The images that frequent the MV of Ha:tfelt‘s “Sweet Sensation” seem incongruent with the title of the release. Ha:tfelt (also known as Yeeun, formerly of the Wonder Girls) lies down a lot, falling back onto her bed just after waking up, and lying with her feet propped up on the back of her sofa. Her face practically fuses with her kitchen table, even when she attempts to snack.
Spending a leisurely day at home is indeed a sweet luxury, but the listlessness that pervades the MV tells a different story, one that is especially relatable in view of currently widespread stay-home measures across the world. “Sweet Sensation” sends a message of hope that better days await, but it does so without trivialising the difficulty of breaking through a state of ennui.
Visually, two details of “Sweet Sensation” stand out, forming a contrast that highlights the MV’s ambivalent message. The MV is filled with pops of red, yellow, and orange, so bright they’re almost fluorescent: Yeeun wears a bright yellow hoodie, and there is an orange lamp and stool in her bedroom; an assortment of brightly coloured items—a beanie, cushion, luggage, even a roll of orange toilet paper—litter her living room. An orange hand towel peeks out of her kitchen cupboard, and she finds a stray orange Converse high-top, inexplicably, in her fridge.
Instead of adding cheer, the brightly coloured items heighten the visual chaos of the MV. The rooms portrayed—the bedroom, living room, and kitchen, which happen to be Yeeun’s actual living spaces—are cluttered with signs of unfinished tasks. A few pieces of clothing are strewn on her bed, either clean laundry yet to be folded or dirty laundry that hasn’t been attended to. Her luggage rests half-unpacked on the edge of her sofa, and her vacuum cleaner looks like it was abandoned midway through a cleaning session. Even quick snacks like a Snickers bar are left half-eaten on her kitchen table.
The mess around the house indicates that Yeeun’s ennui has gone on for a period of time. After flopping down aimlessly, and half-heartedly picking at a new Snickers bar, she finally seems to muster up the strength to do some cleaning. She contemplates a few outfits for going out, but decides on fancy loungewear, a hint that she’s not ready or not able to leave her house. She cleans and dances goofily as the cheerful chorus sets in, promising happier times:
Get ready for sweet sensation
Got no time for hesitation
A day of recreation
And it feels so good so good
Curiously, Yeeun seems aware that she has an audience in these housekeeping scenes. She doesn’t just sing to and point her feather duster at the camera; her activities are also shown from the angle of a CCTV camera. The idea that her cleaning is being watched by someone is open to two interpretations. Considering the current times of self-isolation many of us are grappling with, it could be a nod towards the impulse to engage in and document domestic activities to counter productivity guilt in times of self-isolation.
Alternatively, the use of a CCTV creates a sense of detachment, hinting to the viewer that what’s happening is staged. This is affirmed by the ending shot, which is a continuation from the opening shot: it shows Yeeun still sitting in bed. After a moment, she plops down and pulls the covers over her head. The great cleanup is but a fantasy, and she can’t gather enough strength to get out of bed and face the clutter, much less clean it up.
The MV’s strength lies in this ambivalence: the cheerful colours contribute to the visual chaos, but also brighten up the listless mood; the energetic scenes of Yeeun cleaning seem to indicate that she has taken a step ahead, but the ending scene reinforces how hard it is to break out of her unmotivated state.
“Sweet Sensation” shares the same subdued quality permeating Ha:tfelt’s other releases—the contemplative “I Read” and “Wander”, the laid-back, sensual “Pluhhm”, and the bizarre, retro “Happy Now”. It’s a quiet statement of solidarity that brings comfort without perpetuating toxic positivity, or worse, showing signs of celebrity tone-deafness. Someday, we’ll be back in a club dancing the night away, but for now, we can settle for goofy dancing while cleaning… or not, and just flop back into bed right after waking up. That’s completely okay.