The anticipation and excitement for BoA‘s comeback had started before it was announced: a greater presence in Korean media, with a judging stint on SBS K-pop Star seeming to be the first in a line of things pointing to an eventual return to K-pop after her last album two years before, Hurricane Venus (including appearances on WinWin! and Running Man). The MV teaser for her self-composed title track, “Only One,” gave us a taste of the mid-tempo ballad while giving a glimpse of visuals relating to the lyrics, and some Yoo Ah-in to sweeten the deal. What’s this, SM? You’re giving us an actual drama MV? Wow, I feel honoured by your consideration, and am looking forward to watching Yoo Ah-in a plot-driven music video produced by your good self.

So imagine my disappointment when the dance version was released first instead. Initial disappointment, I should clarify, because this is a BoA dance MV we’re talking about, people, and it didn’t just meet expectations–it exceeded them.

The dance, choreographed by Nappytabs, is absolutely amazing, allowing for some theatre to sneak in between all the pure dance that dominates this piece. BoA’s own entrance from behind the male dancers and the girlish reposing with feet swinging in the air on the dancer’s backs were just some of the performance based touches to the choreography that really stood out, but the highlight had to be the “couple dance” performed during the second verse. Not only was the dancing well executed, but the transitions in and out of that section, from the camera movement to the dancers’ exit and re-entrance to the seamless changing of the lighting, were executed almost flawlessly and truly added to the atmosphere of the song. The only complaint I have with the MV is a rather selfish one–that the solo shots of BoA wandering the cobbled streets of the pretty set meant less time for the choreography, the entirety of which I really wanted to see.

Speaking of choreography, it was fairly complex but followed a set pattern, with the same steps utilised in the chorus. Either way, BoA displays her talent for movement by matching the power of the male dancers while also giving the moves a feminine touch. There is also an inherent grace that prevents the strong moves from becoming too harsh and thus out-of-sync with the soft melody, allowing the dance to perfectly complement the song. Having Nappytabs choreograph this routine beyond perfect: the lyrical hip hop style which the couple introduced to the mainstream via a routine to Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love” on So You Think You Can Dance US (leading guest judge and choreographer Adam Shankman to dub the style “lyrical hip hop”)  successfully marries BoA’s own style of dance with the mid-tempo ballad that is “Only One,” as seen with the intricate choreography and graceful movement in the MV. Whoever’s idea it was to hire Nappytabs to choreograph BoA’s ballad–I salute you.

I was so giddy with excitement after watching the Dance MV that my anticipation for the drama version of “Only One” was entirely forgotten until SM decided to uplaod it to official YouTube channel, after a fashion. The video was available everywhere except the SMTOWN channel at one point.

Basically BoA has a rendezvous with Yoo Ah-in in a well-lit cafe, spending their time together in awkward silence. At least Yoo Ah-in has his mobile phone to distract him, though it’s probably his career texting him to start picking better roles–or maybe to be a better role model to the youth watching this video and to stop peeking at his phone when he has company, but I digress. BoA, meanwhile, occupies herself by splitting into two and having her clone (or maybe it’s her and the clone is the one at the table) sit back-to-back with Yoo Ah-in and wander around the cafe to remember the good times with Yoo Ah-in, when they actually, you know, talked, before dissolving into bubbles. As you do. And then, to top things off, we are suddenly thrown back in time to essentially end at the start, with BoA walking into the empty cafe to meet Yoo Ah-in.

At least, that’s what I saw the first time. A second viewing with English subtitles helped to put the MV into better perspective. “Only One” is about ending a relationship unwillingly just to make it easier for your other half wishes to move on, a sentiment conveyed with the lyrics “I hate seeing you try not to scar me and feel ill at ease/So I’ll let you go.” At the beginning of the MV, BoA is seen putting a plain ring on her wedding finger, which may be seen as her deciding to pretend to be married when she meets Yoo Ah-in (I’m assuming some time has passed since they last saw each other, due to the couple parting ways for some reason or other and the possibility of reconciliation is still a tangible prospect). The short sequence of Yoo’s phone ringing but At the beginning of the second verse, she appears to tell him this lie, and Yoo Ah-in breaks out in a smile. BoA reads this as relief, singing the words “At my sudden works, you seem to be relieved for some reason.” And yet she hurts, singing “My overwhelmed heart crumbles emptily in just one moment/How can I stand up again?”

https://i2.wp.com/img835.imageshack.us/img835/4183/15201773.jpg?resize=360%2C239The BoA sitting back-to-back with Yoo Ah-in can be seen to represent her true feelings,the side of her that still wishes to continue the relationship. Having this BoA sit behind Yoo show her hiding her feelings from him. The hidden BoA reminisces about the relationship, reliving past, happier memories, making peace with the decision to end the relationship before disappearing forever in a stream of bubbles, each one carrying a memory from the relationship. The original BoA then offers a farewell handshake and though she’s accomplished her task of making a clean break of the relationship, in her mind she is still hoping for a happier ending, a note on which the MV ends.

It’s great to see lyrics being more involved in the story of the MV, and some ambiguity is always welcome: hearing the different interpretations people have of the song is part of the fun. But with “Only One” there may in fact be a bit too much ambiguity; the whole business regarding the ring required a lot more inference than is perhaps necessary. The bubbles looked disappointingly fake as well. In large, the story was perhaps too nuanced, especially for a first time viewing, and there was little that would entice the audience to watch the MV a second time, when they may pick up on more of the little details. Greater attention to the plot and telling a more cohesive story would have greatly benefited the MV.

The biggest draw of the drama MV may have been Yoo Ah-in, but he is beaten out by the cameos in the Dance MV–we can see the likes of Yoo Jae-shin, Anthony Kin, Calvit Hodge, Vincent Noiseux and Lee Daniel, all choreographers themselves, performing back-up duty for BoA. Furthermore, the Dance MV was so visually stimulating, conveyed the emotion of the song effectively and was overall a more engaging experience for the viewer. BoA has not only an illustrious discography, many of her dances are favourites among fans. Though reminiscent of “Eien,” “Only One” is nonetheless its own song with its own dance–and its own drama.

Dance MV: 4.7 out of 5

Drama MV: 2.6 out of 5

What score would you give the two MVs, Seoulmates? What was your favourite part of the choreography? And do you have any alternate storylines for the drama MV? Let us know what you think!

(Calvit Hodge’s TwitterDancespirit Magazine, Fox Network, Pop!gasa, SM Entertainment)