Any boyband debuting under the same company as Beast will undoubtedly encounter comparisons. Cube‘s newest boyband BtoB (short for “Born to Beat”) suffered greatly from these, the referencing of their first single “Insane” as, essentially, a poor man’s version of Beast’s “Fiction” hampered the rookie group’s debut. This impacted the group’s subsequent releases, which allowed BtoB to develop a more distinct and unique style and yet it had gone unnoticed by many K-pop fans (including yours truly) due to a less-than-stellar debut. But the seven man band is set to try their luck again with second their mini-album Press Play and title song “Wow.” “Wow” is a change from BtoB’s more emotionally intense efforts, a laidback song with the guitar and synths rendering it reminiscent of the 90s–not to mention the various falsettos. The MV for “Wow” also reflects the song’s cheeky tone, with a much more casual narrative and some sauciness added in as well.

The first thing I noticed is that the mansion setting and the “drama” scenes of the MV didn’t entirely fit in with the song’s own feel. “Wow” has a kind of party atmosphere and it’s during the group dance scenes that the song and MV feel best matched. In the narrative scenes, the song’s easygoing charm somewhat jars with the formality of the mansion sets; this juxtaposition is somewhat offset by the very flirty tone,  but there is still a sense of emptiness created by the small number of people in a room at a time: usually just the girl and a group member. That said, the use of a mansion setting over the abstract sets that K-pop is quite well known for is a plus point for BtoB, and helps to ground the plot. The setting also directs the styling, thankfully, though I was more interested in the dresses than the members’ mostly all-black ensembles. The colourful outfits worn in solo shots were far more interesting (Sung-jae‘s rainbow blazer and leader Eun-kwang‘s badges were highlights) and added youth to the MV–although they seemed mismatched with the manor setting.

BtoB manage to transcend their slightly awkward setting, though, and give a great performance in the MV. They were energetic in their solo and group shots, and suitably enthralled by the female lead (who looks familiar, though her identity is still a mystery to this writer); the scenes she has with Eun-kwang and Hyun-sik, featuring the tie-pulling and cherry-biting respectively, were personal favourites. There was a problem with the stilted actions of the parties involved: this may have been due to poor direction, or overcaution with the interactions between the sexes (when manner hands attack), but in the end the scenes delivered the sauciness that was sought, so asking for more in a MV with a more casual outlook wouldn’t be entirely feasible. With all the drama scenes and solo shots, the dance luckily managed to shine through as well, with the choreography picking up on “Wow”s fun vibe and running with it. Though starting off like your usually tightly-choroegraphed dance, by the end of the song the formations are almost non-existent and the dance has become a hot mess–the good kind, mind, that really allows for the members to loosen up, especially in their live performances.

The plot of the MV, as alluded to before, sees each member of BtoB seduced by a femme fatale who, once she ensnares a member, turns him to dust which blows away in the wind. This power she has is a physical interpretation of how she has stolen the members’ hearts; she isn’t like the other girls, as the lyrics in the chorus show:

Your level is different–it’s different

The air around you is different

I like it

I like it

The lyrics overall are mainly about the guy trying to seduce such a girl; he makes no secret about how physically attractive he finds her and calls out to her throughout the song to join him, and become his. The twist at the end of the MV with Sung-jae seems to infer that the boy is successful and wins her heart–the choice of the (underage) maknae being the one who succeeds in this task is another example of the MV running with the fun and flirty nature of the lyrics.

There is no real serious intent behind the song, preferring rather to indulge in the thrill of the chase; but BtoB still manage to include what have become hallmarks of their MVs, including a female lead and a narrative. They’re things that have become part of BtoB’s style and the way these tropes can be changed to fit the concept is something to look forward to. It will be interesting to see how BtoB manage to keep things fresh while still maintaining the same style of MV, but for now they have impressed with their new fun look, earning them a 4.1 out of 5.

What do you think of BtoB’s “Wow” MV? Are you enjoying their more casual image? Are you as devastated as I am about Sung-jae’s age (a ’95-liner!)? Do you know who the mystery femme fatale is? Leave your thoughts, and more, below!

(officialbtob@YouTube, Cube Entertainment, kpoplyrics)