It’s no secret that retro has been having a big moment in K-pop. With retro- and disco-inspired melodies and beats making their way into several of the top releases of 2020 and 2021, it’s only natural that more artists continue to follow the trend, even if doing so is outside their usual comfort zone or genre of choice.
Taeyeon, SM Entertainment soloist and leader of Girls’ Generation, is the next to hop on the disco-pop bandwagon with her new digital single, “Weekend.” Known for her powerful vocals and willingness to traverse different genres and musical stylings, “Weekend” isn’t an entirely unexpected release from the singer. Her most recent title track, “What Do I Call You,” was a slow tempo, R&B-influenced song, and her previous releases have explored genres like alternative rock and acoustic ballads.
“Weekend,” on the other hand, is an upbeat, airy, disco-meets-city pop track perfectly suited for the summer (and the weekend, as its title suggests). Backed by retro synths and a groovy guitar beat, Taeyeon sings of escaping the repetitiveness of daily life during the weekdays and doing as she pleases “when the weekend comes.”
The track itself isn’t anything groundbreaking, and potentially risks getting lost within the slew of other retro-inspired releases from the past year, but its MV pleasantly and unexpectedly showcases the retro-ness of the song beyond just its sound to expand upon and cleverly illustrate “Weekend”’s simple meaning.
The MV immediately kicks off with a diegetic scene to throw viewers right into “Weekend”’s retro cinematic universe. Taeyeon, fitted in a bright red, vintage-looking Chanel jacket, listens to the beginning of “Weekend” while seated at an office desk in front of an orange iMac G3 from the late 90s. The track itself, which is playing from a cassette tape in the MV, suddenly stops as a hand reaches down to press pause on the cassette player. As the song stays paused, freeze frames of other office workers performing mundane tasks are shown, and the camera pans out to reveal Taeyeon still seated at her desk, looking around at the frozen-in-time coworkers surrounding her.
Before the song itself resumes or even really begins, the MV for “Weekend” already wholly embodies the retro feel of the track through evocative costumes, sets, and props, such as the 90s-era iMacs. The beginning of the the track also sounds like it’s being played from a cassette tape, so the choice to have the song be diegetic and play on an actual cassette tape within this first scene in the MV exemplifies “Weekend”’s nostalgic atmosphere loud and clear.
As the MV progresses, it incorporates and vividly emulates the feel of different decades and eras, again through costumes, sets, props, and even color, to provide a contrast between the different verses and lyrics within the song.
For example, during the first instance of Taeyeon singing about wanting to go wherever and do whatever she wants during the weekend, the MV is set inside a mostly purple, almost cartoon-like plane. During these scenes, Taeyeon is dressed in a pastel pink, 2000s-era outfit reminiscent of an Elle Woods getup from Legally Blonde. In an even more obvious callback to the movie and the early 2000s more generally, Taeyeon also wears a blonde wig, and even uses the same orange clamshell MacBook Elle Woods uses in the movie later in the MV.
The closest beach, my own theatre
It’s okay to do whatever I feel like
I’ll go on a drive, it’s okay to just walk around
I’ll just leave to wherever my feet end up oh
On top of showcasing multiple iterations of what it means to be “retro,” Taeyeon’s costumes in “Weekend” also emphasize and match the song’s lyrics describing the freedom allowed by the weekend. Throughout the MV, she plays dress-up to match and mimic the feel of each decade featured, whether it be the early 2000s with her blonde wig and monochrome pink outfit or the 50s with her perfectly curled hair and tea-length dress, quite literally “doing whatever [she] want[s]” by pretending to be in another time period.
As the song continues, the MV flashes between Taeyeon singing and dancing though these distinct eras at a faster pace than at the beginning, blurring the lines between each time period more than before.
The lines between work and play are also blurred, as in the later office-set scenes Taeyeon and her officemates set their work aside and dance around their old computers under colorful confetti and twinkling lights. The gradual increase in decreasing the distinction between each retro time period and work and play further emphasizes the song’s message it doesn’t matter where anyone is or what they’re doing, so long as they’re enjoying the “Weekend.”
To top it all off, the choreography in “Weekend”’s MV showcases one last and final iteration of the word “retro.” As part of the point choreography and while dressed in her several decade-spanning outfits, Taeyeon grabs her ankle and sways her arm to the flow of her light and breathy vocals. In several of these choreography scenes, Taeyeon and her backup dancers perform against a simple backdrop of pink, fluffy clouds, emphasizing the choreography’s simplicity so much so as to even make a subtle callback to the simplicity of second generation girl group choreography.
Despite the MV’s unmistakably retro feel, there are still some elements that feel ironic and out of place. For example, in one of the office scenes, Taeyeon sings, “The reason I keep going is for a little fun / Continue up up up going higher” within what looks like a modern, multi-person video call on a computer desktop screen. The CGI’d, animated view of the outside of the purple plane doesn’t quite match the other visual elements of the MV either, but these aspects aren’t overpowering or distracting enough to completely throw the MV off its course.
“Weekend” doesn’t solidify a musical or visual niche for Taeyeon. Instead, it proves her ownership and prowess in a unique arena — her ability to be a musical and visual chameleon and show her many shades, sides, and versatile facets. Retro or not, 2000s or 50s, with “Weekend,” Taeyeon proves she can make any style her own.