Laughing at the failing of groups like Chi Chi is a favourite pastime of K-pop snobs. Not original or talented enough to warrant genuine respect, but too try-hard to be ironic, these girls are on a fast track to nowhere. Can’t really sing, dance, rap, act or look good enough to stand out at all – their greatest achievement is having a name that has so many bad meanings it can’t actually be said out loud. Insipid, boring, worthless and all-round meh, it’s a miracle their bathroom mirrors even bother to reflect their faces back at them, right?

Well…no. But yes. But also no, let me explain: I am that music snob. My favourite group members are the ones with the least exposure, I was upset when Infinite became more famous because I liked feeling superior when I introduced people to them. I liked Super Junior’s “A-CHA” in a cool and subversive way; hark at me and my contempt for the likes of Chi Chi! But wait — there is no contempt, because from the ashes of a miserable beginning rises something that could save Chi Chi from the scrapheap.

To appreciate the turnaround, cast your mind back to their debut “Don’t Play Around,” a terrifying mishmash of concepts with a million bright colours and demented aegyo. The group suffered from too many members, none of which had enough personality to merit learning their names. It was during the promotion for this song that a live version with the backing track removed found its way onto the internet. Unfortunately, it revealed that there was almost no singing taking place, and that which was sounded, not to put too fine a point on it, bloody awful. Then they released “Longer,” a dull song with a dull dance routine that encompassed horrible outfits and baffling bedazzled walking sticks. However the MV was amazing, creepy, claustrophobic and creative, it was weirdly beautiful despite being so wrong for the track. I encourage you to watch it and maybe you’ll see why I knew if Chi Chi rolled around again I would give them another chance.

Well, “Love Is Energy” is no cinematic masterpiece, but that’s not to say things haven’t become much better. For a start there has been a drastic member change, with the addition of lead vocalist Shine and the departure of Ji-U, Peach and leader Nara. The five-member group allows each girl more of a chance to show a little charisma, instantly making them all more likable. The song too, proves Chi Chi has moved forward musically, although still with an over-reliance on autotune – there are some high notes in there that could be really painful come the live performances. Still, the song has a maturity to which “Don’t Play Around” never got close and is far more interesting than, although not entirely dissimilar to, “Longer.” If Chi Chi had debuted with a song like this, then maybe they would be a little more popular. Even the dubstep break isn’t quite as bad as it could be; there is attitude there that they couldn’t have pulled off before.

Aesthetically, this MV is mixed. The first set, with the classy little gold dresses and the angel wings would be perfect for a sweeter song, maybe a ballad. While I applaud the effort to keep it fairly simple and let the girls natural prettiness shine through, this song needed something edgier. Also, Shim Changmin, God of Light called — he wants his room back. The other sets suit the futuristic vibe of the song, but they are pretty basic. What saves the visuals is the girls themselves.

To me, it doesn’t look like they are being made to look overly cute, just naturally adorable. Doesn’t seem like there is a difference? Look again at their earlier work–the childishly bright colours and garish make-up are gone and instead we get something, okay not natural, but more befitting the young women that they are. Their outfits are passable; I can’t decide if their individual dresses are restrained or un-inventive but they do accentuate their hip swings beautifully.

Speaking of choreography, it was not as disappointing as I thought it would be. I loved the twirling hands, which is surprisingly intricate. Believe me, because I have been trying to nail it for the last fifteen minutes. I have yet to taste victory. It would be nice to say well done for finding something so original, but if you watch Jolin Tsai’s “Honey Trap” you will see almost exactly the same thing. Most of the dance is fairly nondescript pre-watershed touching and come-hither hand gestures; in fact they have a similar dance style to Sistar, but less sexually aggressive. Maybe if the choreographers of A Pink and Sistar got together, this would be the kind of dance they would produce. It is just a pity the camera spent so much time either very close-up or too far away, often cutting between shots too fast and making the video jerky. At times it helped bring an air of urgency and drama to the MV but it also took focus away from the girls. I give the MV a 2.5/5

So, all in all this MV shows Chi Chi still has some fight left in them. They dream of being the next SNSD and I hate to stamp on that dream but, although I enjoyed this comeback, they have a very long way to go before they get there. If Chi Chi can learn to make the right MV for the right song, do well live, get the interesting videos back and keep the improved songs — then we might see the makings of a really good girl group. Oh, and for goodness sake do something about that name.

(kj-madness, Naver)