Next in the line of male idols leaving behind a song as they enlist is B.A.P‘s Bang Yongguk. B.A.P are credited with re-introducing hip-hop to K-pop with their debut in 2012. Their influence can be seen even today with many of their more popular contemporaries such as BTS and Got7, and younger groups such as Stray Kids. Sadly, a legal dispute with their agency TS Entertainment resulted in a hiatus during crucial years when the group needed to consolidate its fan base; and B.A.P never managed to fully recover. The group unofficially disbanded as the members left TS Entertainment in 2018.

Leader Yongguk took another hiatus in 2016 in order to cope with his anxiety disorder. Despite his adorable on-screen persona, Yongguk has released a number of heavy songs that discuss his mental health — from the stark, naked “A.M. 4:44” to the raw and thought-provoking “Hikikomori”. Known for his deep lyrics, and even deeper, caveman rap, Yongguk was listed as the fourth most copy-righted male K-pop idol in early 2018, after Zico, Yong Junhyung and G-Dragon. His enlistment thus truly signals a symbolic end to the era of B.A.P.

Fittingly, the MV for “Orange Drive”, released by Yongguk on the eve of his enlistment, revolves around the theme of a sunset. As Yongguk is also the Executive Producer of the MV, it is hard to disassociate the video from his intentions, which he explained in a letter posted on his official website:

In “Orange Drive”, I wrote down what I wanted to say while watching the sunset during the summer night.

Set entirely on a beach at dusk, the MV does not contain the usual pinpoint choreography, costume-changes, and flashy lights. Instead, Yongguk walks and drives around a windy beach. Landscape shots reveal he is alone amongst his scenic surroundings. Green trees frame the distant background. The absence of an actual sunset, or even the orange glow that lingers after, is noticeable. It is already dark. This is the sunset on Yongguk’s youth, as well as night over his music career — which will resume only once morning dawns in 2021.

Watching the MV is akin to looking around an empty beach at dusk. Colors are subdued, and unlike typical night shots; no extra lighting has been used to illuminate what is happening. Yongguk’s attire is white, a symbolic nod to the clean slate with which he enters this new chapter of his life. It blends in with the sea and the darkening sky, to the point that the viewer cannot distinguish him properly, save for by the color of his skin. Despite a multitude of shots zooming in and out of his face, he rarely looks into the camera. It seems the lights of the stage have been switched off for a while, as his military enlistment necessitates a hiatus:

I just wanna say don’t wait up,
Gotta get you back (back),
Turn off the lights on my stage,
I’m ready, action,
I wanna see you again some day.

As stated in his letter, Yongguk’s intent is to convey his gratitude to his fans and make a promise for the future. In the song, he asks fans not to wait for him, but promises that he will come get them back once he returns. Given his history with mental health issues, the lines reassuring fans that he loves himself and still has dreams inside of him are particularly poignant.

Lift up your head, love this song,
I’m gonna go to the bestselling author’s army,
My dream is to go on tour with Tigger,
I love me,
I’m still dreaming.

In place of the fiery orange sun, a red car breaks the natural beauty of the settings. It heads towards a distant camp, the only source of man-made light in the vast, empty beach. The use of the car is an aesthetically pleasing choice. It is a literal representation of the title of the song “Orange Drive”, and brings to mind long, relaxing drives that allow one to take a momentary break from this hectic world.

Our life, the colors are different,
Everyone’s in a rush to go somewhere,
Yeah I didn’t know,
Beamer, Benz, Bentley no no,
Running with the orange sunset, lol lo
Let’s have a drink for the past spring, whiskey
I love deeply as if it’s the last time.

The song, set against the solitude of an empty, evening beach, represents a stolen moment of stillness and calm, before one drives back to everyday reality. A beautiful trumpet dominates the tune, giving it a jazzy, bluesy feel. Underscored by a steady beat, it is undoubtedly the highlight of the song. A little like this magical shot from the MV, it has remained stuck in my head as a reminder of Yongguk’s promise to return.

As Yongguk is the first of my biases to enlist, I cannot help but be sad to see him go. Bang Yongguk and his music will be missed. Here’s to looking forward to seeing him fulfill the dreams he has, on his return!

(SBS [1] [2], YouTube, Images via Bang Yongguk; Letter translation via fan translator chadory24; Lyrics via popgasa)