It has been way too long – six years to be exact – since Yang Yo-seob’s previous solo album. The First Collage was released in 2012, an album that did not gain as much traction as fans might have hoped for. In years that have passed, Yoseob has grown not only as a singer himself, but together with his group. Beast has transformed into Highlight, and Yoseob has made his a name for himself by appearing as a mentor on The Voice Kids and starring in a handful of musicals. His solo album is one that has been highly anticipated, following the list of achievements he has gathered. The pre-release MV, “Star,” proved to be a promising teaser for the entire album, as well as its title track, “Where I Am Gone.”
The MV has a strange charm to it upon viewing it for the first time, managing to establish a fine balance between moments of action and stasis. The focus on the choreography did not overshadow the MV’s attempt at establishing a narrative. Only after replaying the MV a couple more times, it became obvious that this harmony was established by marrying visual construction with music.
The track starts off with a slow piano melody, matched by the MV’s opening scene that drags out in slow motion. But of course, the lapsing of time is not made clear. There is much more finesse to the MV’s play on movement. The flowing of time is indicated by the falling of snow that slows and speeds up at varying moments throughout the video.
The opening scene transits beautifully from a spilt coffee cup to a scene of Yoseob dancing. This particular moment is timed perfectly with the musical transition into the verse. The shift in scene corresponds to the change in the piano instrumental track and the entrance of the finger snaps in the background. A similar shift in visual construction is also seen in the entrance of the electronic beats that leads to the upbeat chorus. This change in melody is paralleled by Yoseob beginning to dance, where his fluid movements clearly indicate a speeding up of pace.
Even more fascinating is the lack of static shots throughout the entire MV. The camera never pauses, with the only variable being the speed of its movement, be it the zooming or tracking. Upon closer scrutiny, any seemingly static shot, in fact, has an extremely slow zoom. Arguably, this particular technique helps with the oscillation between scenes of quicker dance movements and the relatively slower moments of interaction between Yoseob and the female lead. The constant feeling of being in motion prevents the MV from appearing choppy as it transits between both types of scenes.
The alternations between the pastel colours associated with the diner setting and the starker colours of the dance scenes also worked really well in establishing two separate spheres within the MV. Even as the story plays out in a placid landscape of the street, the louder colours added a layer of dynamism to the track. The song itself is not a simple ballad that would match a pastel colour palate. As a dance track, the shift in settings to accommodate scenes of Yoseob dancing make room for performativity without having to invade into the space of the narrative.
Considering that “Where I am gone” is a song about heartbreak, the dance itself is not overpowering at all. Rather, the choreography showcased is a fine balance between swift strokes and gentler moments. The hard determination of saying goodbye is coupled with the sadness of having to let go. Yoseob’s solo dance performance spotlighted at the start of the MV is also an artistic portrait, even if only his silhouette is seen. Truth be told, the silhouetted figure of Yoseob dancing makes the image even more striking, outlining the gracefulness of his moves.
Perhaps the only shortfall to having such an MV would be the lack of focus on the lyrics; more attention is given to Yoseob’s dance over other aspects. Even as the MV works hand-in-hand with the melody, the visual impressiveness stands out far more than the words sung. Yoseob’s vocals are indubitably polished and heartbreaking in his delivery. Yet, melancholy seems to be evoked by the performance of the song. It is a tune that needs to be watched rather than merely listened to. The lyrics clearly take a backseat in this particular track.
The only reason for nit-picking on the lyrics is probably due to the knowledge that Yoseob is capable of more poeticism. Listening to his pre-release, “Star,” is a testament to this statement. Admittedly, a dance track might not be the best platform to flesh out pretty lyrics. Yet, the seemingly lacklustre lyrics does dampen the brilliance of the MV and the song as a whole.
It is not hard to see why “Where I am gone” is the title track. Its overall construction does seem promising as a stage performance, albeit a tad bit cliché. As an idol singer, Yoseob sticks to what appears to be familiar with that particular image. However, I genuinely wonder if it would be more rewarding to put out a title track that strays away from the dance-singer caricature. After all, Yoseob’s golden voice is way too precious to side-line ballad tracks as mere pre-releases.
(YouTube. Images via Around Us Entertainment)