Beast is back! Well, back-ish. Instead, they have metamorphosed into Highlight, a tumultuous process that involved leaving Cube Entertainment, setting up their own company, and, most heartbreaking for fans, losing a member when Hyunseung chose to remain with Cube. The whole shebang has been quite stressful, and not just for the members of Highlight, but their fans as well. Fandom means attachment, and while we know that our favorites will disband eventually, we want to put that off as long as possible.
Hence why, if nothing else, the sentiment of “Plz Don’t Be Sad” gets top marks. Ostensibly, it’s a boy encouraging his girlfriend to cheer up, but the true audience is the fans who waited through this whole debacle, wondering if this was the end for their favorites. “Plz Don’t Be Sad” is a request that their fans, well, not be sad, and a reassurance that things may have changed, but Highlight isn’t going anywhere.
The MV carries that theme through. It’s a silly romp that seems designed to put a smile on the face of whoever sees it. It’s very stylized, with vivid colors and intentional sets dominating the visual landscape. That stylization certainly helps “Plz Don’t Be Sad” achieve it’s goal, because it is fun to watch. The main theme that undercuts the MV is to find the joy in the small things — if you live a trailer park, have some outdoor parties with your friends, goof off at work a bit when things get stressful, or invent a new sport when you’re broke and bored. “Plz Don’t Be Sad” is an MV about the silver linings and small fun, and it nails it.
Unfortunately, the song is not anywhere nearly as well executed as the MV. “Plz Don’t Be Sad” is a peppy, upbeat song with some New Wave influences, mainly great utilization of a particularly quirky synth line. More than any of that though, the primary aural characteristic is loud. It’s like having a wall slam into the ear.
“Plz Don’t Be Sad” is horrendously over-compressed, which slaughters any sense of dynamics and musicality in the production. The compression was then compensated by pure volume. The end result is that “Plz Don’t Be Sad” sounds like noise rather than music, because the melodies and harmonies are not given room to breath and develop. It’s a shame, because there is good instrumentation here. It just requires an archaeological dig to locate.
The other issue is the lyrics. While the context of Highlight’s greater problems makes it clear that “Plz Don’t Be Sad” is aimed at their long-suffering fans, that context is completely absent from the song itself. If you don’t know Highlight’s history, “Plz Don’t Be Sad” is just a boy telling their girlfriend to smile and not feel sad, ever, because she’s prettier when she smiles. This is problematic as it encourages the idea that men should suffer all the emotional weight in a relationship and women should just be happy and pretty because that’s how people want to see them.
Even with the greater context, the whole idea of “Be happy and smile because I want you to be” is seriously questionable. It’s understandable that Highlight wants to reassure their fans, but this is the wrong way to do so. “Plz Don’t Be Sad” does nothing but invalidate months of stress and worry that their fans went through, this that cannot be unexperienced because everything mostly worked out. The message here isn’t “smile because we got through the hard times and I’m here for you”, which would have been perfect. Instead, it’s a blanket “You’re prettier when you smile”, with no respect for the fact that there are valid reasons for women to not smile.’
“Plz Don’t Be Sad” could have been a warm and fuzzy piece of fanservice. It tried to be an upbeat lifter of spirits for those who had to watch Highlight struggle for their continued survival. What it is, though, utterly fails to live up to those intentions, and that makes me a little sad.
(YouTube. Images via Around Us Entertainment.)