The key to forging a successful solo career after being a popular group member is simple: find out what you do well, what you distinctively, and run with it. The best of the K-pop soloists illustrate this perfectly, from the arch sexy-camp of Hyuna to the androgynous sensuality of Taemin. With his latest single and accompanying MV “Eye On You”, it looks like Wonho has been studying his seniors and has also found his lane.
Built from very similar materials to “Open Mind” and “Lose”, this MV creates a similar world of sultry grooves and tinges of darkness. The Wonho brand has now successfully been established, and gives the aforementioned idols a run for their money in terms of eroticism (at least, in K-pop terms anyway).
Saying that “Eye On You” is similar to Wonho’s second and third MV releases is almost an understatement: the three could almost form a trilogy, their aesthetics are so similar. “Eye On You” takes place on a small range of sound stages with dark colour palettes and set dressing, with dance sequences intercut with solo shots of Wonho emoting, all the while reminding us that he has a physique unlike any other in his field.
This description sits closely with “Open Mind”, the more neon-lit version, and “Lose”, with slightly more narrative scenes and rain. The outfits across all three are also similar: there are a lot of exposed chests, tight leather, harnesses and occasional lost shirts. Wonho clearly knows that his appeal comes from this merging of sexiness with mid-tempo funk-based groove, and so “Eye On You” simply becomes the next side of this pyramid.
A series of sound stages again, this time with non-choreographed scenes scaled way back to almost non-existence, the colour palette in this MV remains dark. Much like the intense themes of its predecessors, this is clearly to match the undertones of the song. Singing of obsessive lust (“I need your love, I need your touch”), it’s unsurprising that the colour scheme here is largely black, white and red.
The sets are tinged with matching computer graphics of dangling black chains, scratchy red lines and the silhouette of a forest in snow, while red string is also woven across the screen in one particular scene for Wonho to reach his hands through. The cinematography also often trips into highly contrasted black and white, echoing a kind of film noir atmosphere which again highlights a theme of skewed love and lust. None of this is a big imaginative leap at all, but it’s seamless and smoothly done.
This smoothness matches the low, pulsing synths of the song well, as does both the dancing and costuming. Again, neither of these is in anyway surprising, and sometimes is almost slightly ridiculously literal, but Wonho is not an artist who deals in the ambiguous or symbolic. He lays his skills on the table for maximum effect. One of those key skills being dance, there is a nicely soft touch to the choreography.
Here Wonho is dancing with male, female and mixed groups here, along with a brief duet with a female dancer. The moves themselves are small and fairly delicately placed: there is no jumping or intense staccato here. The song has a steady insistent rhythm and low melody, and thus the dancing is calm and assured. This atmosphere allows for perhaps the most expression Wonho has been able to add facially in this kind of mode, and it adds an enticing layer to the already sensual lyrics.
In particular, the key point of the chorus’ choreography, Wonho encircling his eye and cocking his head as he sings that he has his “eye on you”, is huge fun in how effective, yet simple it is. Probably made to suit the TikTok trends of the moment (and apparently created in part by Seventeen’s Hoshi), it’s still perfect for the song’s atmosphere. So too are the formations that dancers make around him visually dynamic and exciting. At one point, they encircle him, almost cult-like with their arms outstretched towards his central figure. At both the opening and close of the video as well, their various poses create appealing scenes that amplify Wonho’s presence perfectly, an often-necessary facet for a solo performer.
However, as mentioned above, none of the pictures or ideas that these dancing scenes invoke is particularly deep. As Wonho sings the line “Knot of sanity is broken”, the MV cuts to him all in white, covered in buckles that evoke a straightjacket, while his all-female dancers are wrapped with bandages across their face and body. The idea of ‘insanity’ is pretty straightforwardly laid out here: I can’t really see how it could be more clearly shown.
In addition, it isn’t wildly inventive to have your main performer and surrounding dancers clad in tight leather and lace in a song about painfully lustful wanting (“engrave me deep over your body”- well, if you insist). But, as I said, this is Wonho, a singer who knows that this is what most effectively pushes forward this imagery, so he’s going to do it. And please don’t think I’m complaining. There’s a reason it worked well in his other MVs and there’s a reason he’s kept it here. Special shout out to the all leather black suit with black lace shirt and matching gloves.
Perhaps the most unnecessary over-explaining of a lyric in this MV comes in the addition of some not-too-effective CGI wolves, who appear at the exact moment that Wonho starts to get mischievous.
It won’t be easy to tame me
You know I’m so savage
These wolves prowl around Wonho stalking through a black and white snow-covered forest, as his eyes glow white to really emphasise the point. This visualisation of the metaphor of someone becoming wild and dangerous with desire is not needed at all, and is indeed more effectively conveyed in the moments when Wonho simply smirks at the camera, repeating the choral refrain.
The snowy forest as a backdrop is more effective when the animals are taken out, adding a sense of barrenness that leaves a question mark as to the ultimate emotions of the song. Is it suggesting that the desire Wonho is singing of has no real life to it, no warm, breathing core of love to take the scene out of winter? It’s the most striking visual choice the MV makes, and may have been interesting to explore more.
Ultimately, the theme of “Eye On You” is quite a simple one of obsessive lustful desire, and it establishes the foothold that Wonho has on the ‘strong but sensual Adonis’ persona in K-pop. Pulling through the themes of former MVs, he understands and plays with the darkness within this obsession, particularly through the choreography. His other songs, like the upbeat “Blue” and the ballad “Losing You”, demonstrate that this isn’t him pigeonholed, but rather, finessing his signature. “Eye On You” is the sexy darkness with a smirk, and it’s intriguing to think what could come next in this cannon of work.