NU’EST‘s K-pop career has been a rollercoaster ride. The quintet from Pledis Entertainment came out swinging with their impressive debut “Face” in 2012. They gained attention from member Ren‘s gender-bending androgyny, their strong choreography and their “urban electro” sound. However, NU’EST soon became synonymous with untapped potential and mismanagement. They were shipped off to promote in Japan, China and elsewhere overseas while their company began focusing more on its younger groups, Seventeen and Pristin.
NU’EST seemed doomed to disband until the members made the bold choice to participate in the hit survival show “Produce 101.” The five-year industry veterans humbled themselves to compete alongside rookies much younger than them. The Korean public and international fans alike rallied behind the group’s story. Vocalist Minhyun was ultimately voted into the final lineup of Wanna One, while the remaining members successfully promoted as NU’EST W in his absence.
The four-member subunit got their first music show win with “Where You At” in 2017, five years after NU’EST debuted. Upon Minhyun’s return, the group got their first music show win with all five members with 2019’s “Bet Bet.”
After more than seven years, NU’EST have finally carved out a place for themselves in K-pop. Perhaps this is why, for the first time in years, the group has a colorful, cheerful, and relaxed concept with their latest comeback “Love Me.”
For newer fans who only know NU’EST as brooding, dark, mature, and serious, “Love Me” is a stark change of pace. But for longtime fans, the deep house track is a satisfying return to the whimsical, romantic side of NU’EST that the group displayed in past title tracks like “Sleep Talking” and “Love Paint.”
The song’s lyrics, which Baekho and JR helped write, are about taking a risk and diving in deeper to a relationship to unlock its possibilities. But this message could also apply to NU’EST themselves. The group put themselves out there, daring to express their shortcomings and failures on a TV program in order to get another chance:
Miracles can happen when we uncover
Your deepest secrets and your wishes
Get close to me now, on my mind
I just want to dance with you
On this empty street
Just be brave
Hold my hand, express yourself
If you want to find another side of yourself
The first few seconds of the video immediately establish a clear vision for the world of NU’EST that rapper JR literally holds in his fingertips. Rather than the suits and chains of their last few comebacks, they’re cozied up in sweaters in warm autumn earth tones and sipping hot drinks topped with cute cat-shaped foam.
The electric piano, lively whistle hook, key choreography point and background humming effect of the song itself combine like the ingredients in Ren’s blender to create something both bright and rich, both crisp and comforting — almost like an apple pie.
“Love Me” is the lead track off of their LP “The Table,” and the MV communicates the group’s intent behind that album name. A table is a place for gathering, where friends and family can relax and enjoy good food and each other’s company. In the video, NU’EST show their playful sides and enjoy literally sweet moments together sorting through sugar cubes, baking in the kitchen and snacking at the movies.
On top of the imagery of tasty treats, the MV has a deeper storyline. Through the video, the members are creating their world by telling their story. In the opening tableau with Baekho and Minhyun, the pair are surrounded by plastic bags each containing a planet, a world of possibilities.
A wall opens to reveal JR filming them. He continues filming Ren cooking in the kitchen, then Aron is shown with a stack of old audio-visual equipment, including a microphone and television. JR fidgets with a massive, old computer then jumpstarts their vintage car, sending them first to the drive-in movie then directly into the movie screen itself, leaving “Back to the Future”-style tire tracks in their wake.
After landing in a dreamy landscape in the sky, Baekyo takes a scoop of clouds that turns into popcorn. He takes it back to his waiting members at the drive-in, where they eat, drink, and kick back to enjoy watching themselves on the movie screen. In this movie within the video, the guys dig into five scrumptious-looking pies and set off confetti poppers. The “real” members watching themselves at the drive-in soon find themselves surrounded by colorful confetti as well.
The video for “Love Me” symbolizes NU’EST’s successes both on-screen and off. The members put in hard work and creativity to film a movie that shows them riding off into the sunset and enjoying the fruits of their labors. The fantastical version of their cinematic success story has giant eggs, flying cars, and magic clouds.
But at the end of the day, NU’EST are more like the down-to-earth version of themselves at the drive-in where they calmly sit back and enjoy the product of all their hard work. The MV has many fun, visually impactful moments, but the most heart-warming one of the whole video might be the members smiling and patting each other on the back for a job well done. Their risk in telling their story paid off. After years of hustling and struggling, NU’EST certainly deserve a moment to enjoy their hard-won success.
(Youtube. Images and lyrics via Pledis Entertainment.)