AOA is back with two new MVs, “Excuse Me” and “Bing Bing! It’s been a rough year for the group, following Seolhyun and Jimin‘s history scandal that dampened their “Good Luck” promotions in 2016. After some time for reflection, AOA needed to come back strong and, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like these MVs will do much for them.

The fact that AOA released a double-bill shows a lot of hard-work and dedication, but even with double the material, I’m left feeling pretty underwhelmed. AOA is a girl group that really favors concepts — and while I don’t think that’s always a great thing, they work with their niche and tend to play to their strengths. However, with “Excuse Me” and “Bing Bing”, AOA had a lot of potential that wasn’t tapped.

“Excuse Me” and “Bing Bing” basically rehash the same concepts with different aesthetics: vintage investigators and magicians out of Now You See Me. “Excuse Me” and “Bing Bing” do a decent job of setting different tones with their videos right off the bat, but they fall short on delivering creativity.

“Excuse Me” is approximately four minutes of sepia-toned detective work, interspersed with some choreographed wriggling and shots of a mystery man (Kwak Dong-yeon), as the girls follow him everywhere. It’s a cute detective-style story, with each of the girls investigating their crush that pairs well with the song’s theme of being surprised with strong emotions, and trying to find them again.

The first few opening shots did a great job of piquing interest on how the MV would develop. The vintage aesthetic of the video helps sell the detective-theme — it’s also an aesthetic that a lot of girl groups don’t gravitate to. On that font, AOA definitely deserves some applause for making such an unusual concept and aesthetic work for them.

The song — despite fitting well with the concept — is what flatlines what could be an exciting concept. “Excuse Me”, feels quite formulaic and in-the-box. Honestly, it’s very AOA. There’s nothing in the song that strikes me as something that AOA wouldn’t do. I’m not really a big of that of that formulaic recognition. It would have been preferable to have a taste of what AOA’s style is, and then see it evolve past flirty, playful beats, a catchy chorus, and Jimin’s whiny rap breakdowns that happen in the second verse and right before the coda.

Despite these weaknesses, the video does play off the idea of the song quite well: literally searching for the source of strong feelings. It’s a cute concept, and AOA works well to communicate those sentiments in the video. It was fresh, enjoyable, and engaging. I do question, however, if this would be as cute in a contemporary setting. At the end of the day, AOA are basically playing a bunch of stalkers back in the ’50s. AOA does the cutesy-sexy thing so often, and it could have been interesting to see them do something a bit more out of the box.

On the other hand, “Bing Bing” is basically the same video, but with a different aesthetic: AOA as a group of female magicians, each with their own different act. Essentially, “Bing Bing” is a condensed version of Now You See Me, but in the world of K-pop. The song is about how utterly dazzling they are, and how dazzled they are by the item of their affection. If you think about it like that, a magic concept fits well. It’s definitely not something we see too often in K-pop, and I have to give them props for pulling it off as well as they did on screen. Nothing about the members as magicians seemed silly, weird or awkward.

At the same time, while the girls are visually dazzling, the video doesn’t really have a lot in the way of being more than that. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s not necessarily a good thing either. The members are stunning, but the problem arises when there’s nothing interesting, surprising, or eye-opening to keep viewers engaged aside from eye-candy. Musically, AOA formats their song the exact same way as “Excuse Me” : flirty, playful beats, a catchy chorus, and whiny rap breakdowns.

These aren’t necessarily the best concepts, but I’ll give some credit to the playfulness and semi-thoughtful pairing of track and concept. Primarily, I have a problem with the formulaic way that the videos are executed. The camera work is clean, bright, and crisp — and there isn’t a shot in either video that looks out of place, or unnecessary — but both videos are just the girls in different outfits and hair, dancing and singing on elaborately constructed sets with the pertinent props: giant cards for “Bing Bing” and Sherlock Holmes style dance outfits for “Excuse Me”.

In a way, both MVs feel like a rushed rehash; they show that FNC isn’t challenging AOA, music-wise or concept-wise. Both the new videos and songs are generally formulaic: there’s nothing that shocks me. The outfits are predictable, the props are predictable, and the tone is predictable. Every time I watch an AOA video, I know it’s an AOA video, and I don’t think that’s a good thing. While all artists have their own sort of style and signature, I do expect a exploration and growth. That’s not what I see with AOA and their videos.

Overall, I’m pretty disappointed. AOA has a longstanding love affair with themes, concepts, and aesthetics. While FNC tends to choose great concepts for the group, they don’t seem to know how to put them to the best use. It’s even more worrisome that AOA is a four-year old group, and they haven’t developed past relying on immature gimmicks and ideas in their music and videos.

I want AOA to grow up and give me something bolder, thoughtful, and mature. The best K-pop music videos should be interesting, entertaining, or even thought-provoking. “Excuse Me” and “Bing Bing” weren’t much of any of those things — and I seriously hate to say that when I think that AOA has so much potential. This comeback had a lot riding on it, and at the end of the day, there were a lot more interesting things they could have done. Well, here’s hoping for next time.

“Excuse Me” Rating: 2/5

“Bing Bing” Rating: 1.5/5

(YouTube. Images via: FNC Entertainment)