Song Ji-eun is well-known for her darker R&B songs. Her latest comeback started on a similar path, with the vaguely creepy “Don’t Look At Me Like That”. However, that norm has been completely derailed with the release of her other MV, “Pretty Age 25”.
Musically, “Pretty Age 25” isn’t that different from “False Hope” or “Going Crazy”. “Pretty Age 25” is a bit peppier than her previous works, but it’s still clearly in her wheelhouse. It’s a mid-tempo R&B number with her vocal skills placed firmly front and center. Her voice sounds both light and lush as it oozes over the instrumentals. The subtle sax running under the whole thing just seals the sassy elegance of this track. The substance, on the other hand, is a huge shift from Ji-eun’s previous releases.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT9MPZRzQn8]
Up until now, Ji-eun has stuck to dark and dramatic loves songs usually filled with sorrow and desperation and a light peppering of insanity. “Pretty Age 25” is the antithesis of that. Here, Ji-eun is confident and playful, reveling in being 25. It’s hard to imagine this Jieun being stalked by an ex or getting caught up in something that’s clearly over. She just seems too…adult.
Of course, that’s the whole point. Here, Ji-eun is standing tall, feeling like an honest-to-god woman for the first time. Sure, she became one five years ago, but there’s quite a steep learning curve between being an adult and actually feeling like one. Ji-eun has managed to make that curve her bitch. She wears sexy outfits without pause; she had her heart broken but came out on the other side. She’s hit 25 and feels beautiful, young, and free. This is one of the most charming songs of the year.
Sadly, while the song “Pretty Age 25” oozes charm and charisma, the MV fails to carry those elements through. It’s a jarring change from both the song and Ji-eun’s previous MVs. While “Pretty Age 25” the song still has many of the same elements as her previous works, there is little here that relates to anything she’s done. It honestly looks like a pink glitter monster puked all over her.
I understand what the video was most likely trying to do. Ji-eun is almost always styled like a classy 25-year old woman, even when she’s in the bedroom of a little girl. It appears that the director was trying to intentionally juxtapose the young woman she is against the trappings of a child. Thus, “Pretty Age 25” makes the point that, like it or not, Ji-eun is a grown woman now, and treating her like she is still a girl is wrong. I respect that. Here’s the problem: it doesn’t work.
Song Ji-eun has never had a girlish image. She debuted as an adult, and the majority of Secret‘s songs are sassy and mature. True, they have delved into aegyo, but Ji-eun is always pointed out as being terrible at it. Her solo work carries her sexy yet adult image even further. “Going Crazy” and “False Hope” both firmly established her as a woman. A young woman with bad taste in men, but a woman nonetheless. The girlish symbolism falls flat because she’s never looked girlish before this. “Pretty Age 25” doesn’t work because it’s all about trying to rid Ji-eun of an image she never actually had in the first place.
That said, there are a few elements that really show Ji-eun off well. The dance scenes make it clear that while she’s not the greatest dancer, she can keep to a rhythm and put on a good performance, something she hasn’t done solo yet. And the last third of the MV just shines. Ji-eun in black and white, dressed to go hit the clubs, instead goes through some of the things she collected as a younger girl. She’s reminiscing, but she’s also clearly comfortable with where she is in life, eventually tossing away a white, lacy dress. If the whole MV was the black and white scenes, I’d have no complaints. They make it clear that Ji-eun is an adult woman who remembers her youth but is glad to be past that stage of her life.
On the whole “Pretty Age 25” is an excellent song. It’s just so fabulous to hear a song for women that celebrates getting a bit older instead of glamorizing the extremely youthful.
(Images via TS Entertainment, YouTube)