One of the great tragedies of K-pop is the struggles of Soyou to establish a solo career. A very talented vocalist and duettist, she has always had difficulties forging an music identity on her own, which is a shame considering she has a stunning voice. It is simply that her voice is rarely used to her best abilities in purely solo work.
That struggle bleeds through her new MV, “Goodnight My Love.” There was a lot put into this song and MV, but the word that keeps coming back when thinking about “Goodnight My Love” is “self-indulgent.” It comes across that Soyou was trying to make a poetic, artistic statement, but the song does not have the musical or lyrical punch to match it. It would have been better if “Goodnight My Love” played down to what it is.
The first thing that one notices about the MV is that it is long; it clocks in at over 8 minutes. And while the epic MV that tries to elevate itself above the limitations of the art form is something to be respected and admired, “Goodnight My Love” does not have the story to justify this effort.
The story told is effective, and really hits the emotional heart of the song. Four people — a young woman doing laundry, a struggling actor working at a fish store, and two work partners — are spending a very lonely day in Seoul. They are worn down, pushing on despite their weariness and isolation but the toll is weighing on them. However, the post-song scene reveals the four of them to be working on a new project together, allowing them to form new bonds to alleviate their internal pain.
The thing is, that story does not require the scenes before and after the song. The dialogues might provide additional context, but that context has zero impact on the emotion-driven MV. It makes no difference if the audience knows this is a professional entertainment project that pulled them together. The idea of four disparate people coming together and forging new connections does not require the why to work. The cinematography, lighting, and acting already convey this theme perfectly. And in the year 2021, an 8-minute YouTube video will get interrupted by in-video ads. Twice. Toss in the fact that only the pre-song scenes are subtitled, so an international viewer will get stuck waffling on if the woman is there in a professional role or the writers’ girlfriend until they can find a friend to translate, and those scenes absolutely do not need to be there. But they transform “Goodnight My Love” from an MV to a miniature arthouse film, so here they are.
The song itself, much like the MV, is sweet and soothing, but questionable decisions were made. A sparse acoustic piece, it really makes the most of Soyou’s talent for vulnerability, placing her vocals front and center in the mix, and she kills. Her performance is stunning, warm and reassuring as she endeavors to give her partner the emotional support they provided to her. The issue is her voice itself. Soyou has always had a touch of a rasp, but her singing has usually been airy and mellifluous. Here, though, the rasp is cranked up to eleven. It sounds like she’s trying to sing through a whisper. The end result sounds so unnatural that it brings to mind concerns of vocal damage, not emotional intimacy.
The bones of a great MV and song are there for “Goodnight My Love”. If Soyou had pushed it as simply a sweet, supportive ballad, there would be no real flaws. It would be a track that is not groundbreaking, but succeeded at being what it is. Instead, the attempts to elevate “Goodnight My Love” as something more ended up bringing the entire thing down in quality.
(Images via Starship Entertainment, YouTube)