The pros and cons of being an idol has been a topic covered by many. Over the years, idols have spoken up about the hardships of becoming an idol and maintaining their image — various idol competition shows such as Produce 101 and The Unit have taught us that. Despite covering the same topic, Zico‘s “Extreme” gives off a different feeling from the typical “it’s hard to be an idol” song.

In his most recent comeback, Zico released three music videos to promote his newest EP, Thinking Part 1. The last MV, “Extreme”, is a response in light of his indirect connection with Jung Joon-young in the Burning Sun scandal. Zico was accused by netizens for knowing the existence of as well as the contents on this supposed “golden phone that was only used for emergencies” which belonged to Jung Joon-young at the time. As a result, many fans were shocked and have decided to stop supporting Zico all together. 

“Extreme” responds to this controversy, with Zico lamenting about how overwhelming the idol life is. The MV opens with a reflection of Zico walking onto a white platform which he never leaves, thus placing him in the spotlight where he is scrutinised by all. The reflection implies that viewers never actually see him, but rather see an image of him. This is mentioned in the lyrics — he talks about the image he gave to people as a rookie, and how he sometimes regrets his past choices.

The most iconic part of the MV is when Zico raps, “What are you trying to say? / I’ve never seen a video like that. / Swear to god.”, and the camera pans out to Zico standing amongst a herd of lambs. Lambs typically represent innocence and purity, and sometimes even forgiveness. To place Zico amongst a herd of lambs while he attempts to prove his innocence through his lyrics suggests that he did not know the contents which lay in Jung Joon-young’s “golden phone”.

Another symbol found in the MV is the flock of doves that fly past Zico when he says “Sometimes I regret it”, with regards to his actions as a rookie. Doves usually symbolise love and peace, implying that all Zico wants is peace in his life, but is unfortunately unable to do so. The flock of doves come and go in a flash, conveying the impermanence of happiness as an idol.

The final shot of the video is the most iconic of all: Zico stands in the middle of the platform, surrounded by people with their phones out and taking videos of him. This is accompanied by the ending melody of the song that sounds spooky and melancholic. This creates a villainous atmosphere, almost as if he is trapped by the way society looks at him, and he cannot get out. With regards to his recent controversy, this last shot is very fitting of his current situation.

The song also has no hook, which results in the song feeling incomplete. Zico acknowledges it in his lyrics, ending the song with the line “I’ll leave the rest to your thoughts”. This takes on a nonchalant attitude, suggesting that he does not want to prove his innocence any longer and leaves his fate in the hands of netizens.

Zico has always been one of my favourite rappers, especially since he performs with such charisma that makes it almost impossible to look away. To be absolutely honest, I did not agree with his decision to address his recent scandal in “Extreme” at first. Before, I thought that he should have just left the situation as is, especially since he had already made a statement on Instagram, and typically the best thing one can do is to make a statement and let netizens find something new to latch onto. For Zico to release “Extreme” and bring this situation up again after six months had passed baffled me immensely– why would he make the conscious decision to make an artistic release if it would only invite more hate?

While it may seem as if he is trying to evoke pity for the pressure idols face in order to justify wrongful actions, it can also be seen as Zico is standing by his story and is determined to clear up any allegations against him.

As mentioned earlier, most scandals and controversies die down after an idol releases a statement and waits for netizens to find a new scandal to latch onto. After some time has passed and the idol releases music again, netizens are once again reminded of said scandal and start attacking the idols, albeit on a smaller scale. It could be that Zico did not want to sit silently in a corner and let this blow over, but rather make it clear to everyone that he is sticking by his story and asserting his innocence.

He was probably aware of the mixed responses he would get through the release of “Extreme”, thus he left it as the last music video to be released for his album. When the music videos for “Daredevil” and “Human” were released, there was not much backlash, but rather more supportive messages from fans. The controversy surrounding him was not really mentioned, suggesting that netizens had gotten bored and moved onto new controversies.

However, when “Extreme” was released, netizens were suddenly on Zico’s case once again, even attacking EXO’s Chanyeol for supporting Zico’s album. Zico did not create “Extreme” to assert his innocence, but rather to serve as a message to netizens to let them know that he will not falter despite their hate. With this in mind, the line “I’ll leave this to your thoughts” sounds provocative, and it cements the fact that Zico is not going to let this controversy fly by and act like nothing happened.

Overall, as a song and a MV, Zico’s “Extreme” is well done — the flow of the rap is easy to follow and the lyrics do make the listener think about the trials and tribulations as idol goes through. Zico definitely wanted to send a message through the release of this music video — and he sure did.

Youtube. Images via KOZ Entertainment. Lyrics translation via Gerbera Orange