Since the break-up of her group, Yubin has released an interesting and diverse series of singles. Her latest, “Perfume”, sees her both return to the retro-inspired sound she thrives in, while simultaneously shifting her tone as a performer. “Perfume” is not simply Yubin as a bad girl, but a villainess.
On first glance, “Perfume” is a bright, splashy MV, loaded with neon in a riot of color. Much like an actual perfume commercial, the visuals are surreal and hyperbolic. There is a definite sense of having a concrete story — the men, the bath, the swaths of empty perfume bottles– only to have it buried underneath the quick cuts and inverted camera angles, all while distracting the eye with shiny baubles. “Perfume” crafts an aura of glitzy luxury, diamonds dripping off Yubin’s wrist, feathered 80s hair, flowers, sycophants, all to please Yubin. The entire MV shows Yubin in a position of power and wealth, and savoring every moment of it.
Yet, there is a distinctly sinister undertone. The lighting is vivid and intense, but centers on Yubin in such a way that it makes the darkness and shadows surrounding her all the more noticeable. Her nails, while stunningly painted, are crafted into talons. The color palette, while full of pinks and blues, lacks any warmth, giving “Perfume” and Yubin herself a cold, detached look.
The song ties into the sense of glamorous danger. The MV and track complement each other flawlessly. The frenetic pace of the drum rolls picks up the speed of the cuts. The twinkling, almost chinzty synths that back the chorus match the tone of the diamond and crystal glinting across the screen. The frantic 80s mania pulls the audience in, willing them to simply go along with the chaos and enjoy the dazzling fun of it all. Most notably, Yubin herself is underplayed, her vocals almost buried beneath the instrumentation, as if to soften any danger she poses.
Which, back to the MV, is quite a lot. The concrete story buried underneath the 80s luxury is revealed in the last moments, but is instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with a different perfume — the novel and later film adaptation of Perfume:Story of A Murderer. Yubin is not merely a bad girl, rebelling against society, or a villainess, doing morally ambiguous things to ensure her own success. She’s a serial killer, luring men to her, then killing them and distilling them into her many perfumes.
What’s very striking is how Yubin’s murderous activities are not portrayed as evil, but a reclamation of power, simply by switching the genders. Her cavalier attitude towards wealth, power, lust, and murder, is far more typically associated with men. Similarly, “Perfume” paints men with the same disposability that is often tied to women. Lyrically, Yubin mocks the men who flock to her for thinking they are special, when, in reality, they are nothing more than fleeting amusements who exist to make her happy. There is also a distinct lack of sympathy for her murder victim, implying that by wandering off with any pretty woman, he was asking for whatever happened to him.
This gives Yubin’s serial-killer status a borderline-aspirational bent. In a world where women are still commonly expected to give more, change more, and do more than a male partner, Yubin gives an image of a woman who does as a man does. She only cares about herself, treating anyone else as lesser. She has no fear walking along a dark street at night because she is more deadly than the male. She does whatever makes her happy, regardless of the harm it does, and suffers no repercussions for any of it. Yubin as a murderess paints the idea that women can have the kind of power, control, and authority that the patriarchy has used to suppress women for centuries. You simply have to cross the lines that keep you from said power.
“Perfume” is an excellent MV and song, allowing Yubin to flaunt her skills as a singer, rapper, and performer, embodying an image of dangerous glamour, and reminding the audience that the only thing stopping you from becoming a killer, a heartbreaker, or a queen is yourself.
(Images via rrr Entertainment, YouTube)