Whenever a group debuts a subunit whose sole apparent purpose is to be the complete inversion of their parent group, one cannot help but raise a few eyebrows. Such was the announcement of WJSN The Black. As a whole, WJSN’s image is best described as fantastic, light, and very pink; and they have owned it. If someone was looking for airy, surreal, hyperfeminine synthpop music, WJSN delivered quality goods. WJSN The Black promised to be the opposite, yet many who try this tack tend to go too far in the other direction, rendering the subunit unrecognizable as an aspect of their larger whole. “Easy” however, avoids this issue, by only swapping two out of three characteristics.
As an MV, “Easy” is fairly grounded. An homage to 90s erotic thrillers, criminals Exy and Bona are attempting to thwart the investigation of Seola and Eunseo, with enough simmering sexual tension to make Sharon Stone jealous. Truly, this MV is best described as cross of Basic Instinct and “be gay, do crime.” And it works. All four members easily inhabit their seductive personas, allowing the sense that this is not a game of cat and mouse, but a chess match between two equally capable sides. This sense is only heightened by the realization that all four pulled off the heist, with Seola and Eunseo destroying the evidence and riding off into the sunset with the others, and revealing that everything prior had been a well-orchestrated ruse.
“Easy” is also very dark. Much like the neo-noir films it pulls from, “Easy” is drenched in black, white, and shadow, from sets to lighting to costuming. The choreography has a darker, more sexual bent to it as well, taking advantage of the styling placing all four in pantsuits to incorporate more floorwork and more risque moves. The end result is something dark and sensuous, the bitterness the appeal rather than the deterrent.
Yet, what “Easy” remains is light and airy. WJSN The Black eschew the parlor trick of going for the lower ranges to add instant sexiness. It is still recognizably WJSN at the core, falsettos and delicate vocals just as present. Rather, the sexuality comes from the performers themselves. The vocals are extremely breathy, borderline gasping for air, and paired with languid held notes that dip just at the end, all played against a rougher, thudding instrumental. The end result is something suggestive and provocative, but it never quite crosses the line into blatant sexuality. This is hyper-femininity doing sexy and it is magnificent.
That is what makes “Easy” work so well when so much could have gone wrong. “Easy” is a celebration of sexuality, all kinds equally valid. The MV appears to be setting up a dichotomy: the traditionally feminine sexuality of the criminal duo vs the more masculine styling of the police. It appears to be elevating the latter over the former, especially given that the group shots all four are dressed in suits. Yet, the reveal that all are working together for crime make this a false dichotomy as they are all the same. Bona’s chocolate eating is just as valid a move as Eunseo’s tugging on her tie and rolling up her sleeves– both well-established seduction tactics, neither superior for being typically masculine or feminine. What matters is that it works for the person doing it.
If there is any negative to “Easy”, it has to be the editing. The story shots are shown in an anachronistic order that can make it tricky to follow to the story completely. That is, unless you happen to notice the captions giving the locations and shot order. One the one hand, this is very helpful and lessens any confusion. On the other, I cannot help but feel that re-editing the MV in a more coherent fashion should have been the go-to option, but maybe there were time constraints.
WJSN The Black is the best type of subunit — one that showcases a new side of its members, while still being recognizable to the existing fans. That aside, it is also an excellent release on sexuality and gender norms, paired with one of the sexiest tracks of the year.
(Images via Starship Entertainment, YouTube)