If there’s one thing I’ve concluded from AOA‘s January comeback, it’s that FNC Entertainment really, really wants you to like “Miniskirt.” On the YouTube page for the group, you’ll find “Miniskirt” in all flavors: from the music video making, the jacket making, and the teaser drama, to the acoustic version, the teaser dance version, and two dance practice videos (one dubbed the “eye contact” version).

These tactics are more or less habitual for AOA’s management, but this is essentially part of the bigger problem of why “Miniskirt” ultimately disappoints: the comeback doesn’t move AOA forward. Considering the fact that this is the follow-up to last comeback “Confused,” it seems like AOA is standing still.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6f-LLM1H6U]

Visually, there aren’t many thrills in “Miniskirt” that one couldn’t also enjoy in “Confused.” Both sets of choreography rely on coquettish dance moves that highlight body lines and hemlines, something viewers ought to be used to with AOA by now.

I’ve actually found that AOA and Nine Muses tend to trade off on move sets, which makes sense once you consider their numbers: groups with members above a certain number often employ variations on a group of visual tropes (see: the segment where the girls form a chain and touch each others backs as they dance).

Unlike “Confused,” however, “Miniskirt” doesn’t spend extensive time focusing on the dancing, using shots from the “drama version” to amp up the sensuality of the song and video, barring the inexplicably odd and misplaced scene at the end with the pet cat. It honestly seems false for FNC to claim that the drama version serves any purpose other than to showcase the visuals of the girls; there isn’t a plot to be found.

Strip away all of the adornments though, and you’re seeing AOA essentially do the same thing, pulling the same cues from “Confused” to elicit the same reactions from their audience.

seoulbeats_20140122The actual song isn’t bad, but it just may be a little boring, playing not unlike background music. It’s passive in its flirtiness and slips under the level of consciousness more than “Confused” does (which, in its defense, has some spots of intrigue where the sounds change up a bit).

“Miniskirt” doesn’t sound like it’s really meant to be heard without the video also playing, which becomes problematic when the video doesn’t offer anything a follower of AOA hasn’t seen before and the song itself is meant to demand attention from a lover that won’t notice her even when she dresses up for him.

Members Jumin, Choa, and Yuna give “Miniskirt” a face lift in the acoustic rendition released on the same day as the video, which is ultimately disappointing, since what ended up as a usual and decidedly safe production from Brave Brothers could have ended up sounding significantly more special had the song taken a different creative route. Instead, we’re stuck with a very slight variation on a theme from AOA.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NcEdeefEBCI]

While the comeback may fall in line with AOA’s previous work, it is unfair to call “Miniskirt” a failure. The song may be one-note, but it’s a breezy listen, and while it may be divisive, I love the sassiness of Jimin’s baby voice when she sings and raps her lines.

Also divisive is the choreography, which was labeled “too sexy” by fans and will be edited for future performances, even though the stage outfits AOA has used thus far are more conservative than one would expect for a song titled “Miniskirt.”

In all fairness, it’s sometimes impossible to be truly sure which types of choreography will ultimately move from the music video to the stage without edits, although one gets the sense that AOA is trying to dodge a ban before it comes. They really can’t afford to not get their rightful performance time.

“Miniskirt” may have left me wanting more from AOA, but the comeback isn’t a step in the wrong direction. They’re doing what they’re both used to and good at, even though the acoustic version tells me there’s much untapped potential hiding in this group. Overall rating: 2.8/5.

(FNC Entertainment, MWave, YouTube [1][2])