The past three years have not been kind to second generation K-Pop girl groups. Like dominoes spurred by inactivity, contract non-renewals, and member departures, Kara, Rainbow, 4Minute, 2NE1 Miss-A, Dal Shabet, Spica, Sistar, Wonder Girls, Secret, T-ara, Hello Venus and Nine Muses have disbanded one after the other while After School and Brave Girls remain on indefinite hiatus and the future of both Girls’ Generation and f(x) remains a question as several members have left the company but not the group.
Brown Eyed Girls (BEG) seemed headed for the same fate as they had been on hiatus since 2015’s “Basic,” and member Narsha left the group’s label last year. Though the members assured fans Narsha would be part of future promotions, there were still doubts as to whether Narsha’s commitments would allow her to do so.
Brown Eyed Girls however, have sung these doubts lullabies from their newest album, Re_vive, and effectively laid them to rest. Moreover, they further tucked in these doubts by coming back with two title tracks, both punctuated with extremely original and aesthetically-pleasing MVs, “Abandoned” and “Wonder Woman.”
Throughout their 13-year career, Brown Eyed Girls have experimented with different sounds, be it ballads (“Cleanser Cream”), electronica (“Abracadabra”), or even disco (“Brave New World“), and released compelling, narrative-driven MVs that features themes of resistance and rebellion (“Sixth Sense”), cheating and revenge (“Abracadabra” and “Kill Bill”), or are straight-up action short films (“Sign” and “Kill Bill,” once again).
“Wonder Woman” is a testament to both how far Brown Eyed Girls as artists have grown and changed, as well as how far societal attitudes have, too –though the latter have changed a little too slowly for my liking.
The MV creates the atmosphere of an eerie wedding party with its opening shot of a bride and groom wedding cake toppers, followed by another cake with “Until death do us part” iced on it. However, rather than opting for the scorned bride trope, the MV subverts viewer expectations and gender roles however, by having the members dress up as “grooms” in dark suits. Their blushing brides — though a more accurate description would be heavily contoured brides — are Kim “Nana” Yongrong, a prominent South Korean drag queen, and the members of Neon Milk, a Korean queer collective.
Drag queens in Korean music videos is not exactly new. Mamamoo‘s 2016 MMA performance, Girls’ Generations‘ “All Night” MV and AoA‘s recent Queendom performance all featured drag queens and , who stars in “Wonder Woman”, has previously also been featured in Holland‘s “I’m Not afraid” MV and Woosung‘s “Face” MV. What makes “Wonder Woman” different, however, is that this MV centers on them rather than use them as decoration around their idol centerpiece. Though often times the drag queens do surround the members, the members interact and flirt with them, be it leaning against them, winking at them, or booping them.
The member’s exaggerated make-up combined with their dark suits brings to mind gothic heroes, while the drag queens look like ethereal beings in their white wedding dresses. The changing pink and blue lighting highlights the fluid concept of gender, while the gilded and maximalist set of the MV echoes the flamboyant and grandiose nature of drag, and the “Wanted” posters for Jack, a secondary offender who indirectly kills by “spreading discrimination, disgust and fake news” speaks for itself.
The MV’s inspiring and intelligent music video is complemented well by the song. Like the rest of their Re_vive album, “Wonder Woman” is a remake of a song previously sung by another artist. This song in particular was sung by Jo Won-sun for the 2003 film, Spring Bears Love. The original song is a medium-tempo jazz song that heavily features brass instruments, and is reminiscent of a song sung in the lounges of hotels in old American movies with its piano interlude and a backing chorus.
The Brown Eyed Girls kick it up a notch by beginning with heavy drums, vocalization, and a rhythm guitar-based beat to exude a disco sound that transports the listener to a club in the mid ’70s with harsh neon lighting, bodies clad in reflective clothing, and tall platform heels — not unlike the ones Neon Milk members wear in the MV.
The song’s lyrics, which are about loving someone so much that they inspire you to be and do better better, seem a bit odd when juxtaposed with the MV at first.
My head is a bit slow
But when it comes to ideas for you
I can think of endless things, I become a genius
However, they aren’t really because there is nothing dictating that the members and the drag queens aren’t in love — they are getting married after all — except our own assumptions, which is exactly what the MV wants us to challenge.
“Wonder Woman” is a visual and mental treat whose every aspect — be it the cast, their costumes, the set, the lighting, and the makeup — inspires warmth and wonder from the watcher. The MV’s originality solidifies the Brown Eyed Girls’ rightful status as icons and leaves me anticipating for what they release next.