Hi Cutie are back with “Gray Area”, which is a title that implies a total lack of color. Despite this, however, the first noticeable element in their MV is the explosion of vibrant colors. While these bright colors keep up with the energy of the song and the group’s identity as “cuties”, they seem to contradict the title of the song. At first glance, this contradiction may seem like an oversight, but upon looking at the lyrics, it is the colors in the MV that convey the meaning of the song.
In order to accurately look at its meaning, the title of the song must first be defined. Luckily, throughout the song, Hi Cutie give this definition for us: the “Gray Area” is defined as being stuck in a place of ambiguity, which coincides with the Korean title of the song, “Ambiguity”. One of the recurring lyrics from the chorus is “Not start, never ending just, do anything”, which is an apt description of what it feels like to be in a place of ambiguity. In addition, through their lyrics and dissatisfied mannerisms, Hi Cutie portray this “Gray Area” as undesirable. One lyric in particular, “Remove everything that’s ambiguous, choose something different”, directly describes the undesirability of ambiguity.
The bright colors of the MV help reflect this message. While the “gray” of “Gray Area” is monochromatic and uncolorful, when it is paired with vibrant colors, greater attention is drawn to this juxtaposition. This combination further implies and draws attention to the undesirability of “gray”, or, of ambiguity. By extension, it also implies the desirability of color. In addition, the consistency of color throughout the MV reflects and creates consistency in the meaning of the song.
Hi Cutie are from a relatively small entertainment company, and as such, their MVs tend to have a home-produced quality. The equipment they use and the production value of their MVs are not as high as you might see from bigger companies, which is evident from the number of pixels you can see in “Gray Area”, as well as the simplicity of the sets and props. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but in this case, the ways in which the group decided to add color to their video accentuates the home-produced quality of it.
The most noticeable and consistent bits of color in the video are the block color transitions, present from the introduction of “Gray Area”. These transitions are very clean and unpixellated. Again, while this is not a bad thing in and of itself, the clarity of the transitions only serves to accentuate any moments that are unclear in the rest of the video, whether that be due to pixels or blurriness.
The other way that the MV consistently uses color is through colored lighting and filters, which is an interesting effect; however, its execution in this MV backfires. The filters simply highlight the pixels, while the colored lighting makes it hard to see the members’ faces clearly. Between the transitions and the lighting, the overall effect of the use of color to portray meaning in “Gray Area” is that the video seems to focus on the colors, while the members seem more like an afterthought.
So, does that mean that “Gray Area” uses too much color? Well, not really. The lyrics say that being in the “Gray Area” is too much; therefore, to accurately reflect this message by using color and to counteract ambiguity, at least this much color needs to be used. However, because of the aforementioned home-produced quality that follows Hi Cutie’s MVs, rather than focusing on bringing this blast of color through transitions and lighting as they have, it would have been better to follow a different approach. There are a few scenes where they have colorful sets and use colorful props, which have a great impact and do not detract from the quality of the video. Perhaps creating more scenes along those lines would have resulted in a video that looks higher quality and would have made Hi Cutie the focus of the video, while still conveying the artistic effect they so cleverly constructed.
Another confusing element is the lack of choreography in the MV. Many K-pop MVs, especially those accompanied by upbeat or fast-paced songs, include choreography as a staple. Its absence, in this case, is evidently not due to any lack of choreography attributed to “Gray Area”, since Hi Cutie released a dance practice video for the song. Looking at the dance practice video, the choreography is not by any means unimpressive. Perhaps this is a creative choice, in order to include more scenes that display the meaning of the lyrics. However, if the intent was to focus on meaning through lyrics while completely abandoning choreography, it would have been more impactful to create a compelling storyline for the audience to follow, as BTS have done in their popular release and stellar example of a video shot in such a style, “I Need U”.
As a K-Pop idol group that is still very slowly rising in popularity, the need for choreography in such a video is critical. From a marketing standpoint, since Hi Cutie are not as well-known, it is important to remind potential audiences that its members are, in fact, K-Pop idols. One way to do this clearly is by including choreography in their MVs. In addition, when comparing “Gray Area” to Hi Cutie’s previous discography, the need for choreography in this video, in particular, becomes evident. Many of their previous releases exhibited a similar, child-like style — that is, up until “After Winter”. As a song that focused on ballad-like vocals, the video for “After Winter” did not have any choreography, but it showcased that the members of the group are maturing, as are their vocal skills. “Gray Area” is a song that showcases this maturity in a different fashion, with a much more upbeat style that makes you want to dance. It would have been very impactful to see the maturity of the members’ dance skills in this MV, considering that we saw the maturity of their vocal skills in the last one.
All in all, despite some issues in clarity throughout the video and some questions about choreography, Hi Cutie once again popped in to say hello with a wonderfully cute and relatable song. If you’ve ever felt stuck in a place of ambiguity, sit down and watch these cuties break down the “Gray Area” for you. They’ll reassure you that you don’t need to “worry about something so vague”, no matter what concerns you have in life.
(YouTube, images via Space Music Entertainment)