You want a music video that will make you smile? Look no further, B1A4’s got you covered with their latest, “What’s Happening?” At first glance it might seem like B1A4 has regressed to their out-of-control-cute “OK” days, but “What’s Happening?” shows a pleasing progression in the boys’ style. It combines the best fun and wacky elements from past MVs like “Beautiful Target” with the refined visuals from their last single “Tried to Walk” to make a playful MV with a smart concept that matches the song.
The song is about being in a relationship with a girl who’s constantly lying, which provokes the singer to repeatedly ask, “What’s Happening?” The video illustrates this confused, frustrated emotional state through surrealistic sets, doll-like aesthetics and precise editing.
First, let’s look at the set. Though the boys are quite literally in boxes, it is one of those rare instances in MVs where boxes make sense conceptually. They’re trapped in the relationship, and can’t break through the metaphorical walls to understand what’s going on with their significant other. The fact that these boxes are different sizes lends a surrealistic air and adds variety, particularly the bright blue boxes where we only see the boys’ heads. They are a nice breather from the other multi-colored rooms, and naturally put a lot of emphasis on B1A4’s faces, particularly Jinyoung’s. Perhaps the MV could have used more of those shots, but the video is so tightly edited that pulling it apart would probably make it collapse in a bright, sparkly mess.
When the camera pulls back, the individual boxes become a part of what resembles a dollhouse. The main action centers on a room a couple is in that B1A4 is trying to break into. The dollhouse image is enhanced by the creepy Barbie and Ken masks the couple is wearing. In keeping with the theme of the song, the doll masks can symbolize artifice. If the girl doll is the girl in the song, then it follows that the boy doll is B1A4, or the superficial part of them that ignores the girl’s actions. This correlation is also made at the end of the video when Jinyoung says, “Be good to me, OK?” and the Ken doll is in the room next to him. As B1A4 try to break into the room, the Ken doll does whatever necessary to block them out, including barricading the doors.
The video is saturated with color and motion. There is a lot going on visually; there are many scenes, bright colors, actions, dancing, costume changes, but these complement the video rather than overwhelm it because each scene mimics the music through editing. Each section of the music has its own tone, which is reflected in the look of the scene. However, there is always an action or camera cut that visually hits the downbeat, helping to ground an otherwise frenetic video. Something like the pseudo-stop motion in Baro’s rap scene could have looked messy, but since his actions match the rhythm it flows with what the viewer hears and adds to the dreamy, disjointed atmosphere of the MV.
The action in the video also slows and stops when the music does; for example, when the song takes a big slowdown in the middle, the boys do nothing and the only movement is one jump of the camera. Scenes like this not only help to balance the fast movements in the MV, but also show the push and pull of the relationship. It’s a testament to the editing team that right when the video nearly overflows with motion, they cut to a shot that slows it down.
Most of all, what makes the video work is how unequivocally B1A4 it is. Disjointed, surreal MVs have been done before, but B1A4 puts their own playful twist on it. It’s light, comic and wacky, all qualities we know B1A4 exhibits well. However, this time the zaniness makes sense in context of the song and isn’t just wacky for wackiness’ sake. As hilarious as it is to see Sandeul’s head reaching for a cookie, it works to show how their significant other strings them along. The epic pillow fight scene at the end is pure fun, but also a very important moment in their emotional journey — they decapitate the Ken doll! No running away from the ugly truth now. However, it is admittedly mostly humorous. The video illustrates how B1A4 can harness their limitless energy and channel it to controlled comedy.
While the styling in the video does induce the “what are you wearing?” reaction, it’s nothing we haven’t seen from B1A4 before. They’re wearing their signature styles of pattern-matching shirts and shorts, inexplicable sparkly gloves and colorful caps. However, compared to the number of accessories and layers they wore when they debuted, these outfits are almost restrained. Again this shows how we are seeing a progression in B1A4’s style. Their look is still youthful and kind of weird — this is K-pop after all — but it doesn’t make your eyes bleed. (Excepting CNU’s Mad Hatter-style plaid suit.) Their hair and makeup are subdued in contrast to their clothes, which has the contradictory effect of making both their outfits and faces pop.
The video is much more a group effort, rather than the story focusing on one member like “Tried to Walk.” While Jinyoung, Baro and Sandeul receive the most singing shots, CNU and Gongchan receive a fair amount of action shots. Baro still stands out in terms of facial expression and control, but what dominates the video are group scenes. B1A4 is shown as a unit in this video more than anything else. Just one suggestion for future MVs: Please, Jinyoung and Gongchan, open your mouths more when singing next time, okay?
If there is one thing that suffers from the choppier editing style, it’s the choreography. The dance is not the main focus of the video, and what we see comes in spurts. The dance parts that are shown do well to match the tone of the specific section of the song, but we miss seeing how they flow into each other. For a song that has very distinct breaks between the verses and chorus, it would’ve been nice to see how one step leads into the other, because they are all very different movements. How does the powerful, grounded dance lead into the energetic chorus, for example? However, the dance at the end with its doll-like gestures suits the song very well.
With “What’s Happening?” B1A4 shows that they can still be playful and fun, while retaining the growth from their newer MVs. Onward and upward. 4.5/5. Readers, what do you think? Are you loving their playful side?