SM’s lone two-man rock band TRAX recently released the MV for their comeback track ‘Blind’. Because they are one of SM’s more neglected bands, and the fact they’re from SM in general, naturally ensured that disappointment ensued.
I’m a very big fan of TRAX, and I’ve always felt like SM does no justice to them in terms of promotion, so naturally I was bouncing on the balls of my feet when I found out they were making a comeback — admittedly out of nowhere — but a comeback nonetheless. However, the comeback track I was met with was a bit of a disappointment. Not that it isn’t pretty, but it sounds very generic and is just not my taste (I’ll take ‘Oh! My Goddess’ any day please). What’s more is that the accompanying MV didn’t do any favours for the song at all.
Good on Victoria for being able to shed tears on will– that’s all very admirable. But considering how powerful the song is, I am of the belief that a visual of Kyuhyun and Victoria fighting, making out, high-fiving, just being in the same room as each other, would be more effective than separate shots of them wallowing in self-pity.
The song started off fabulously, but by the end of it I was severely underwhelmed. It sounds exactly like the rest of TRAX’s songs. I’d go as far to say I think it’s boring. And the music video… in theory it’s a very touching, very emotional, and deep music video. Especially in comparison to the drivel SM is so fond of cranking out these days. When really, it’s still pretty uncreative. It’s your typical TRAX MV. Proof? It’s almost identical to previous TRAX single, ‘Let You Go’, except more shiny and with Kyuhyun instead of Heechul. Let’s just say, there are many, many things that Kyuhyun does better than Heechul. Acting is not one of them. But the fact remains, as boring as this MV is, it’s still one of the best from SM this year. Which is pretty sad.
See, contrary to popular belief, SM isn’t cheap when it comes to making music videos. They really aren’t. They have all the resources, all the money, all the dressing and sets. But no creativity. So instead they rely on formula and the aesthetic appeal of their bands in order to sell it. And I really do think it only became prominent around the end of last year– because prior to that I didn’t have too much of a beef with SM music videos. Although they lacked in the substance and storyline department, I always felt like they were shot very well and the colour schemes/other effects were done creatively. I’ll admit it, I actually really love the MV for ‘Oh!’ by SNSD, even though the song itself is questionable. What I love about it is the style and palette. Colour is literally bouncing off the walls, the girl’s clothes, the props, and it all makes for a generally preppy music video Even the bushy hair and tacky pig tails didn’t look that bad in the grande scheme of things. Not the most profound MV ever, but it was fun and there was some creativity in there.
The MV for ‘Bonamana‘ too, wasn’t all that bad. Despite the fact it was probably one of the cheapest things to come out of SM, they embraced the resources they had (which was probably just an old warehouse and a single lightbulb) and the MV came out pretty slick. The lighting was used so professionally, especially when it came to the solo shots. Yeah, they were in a box. But that’s just how Super Junior roll. And the discrimination against boxes isn’t fair. ‘Sorry Sorry‘ and ‘It’s You’ were both shot in boxes (the latter combined with a few outside shots and solos of the boy’s clutching their hearts in pain), but they both showed signs of creativity, ‘It’s You’ especially was nicely done. And really– it was very simple too. But it suited the mood of the song to a T, and the tasteful effects with the blurring and the glimmer made the whole thing very quaint and pretty.
DBSK, their older MVs… sure were questionable in the styling department. But their more recent, five member releases ‘Mirotic‘ and ‘Wrong Number’ both had really good music videos. ‘Mirotic’ is the kinkiest MV SM has ever made. With a powerful dance, strong song, and all the boys victims of various fetishes. Jaejoong was involved in some very clear S&M, Yunho worked it with the bondage, Changmin was down with the water play, ditto with Yoochun and the ice, and Junsu… was at a rave. As for ‘Wrong Number’– the cool colour scheme, the storyline, the camera angles– it all gelled really well with me. And I’d go as far as to say it’s my favourite contemporary music video from SM entertainment.
And there were no fancy schamncy effects involved either. Just interesting (admittedly, sometime nauseous) camera work, a simple but effective storyline, and a car park. It was enough for me to overlook the atrociousness of Jaejoong rapping.
So basically, I never found SM that bad when it came to making music videos. They were never particularly fantastic, but their MVs had direction, good concepts, were cohesive, and suited the song. But recently SM has lost it’s touch. And they’re confusing grandeur with creativity. And high-tech camera effects as being ‘pro’. I can’t exactly pin-point the one music video where SM began going on a down-hill slope, but I can try.
This MV in my opinion, marked the beginning of SM’s obsession both the matrix cam, and glimmer over actual sense and quality.
Budget cuts have nothing to do with it– as shown by ‘Bonamana’, they can still do a decent job with a low budget. What was more expensive to film? ‘Wrong Number’ or ‘Keep Your Head Down’? From what I’m seeing, I’d say it was ‘Keep Your Head Down’ for sure. But which one was the better MV? In my opinion it was ‘Wrong Number’. Yeah, ‘Keep Your Head Down’ was explosive, with the fire, the overblown costuming, and the elaborate settings. But ‘Wrong Number’ flowed so much better, it had a more likeable colour scheme, a simple but present storyline, and better camera work.
By going all out with the elaborate clothes, the pretty backdrops, and the birds (yeah, not going to let that one go), they’re forgetting all the simple things that make an MV work. Simple things like colour, flow, theme, a concept that actually makes sense. Instead of having a consistent theme throughout, an idea or style which defines the MV. SM instead places their bands in a white SM studio of monotony, add in some derivatives, and tada! Call it an MV.
‘Bonamana’ and ‘Sorry Sorry’ had a theme going all through, with the glorious lighting and the monochrome respectively. ‘Mr. Simple’ was just them dancing in a box with a few solo shots here and there. And as much attention to detail was put into their costuming and theme as was put into the decision to get Jessica to release a random dove in the air during ‘The Boys’. Nothing SM can say will explain some of the styling that went on with ‘Mr. Simple’. Nothing will ever justify this:
Not to mention SM’s music videos are probably more generic now than they ever were. Let’s compare ‘Oh!’ with ‘The Boys’. ‘Sorry Sorry’, ‘It’s You’ and ‘Bonamana’ with ‘Mr. Simple’ and ‘A-Cha’. ‘Mirotic’ and ‘Wrong Number’ with ‘Keep Your Head Down’. The degradation in quality is very much evident. And I don’t attribute this to ‘cheapness’ on SM’s part. Rather I attribute it to them being more formulaic than ever. What’s more is the latter MVs all have a distinctive ‘SM’ style (something which can be attributed to most things SM related these days, from concerts, to albums, to music)– and that isn’t a good thing. Before, all their music videos were different, they had different concepts to suit the song. Sure they weren’t fantastic, or mind-blowing. But they served their purpose well; to act as an accompaniment to the song. Now you know something is an SM MV from first look. And this is how:
1. Non-Diagetic Sound Effects
One of SM’s more recent, but more annoying developments. They’re in the habit of adding inappropriate whoosh noises whenever possible. And they don’t distinguish what they use to for either. Arms flailing, a jacket being tossed over the shoulder, a simple turn of the head– all of these are accompanied by the signature ‘whoosh’ noise. And instead of adding to the MV, it serves as a distraction from the song. And it ends up sounding tacky.
(For examples see: SHINee‘s Japanese MV for ‘Replay‘, SNSD’s ‘The Boys’).
2. Seemingly Out of Place, Irrelevant, Overbearing Settings, Styling, and Props
Going back to the idea of SM not being cheap but uncreative– this one quality of SM MVs is proof of it. Music videos from SM these days actually have very grande and expensive looking backdrops, which essentially have little correlation to the song itself. Once again, ‘Keep Your Head Down’ is a perfect example of this. The MV was unbelievingly obnoxious and SM seriously did go all out with the ‘phoenix rising from the ashes’ theme. It was to the point that the music video was as disjointed, overbearing, and as embarrassing as you could get.
They think they can just throw random, pretty elements in one music video and make it work. Throw out all traces of simplicity, colour scheme, and what else out the window. Who needs all that when you can have fire, furry bodysuits, explosions, and a trail mass destruction. It’s more expensive, more grande, so it should work better right?
Of course, if it isn’t a ridiculously elaborate backdrop– then it’ll be unnecessary props that have little to no correlation with the actual MV and song itself. Once again, the rose petals and dove that were so graciously present in SNSD’s ‘The Boys’ MV. Or you can pull an f(x) and have a genuinely cheap MV, that just has random blocks scattered all over the place with the members wearing some of the most atrocious things ever but calling it ‘avant-garde’.
(For examples see: SHINee’s ‘Lucifer’, DBSK’s ‘Keep Your Head Down’, SNSD’s ‘The Boys’)
3. ‘It’s all the same!’
Have a look at your favourite band, have a look at their music videos, are they all painstakingly similar with little thought put into them? Chances are, your band hails from SM entertainment. Most often these videos will have traces of other SM-y music video quirks, except will follow the same concept/theme/idea every time. Hence, making all their music videos look identical. Which is sad, since all of SM’s MVs look pretty identical in the first place.
(For examples see: Every single MV from TRAX and Super Junior)
4. Unorthodox Camera Effects/Green Screen
Yes, we all know where I’m going with this. Someone needs to sneak into SM and destroy that damn matrix cam. Because they’ve been overusing it to oblivion and it has pretty much become an SM trademark. SHINee’s Japanese replay MV used it a grand total of three times! I wouldn’t actually have a problem with the matrix cam if they didn’t solely rely on it. But chances are, if an MV has matrix cam, then no other interesting or dynamic camera technique will be used.
Another camera effect SM has become so very fond of using is that close-up shake effect, which (correct me if I’m wrong), made it’s debut with the ‘Mr. Simple’ MV, and was then incorporated into f(x)’s music videos as well. I didn’t really think too much of the shake effect since I thought it’d only be exclusive to one or two videos. That was until this effery happened:
I’m still not too sure whether this was some genius trolling on SM’s part or a genuine attempt at a ‘creative’ dance MV. To be honest, the latter option unnerves me.
As for the green screen. Don’t get me started. SNSD’s Bad Girl MV exposed me to enough of that for a life time.
5. ‘Group Shot – Solo Shot – Dance Shot – Group Shot – Close Up 1 – Dance Shot – Close Up 2’ Formula
(For examples see: anything by anyone)
Individually these components may not look like much to worry about, and one could ask: ‘are they really that bad?’. Individually, maybe not to the new fan. But to me? Yes, yes they are. Because this is what happens when all five of these elements come together. SM’s unnecessary sound effects, out of place props, predictable camera work, green screen, and formulaic direction. Together, they create what is probably the atrocity of the year:
I’ve already made my feelings on this MV very clear in the past. So I see no need to beat a dead, ugly, uninspired, horse.
Funnily enough, my favourite SM MV since Lucifer is ‘Before U Go’. And no, not the convoluted drama MV, but the simple dance MV.
How’s this for simple? There’s nothing. No backdrop, no props, no matrix cam, they only get two costume changes, no unnecessary sound effects. The budget for this couldn’t have been anything too overbearing. They paid for what? A few white suits and the lights? For a corporation like SM that’s nothing. But this MV reigned superior to all other efforts from SM Entertainment this year. Because it did it’s job. It suited the song. And it had the right mood. And all they needed was some good lighting and handsome guys in suits. And frankly, I like it better than the original drama MV that was getting all the hype.
It just comes to show– I can spend 2000 words rambling about how SM screws everything up and what not to do. Or I can just outline two easy steps to make a good music video.
1) Get a good song.
2) Get creative.
I leave you with Jessica and her dove which I am so fond of making fun of.