It’s only been a few months since their last comeback, “No”, but CLC has returned sooner than usual with a new single, “Me (美)”, which flaunts self-esteem, memorable images, and a powerful chorus. The Chinese character “美” in the title, meaning “beautiful”, also somewhat sounds like “me” when pronounced, which cleverly emphasises the link between beauty and how you view yourself.

Having begun to find their footing in recent years with their concepts of confidence and female empowerment, “Me” consolidates their image, and once again proves that it suits the group without feeling like a repeat of previous releases.

The MV clearly focuses on this concept of the members’ confidence in their own beauty and worth and does a generally good job of getting it across. Like CLC’s previous MVs, it follows a fairly common minimal-plot formula, with its excessive use of aesthetically pleasing sets, and a combination of choreography and solo shots. Some of the sets feel a little generic and don’t add much to the video, such as Seunghee’s pink set. It could easily have been made more interesting though if we take Sorn’s simple but refreshing plant set as an alternate example. It also feels strange that the set with the red brush mark is reused in several solo shots of different members, as well as group choreography shots, but just in different lighting.

On the other hand, the use of blurred lighting in “Me” is something that stands out from the beginning, lending the whole MV a glowing, angelic feeling, which helps establish the members as untouchable in their beauty and confidence. The elaborate set decor and costumes certainly add to this, and the fusion of traditional clothing and modern clothing is a clever move to emphasise the members’ boldness and comfort in their appearances.

The most powerful motif in the MV is Seungyeon trapped behind the window-painting. The window-painting, with its image of a classical-style woman imprinted on the surface, feels like a projection of socio-culturally informed beauty standards, specifically western beauty standards, on how we see each other, and what we judge each other against. Yet when Seunghee looks up at the window-painting, Seungyeon looks confidently back — the painting becomes irrelevant, suggesting that expectations of how beauty should look also become irrelevant once you have confidence in your own beauty. In this scene, the window-painting also feels like a mirror: by looking into herself, Seunghee sees how to separate self-esteem from external expectations of the self.

That imagination you have

That picturesque feelin (Feel’in)

I’m more perfect than that

No words are enough

The lyrics reiterate the difference between expectations and realities of beauty and show that reality is more beautiful than social expectations and imaginations. By the end of the MV, Seungyeon has escaped from the window-painting, whose glass is now opaque: it’s just a painting, and no longer has control over or an impact on the perception of Seungyeon’s appearance. The black ink running down the painting afterwards is a final dismissal of society’s beauty standards. Like the painting being covered up and destroyed by more paint, beauty standards are created by people, and can easily be changed by people too, so they shouldn’t be treated as definitive. This motif throughout the MV really stands out, and powerfully demonstrates the impact of confidence, and why it’s important in the first place.

The song, strong like CLC’s other releases since their image change, marks another completely different title song that still fits with CLC’s concept, and that they can still comfortably pull off. It explores a range of sounds, from trap to reggae, without sounding mismatched at all (apart from the chorus). There’s a great flow to it that clearly stands out in the post-chorus, and in the build-up throughout the verses — the combination of the beat drop and the canon choreography at Seungyeon’s first line was a highlight for me.

The only unimpressive part of the song is, unfortunately, the chorus. It’s been a while since CLC has somewhat stepped into 4Minute’s shoes, but it’s difficult to not think of “Hate” with this new song, especially because of the red brush mark set, and the blaring chorus. The vibe of this release is calmer, though, and a chorus like this feels out of place; it’s too loud compared to the rest of the song and to the vocals thrown in during the chorus, and feels a little chaotic and uncontrolled. Meanwhile, the MV is tightly edited and doesn’t leave any messy edges, and often has a slow, dramatic pace. The horns are clearly supposed to be the shocking highlight of the track, but perhaps less of a shock factor and more focus on how to integrate it with the rest of the song and with the MV would help its case.

Overall, “Me” is another strong, confident release from CLC. Though the MV reuses typical styles and methods, there are symbolism pearls within that make it stand out. The song is generally a great listen, too, and it fits the MV well. (I’m hoping the chorus might grow on me later!)

Readers, what did you think of “Me”?

(Youtube. Yabla. Lyrics via Lyrics Kpop. Images via Cube Entertainment.)