a behind-the-scenes MV of a regular idol group in that it is far less produced than what one would expect from a K-pop MV.
Nevertheless, the MV works in propelling their relatable image of the common everyday artist. What’s most appealing about the MV is that it portrays the boys simply walking in public, something standard idols would never dream of doing if they valued their safety. Given that they’re in Osaka and not Seoul, their candid exposure to the public is something that is highly rare and commendable for a K-pop act. Instead of putting the boys on an unreachable plain, Nega Network is marketing them as humble artists who walk in public, shop in public, and sing in public. When they do run into fans who recognize them, these encounters do not lead to mass hysteria or security issues, they’re simply greeting them and signing autographs. Furthermore, the members are always seen carrying or playing their instruments. This shows that they and their instruments are one. They play with them, they travel with them, and they probably sleep with them too – the plight of the lesser-known artist.
The song itself is very similar to their previous releases. It’s a very pleasant and uplifting tune with an emphasis on acoustics, vocals, and harmonies. Like “How Nice it would Be,” the song was produced by the members themselves with the Korean lyrics being written by star lyricist Kim Eana. But unlike their previous releases, which were very much designed to be performed acoustically, “Clear Day, Cloudy Day” is laced with a soft synthetic beat which is faint but definitely noticeable throughout most of the song. I’m curious to see how Lunafly will perform this one live: I’m guessing Teo will no longer be on a basic hand drum and move to a keyboard to create the synthetic beat. How the boys handle their second round of promotions will certainly be interesting to see.
The lyrics of the song also cater to their image as grass roots artists. As can be inferred from the title, the lyrics speak of overcoming the cloudy days of an uncertain present by looking ahead to the clearer skies of a more fruitful future. This deliberate angst for a brighter future is very representative of the youthful optimism of the unknown underdog musician. The members of Lunafly are expressing that they’ve faced their challenges in becoming artists, but yet their youth and positive outlook on life has not allowed them to quit on their dreams. They speak for the voices of the hundreds if not thousands of starving artists who struggle to make a name for themselves, and the handful who actually have. Having once been nobodies themselves, each member can certainly relate to the painful struggles they overcame to make it as idols. Although the song and its message are unquestionably manufactured by the minds of their management team, the boys’ sincere embodiment of the concept is what allows them to truly stand out.
Another unique promotional tactic which Lunafly deploys is their release of English versions of their music. For almost every song they’ve released in Korean, they have also released an English version. This works for several reasons. Since the success of most K-pop acts depends not only on obtaining a large enough fan base at home, but also internationally (or rely mostly on their international fans as in the case of U-Kiss), releasing material in English is of great service to international fans because it allows them to sing along to the songs. Acoustic music is appealing because it is pleasant and it’s easy to sing along to and cover if one is skilled with the guitar. By releasing English versions of their songs, as opposed to the tendency of K-pop artists to release Japanese versions to focus on expanding into Japan, Lunafly is giving a larger part of the world greater access to their music.
The best part is that their ability to sing in English is more than passable. Although Sam is the only member fluent in English, the pronunciation of English lyrics by the other members is more impressive than one would expect from non-native speakers. Their intelligible performances of their original English releases and covers are just another reason why they have gotten myself and many others singing along.
With the welcomed emergence of Lunafly and their authentic artist aesthetic, other male groups have been quick to reproduce their acoustic flair. Lunafly actually wasn’t the first group to go acoustic in 2012. 4k, a pre-debut sub-unit of 24k, featured an acoustic release in July with their song “Rocking Girl.”
Since the debut of Lunafly, two other rookie boy bands have recently shown off their acoustic sides. After returning with “Because You Might Grow Distant,” C-Clown released an acoustic version as one of the many, many MVs made to promote their latest single. While it still remains to be seen whether or not they will be promoting and performing the acoustic version of the song, the sentimental change of pace is an invigorating contrast to the song’s original upbeat composition.
More recently, 100% returned with an entirely different sound and image from their debut with “Guy Like Me.” Unlike C-Clown and Lunafly though, 100% does not hesitate to promote their acoustic single on music shows as demonstrated in this lovely live performance.
Perhaps the only other idol group to match the grace of Lunafly in their live acoustic performances is Infinite. Their much overshadowed accompaniment to this year’s hit single, “The Chaser,” “In the Summer” was the first acoustic song to be released out of those mentioned above and rounds out my list of the top promoted acoustic songs amongst boy bands in 2012. Which one was your favorite?
As other male (and possibly female?) groups gradually occupy and clutter the acoustic niche Lunafly has carved out, there remains many questions regarding how Nega Network will manage them. From the round of music shows that aired this past weekend, it seems that the boys will continue to abstain from them. As their music continues to progress in a more complex and processed manner, will they still be able to maintain their respectability as live performers? Will their MVs remain overly simplistic and stripped of excessive elements? Most importantly, will their unique image be able to survive, or must they require a certain degree of conformity in order to weather the storm of today’s K-pop scene?
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
What are your thoughts, Seoulmates? Do the boys of Lunafly have clear skies ahead of them, or will their bright future be clouded by the logjam of boy bands that have sprung up this year?