It’s all about going back to basics with U-Kiss’ comeback this year. A smooth ballad and a classic MV are what makes this comeback just scream the vibe of U-Kiss, and everything that we’ve come to know and love about them. Their lead single for the start of 2015 is “Playground”, a refreshing return to the sound and style that you associate with the group’s classic ballads (like “0330” from a couple years ago). Coupled with a standard (albeit plotless) MV, “Playground” is going to be a familiar package for anyone who knows U-Kiss’ style.
This is their first MV out since “Don’t Flirt” was pushed out in the second half of the past year, and the two couldn’t be more different. Where “Don’t Flirt” oozed sexuality, promiscuity and recklessness, “Playground” is sober and reflecting. And while U-Kiss has definitely been known to push the envelope when it comes to 19+ music videos (think back to the days of “Man Man Ha Ni”), “Playground” brings us back to the days of childhood innocence.
I truly believe this is where U-Kiss shines. While their more edgy pop songs can be catchy and different, the personalities of the members themselves and the way their voices work together are ultimately much, much better as a ballad group. It’s all about lamenting a lost love, a standard trope for ballads by now. The song’s lyrics are melancholic and reflective, and are well written. I don’t feel like the lyrics are anything particularly outstanding, although the imagery between melting ice cream and the tears that fall I found to be somewhat poetic (if not heavy handed).
The ice cream is part of the song’s underlying theme of returning to better days, almost as if its a return to childhood. The song itself is titled “Playground”, and Kiseop‘s lines in the second chorus talk about him sitting in the swing set alone, without “you” next to me. Childhood becomes a placeholder for the time the lovers spent together; and now, the bitterness of seperation is likened to the harsh realities of growing up as an adult. The lyrics definitely fit the emotional mood of the song well, and the rhythm and tempo of the lyrics play well when sung by U-Kiss’s top notch vocalists. Zero complaints from me about the vocal quality of the song: U-Kiss, as usual, has delivered.
And even though U-Kiss is mainly a vocal group, longtime rapper Eli and newcomer Jun still shine in their own parts. This marks Jun’s second promotion cycle with the group, and he seems to be a favourite among the producers and songwriters, taking on most of the rap lines. (Plus, he’s fully clothed while sitting in a bathtub full of water — if this doesn’t solidify his status as a bona fide U-Kiss member, then nothing will.) If anything, Eli might be underrepresented on this song.
Of course, an MV is a visual medium, so let’s talk about how this video works with the song. It’s definitely a ‘safe’ MV, with no threesomes or hip thrusts or anything to warrant censorship — except from the fashion police. Seriously, for most of the video U-Kiss is rocking the “comfortable winter look”, complete with fluffy knit sweaters and cozy turtlenecks. But by the bridge, we’re tossed into a world of ugly matching suits. K-pop is definitely not, by any means, a stranger to unique takes on the classic suit, and U-Kiss is no exception to that rule. They experimented with each having their own uniquely styled suits in “Stop Girl”, and I was all for that — it showed individuality and the upbeat feel of the song lent itself to experimentation in fashion and style.
But novelty suits have no place in a ballad MV, especially when all the members are forced to wear the exact same one. U-Kiss, in fact, is forced to wear two different kinds of matching suits. Some might call them trendy and fashion forward, but to my eyes they’re just a mess.
Other than the fiasco that is the styling department of the second half of the MV, the rest of the video is beautiful to watch. White is the dominant theme of the video, which fits perfectly both with the wintry season of the album as well as the recurring theme of innocence and a return to childhood throughout the song. The video lacks a plot of any sort (unless you count being sad for three minutes a story), but that’s okay because we don’t usually expect plot in these kinds of MVs. Instead, the MV plays to its strengths: gorgeous cinematography. From the dusty metal of the playground’s swing set to the chipped paint of the house, the imagery of the video is consistent, emotional, and beautiful. The one place I find it trips up is the bridge, which happily coincides with the introduction to the aforementioned ugly suit ensemble. Other than this, the MV delivers exactly on what it should, and that is conveying the emotional mood of the song’s lyrics in visual form.
All in all, this is what I believe U-Kiss should be. Although they have had a lot of popular 19+ MVs and upbeat songs, their vocal talents and overall style just work so much better as a mellow ballad group. Watching U-Kiss return back to their own “childhood” days in this pure, clean comeback has been a happy surprise, and I sure hope that this concept is around to stay.
MV Rating: 4/5
Song Rating: 3.5/5