20130928_seoulbeats_infiniteInfinite returns with “Request,” clearly having snuck into the room wearing no shoes because I did not hear them enter, at all. (The lack of fanfare surrounding this release is surprising, to say the least.) “Request” is a one-off single with an accompanying MV that serves as a long-form commercial for Samsung’s line of (admittedly sweet) Galaxy products. This isn’t Hoya and crew’s first tango with the South Korean electronics juggernaut. In the MV for “Man In Love,” while Sung-yeol made apple crumble, Woo-hyun serenaded small children Liberace-style, and Sung-jong sought the fashion expertise of a kitten when choosing an outfit, L gazed at his Samsung Galaxy with stars in his eyes. The fellas have appears in numerous adverts, and the company sponsors Infinite’s first world tour, as well.

This outing is the latest spawn of a relatively long-standing and fruitful marriage between K-pop and the corporate world. Food and beverage companies, automakers, telecommunication giants, and other stock market mainstays call upon idols to shill their wares by integrating products into their music and videos, blurring the lines between mass-produced art, celebrity culture, and consumerism in a way that would make Andy Warhol’s head spin.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfI-wYRrp5s]

Other than a vehicle to sell tablets and phones, “Request” is standard-issue, post-“Chaser” Infinite, and a companion to “Man In Love.” The song provides an effervescent soundtrack to a sweet vignette about enamored men—one with a woman, all of them with their gadgets. While nothing groundbreaking for the group, “Request” is pretty decent and will certainly keep Inspirits happy.

Produced by Sweetune, “Request”(song) is what you’d expect from the collective: upbeat, 80’s-infused synth-pop. At times, peppy dynamism belies its subject matter: obsession over a love out of reach, Infinite’s bread and butter. The song doesn’t stray from safe waters lyrically or musically. While limiting, this doesn’t doom the song to failure.

20130928_seoulbeats_infinite_hoya“Request” opens expectantly, hinting at the sunny chorus. But when the vocals and verse begin, a minor-key melody is revealed, plunging the soundscape into melancholy. By the return to the chorus, everything thing is back to sunshine and roses, though.

The rubbery dance beat keeps things buoyant in those moments of sonic lament. High-flying violins and synth accents are nice touches to keep the song spirited, while the piano serves as a significant rhythmic device and the backbone of the melody, smoothing the transition in mood from gloomy to hopeful. The vocals are superlative, especially Hoya’s. Not that he was ever a bad singer, but his ability in that arena has improved exponentially since their debut. “Request” is good listening. Not great listening, but good listening.

The MV doesn’t veer from this well-worn path, taking a page from the “Man In Love” playbook with cinematography, style, and plot. But this road leads to victory—entertaining vignettes with plenty of squeal-worthy cuteness and a dash of unintentional-yet-welcome humor from improbable, precious, and awkward situations. Hoya gets by with a little help from his friends, as they concoct a plan to woo his ladylove in dramatic fashion. Each member of the band offers his special talents to stage a performance for an audience of one, sure to make her heart go pitter-patter. No scheme can be hatched properly without the aid of gadgets—just ask James Bond. So, this story serves as the perfect platform to show off Samsung’s latest line of doodads and thingamajigs.

20130928_seoulbeats_infinite_sungjong3It opens with Hoya on a rooftop, gazing at his special girl in the window of his Samsung Galaxy, equally in love as he is in consternation. “How am I going to show her how I feel?” his worried face says. Luckily, the crew is on the case. Sung-gyu is in the studio, producing the soundtrack to Hoya’s upcoming grand gesture. “I gotcha, brah,” he nods after getting a text seeking help from Hoya. He sends Hoya the track he’s been working on, Samsung-to-Samsung speedy delivery. The song’s called “Request.” Hoya is reassured. He takes the new tune out for a test spin with his dance moves. It rides nice.

Next, we see L and Sung-jong designing and styling clothes. L has just gotten the text about Hoya’s predicament. Sung-jong has the perfect outfit for their starry-eyed friend—naming it “Hoya Style!” He shoots a photo taken with his Samsung Galaxy and sends it to L, who’s across the room. L views it on his Galaxy Gear—a hybrid watch/smart device/Power Rangers communicator that I will totally ask my mom to get me for Christmas, even though I have absolutely no use for it. Still, I need it. (The power of advertising is at work here.)

20130928_seoulbeats_infinite_sungyeolThen, we visit Sung-yeol and Woo-hyun in the studio. The recording of “Request” is already well underway, as the two belt it out into their mics. It’s a good thing they’ve just received the song lyrics on their nifty Samsung Galaxies. Otherwise, “Request” would have become “Trololo Pt.2.” Dongwoo is off on his own, testing out various body rolls and snakes as he works out the choreography, taking notes on his Samsung Galaxy Note. With the song, clothes, and moves ready, the preparatory stage of Hoya’s grand gesture, brought to you by Samsung, is complete.

The group comes together on the rooftop where they practice the song and dance number, closer to the sky so that the heavens may better hear their pleas for dancing feet and voices of a nightingale. Then, they suit up and head to the venue on their Samsung Galaxy Light-Cycles bikes, passing through a garage where they make a pit stop. Overwhelmed by the dance, they take a few moments to bust a move in the parking lot before remounting their bikes to reach the final destination: the arena.

20130928_seoulbeats_infinite_samsung11Dongwoo rigs the jumbotron, lighting, and audio system at the venue for their performance, reports his success back to the bridge with his Galaxy Gear, and rejoins the group. It’s showtime! They go full out, giving it their all yet seemingly serenading no one, as the arena appears uninhabited. They finish the song triumphantly (“Well done, us! We pulled that whole scheme off in a matter of roughly four minutes.”); and amidst the whooping and high-fives, Hoya peers up to the nosebleed section, where his girl watches, touched by this display. Score one for the home team as Samsung makes young love happen.

“Request” is sweet, (inadvertently) silly, Infinite-brand fun. The Samsung product placement is slightly clunky and very obvious, but something equally ridiculous was required to take the place of the kitten stylists and apple cobbler that added so much to “Man In Love.” In that respect, Samsung’s presence fit well within Infinite’s often cheesy aesthetic, representing a full integration of advertisement into consumer art. 3.25/5 (song and video)

(YouTube [1][2][3][4][5], Images via Woollim Entertainment, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.)