The terms ‘streamlined’ and ‘stripped back’ bring to mind a sense of minimalism that doesn’t really sit well with the typical idea of K-pop. This is the genre of the spectacular, the bright, the frenetic, no? Surely minimalism is simply a single acoustic guitar or a lone piano? Especially in the summer season, the stereotypical ideas of K-pop singles are as far away from this as possible.
However, in Up10tion’s latest single, “Spin Off”, we get a track with all the energy of summer, and a fresher definition of the streamlined and simplistic. This is not minimal in the most literal sense, but instead a song that trims off all fat and excess to reveal a lean dance-pop triumph. In its design and structure, the MV mirrors (often literally) this song’s straightforward mode, focusing the energy of the group forwards with a bold aesthetic.
Perhaps the most notable element stripped back from “Spin Off”s MV is the narrative, conspicuous here in its absence. Of course, not every K-pop MV has a rich and interconnected storyline, but the trend toward this has definitely not budged in recent years. Here, the MV is mercifully free of any dramatic arc to read into, or angst to unravel. We are simply left with group and single member shots, showcasing collaged moments of dance, singing and rap that direct attention squarely at one thing: the song.
As the video opens, a mere three seconds of Kuhn walking into frame pass before the song bursts into its chorus, and we see the members dancing together. As the song itself continues into a joyous burst of synths, underlying disco funk guitar and beautifully rich vocals, it clearly stands as a track meant for dancing and entertainment. The lack of storyline to the MV is an intelligent choice to highlight this. Whilst there are a few moments that may be supposed to symbolise something deeper (namely floating rocks around Hwanhee as he stands on a table), the fleeting nature of these, and their position later in the video, do not end up distracting.
And what can you do when you don’t have a narrative to push in your video? You can push your aesthetics instead. This is where “Spin Off” makes its best choices as an MV, opting for three main visual techniques: monochromatic sets, neon lighting, and reflective surfaces. All three of these techniques have their basis in lighting, with the monochrome effect of various shots created largely by the lights used.
For example, one of Gyujin’s solo sections is tinged blue by neon tube structures that he lies among, while Kogyeol walks along a hallway glowing green under similar ceiling lights. These effects create shots that fill the whole frame with block colour, giving the overall video the feeling of boldness. Our eyes are hit with one solid colour followed by another, almost like a patchwork or mosaic, that suits the bold strokes of the music. This is not a song filled with intricacy or flourishes, and so the use of colour in the video is not one of fussiness either.
This striking lighting and use of block colour is given more dimension by the consistent use of reflective surfaces throughout the MV. Whilst this might seem to be a flourish that would make the visuals more complex, again we see here a use that leans instead towards creating a more unified, arresting image. Reflections first come into play briefly in Xiao’s solo sequence, with the walls reflecting the rich citrine colour that lights the shot. However, it’s in the first chorus that we see the most impressive use of mirrors. The group dances together in a vast domed hall lined with mirrored tiles, creating a sense of magnificence and scale as well as, once again, emphasising the colour scheme of the shot- a pale blue in this instance.
As the mirrors in this video seem relatively free of symbolic significance, they can instead act here to create a nice visual texture. This is done through layering, with surfaces reflecting various lighting designs, duplicating and extending patterns in a geometric fashion. This is a nice visual mirror of the rich vocal layering throughout the song. Alongside this, structures such as the aforementioned neon tube sculptures, or the swirling cascade of metal poles behind Xiao as the video opens, add to a sense of simple but pleasing aesthetic patterns. Again, it is a simple technique, but one that works here in the distinctiveness of the displays it creates.
We see yet more boldness in simplicity in the styling of the members throughout the MV. Much as “Spin Off” is a song free from unnecessary flourish, so too are the outfits worn by the members. With lyrics singing of “instinct digging in”, “the climax of the senses” and “forget[ting] everything I used to be”, we can read a sense of the elemental, or stripped-back, at the song’s core. Whilst the visual representation of this is centred around the monochromatic sets and lighting, the outfits also follow relatively straightforward templates.
The two main dance sequences of the MV see the seven members clad first in all white, and then in all black with blue accents. Whilst there is adventure in these outfits—mesh, leather gloves, and a particularly distinctive crop top from Sunyoul—they are relatively minimal by K-pop standards. Mostly matching, less layered than normal, and in the most binary colours of black and white, these group outfits again allow a sense of unison and focus on the core that is the track.
The styling outside these two group moments remains understated- even the closing moments of the MV see the group in suits that are mostly muted in tone and pattern. This paired-back styling allows the song and MV to break free of any attachment to a specific musical or aesthetic genre. Much as the track is a pure slice of dance-pop, eschewing any move into dark, hype or cutesy styles, so too are the outfits free of these constraints. Flourishes and intricacy, be they in setting, fashion, or music, can pigeon-hole artists into certain interpretations. Taking that out of the outfits, and entire set design, allows the song to take full prominence, free of genre-specific requirements
In “Spin Off”, Up10tion have created an upbeat slice of strong, undiluted dance-pop that bounces and soars happily away from any of the more specific trends of K-pop boy groups. This sense of boldness and directness of style is matched perfectly in an MV that uses the boldest colours in the palette, filling the frame through the deceptively simple tools of light and mirrors. This is MV is sleek, stark and striking, allowing the group to best showcase the strength and joy of their latest work.
(YouTube, Images via TOP Media).