Struggles of toxic relationships have recently been a recurring theme for Kpop soloists. From Taemin’s alluring “Criminal” comeback to Sunmi‘s feline-inspired “Tail” and now to Wonho’s latest MV “Lose”.
On the 26th of February, Wonho made his third comeback with his second EP Love Synonym #2: Right for Us’ spelling out his struggles with mind games in relationships and eventual heartbreak.
His title track “Lose” is a mid-tempo electro-pop song with elements of retro funk vibe. The sound is in line with his “Open Mind” comeback but leans more towards its dark attitude. It is subtle and clean in execution, making for an easy electro-pop listen.
The track eases listeners in with a stripped-down soft guitar during its verses and pre-chorus, building on to a funky prominent bass and drums that underline the track. Things gradually progress to include dramatic synth and strings to amplify the drama in the MV giving it a seductive edge.
Although the track feels like an easy listen, “Lose” takes on themes of darkness and toxicity, presenting an array of imagery and settings that reflect this state of mind. The MV opens up to a scene of Wonho in an editing room cutting through film reels and reliving memories. It then quickly transitions to him aggressively dancing in water with the backup dancers, all dressed in water-soaked see-through white shirts and tight-fitting black leather trousers. The scenes switch again to a set decorated with orange and blue-checkered walls and flashes of Wonho holding on to his love interest as the ceiling begins to crumble around them.
The MV tries to hammer in the themes of destruction of their relationship with scenes of Wonho falling off huge collapsing buildings and dissipating figures of his love interest.
Following the build-up of the track, the MV progresses from a slower transition between slick choreography and black and white scenes of reflection to flashing imagery of dark rooms, CGI of smoke skulls, and heart-like machinery.
The constant torment and angst are doubly stressed with flashing imagery of a bed of black skulls, menacing silhouettes, and shadows behind screens reaching out to drag him back in. Wonho struggles to get out of his lover’s mind games and ultimately escapes both the mental and physical shackles (and his shirts).
In an attempt to hammer in the struggle and angst, the MV can feel overwhelming at times. The way in which the scenes snap back and forth between images that may have no direct relation to the narrative–other than adding to the dark and ominous motif–comes across quite sporadic and cluttered.
One other factor that added to the confusion was the difference in the lyrics for the Korean and English versions of “Lose”. The Korean translations of the lyrics hint that he had escaped and is winning by keeping her out of his thoughts. As she returns to draw him back in, he warns that she would lose her own mind games. In the English version, despite all of his best efforts, he finds himself losing and unable to keep away from this toxic relationship. “I’m stuck in the middle of your maze. But you love to keep the chase, oh why (why)”.
Technically speaking, both translations are applicable to the MV’s plot. However, as a non-Korean speaking fan, it was confusing hearing him sing English words and not seeing them appear in the subtitles. (This could just be me reading too much into it).
Despite the brief confusion, this comeback is undeniably strong and memorable enough to propel him further. One of “Lose” strengths comes from its groove and its easy listening nature. Its progressive and simple structure wastes no time to experiment with sounds that could add a ‘Kpop edge’, but focuses on consistency of what it’s already serving. With that said, Wonho seems to hold back and maintains a tamed vocal performance. This could be to keep the intended mood of the track, however, there are moments the track could have benefitted from a strong vocal climax.
The ex Monsta X idol didn’t hold back, however, when it came to his outfits – or lack thereof. His physique, choice of clothing cuts and materials served as a focal point to the MV visuals and certainly added to the drama of the MV.
Since leaving Monsta X, Wonho has taken to carving out his place in the industry as a solo Kpop artist. With his last comeback “Open Mind”, he managed to brush away any doubts in his ability to hold his own as a force to be reckoned with in the Kpop industry.
Since becoming a solo artist, the ex Monsta X star has been offered room to showcase his song writing and producing talents in his EPs and express himself to fans and anyone who would listen or watch. “Lose” is another strong comeback for Wonho, securing his place as solo artist that is here to stay.
(YouTube, Colorcoded Lyrics, Kgasa, images via Highline Entertainment)