It has been more than a year since the group CLC have put out new material for fans to enjoy. The group has had a slow build up towards their career with an array of concepts and song choices that never quite worked to their full advantage. Their last comeback “Black Dress” was stifled by their inability to stand on their own, producing a sound that was all too recognizable which fell under the radar pretty quickly. Although it is unclear what lead to their hiatus, CLC has finally returned with a bold group concept and an EP titled No.1.

Leading the five-song mini album is the title track “No” which sees the girls going for a much more sleek and mature tone, almost turning the girl crush concept on its head. “No” was produced and written by label-mate Jeon So-yeon from superstar rookie group (G)I-dle and co-written by member Yeeun. The track is a powerful dance anthem with a booming bassline that dominates throughout the hooks and chorus lines. The instrumentation for “No” is quite enjoyable as it instantly grabs attention with the spoken intro of the members repeatedly saying “No” to all things beauty.

It’s clear that the notion of the word “no” is highlighted not only within the song itself, but also within the group’s accompanying music video. Narratively, “No” is trying to break the concept of beauty and what sort of materialistic things the world considers to be part of the manufactured realm of beauty. Such things as handbags, lipsticks and high heels are present throughout the MV with CLC being outspoken about the rejection of these items that they don’t wish to have.

This rejection of materialism becomes meaningful, because as female idols, they are in many ways trained to be used as models for such accessories in a number of ads, commercials, beauty campaigns, and album promotions. This practice only strengthens the association placed on women and material beauty which emphasize the stereotype that women must obsess and must have such items to uphill their own worth in order to compete confidently with other women.

However, the girls of CLC are using the power behind “no” to object strongly to such sexist traits. The shoes, luxury handbags and a number of jewelry goods are seen thrown into a white coffin which the girls carry off towards the end of the MV, insinuating a funeral. This boldly declares a sort of emancipation for beauty standards and the social pressure to adhere to the latest trends or fashion movements. CLC even go as far as to call out and reject specific types of Korean societal expectations constantly placed upon idols, especially female groups.

“Makeup? NO
Innocent? NO
Sexy? NO
Aegyo? NO
Acting like a good girl? No”

With these types of rejections, the group is affirming their rebuttal of being defined by materialistic items that will bring them no true satisfaction in the long run. The concept of a group having to choose between being innocent, sexy or cute highlights the severity in which K-pop groups are often conceptualized and romanticized by a single style. Yet, CLC at least dares to fight against this type of labeling. “I love me, I like it,” member Elkie proudly declares in the chorus hook, demonstrating that the girls already have a sense of self-love for themselves that does not need objectifying in order to enhance.

Even as CLC is shown burning a bouquet of flowers that may symbolize the unwanted projection of purity and virtue onto female groups, it is important to note that just because they choose to say “no” to countless accessories of beauty does not mean that they are denying their femininity. In fact, the MV shows the girls stylized in captivating mini dresses and dancing to a routine that’s just as bold as the track. This juxtaposition is used to add a nuanced level to the notions of female expression and how it can still be embodied to its full extent without the use of beauty product placements.

The self-positivity of “No” is also perfectly coupled with a strong message the group is able to send to their haters. In an important scene of the MV, CLC’s group name appears in Thai along with member Sorn, who has been made the target of several racist attacks from how she looks to comments about her home country. This imagery from the video coupled with the heavy message of the song indicates the varying meaning of “no” and the power behind such a simple phrase that materializes from this situation as fact: “No, you won’t bully me.”

“No” is a fantastic addition to CLC’s discography, and can indicate a pivotal turn in the group’s career. It’s a track that has mass appeal but exemplifies a strong message against consumerism and for self-identity. Hopefully, the girls are able to find recognition for their comeback which they rightfully deserve.

(YouTube, Images via Cube Entertainment)