Mamamoo‘s Wheein returned with her second single, “Goodbye” a year after her debut as a solo artist. Where “Easy” was a pop-influenced R&B track featuring Sik-K, “Goodbye” is an emotional balladic song that resonates the pain of a bittersweet love.

“Goodbye” is pretty minimal in its production. Wheein’s vocals are mostly paired with a light piano melody, and there’s a slow but gradual introduction of percussions which build up the track.

For most of the song, the music video seems predictable. The supposed ex-girlfriend sweeps through her house, evoking past memories of her relationship as she empties out the belongings of her lover, veering between bouts of happiness and sadness. The video appears to be pretty vanilla, and is a simple accompaniment to Wheein’s strong vocals.

“Goodbye”‘s music video has been directed appropriately to match the delivery of the song. At the start of the song, where there is little instrumental in the background, the video emphasises on the colour white. White represents wholeness and completion, along with the idea of starting anew; the song is paired with this concept of a beginning a new phase of life, giving the viewers a bittersweet experience. Heartbreak can be painful, but it’s necessary to grow and develop. There’s always a silver lining.

When I first met you,
the heart-fluttering memories,
they’re as clear as yesterday,
so they won’t get erased.
The “you” I knew,
it now feels like a lie.
I can’t trust it anymore,
let’s break up.

The lighting of the set was done in a way to give off a moody and melancholic feel that Wheein was going for in “Goodbye”. With a prominence in the usage of whites, the highlights of the visuals were brought down to give a delicate look to the video, just as one would be after a break-up.

There was also a purposeful blur vignette added to some scenes, almost as if to give it a dream-like quality and for us to get the impression that the whole narrative almost isn’t real, and this starts to make sense towards the end of the video, where the lead actress’ persona shifts in demeanour.

This change is accentuated by a colourful painting, which acts as a trigger for the ex-girlfriend. Not only does she vandalise the painting, she puts on a darker dress and a bolder lipstick, a direct contrast to the white dress and nude make-up she had on at the start of the video. The vocals and instrumentals also start to pick up in pitch and intensity to bring the viewers’ attention to the climax.

Instead of gently handling appliances, she destroys the living room. Rather than just tearing up or looking out into space, she’s shown to be breaking down and inconsolable in her crying. This is when the small clues start to make sense. In our heteronormative interpretation of the video, viewers would expect the ex-girlfriend to be torn up over the loss of her boyfriend.

On the contrary, it’s revealed that the lead is hung up over her ex-girlfriend and/or crush, and was not getting rid the things that belonged to her own boyfriend, but those which belonged to the boyfriend of her crush. The storyline is eerily similar to K. Will‘s “Please Don’t“, and that’s because both videos were directed by Hong Won-ki.

The emotional turmoil that the ex-girlfriend experiences to see is aptly paired with a belt in vocals on Wheein’s ends, and it highlights the internal chaos she feels to see the love of her life be with someone else.

While it’s commendable that Wheein and her team have put out a video that shows acceptance of bisexuals and lesbians, it can be noted that the narrative is slightly off-putting: does the lead actress break into ex-girlfriend and/or crush’s house to lie in her bed, wear her clothes, and eat her food? That’s a tad too Goldilocks and sasaeng-ish for my liking.

It’s also been theorised that the painting ⁠— which was initially in the shades of the colours of the bisexual flag ⁠— was vandalised by the lead actress with the orange colour to make it representative of the lesbian flag. While one can understand where the sentiment comes from, it’s objectionable that a rejection or break-up should lead to the invalidation of one’s sexuality. The lead literally changes the painting so that she feels better, but I don’t feel better about that.

Am I reading too much into it? Probably.

It’s still exemplary that directors like Hong are putting out LGBT-centred videos out into mainstream K-pop, especially with a generation that values liberation of sexualities.

The video also brings a sense of normalisation and realism about the stories of queer people. By letting people fall into the common notion of a heterosexual relationship, the viewers relate and understand where the lead’s feelings are coming from. With the reveal at the end, it’s difficult to take away the feelings of empathy just because their love interest happens to be of the same sex.

Moreover, instead of a happy ending, the lead actress walks off crying, and the ex-girlfriend/crush is left staring at the couple photo of herself where her boyfriend is painted over. Although it’s getting better, many queer folks in traditional Asian societies stick to heteronormative couples because it’s safer, and same-sex couples often break up. The ending is realistic, and perhaps that’s why it would resonate that much more with people who may have experienced the same.

It’s the narrative of the video which saves and sells the song. Wheein’s vocals are praiseworthy, and her solo projects so far have let her explore and establish a voice we don’t hear as much as in Mamamoo’s projects. “Goodbye”, though, fails to set itself apart from a numerous other ballads out there, and it can be swapped into or out of almost any Korean drama that may be gracing the screens.

It’s an interchangeable track that relies immensely on Wheein’s performance to set itself apart. While the singer does bring intricate emotion and variation to her vocals, the instrumental and melody leave it hanging as just another ballad amongst numerous others. As Autumn approaches, there’ll be many others like it.

Nonetheless, the track and video do help in establishing Wheein as a solo act, and it is a wonderful ballad, despite being bordering on the side of dull. Even though “Goodbye” lacks in uniqueness, it expands the depth of Wheein’s personal discography. I only hope her future personal projects, even if they’re ballads, drive towards a production like “Da Ra Da” or “Angel“.

(YouTube: [1] [2]. Lyrics via: Color Coded Lyrics. Images via: RBW)