After 11 months since their last comeback, NU’EST finally dropped “Inside Out”, the title track of their second full-length album. The “Inside Out” MV is a testament to the group’s accumulated experience of nine years, showcasing their solid dancing, vocals, and even acting. At first glance, the MV can be described as a quintessential K-pop MV, sticking to shots of members singing at the camera and displaying the choreography in between.

But is there more to the MV on closer inspection?

The title track “INSIDE OUT” is a Chill House song about facing the end of a relationship and trying to come to grips with reality, but ultimately giving into honest feelings and returning to love that’s waiting.

MV’s description on Youtube

Essentially, “Inside Out” is a song about the complex emotions of breaking up, and the underlying dominant longing of reconciliation. The song starts with the catchy lines of the chorus—”You’re the one that I want. You’re the one that I need. Don’t wanna be free.”, at once capturing the listener’s attention musically and conveying the song’s main theme of longing.

As a Chill House song, the song is easy on the ears. There is no dramatic dance break, rap break, belting high-note, or beat drop. Instead, the members pull their weight vocally as they play with the melody during the verses—Minhyun‘s and Baekho‘s gentle high notes, together with JR‘s rap add a nice variance in between the choruses. The chorus’s simplicity along with the addictive onomatopoeia makes for a catchy singalong. Yet the song’s overall musical simplicity could go both ways depending on the listener’s preference—a subtle, catchy song to groove to, or a monotonous song with little highs and lows.

This simplicity extends to the song’s lyrics. It conveys the thoughts about leaving spoken-out loud verbatim and contrasts them with the passionate longing for the lover that while hidden, surfaces eventually, as portrayed through the motif of running (think, every K-drama reunion scene). Other than that, the words paint several images of loneliness, such as keeping a lover’s birthday as the password to the door. Yet on the whole, the song is straightforward without much emotional lyrics.

Where the MV shines, is in its visuals, as it serves as a complete treat for the eyes with its effective camera work that transitions to each member and the brilliant set design. The colorful sets are distinct for every member and every member interacts with them in an interesting way that contributes to a subtle narrative. Ren‘s scenes are the most literal, as they depict an argument or break-up with his lover. Meanwhile, Minhyun’s game of billiard sets forth the symbolism of the 8 ball, which travels to Aron‘s set and appears on the ground of the boxing ring that JR shares. It also appears on one of the dominoes that Ren plays with, which is another motif that recurs throughout the MV. The repeated motion of the falling dominoes and the falling 8 ball that is pocketed too early seems to suggest a fixed cycle of falling that the members are unable to escape from, possibly symbolizing the feeling of loss or uncertainty that continues to plummet further after a break-up.

According to Minhyun, the dominoes could also represent obstacles in a relationship:

With dominoes, when one of them falls everything else falls down too. During the journey of looking for romance, we all experience various failures but NU’EST members are running towards romance despite those failures. I think that’s what the members inside the dominoes represent.

Yet at the end, Baekho smashes the 8 ball and Ren stops the dominoes from falling with a separate domino marked with an 8, possibly suggesting putting an end to this endless cycle of indecision, failures, or loss, whatever it may be. The members’ acting and interaction with the set complements the song’s message, as similarly, its chorus speaks of the lover making a resolute conclusion that he wants to reunite with his other half, in contrast to the verses that drift in between yes and no.

The MV’s use of a striking red and blue in its color scheme could also indicate the hot and cold fluctuation of indecisive feelings, again complementing the song’s message.

Another highlight of the MV is the choreography, that while simple, the members execute with charismatic expressions. This along with the Renaissance-style architecture in the backdrop, makes the simple choreography stand out in grandeur. In terms of expressions, JR’s crying scene notably sells the emotion of loss after a break-up.

In summary, NU’EST’s “Inside Out” MV is simple at first glance. It can even appear generic, with its camera shots featuring members staring at the cameras in colorful sets, typical of K-pop MVs, and its simple lyrics and melody. Yet the MV makes up for this visually by highlighting the members’ expressions, chic choreography, and introducing a subtle storyline through symbolism and recurring motifs that complement the lyrics of the song. At the end of the day, it really boils down to the viewer’s preference on whether the MV captures a subtly dramatic and catchy song or a monotonous and generic performance.

(Youtube (1)(2). Images via Pledis Entertainment.)