There are some groups that have a hard time breaking through in the crowded field of K-pop, but Laboum has always seemed to be a particularly tragic example. Five years into their careers, they’ve never managed to get that hit needed to really push them into the public consciousness. “Shooting Love” and “Journey To Atlantis” were minor hits, but they were unable to capitalize and expand on that. They have had to suffer through a sajaegi scandal and the loss of a member. Not even member ZN making it into UNI.T has given them the oomph they needed. This is all the more depressing when looking at Laboum’s discography: the music is solid. They just seem to have issues selling it.
While their initial forays into the music scene and limited successes were done with a bright, cute concept, they shifted gears to a sexier sound and image following the departure of Yulhee. Even then, Laboum stuck with a more electronic sound, preferring pop and EDM influences in their sultrier lane.
“Firework”, their newest comeback, sees them abandon the sleeker sounds for R&B and a more organic sound. It is a good change, one that flatters Laboum’s vocals. “Firework” is built primarily around acoustic guitars, snaps, handclaps, and Laboum’s enticing vocals. The verses and pre-chorus let Laboum utilize their lower registers, which is a great choice, as all five ladies can coo with aplomb. The chorus does push into their weaker upper registers, but they compensate with a sharply emotional delivery, one that lets their intentions bleed from the track.
“Firework” is a seduction song, pure and simple. Moreover, it is a specific type of seduction, one prompted not by lust but utter, aching loneliness. Laboum do not sound coy or playful. Instead, they come off as despondent and isolated, desperately coaxing their audience to stay with them. All their sweet nothings– their talk of obsession, of being unable to forget him, of clinging to their moments together– come off not as romantic but needy to the extreme. And make no mistake, “Firework” is seductive in its anguish. Laboum are offering to devote themselves to anyone willing to throw them a scrap of attention, and that level of devotion in exchange for nothing in return is enticing. Morally reprehensible to take advantage of, but enticing.
The MV follows the themes of the track, enhancing them through visual language. The most noticeable element of “Firework” is just how warm the MV is. The color palette abandons the typical blacks, whites, and neons. Instead, “Firework” is filled with reds, browns, golds, and creams, all rich and saturated. It is an aesthetic that makes the viewer feel welcomed into Laboum’s space. The lighting also veers towards warm undertones, channeling candlelight. It plays off Laboum’s seduction, painting them as attempting to create a private and inviting area, somewhere you would want to go with a pretty girl who is making the moves on you.
Much like Laboum’s vocals, the MV conveys the seductive loneliness of the track. It is a masterpiece of subtle overcompensation, piling up little things that show just how far Laboum will go for something passing as love. The sets are a hair too picturesque, too overdone and perfectly arranged to come across as a personal hideaway. The ladies’ pleading crosses the line from coy to pathetic. And there are so many flowers; crowding out the members and pouring out of frame.
They, like the rest of the MV, are a detail that is romantic in small quantities but the sheer scope gives away just how completely alone Laboum feels and how far they will go to alleviate that feeling. The choreography enhances this further, using peel-offs and solo choreography to give the illusion of each member being alone in a crowd.
“Firework” is a great outing for Laboum. All the pieces come together to craft a song that captures the isolation and desolation that pushes someone to take the crumbs of a relationship, for fear they will not get more. Laboum look and sound fantastic, and I hope this gives them the push they need.
(Images via NH Media, YouTube)