In the past month, we have been bombarded by much anticipated comebacks. Super Junior’s “Black Suit” was followed quickly by Block B’s “Shall We Dance” and EXID’s “DDD.” A week later Wanna One’s “Beautiful” turned the spotlight in their direction, before having it slip towards Red Velvet with their comeback of “Peek A Boo.” With so many big names being put out in the short four weeks of November, it has probably been hard for less known artists to gain attention. This month’s Unsung Artists focuses on the names that have been overshadowed by the immensely popular.
Yuseol, “Ocean View”
Debuting as a new artist from Newplan Entertainment, Yuseol brings to focus a music style that mixes tropical house with a futuristic sound. “Ocean View” opens with a dispersed beat track echoing in the background before the rhythm slowly picks up. The MV begins with Yuseol dancing in an open space, alluding to some form of wasteland with the recurrence of an airplane wreckage. Instead of striving towards familiar pop dance styles, Yuseol brings to the table an image that is not only mature but also musically complex.
Once the MV transits to the chorus, the house music style is easy to identify. This combination between more energetic standard beats with the sparse sound in the verses maintains a unique flavour to Yuseol’s debut track – there is a certain element of calm suspended throughout the tune. This particular mood is complemented by an MV that weaves an element of psychedelia into its images.
Even though the track is titled “Ocean View,” a large portion of the MV is not filmed anywhere near the ocean. Rather, the ocean is referenced through a basin of water and a filled/empty bathtub. There is a complex interplay between the images of the bathtub to a bed, and the feeling of drowning that is tied to a sense of liberation. Falling in love becomes portrayed as a process of awakening the senses and being freed into the ocean, but at the same time it also involves a process of plunging into the depths of a vast sea. The dual meaning comes to life within the MV, one that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also textured.
VAV, “She’s Mine”
“She’s Mine” attracts attention the moment it starts because of the build-up it offers. The MV and track kick off with a chorused humming to a funky melody. The bass vocals are enough to capture one’s attention and certainly set up anticipation for a charismatic performance. As the humming continues to underlie the track, the primary melody starts, together with a scene of VAV’s dance.
The MV’s concept is a familiar one, where members are dressed up to the nines in suits and interacting in a luxurious bar. Gambling is part of the plot, as are kidnappings and certain intellectual rivalry. The MV is clearly working with a suave criminality depicted in numerous Hollywood films like that of the Ocean’s Trilogy. VAV pulls it off, though it is hard to argue for an exceptional narrative construction.
Rather, VAV succeeds in captivating through their choreography and the brilliance of the track itself. The chorus’s funky melody is strikingly catchy, coupled with the camerawork following the transition between the dance moves, the MV is mesmerising to watch over and over again. It is surprising that the bridge transits briefly from the funkier style to a rhythmically pulsated delivery, perhaps deviating towards hip hop. The song returns with the chorus, but such an interlude adds a layer of complexity to the track, allowing “She’s Mine” to come off as an unexpectedly wholesome production.
During Minah’s previous solo promotion with “I Am a Woman Too” in 2015, she was the first Girl’s Day member to have debuted as a solo act. Her newest release, “11°,” indicates another stage of growth for the talented artist. Minah wrote the lyrics, and produced the song in collaboration with songwriter Woogie.
Unlike “I Am a Woman Too,” a dance track with heavier beats, “11°” is a pensive song that maintains a melodic consistency throughout the track. With a single acoustic guitar dominating the melody, this particular song is especially demanding of Minah as a singer. She has to captivate with only her voice, without the help of any complex musical dynamism in the background. Complimented for her vocal abilities in the past, Minah certainly delivers.
The melancholy infused into Minah’s voice carries the atmosphere of poignant despair throughout the entire song. The lyrics are pensive in the mundaneness of its descriptions of heartbreak:
I can’t remember you anymore
But I can’t throw out the clothes you left behind
I don’t think I can fall asleep
I thought of you more today
The MV complements such an everyday image of breakups, depicting Minah going about her daily life alone. Minah’s loneliness is accentuated through the lack of warmth in the muted pastel colours. Eventually, she is shrouded in darkness as the lightbulb in her living room fuses. The MV ends with Minah changing the lightbulb on her own before returning to watching television. The figure of the sole occupant in a silent home, without anyone else to share in such trivial moments of misfortune, is certainly a punch of bitter melancholy for the viewer.
Kim So-hee, “Soboksobok”
After her participation in Produce 101, Kim So-hee finally debuted with “Soboksobok.” A cursory judgement for the MV to “Soboksobok” would be that it succeeds exceedingly in framing Kim So-hee as a doll-like figure of beauty. The song relays the pains of heartbreak as memories crawl back into one’s mind. Unlike Minah’s track that describes it with everyday language, “Soboksobok” is filled with elaborate metaphors:
Even after time, on white Christmases
I think of you and you cover my heart
White memories of you and me
Fall into my heart, builds up into a white lump
The MV matches up to such romantic descriptions of a breakup, constantly framing Kim So-hee as a static in a spot. Besides the moments when she walks through the alley towards the camera and stops, most of the MV has her seated or she remains standing in her initial position in the alleyway. She looks at the camera with sad eyes time to time. Otherwise, she seems to be lost in her thoughts, or perhaps reminiscencing of her lost love.
However, watching the MV feels slightly suffocating with Kim So-hee constantly fixated in a spot. There is an unbridgeable gap between audience and singer, making it hard to be comfortable with the MV’s narrative. The MV is aesthetically pleasing, but at the same time it is hard to pinpoint a strong sense of depth beyond just being a pretty video. The song itself is pleasant to listen to, but the lack of complexity in the MV works against it.
Kim Dong-wan, “Afterimage”
Shinhwa’s Kim Dong-wan is a veteran in the music industry, and his track stands as a testament to the artist’s talents and successful career. Ballads rarely tend to take the Korean music industry by storm and this is really such a pity. “Afterimage” is truly heart-wrenching, an impact made possible through Kim Dong-wan’s stellar vocals and a tragically beautiful MV.
The confusion and pain of heartbreak is expressed in the contrasting images of mundane life and the utter destruction of a car accident. Drawing the link between both images really does represent how heartache can feel like – the seemingly trivial bleeding feels like death and wreckage. The scenes in the MV are strikingly melancholic, especially with the monochrome colour scheme used in most of the video.
The sense of emptiness is captured in the ordinary daily acts of waking up and washing up. The silencing of the sounds of destruction in the shattered glass or fallen and wilted rose makes the images of devastation even more poignant. Ultimately, Kim Dong-wan’s body crashed on top of the wrecked car becomes an image of complete tragedy. Regardless of whether one has experienced a heartbreak of similar intensity, it is almost impossible to walk away after finishing the MV without feeling a rip in one’s heart.