20130810_seoulbeats_saneRapper San E recently departed from JYP Entertainment after three years with the prestigious company after his contract ended in late April. Formerly JYP Entertainment’s only solo rap artist, the last time San E held a comeback was almost two years ago, back in November of 2011. Now, three months after his departure, San E held his first comeback in years with song “The Story of Someone I Know.”

Immediately on first listen, the song captivates with its likable tune and cheeky execution. The arrangement of the song is fairly simple and straightforward, consequently making it very easy to like. Other than some simple percussion adding some needed foundation to the song, “The Story of Someone I Know” consists dominantly of San E’s voice, with the instrumental pushed towards the background.

Thus, the song owes its dynamic sound mainly to San E’s execution, for it’s his changes in intonation or pace that gives the song its lively and active feel. His raps are handled with commendable energy, and San E surely knows how to build tension through them. His raps lead up to a very enjoyable chorus that frames the song effectively, managing to be catchy without use of an obvious hook. Additionally, the moments where he deviates the progression of song with brief periods of speech give the song its highly enjoyable cheeky feel.

Moreover, unlike most K-pop lyrics in the market these days, the song’s lyrics are actually especially notable. Told in a lighthearted tone that matches the mood of the song, San E tells of a heartbreaking breakup he suffered, avoiding some embarrassment by saying it’s just the “story of someone he knows.”

No, this isn’t my story
It’s just a story of a person I know

20130810_seoulbeats_sane3This framing device proved to be very effective, for it added some contrasting humor to the somber story in the song’s lyrics. For example, whenever San E gets particularly emotional when thinking of his breakup, he switches from talking in third-person to first person, before backtracking and reiterating it’s just the story of someone he knows. This happens multiple times in the course of the song, and his efforts are so transparent that it becomes amusing.

However, by the climax of the song, San E admits that the story he tells is his own. This newfound honesty in his voice is completely jarring after the context of the rest of the song that it actually adds to the intensity of the climax. The change in voice was a masterful use of storytelling that only proceeded to give the song more depth and made the experience all the more satisfying.

While the song itself proves to be an enjoyable listen, the official MV definitely adds to the overall experience of “The Story of Someone I Know,” as any good music video should. Like the song it complements, the music video of “The Story of Someone I Know” has this mischievous, humorous tone to it, while at the same showing some moments of underlying sadness that gives the song some meaning and depth.

The majority of the video has San E talking to his psychiatrist (played by Hello VenusNara), narrating his tragic breakup to her. The video actually follows the lyrics pretty consistently. For example, when San E talks of how attached he was with his old girlfriend, we cut into scenes of the couple back in their happy days. Likewise, the couple’s eventual breakup is shown during the second verse, where San E starts to explain how the relationship fell apart. Furthermore, the scenes of San E with his psychiatrist occur mainly during the chorus, the most conversational part of the song.

20130810_seoulbeats_sane2These earlier scenes are admittedly somewhat generic, showing scenes that are overused in many MV’s. Fortunately, there is a slight dash of humor during the therapy scenes, adding a little more entertainment value to the music video. In particular, San E’s shifty nervousness and Nara’s slightly patronizing faces after seeing through San E’s transparent story were amusing aspects to the otherwise dull first half of the video.

Luckily, things take an interesting turn once the session ends and Nara heads home. She relays San E’s story to her partner in the shower, calling it childish and pathetic. However, when Nara goes to check up on her lover in the shower, it is revealed to the viewers that Nara’s girlfriend is the same girl from San E’s story that broke his heart and left him reeling, adding a twist to the relatively linear story the song spoke of.

Moreover, if one inspects the littler details of the video, one would realize that not only was the twist alluded to earlier in the video, but also that the story is actually even more complex than that. To start, the music video features a lot of unconventional camera angles. The video shows very little full-body shots, rather showing very close shots of the characters’ faces and putting a lot of focus on the characters’ hands.

20130810_seoulbeats_sane4For the most part, these angles were used for stylistic purposes. The shifty nature of the angles matched the dubious nature of the song. Additionally, the focus on the characters’ gestures and body language helped convey their inner emotions, from San E’s nervousness, to the psychiatrist’s judgmental attitude, to the girlfriend’s uncertainty.

However, the way the video focuses on the characters’ body movements revealed little details that hinted at the complex story of San E’s love life. Particularly, the camera focused a lot on the characters’ hands, and even more specifically, there was a lot of focus to the characters’ jewelry. While this seems like a relatively minor detail, the characters’ jewelry actually helped complete the story.

To elaborate, at the start of the video when San E first sees Nara, he immediately notices her bracelet. He flashes back to a memory where he gave the same bracelet to his ex-girlfriend, but he dismisses the little detail as a coincidence. We, as the audience, are also lead to believe the detail was just a coincidence, simply used to initiate flashbacks of the couple’s relationship. But once we learn the entire story, the seemingly minor detail is actually pretty major, for it foreshadows the unexpected twist at the video’s climax.

20130810_seoulbeats_sane5Also, Nara’s watch is a pretty significant plot point that adds even more complexity to the already dysfunctional story. If one were to pay close attention, one would realize that San E’s girlfriend wears a matching pair even before their breakup, suggesting she was cheating on San E even before their eventual demise. There actually is a lingering shot to the couple’s matching watches towards the video’s end.

All in all a commendable effort, San E’s “The Story of Someone I Know” is a cheeky and confident comeback that makes good use of San E’s energy and storytelling skills. While its music video had some pretty generic scenes, an unexpected twist added some needed spice to the video, keeping it from being written off as forgettable. Moreover, the way such small details were used to add such complexity to the story was commendable and laudable, for it’s not everyday one gets to experience subtlety in the K-pop scene.

Overall, San E’s “The Story of Someone I Know” gets a 3/5 from me. Readers, what are your thoughts on San E’s comeback?

(Brand New Music, popgasa)