After taking home the Rookie Award from the Korea Entertainment Arts Awards last month, the first K-pop for Universal Music Korea, rookie group Boys Republic, managed to gain a bit of a foothold last year in the BTS-dominated boy group rookie world. Boys Republic has returned to the scene doing what they do best: dance-pop. As part one of the group’s “Fantasy Trilogy” series, the group ventures into the video game of love. Boys Republic released the dance version of the “Video Game” MV first. Whether or not they’ll release the story version is unknown, since it will depend on the dance version views — smart marketing by Universal Music Korea.
Perhaps my memory is playing tricks on me, but the song is reminiscent of songs that would serve as video game theme music. Not just theme music for actual video games, but also the movies made from video games. It was difficult to not think of the heavily electronic music from games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter.
The best thing about this song is, by far, the beat. Instantly hooking in the listener, the electronic bass line drives the song forward and never lets off the gas. The song also uses effects like background voices shouting “hey” and breathing to evoke the feeling of a fight. Keeping the bass line as the focus, and minimizing other instrumentation, the music flows easily and at a steady pace.
Vocally, Boys Republic also distinguishes themselves from current trends. Lately, boy groups have been rapper heavy. Not that I’m necessarily complaining about that, but it is nice to see a group put focus on the vocalists, both main and sub vocalists. The parts are relatively balanced and distributed, and avoid the pitfall of favoring one member over others.
And hallelujah — there is a distinct lack of power vocals. There is no overdone wailing in the background as the song climaxes or nears the end. Although One Junn does belt out three high notes, they are short and not obnoxious. Also, the vocals are equalized, so no one voice is overshadowing the others.
Lyrically, the song compares to love, and the pursuit of a girl, to a video game. Allusions to castles, white flags, shields, and mazes reiterate the songs theme. Naturally, the song’s ending lyrics are “game is over” after winning the girl’s heart.
While the song could have developed into a cheesy metaphor for love, it deftly avoids the abyss of lameness. It keeps direct similes to a minimum, with only one lyrical line: “You’re like a video game.” Instead, the song opts to incorporate game elements seamlessly into the lyrics.
Dance MVs have the ability to be the most boring MVs ever. They generally lack any sort of flair and, sometimes, they don’t actually completely show the dance. “Video Game” manages to capture the dance, while not taking anything away from the music.
The dance is intriguing. On the surface, it’s rather simple, but many moves are actually inspired. It’s appreciative that the group actually interacts with the backup dancers. At one point, after lyrics mentioning a super weapon, the backup dances form a cannon formation with One Junn being the firer of said cannon.
Other dance moves are also representative of games. They open the dance pretending to shoot at objects, like playing “Duck Hunt” with a girl’s heart. Later, Boys Republic uses jerky, stiff moves to emulate those of early arcade game characters. Of course, video game comparisons aren’t complete without some posturing, which the group does during the chorus.
While normally such a stark stage would be a target for ridicule, in “Video Game” it works. The MV opens with a member hooked up to a virtual reality head mounted display in a smaller version of the main dance stage. Thinking back to movie scenes involving virtual reality, the rooms were often stark or had linear wall markings. Boys Republic definitely keeps the theme consistent and a relatively accurate portrayal.
The most annoying part of the MV is the bright white back light. It washes out the set and kills the contrast. It also makes it very difficult to see the member who is singing in the center during the shot. The focal point should not blend into the background.
I rate the song a 4 out of 5. The song has the power to instantly lodge itself into your brain. Unlike some earworms, where you become hooked despite how bad the song is, “Video Game” becomes addictive because it’s an instrumentally quality song. The lyrics also maintain the video game theme in a logical manner.
The MV gets 3.5 out of 5. It’s a no frills dance MV, and we aren’t supposed to be super impressed by it since the focus is the song and dance. However, it does actually allow you to see the majority of the dance moves without too many close-up shots. The MV also gives a glimpse at what may be in the story version, if it is ever released.
(Boys Republic, YouTube )