Before I even begin I just have to… take a moment to collect myself.
For most Cassies, it’s been a long two years (made even longer for the absence of one Xiah Junsu). But we can all rest easy and breathe a little lighter. The remaining members of TVXQ have returned from their service, and they’ve started their promotions swiftly and with a bang louder than the creation of the Cosmos.
The first of the duo’s comebacks came compliments of TVXQ’s leader, Jung Yunho. What an apt title for veritable royalty returning to rearrange our stars once again: “Drop.”
I must say, in his 13-year career, Yunho has never rapped or danced this hard. His attitude has never been so powerful. The beat’s never been so… nasty! This is a comeback of legendary status, one fitting for a king. What better superlative to place on one of the pioneers of the Hallyu Wave than that of “king”? “Drop” most certainly does the job of reintroducing the K-pop world to one of its undisputed gods.
The intro itself is foreboding, a deep voice blasting into your ear to announce the new world order. Then, on a set of synthesized horns, the music makes its presence known. We’re left waiting with bated breath for the beat to do as the title promises. For an entire minute we’re left hanging on Yunho’s every word, each line of his introduction ramping up in pomp and circumstance, until we’re left breathless. The screen pans down mimicking the silent rise of an elevator. Then when that “drop” comes… good lord!
It doesn’t come in on the same speaker-shaking boom as the SM tracks for their younger artists. It doesn’t itch at the skin like an unfocused scatter beat. This boom-bap is elegant, smooth. It comes in mellow, deceiving you into believing there’s nothing much to it, but before you even realize it, there’s a shiver and quake going up your spine. There’s something covertly unsettling about the beat, like a bug slithering around your backbone, crawling its way up, wrapping itself around your nervous system and making you jittery.
The music is enough to set one’s thirst levels at “arid.” But then… oh then. This. Damn. Video. Forget thirst. A bitch is parched! Bring me some well water. Damn, just bring the whole well!
The imagery is over-the-top, not unexpected when considering who we’re talking about here — lest we forget his last music video before enlistment. It opens with overhead lights flashing to life, flickering hesitantly as the horns blare a command for them to cooperate. At first all we see is a figure sitting in all his arrogance surrounded by men at attention and flanked by nude mannequins — sign of the times: women as faceless naked figures sat waiting for their master to put them where he wants them. Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but it’s not hard to imagine. After all, statistics continue to show that Stepford is the flavor of companion a lot of men admit to craving.
The landscape comes complete with flickering televisions, white neon marquees with an ominous “X” in the center, and an albatross meant to symbolize the dawn of a new era, paying soft homage to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. With the grandness of the music leading into the video, it’s not far-fetched to believe those who imagined the treatment for the MV were heavily influenced by Kubrick’s self-indulgence. Though they didn’t take it to the level of TOP’s “Doom Da Da,” the overall aesthetic is grandiose, playing with the extremes — working-class grit versus decadent narcissism. Every few scenes, the video melts into a pixelated waterfall, transitioning between Yunho as foreman and Yunho as overlord (adding concrete imagery to the adage “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”).
The idea of shifting tides, the industrial and new-age encroaching in on the natural world (the splashes of shrubbery and sand in the mannequin-flanked throne room). The MV no doubt is a means to highlight Yunho’s… everything. However, perhaps the deeper story here, or what we can glean from a video meant mostly to tease every long-time Cassie fangirl, is how even change is constant and never wavering. It makes sense they’d go for ostentatious and arrogant: even in the midst of all the new idols, the shift of fan attention in just two years, TVXQ is still here and still as fierce as ever.
The color palette is what you’d expect from a beat and a song so grimy: all dark colors and shadows, splashes of muted light. The wardrobe is just as fitting: regiment uniforms and one-piece suits, mesh scarves to accent sharp features, and, of course, Eurocentric prince’s garb for Leader-sshi himself. The one surprise is the attire for the women: more sporty, longer skirts, fishnets (not that unexpected, but an interesting combination all things considered), their hair in multi-braided pigtails.
What was surprising, even for one of the undisputed kings of dance in K-pop, was the choreography. It’s no shock that he’s able to tackle the movement — his first role in SM, after all, was being a backup dancer for BoA. However, this piece of dance hit harder with more intricacy than anything I’ve actually seen him do. Sharp movements, nothing wasted. Everything compact and structured. Ain’t nothing cute or even idol-pretty about this choreo. There’s a grittiness to it befitting of the darker beat, but every turn is precise. The song’s coda is interesting but somewhat out of place. For a breakdown it goes more the route of trance than the typical hip-hop, but I suppose it makes more sense because of the nature of the overall song. That being said, the choreography isn’t any less ferocious, Yunho making use of his years of training to hit each accent with frightening alacrity and complete some of the most precise closed turns that I’ve ever seen him do.
I was ultimately disappointed with the movement (because I can’t very well call it “dancing”) for the women, who really only served as decoration, I’m afraid. The men are all clearly mature, looking all around the same age as Yunho. However, as is par for the course it seems in most male-centric videos, the women are younger, (none looking older than their mid-20s) and all gathered around Yunho’s throne as if scattered about like decorative statues that would whip their hair and wind a little bit to entice the male audience (surprise, surprise. Eye candy for male consumption). While their presence added nothing to the video overall, they weren’t really shown that often, collectively getting about 30 seconds of camera time.
Barring my dissatisfaction with the actual role of the women in this video, honestly I’m just here for post-Army Yunho and how he moves. It was a stroke of genius to put all that body into a one-piece worker’s uniform, to watch all that military muscle and girth execute this sharp choreography.
What a blessing it is to have U-know Yunho back where he belongs — in front of that camera, ruining our lives.