There I was, thinking that I’d come up with the perfect play on words to describe this MV, only to look at the video description and see that Cube had beaten me to the punch.
4Minute released the MV for the title track “Volume Up” on the 9th, just over a year after their last Korean release.
“Volume Up” is new for 4Minute; going by their past material, it was not something I was expecting. For me, 4Minute’s been what I call a ‘loud’ group, in that their music is busy and there is always something happening. But “Volume Up”, while still having its moments, is overall, as Ree mentioned in her and Michelle”s review of the EP, more minimalistic. A song about being rejected and the mask of indifference we put on to handle it, it was different from the 4Minute I knew of as a casual listener.
Formal & Aesthetique Technique: 4/5
I”m assuming that with the Vampire theme 4Minute have going on that they were aiming for a gothic theme, and this is evident–in part. The back up dancers are in black, the male extras look dashing in their waistcoats (and that vampire makeup is well done, too: Twilight, take note), and it seems to be set in a mansion with a bonus dirt floor room (well, that’s what I’m calling it). I liked the sets for the most part; Gayoon, Jiyoon and Sohyun’s solo scenes are shot with minimal lighting which fits the gothic feel, but Hyuna’s scene presents the starkest contrast–granted, the whiteness of the room was muted, but I wasn’t expecting it at all and it did initially take me by surprise. Also, her outfit was more modern than the other members’ too.
If I were to be honest, I would say that Cube went out of its way to highlight Hyuna as much as possible. There’s no denying that she is the most well known member of 4Minute, and if I were feeling sympathetic, I would say that they were capitalising on Hyuna’s appeal to draw more attention to 4Minute as a whole. However pure their intentions may be, though, their execution is off: Cube could have made Hyuna stand out in the MV in a way that did not clash so much with 4Minute’s concept. Jihyun‘s solo scene during the bridge is a good example of this: it’s set outside and the lighting is brighter here than in the other solo scenes, but it still manages to visually connect with the rest of the MV while still marking the change in mood in the song that comes with the bridge. Honestly, I thought that Hyuna was capable of commanding the audience’s attention without all the fancy window dressing, but it seems Cube doesn’t want to take any chances. Really, though, if Cube wanted to raise 4minute’s profile, they’d make it easier for me to remember Jihyun and Sohyun’s names.
Apart from that though, I liked the overall look of the MV. I was expecting it to be set at night, or have minimal lighting in an attempt to create the required ambiance, which they did in parts, but the golden lighting used in the group and dance shots gave the appearance of dusk (it could be dawn, but I think dusk fits better with the song), and having it shine from the back of the sets cast the members in a shadow that I think more interesting than simply plunging everything into darkness. The use of the red light shining on the members as though to show them in a scandalous light to go with the lyrics was a good choice as well. I loved the outfits too, especially those in the group sequences. I thought the jacket and maxi-skirt combo especially worked really well, kind of like a flamenco punk look. The outfits from the the other dance sequence also provided colour and allowed the members to stand out from the back-up dancers and set., and I truly think it was the colour scheme that kept those clothes from veering into “Keep Your Head Down” territory. And finally the white outfits that appear towards the end of the MV keep in the same style, with jackets and long skirts, and serve as a symbol of the members’ true innocence, which juxtaposed nicely with the red lights and black and red outfits.
The MV is rumoured to have cost Cube approximately USD $130k, and I can see where most of this went. The mansion location they used is superb, and even the sets didn’t bother me too much, so I’m giving this a 4 out of 5.
Gayoon was without a doubt the star of the “Volume Up” for me. She’s not the oldest member of 4Minute, but she really embodied that more mature and classy kind of sexy that I felt was emphasised in the MV, and was the most successful in pulling it off, in her solo scenes and dance scenes. Jihyun and Sohyun did well in their solo scenes too, even if they both appeared a bit emotionless. Jiyoon, scared me, scared me a little with her over-exaggerated expressions (that cape flick was cool though), and Hyuna was Hyuna (the performer)–she was great, but, again, she felt like a separate entity to 4Minute. I also did not really care for her opening the song, it wasn’t until Gayoon’s line that I really started paying attention.
We didn’t get a good look at the choreography, but from the glimpses that were shown I can safely say that it will not be safe from “modifications” for live performances. Cube seems to have a thing for dance moves that push the envelope–at least where 4Minute (and Hyuna) are involved–and they continue that tradition with “Volume Up.” There are some pretty cool moves though, such as the hip-swaying during the first verse, and the heart stabbing motion occurring near the end of the song. I wonder what MOGEF thinks of all the salacious moves, gyrating, breast squeezing and sapphic fun times.
Intellectual & Emotional Expression: 2.5/5
The lyrics speak of being rejected by a lover, one who used to be enamoured by you but now says that there is no room for you in his life. So what do you do? Ignore him of course, and turn the “Volume Up” to drown out his derision. But of course, you’re still hurting inside, and these deeper emotions are revealed during the bridge, with the white outfits and a quick shot of Jihyun’s tear-streaked face. The red light also works as a way to show 4Minute being under the glare of this ex-lover who now scorns them.
The only thing that’s bugging me is the vampire concept. Beyond the fact that vampires are trendy right now and that the aesthetics born from the concept are pleasing to the eye, I can’t really fit the song and its meaning with the concept. I could try to connect the feelings of trying to move past romantic rejection as being akin to being an undead creature living an immortal existence; but if that were the case, then they should’ve just gone with zombies–they’re more undead than vampires. T-ara showed us that zombies don’t have to be totally disgusting, and it would’ve been interesting to see 4Minute sex up a zombie concept. But all I’m left with is a dream of a concept that may never happen and is making the existing one look even more boring in my eyes. And girl-on-girl. I’m not even going to try to pretend that it had any kind of significance to the song.
Overall 4Minute’s MV “Volume Up” scored 3.2/5 from me; what are your thoughts on the MV? Did you like the vampire concept? And does that sax sound familiar to you?
(Cube Entertainment, pop!gasa)