Iz One, the project girl group formed two years ago by the hit Produce 101 series, are nearing their end, and no one is more aware of this fact than the members themselves. From the artistic explosion of “Fiesta” to the VFX fiasco of “Secret Story of the Swan,” Iz One have notably been going for excess in lieu of their trademark elegance lately, as if to say they still have much left to offer.
The group’s 2020 comebacks appear to be a cry for more space and time, and their latest release, “Panorama,” is no exception. Though the flashy visuals are dialed down a bit here, it’s all still somehow too much, cramming in a ton of vibrant but unrelated concepts and styles into a single video. Like the precious stones that speckle it, “Panorama” encapsulates so many things at once. Unfortunately, this loudness eclipses much of the emotional vulnerability that stands as the real highlight of the MV.
As Iz One’s possible last piece of work, “Panorama” bears a lot of pressure to mean something big. This obviously took a toll on the resulting MV, which was weighed down by many bold but incoherent concepts. Visually, it’s a vague mishmash of retro — ranging from Victorian-era costumes to 1920s architecture — that is further backdropped with outer space elements, an attempt perhaps to signal Iz One’s timelessness. The MV adopts an analog film motif to reinforce this idea along with the importance of taking in a panoramic view of the group and, if that wasn’t enough, it also references their previous work by incorporating the florals of “La Vie En Rose,” the crystals of “Violeta,” and the kaleidoscopic cuts of “Fiesta.” Just for fun, it also throws in a few chess shots seemingly to let viewers know they’re aware that their future as a group is a game they’re still playing to win.
Though this may all be a delight to fans of the group, it doesn’t resonate as well with the casual viewer. Despite their individual charms and their loose connection to time and memory (except for the chess game—that was just a flex), the visual themes and symbols fail to gel in a coherent way, and instead of complementing the song’s urgent farewell (more on that later), they take away from it. So much of it is sheer spectacle that by the time Hitomi tears up during the outro, it feels almost jarring, if not unearned, to see her do so since up until then we’ve seen very little conflict or feeling. We’re entreated to take a sweeping look at the group, but it’s hard to see the whole picture if parts of it aren’t well done, or even stitched all that well.
There are a few exceptions of course, like when we see cuts of Iz One’s always sharp and mesmerizing choreography, or when we catch the inventive transitions that manage to dazzle amidst overstuffed sequences. These welcome breaks of lightness are refreshing, but ultimately not enough to ease the heavy-handed treatment of the MV’s visuals.
As mentioned, Iz One is no stranger to the over-the-top approach, but unlike the singles before it, “Panorama” isn’t just a one-note take on love, so the extravagance that may have worked in the past doesn’t just fall flat here, it also overshadows the track’s deeper message. Upon closer look, the lyrics seem to refer to their looming disbandment, specifically to their resistance to it, and it’s a shame that the MV does little to highlight their rawness and sincerity here.
When the group sings “Our unfinished story, wonder if it’s a dream, don’t let it stop,” the MV displays a dizzying sequence that jumps in between several distant members. Rather than allowing viewers to process the earnestness of the line, they’re transported from one glitzy, disparate setting to another. This, as a result, is what many viewers take away from the MV — pretty, empty furnishings instead of vulnerable, honest lyrics — which may not have been what Wonyoung had in mind when she begged fans in the song to “Remember this forever, promise.”
That said, there are a few rare moments that actually match (or at least have the potential to match) the lyrics’ quiet despair. Hitomi’s single tear may be an obvious example, but arguably more stirring is Yujin’s passionate, unrestrained dance in an empty theater. She throws herself on stage and waits for the applause that never comes. If “Panorama” gave this moment more time to breathe, it could have been a heartbreaking scene that effectively demonstrates Iz One’s profound desire to continue performing as one.
There are other instances too, like Minju waiting for her photo to be taken or Hyewon watching memories of the group in a carousel, that could have been built up to support the MV’s old film motif and bitter farewell theme. Perhaps the best example of this potential concept being executed to perfection is the split second where Hitomi, Eunbi, Nako, and Yuri blend into the dissipating celluloid background as they hold on to Yena, who resists fading with them. “I don’t want to even miss a single small breath,” she declares while reaching out with a delicate stroke of her hand. Moments like this prove Iz One would do well, if not better, with pared-down scenes that emphasized less of their surroundings and more of their thoughts and expressions.
If “Panorama” had stuck to its art deco sets, lush vintage costumes, and filmic motif, all of which complement the song’s parting theme quite well, it could have been the perfect swan song for Iz One — poised, polished, and poignant. It also would have been a nice call back to the simple elegance of their debut MV “La Vie En Rose.”
Instead, Iz One’s producers went for blinding excess. It may have been a predictable move, but what makes it all the more upsetting this time around is that a heartfelt message was undermined in the process. In the few instances where their sincere emotion was able to crack through, their desperation was truly palpable, and their potential, powerful. One can’t help but cheer the girls on as the curtains close, even though this will be inevitably drowned out by all the surrounding noise.
(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via Off the Record Entertainment, Stone Music Entertainment)