The internet seemingly loves to proclaim that everyone had a terrible 2014, but it couldn’t have been all that bad for Olltii. The young rapper participated on Mnet’s rap competition Show Me The Money 3, through which he gained considerable popularity at a young age (he was born in 1996!). This, in turn, has led to the release of his first album 졸업 (Graduation) this year.
The single, which was released at the same time and also goes by the same name, is a nice change from the torrent of love songs which constitute the majority of Korean mainstream music. Additionally, “졸업 (이젠 안녕)” (Graduation (Goodbye Now)) is a prime example of good story-telling. Olltii raps about his time at school from the perspective of someone who is just about to leave it. He talks about his experiences in middle school, high school, and finally the day of graduation.
But the true appeal of his lyrics comes from a great mix of common and individual experiences: it may be true for many that “the most wanted seat was at the back of the class”, but perhaps only Olltii knows what it feels like to get a “snack […] for winning 1st place with rap at the talent competition”. The common experiences make the song more relatable for his listeners, but Olltii’s personal experiences add more depth and meaning to “졸업 (이젠 안녕)”.
Musically, the single also encourages the listener to introspect. “졸업 (이젠 안녕)” starts off with a few scattered piano notes and Olltii’s soft voice. Even when the beat comes in, the piano melody remains the driving force within the instrumentation of the song. A few string arrangements here and there add to the emotional quality of the song, and the recurring theme of the school bell emphasizes Olltii’s lyrics. Another nice touch is the chorus, which seems to be sung by groups of female and male teenagers.
The music video for ”졸업 (이젠 안녕)” was shot at Olltii’s old school in his hometown Anyang. In the MV, the viewer watches Olltii roam through different parts of his school in some shots, while another part of the music video shows him acting out the lyrics of his song. Whether it’s scribbling on a table or confessing to a girl, all of these scenes are shot with a filter which makes it seem as if one is watching them through a thin veil of memories. This veil is just lifted in the third verse, when the students who have accompanied Olltii through his school years in the MV finally graduate.
Though none of this sounds especially exciting or overwhelming, it seems like “졸업 (이젠 안녕)” tries to show the beauty of ordinariness. An example for this might also be the shots of seemingly awkward high school students in the halls of the school which are shown during the choruses of the song. Trying to come up with the last time a K-Pop MV has shown such refreshingly average looking people might take some time.
For this, and all its calm, ordinary glory, “졸업 (이젠 안녕)” gets a good rating. Even though both song and music video might seem boring to some listeners, they dare to venture outside of the commonplace topics of mainstream pop music.
Especially for a relative newcomer like Olltii, this is quite a risk. At least artistically, this risk pays off though: The song is surely relatable to many listeners and boasts an inspired instrumentation. The music video, and its connection to Olltii’s personal life, enhances the touching lyrics of “졸업 (이젠 안녕)” and perfectly portrays the nostalgia associated for many with leaving school for good.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5