Subunits are an opportunity for idols to wander down alleys that main groups do not spend time exploring. Yet, often the releases follow suit from the main group’s projects, and become mere extensions with no room for experimentation. So when Fantagio announced the first subunit from Astro, I didn’t have high expectations.

For this subunit debut, Moonbin and Sanha explore the idea of fading out bad memories that imprison us in our minds, leaving nothing but good memories to look back on. The Astro members have explained that the concept for the title track “Bad Idea” revolves around a therapist and his ability to infiltrate his patients’ psyche and alter their memory bank.

The MV opens with a series of obscure short scenes of Moonbin and Sanha in varied sets. Things begin to slow down when Sanha collapses onto the table and it becomes clear that Moonbin is the therapist at work.

Everything about the first 15 seconds of the MV points towards yet another dark concept with conventional Halloween horror motifs — from the ominously eerie bell chime that underlines the scenes, the stripped back minimalist sets, to all the stylised props.

But then, things kick off with an unexpected funky guitar riff and a throbbing bass line. The track sounds pleasantly familiar yet holds its own amidst the trend of retro funk productions. This moody vibe meets a Daft Punk-esque groove gets you inadvertently bopping along. The falsetto and the harmony of the duo’s vocals are quite unanticipated for the track. However, their voices blend incredibly well, so well that sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish who is singing certain parts.

Often, MVs with plot lines are split between making their audience work hard on figuring out the narrative or they unnecessarily spell out each detail. In the case of “Bad Idea,” the MV blends these elements well to create a visually pleasing and memorable debut.

Watching the MV with the captions on allows you to see the progression of the plot alongside the track. The lyrics are a patient’s cry for help to save him from his own thoughts. Like a session with the therapist explaining his struggles, Sanha embodies his emotions and talks about the turmoil ensuing in his head.

I think I’ve seen it somewhere, this spoiler
An endless loop of roller coaster Oh yeah
Exit that can’t be reached even if I try to reach out
I think I’m lost

As Sanha frantically gets lost in the matrix of his own mind, the opening scenes become clearer. Sanha is stuck in a loop of dreams and alternate realities, falling asleep at the bar and waking up in a boxy red room. The camera work and postproduction looping from one scene into another, encapsulate the endless and inescapable feeling Sanha is suffering from. This uneasy feeling continues through out the MV, for example, in scenes of him tossing and turning in his sleep and in shot of him wandering the hallways.

Enter Dr. Moonbin, the therapist operating out of what is set to look like a bar. He serves his clients drinks that allow him to infiltrate their minds and fade out certain memories. His character seems calm and in control as he makes his way around Sanha’s mind. Moonbin wastes no time and goes straight to work, saving Sanha bit by bit as he breaks into each part of Sanha’s psyche: escaping in the car together, putting off the fire in his red coloured room, and stopping the endless loop in time within Sanha’s mind.

The choreography emanates the same kind of smooth swagger the track serves. The first time we see the pair dancing together is during the first bridge, in a stark white room with a wide black screen that looks like a control room of a space ship. The choreography comes into full swing at the chorus with the rest of the dancers smoothly rocking to the repeated hook “Bad, bad, bad idea.” Astro members are known for their great performances, and both Moonbin and Sanha offer nothing less than expected.

At the second chorus, things escalate and Dr. Moonbin is shot down by Sanha’s psyche when he tries to protect him from himself. He floats through the space within Sanha’s mind to reach a peaceful, almost utopic, point emphasised by the greenery and the pink hued skies.

The MV comes to its final confrontation with a full-fledged bloody fight scene between Moonbin and a form of Sanha, ending with a bang(s). But never fear, Dr. Moonbin is a true professional and is two steps ahead of trouble.

From the production of the track, the concept of the plot to the MV production itself, “Bad Idea” has many standout points for the subunit’s first venture out as a duo. What stood out for me is the use of colour, light and darkness to effectively give the plot more background and detail. For example, to reel in the idea of a therapist at work, Moonbin’s bar has teal coloured walls representing openness to communication and clarity. On the other hand Sanha’s red coloured bedroom is a reflections of this heightened emotions.

The colour themes mainly lean towards a contrast of black and white tones with spots of bold colour. Mirroring the narrative, black — or the shadows — consumes colour, whereas white is representative of light and clarity and the two interchange accordingly.

The darkness plays a huge role in Sanha’s psyche. It mixes things up to create big bold silhouettes as the centre to some scenes and craftily uses light to draw attention to smaller details. It becomes a visual interpretation of fading memories in and out of his mind. With less than four minutes to work with, these details subtly enhance the experience and make up so much of the atmosphere without wasting time.

Although “Bad Idea” is not entirely original, the concept is entertaining and quite creative. It manages to move away from the performance focused MV formula that Astro have leaned towards for their last few comebacks. As the first Astro subunit, they have proved to have tons of charm and potential to be a very successful duo.

Is it perfect? No. Is it memorable? Absolutely!

(YouTube. Images and lyrics via Fantagio)