For those who missed it, Top Media debuted a new boy group, MCND, short for “Music Creates New Dream”, in February this year. Although Top Media is a middle-tier agency, most K-pop fans would have heard of at least one of their groups, Teen Top, 100% and Up10tion, which recently sent members Kim Woo-seok and Lee Jin-hyuk to Produce X 101 to great success. Coming from this lineage of long lasting but middle-tier groups, MCND has a long and tough road ahead to success in the K-pop industry. A strong start would help the group gain attention immeasurably.

Fortunately, the group’s debut “Ice Age” and first comeback, “Spring” successfully showcase an intriguing and distinct energy. This isn’t stand-out music, but the releases are consistent in emphasis, sound and concept, and show that MCND has a clear idea of what it wants to showcase to its early audience. Without greater exposure, it is difficult for the group to be noticed on the back of these releases alone, but it is enough to make the viewer/listener want to keep an eye out for their next release.

What’s immediately apparent when one clicks “play” on the MVs is the theme: weather. Released in April as spring sets in, “Spring” clearly picks up from where MCND’s winter debut with a song clearly referencing the cold weather in its title, “Ice Age”, left off.

True to rookie form, both are introductory songs, and pull off the type of normally cringe-worthy concepts that only a rookie group could pull off. “Ice Age” announces the member’s names (Castle J, BIC, Minjae, Huijun and Win) in its lyrics, and their intention to be hard as ice against all hostile forces. It is pretty funny to watch the members fiercely declare in the song’s hook,

You can’t break us,
Welcome to the Ice Age.

But they are serious about it, and the listener wants the rookies to do well, so it’s hard not to root for them despite the silly-sounding English lyrics. Just in case the message wasn’t clear enough, the MV for “Ice Age” features numerous scenes of the members dancing in (artificial) snow. “Spring” keeps up this explosive energy, but takes the boys into warmer weather.

Opening the MV with a shot of an airplane flying high over some buildings, the song’s lyrics now declare MCND’s intention to go higher.

We’re just going up
I don’t need a descent win
We gotta feel the thrill

Going up, up higher up
Gather together, let’s burn this night ya ya ya

We’re not afraid to go higher

In keeping with the theme, the members of MCND are almost always at a height in this MV. For most of the MV, they are shown sitting, standing and/or dancing on what appears to be a rooftop with railings. In other frames, they are on a container. Height is indicated in yet other ways, such as when leader Castle J is shown sitting on top of a basketball ring, or when BIC hangs off a ladder, or even when in the classroom, the outline of a plane files by outside.

Just like the MV for “Ice Age”, the color palette pops blindingly out of the “Spring” MV. Outlines and contours of objects in the background are decisively distinguished by the contrasting colors they adorn — even though in such shots, the members themselves are less distinct. Having a clear, sharp background and less focus on the members is an interesting directorial decision, and not necessarily a good one since it doesn’t serve any noticeable purpose. Thankfully the MV makes up for it with plenty of close-ups of the members and their cheerful expressions.

Additionally, while the lighting suggests it is a sunny day, the MV is pre-dominantly blue, indicating that the members haven’t entirely moved out of the Ice Age (winter) just yet. Perhaps MCND will release their next single in the summer, and we will finally see a change in the pre-dominant color palette.

What’s more, just like the artificial snow in “Ice Age”, this too is an artificial spring. Unlike most MVs that accompany songs with the word “spring” in their titles (e.g. Golden Child‘s “Spring Again” and N’Flying‘s “Spring Memories“), the members of MCND are not surrounded by the great outdoors. Instead, the MV is set in predominantly in what appears to be a school. The costumes include school uniforms, and the sets include a classroom and a basketball court on the school’s rooftop, with tennis rackets and other sports equipment in the background. In other words, other than in comparison to “Ice Age” and the timing of the release, there’s nothing particularly spring-like about “Spring”.

Feels like looking down from the sky
Small buildings are musical notes
Feel the rhythm.

The focus instead is on height, and on creating a youthful, refreshing and boyish vibe that gives the group its own identity. This is aided in part by the school setting, lyrics that include a hashtag and the careful, occasional use of special effects to insert hearts, smileys and English lyrics into the MV.

#Fire Burn the night Private zone
You’re my VIP, come on.

Musically, “Spring” has a sparse instrumentation with only a singular noticeable synth melody, and its focus is largely on the boys, with an extra emphasis on the rap. Even the vocalists seem to be partly rapping their parts. This seems surprising, until one looks at the members’ positions. In a departure from the usual composition of a K-pop group where vocalists dominate the numbers, three of five members are rappers and only two (Minjae and Huijun) are vocalists. “Ice Age” was similar in its focus on rap, and if the two releases so far as well as the group’s composition are any indication, perhaps any future summer release will be too.

It is precisely this emphasis on rap that promises to set MCND apart from its peers. For instance of 2019 and 2020’s popular boy group debuts with five member groups, TXT makes no distinction between its rappers and vocalists while Ab6ix and Cix have two rappers each. Oneus has two rappers of six members, and Cravity has two rappers among its nine members. Clearly, MCND is trying something different with its member composition alone.

Only the future will tell whether the group can deliver interesting concepts, good music and memorable performances, whether its rappers can hold their own against competitors in other rookie boy-groups, and whether MCND can catch the K-pop audiences’ hearts despite coming from a smaller agency. However, their releases so far bode well. The concept behind “Ice Age” is amusing, the hook to “Spring” is surprisingly addictive after a few listens, and it is nice to see the group attempting something a tiny bit unconventional. Nothing stands out just yet, but it is different enough to start building a distinct brand. It will be interesting to see what MCND next declaration will be (hopefully in the summer).

(YouTube; Lyrics via lyricskpop; Images via Top Media)