It is said, “‘tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” When love is lost, how does one get over it?

Marking his solo comeback after three years, Yang Yoseob from the group Highlight gives us a glimpse of his mind (or “brain” as the preferred word, hence the song title) over a lost love. Instead of a sorrowful ballad though, “Brain” fuses alternative R&B and coffeeshop genres and slick choreography.

The journey into Yoseob’s brain begins with a sequence of images: an empty chair in a glass box, Yoseob floating in space, and then Yoseob lying down in what seems to be an operating room. Ironically, no wires are attached to his head such as an electroencephalogram (EEG) that is used to monitor brain activity. Instead, we see his pulse being measured and his heart rate and respiration rate dropping through the patient monitor. The scene changes and we see his silhouette amidst the flames.

Looking at the lyrics, the song vividly describes Yoseob’s torment of the memories he had spent with his lover. He tries to be distracted by the “flashy city” and “blue neon lights” but to no avail. Memories of her consume him like fire. He tries to swallow and stop his tears but the pain resurfaces.

I tried acting indifferent

But the memories that are deeply engraved in me

Tears me apart and in the end

Disappears, only leaving scars behind           

Sadly, the music video doesn’t capture much of the emotions and lyrics of the song. The limitation of the use of boxed sets is debatable as this can be due to budget constraints or be the stage in Yoseob’s mind. The glass box could represent Yoseob’s inability to break free from his memories. Whether or not the limitation is intentional or not, the interpretation of the lyrics is taken quite literally. For example, as Yoseob sings about the misery of “walking through the darkness alone”, he walks through a narrow tunnel. We see him falling into a void as if “falling into a deep pit”. Mirages of his lover appear then vanish whenever he tries to go near. 

This sadness is further pronounced with silhouettes and the lack of light and color. Some shots are in black and white. The use of silhouettes against a mirage of images could mean that Yoseob has succumbed to darkness. Light can only be seen at the end of the dark tunnel. He initially runs toward the light but stops and becomes engulfed in the darkness of his emotions. Towards the end of the music video, the tunnel and the box become warped, most likely implying that he becomes successfully sucked into the void of his thoughts.

The head-to-toe black outfit choice plays a significant role in the narrative. Black is the absence of light and a symbolic color of death, mourning, and sadness. We see most of his shots of him wearing a black shirt and leather pants. In the middle of the music video, Yoseob is clad in black and wakes up in the operating room. He is nearing his death as he has lost all will and reason to live.

With the lack of a solid narrative, the music video makes up through the use of slick dance sequences. The choreography flows from one movement to another through swift strokes and slow movements. The most impressive is wherein Yoseob dances on water. Yoseob has always been an excellent performer so to see him display his fluidity is a delight.

Is it really better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all? In “Brain”, Yoseob sings of being trapped in the memories of his lover that eventually led to losing himself.

Living in my brain
You call out to me, meaninglessly circling these memories
My heart that’s been endlessly cut
Is losing its rational, it’s going crazy

In the same vein, “Brain” gets lost in aesthetics and vision. It leaves a feeling of wishing there should be something more. It is a stark contrast from his pre-military release, “Where I am gone”, which was a brilliant showcase of visuals. It is honestly a bit of a letdown considering the poeticism of the lyrics. Whatever the reason, we can only hope that his next MV will be visually engaging while channeling the emotions of its song.

(Mayo Clinic, YouTube. Lyrics via Popgasa. Images via Around Us Entertainment)