20150115_seoulbeats_yonghwa and ydgThe solo debut of CN Blue‘s Yong-hwa is a welcome change from the gloomy ballads that pop up during winter. Joining him is rapper YDG who is also known for his acting roles in The Three Musketeers (2014) and Grand Prix (2010).

Yong-hwa and YDG co-wrote “Mileage,” which is about two men trying to convince their significant others to let them have a night of fun with friends. What they call mileage is all the things they do for the relationship, things they want credit for. The bossa nova touches in the song inevitably take you to the sun-kissed beaches of Brazil, giving it an easy-breezy, swimsuit on-shades out feeling. So instead of sounding like an angry rant for independence, “Mileage” becomes a sweet and innocent request. What makes the song more interesting is that we get two different perspectives for the same “problem.”

Yong-hwa is a young twenty-something in a committed relationship, and YDG is a married man with kids. Both work together, and both feel that their relationships are stressful. In the lyrics the two tag-team the attempt, alternating between professing undying devotion and giving reasons why they deserve some fun. Yong-hwa starts with saying his girlfriend is “especially pretty” and asks her to take his request lightly (in other words, don’t get offended). YDG’s rap lists all of the things he considers mileage points such as changing diapers, paying for gas and a late filming schedule. This culminates in the chorus:

Can I use my mileage today?
It’s a time that might come just once a month.
(I’ll use) my mileage today, (but) from tomorrow I’ll earn it one by one in your arms

In terms of structure, it was nice to see that the rapping wasn’t just an afterthought squeezed in at the end; I felt that this was a true collaboration and team effort. Yong-hwa’s vocals and YDG’s rapping complement each other, with neither becoming too soft and romantic nor too hard and demanding.

The video does a good job of bringing the lyrics to life. We see Yong-hwa trying to schmooze his girlfriend by taking her clothes shopping and going for a bike ride. Meanwhile, rapper YDG is getting groceries and taking care of the house. The video is also visually interesting because it is like they stepped into a modern version of pop art. Everything is bright and colorful, just like the tone of the song. Even their fashion styles are just a tad exaggerated without becoming ridiculous. The mannequin woman is a little scary, but there are some nice humorous skits. The song and video combine to create something that’s just lovely to listen to and watch; “Mileage” is a relaxing alternative to the many videos with artists trying to be loud and in your face with crazy concepts.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDfixuXfMT4]

While I do like the feel of “Mileage,” I can’t get behind it one hundred percent because of the messages it’s sending. The first issue that comes up comes up is the way stereotypes about women are reinforced in the lyrics and video. One example is the needy woman with self-esteem issues. Yong-hwa wakes up to a phone call from his girlfriend who apparently needs to be constantly told how beautiful she is. He sings, “Baby, you’re especially pretty, it’s the same old story, I’m tired of saying it again.” YDG, on the other hand, has the stereotypical nagging wife who just won’t let her husband have some fun. YDG even tries to convince his wife that he deserves mileage points for not complaining about her “nagging.”

20150115_seoulbeats_yonghwaThe song also feeds into the idea that a girlfriend or wife is just an additional burden the man must carry. It’s probably for laughs, but the love interest in this video is a mannequin. The woman is just a prop who doesn’t contribute anything meaningful to the relationship. She doesn’t move, let alone work. Instead, she literally just sits around doing nothing but looking pretty. Even YDG’s kid is a mannequin. Both are hunks of plastic that can only receive attention or love; they cannot give it.

Second, I can’t fully support the song because it just does not make much sense in the Korean context. It’s odd that two men are stacking up mileage points when wives and girlfriends are just as much part of the relationship. They contribute to their relationships, too. What about their mileage points?

It might be easier to defend Yong-hwa since he didn’t really say what he’s getting mileage points for. In terms of dating economics, most men, including Korean men, feel they need to pay for the first date and for most dating expenses. It’s also not uncommon to hear Korean men put off dating because of money issues. So even though girlfriends do work, the pressure to make more money and pay more is still strong and seen as part of being a man. Yong-hwa’s character might feel obligated to buy his girlfriend gifts, earning him mileage points.

20150115_seoulbeats_YDGBut portraying YDG as a husband weighed down by household chores is a strange choice, considering that Korean women are by and large still expected to take care of the children and the house. A report by the OECD found that Korean men do on average ten minutes of childcare and twenty-one minutes of housekeeping a day, ranking behind even Japan and China.

South Korea does have long office hours, but even wives with full-time jobs are expected to also take care of the household. So it would make much more sense if a woman was rapping about all the work she does. And, really, why is he getting mileage points for driving to daycare, changing diapers, and going grocery shopping (also known as taking care of the kid you helped make)?

But who knows? Maybe Yong-hwa does have a girlfriend with a princess complex, and maybe YDG is a house-cleaning, diaper-changing machine. Everybody wants some acknowledgement for what they put into a relationship, and mileage points are a cute way to talk about it. The tone of the song is also sweet and easy-going, not get-in-the-kitchen-and-make-me-a-sandwich demanding. So maybe this should be put under “songs to forget the English lyrics to.” But after so much talk about mileage, perhaps a more romantic, and realistic, song would have been, “Baby, let’s cash in our mileage points and both take time for ourselves, shabillab, shabillab, shabillab.”

Music Video Rating: (4.5/5)

Song Rating: (4/5)

(YouTube, Yonhap News, Asia Economics, Images via FNC Entertainment)