Have you ever been through a breakup? If you have been, then you will know how hurt and helpless one can feel. From staying in bed for days to burning all your loved one’s leftover belongings – an aimlessness and at the same time a will to take back control of your life are often the ruling feelings during this difficult period.
On the 12th of March, a new female duo debuted on the K-pop scene. Wings consists of Nayoung and Yeseul, and they are under contract at Sony Music Korea. Their name apparently symbolizes their ambition, and their intention to take their fans higher with the music they make.
In their first digital single, “Hair Short”, they are singing about the scenario mentioned in the beginning. Even though they are trying to get over their ex-boyfriend, they are constantly reminded of him. In an attempt to gain back some agency in their lives they get a shorter haircut. But during the refrain, they keep on insisting towards their friends and towards themselves that they are not doing it because of the breakup:
I want my hair short, just like the celebrities
It’s just for a change
I’m doing this because it’s pretty
In the end of the song, they finally admit to themselves that they want to get their hair cut because they are feeling ugly now. The line “I want to cut it off quickly, I will be born again” shows just how much hope they place in this change.
Nayoung and Yeseul’s voices are wonderful; and symbolically singing about the very common act of getting one’s hair cut after a breakup is a fresh take on a staple subject of pop music. The beat of “Hair Short” is energetic. But it’s repetitiveness, the pointed use of a piano in the bridge, and the singing inform every listener of the melancholic nature of the lyrics. The song is catchy — just dramatic enough — but since the group is new, a casual listener might just brush it aside.
This would be a mistake — not just because of the song itself but rather because of the fascinating music video that accompanies it. Readers might not be surprised to hear praise for the MV once they know that it was directed by Digipedi, a studio that already worked on Shinee‘s “Dream Girl” MV and several Ladies’ Code and Lim Kim releases.
The most interesting features of the video are its many art and pop culture references. After a few medium and close-up shots of the duo, the viewer is immediately subjected to Caravaggio’s painting “Judith Beheading Holofernes” which is attached to the wall behind the singers. The scene portrayed in this painting is inspired by a Biblical story: General Holofernes threatens the Jewish people. Judith uses his attraction to her to sneak into his chamber and kill him, thereby saving her people.
This story in particular, and beheadings in general, are a recurring theme in the MV. A little while later, the viewer can spot Gustav Klimt’s painting “Judith II” on the wall behind Nayoung and Yeseul. And towards the end of the video, there is a short montage of “beheadings”: Two pages have been ripped out of magazines, one with an attractive young man and one with an older male hairdresser or fashion person. Scissors are seen cutting off their heads and foreshadowing the end of the MV. In the last shot, the singers hold a dish (reminding the viewer of another Biblical connection, namely the story of Salome) which supposedly contains the head of their ex-boyfriend.
With Judith as a heroic savior and Salome as a cunning seductress, both of these references emphasize the will to gain back control which is alluded to in the lyrics. The MV takes this wish a step further by showing these paintings of women who did not only have power over themselves but also over others. In the storyline of the video, this wish ties in with the betrayal by the boyfriend and a subsequent thirst for revenge.
Another reference is the scene from horror movie The Shining which can be seen towards the end of the MV. When the ex-boyfriend turns on the TV and turns around to see the two singers, his reaction is mirrored in the scene from The Shining seen on the television. He is frightened, just as the little boy Danny is frightened of the siblings(/twins) he meets at the hotel in the movie.
This once again shows the power the Wings members have over the ex-boyfriend, played by Ahn Jae-hyun of You Who Came From The Stars fame. When the viewer subsequently realizes that the whole set of the MV eerily resembles the The Shining set — the bright color combinations, the hotel setting –, and that Nayoung and Yeseul wear blue dresses like the twins in the movie and hold hands just like them, the music video reaches a whole new level of creepiness.
This reference to the twins in The Shining also plays into the focus on symmetry and identity which is prevalent in the MV. The way the members are seated and the paintings are attached are painstakingly symmetrical. This invites the viewer to interpret away: Do the members stand for two sides of one person? Does this mean that the betrayed woman and the woman with whom her boyfriend cheated on her are interchangeable in some way? Does it show how they don’t feel special anymore after their boyfriend has stopped loving them?
The use of mirrors, in which we once see the ex-boyfriend and later both of the members, makes thinking up an interpretation even more interesting. Mirrors are used for reassurance regarding one’s looks and they play a key part in many people’s quest of finding and creating an identity. In the music video, they might show the insecurity of someone who has just been left by their ex. “Who am I without the one I loved?”, one almost expects Nayoung and Yeseul to ask aloud.
When the singers look into the mirror, the camera only films their reflection. In the same way, the murder of the ex-boyfriend is never shown directly but only alluded to via the paintings, etc. Many extreme close-ups during the storyline part of the MV (e.g. frequently of the scissors and the growing hair) also indicate certain actions without directly showing them (the aggression of the members, the lapse of time).
For the amazing thought and care that was put into creating this music video, Wings’ “Hair Short” gets a 5 out of 5. The story perfectly conveys the content of the song while giving it a darker twist. Many little references were placed in the video which keep it entertaining every time one watches it; and they also offer an endless source for interpretations if the viewer is into that kind of thing. Even though she believes that there is always room to improve, this reviewer can certainly not think of anything that took away from the MV’s greatness.
What are your thoughts, Seoulbeats readers? Is “Hair Short” a good debut song? Can you spy any more references in the MV? And do you think something could have been done better?