Less than two years into their debut, Ghost9 has already released their sixth EP, Arcade: V, and they even wrapped up their first US concert tour earlier this year. Now back in Korea, their latest comeback introduces their next musical series Arcade, after wrapping up their Now series late last year. As the first title track of the trilogy, “X-Ray” issues both an invitation and a challenge in unleashing passion and confidence.

Though they explained that their former and current series deals with love, it’s hard to call most of Ghost9’s releases romantic, with the exception of “Up All Night”. From their debut with “Think of Dawn”,  Ghost9 has mostly showcased themselves with hard hitting choreography and cyberpunk aesthetics. Their title track, “Control” was a shift away from futuristic visuals while still retaining the performance-oriented MVs that they have showcased throughout their short career. “X-Ray” is definitely following in those footsteps, and though confident it lacks an unique edge to label it unmistakably Ghost9.

In “X-Ray”, the Ghost9 members are brooding young men, declaring their own passion and power while almost taunting the audience that they can see the same within us. Narratively, there is not a lot at play in “X-Ray”, and instead the MV relies on several visual cues that tie into the song thematically.

The MV hints at a power imbalance between Ghost9 and the audience. As the title suggests, Ghost9 are able to see through us; they are confident and can see it in us, but we do not realize this. The MV makes use of low-angle shots to suggest the power dynamic. We gaze up at Junseong as he looks down at the camera while standing on a ramp, and a couple of scenes later we look up at Kangsung as he crouches on a dental chair in what weems like an old, abandoned hospital room. It creates a sense of them looming over us, as intimidating figures who know more about ourselves than we do.

Along with the low-angle shots, there are also many close up shots of each individual member. The number of tight camera shots explains the abundance of facial jewelry, such as Junhyung’s jewels across his nose bridge or Kangsung’s lip ring. It also heightens a sense of intimacy, as the camera travels between the members at eye level. For example, the camera seamlessly moves to focus on Prince’s face as soon as he starts his verse after Jinwoo. Even for most of the close ups, however, they transition quickly and with glitching effects, which makes it harder to look closely at each of them. Again, it highlights the hierarchy in which Ghost9 remains somewhat of a mystery to the audience. Parts of the MV were also inspired by “City of Lights” by Fivio Foreign, Alicia Keys, and Kanye West, and the homage is clear in the black-and-white shots of the members. They stand behind a glass door dripping with water that also hints at the audience’s ignorance; they stand behind a well-defined barrier that makes it harder to figure out exactly who and what their intentions are.

One of the downsides to the MV is that it is indeed hard to nail down who Ghost9 is exactly. Genre-wise, “X-Ray” is hard to categorize with their earlier releases, and it lies in a sort of muddy area of MVs without a clearly defined genre or theme. It’s also not the best release to highlight each of the members individually, and they are not allotted their own individual sets or spaces as shown in other K-pop MVs. The intro does show each one with a specific tint to their hair, for example Jinwoo with reddish brown highlights and Prince with yellow, but the colours are not incorporated into the symbolism of “X-Ray”. The setting too, presumably an old, abandoned hospital, could have been better highlighted in the MV to serve its message. “X-Ray” definitely leaves some room to grow for Ghost9 to transition into a new genre and era.

As the start to their new musical series, “X-Ray” is not the strongest start. But, with the promise of new music on the way, hopefully they are able to find their groove and explore new sounds and concepts while retaining a distinct Ghost9 identity.

(YouTube, Korea Herald, images via Maroo Entertainment)