All eyes will always be on an artist’s next move following a huge success. When that success was the artist’s very first song, the curiosity is only more intense. Will they veer in the opposite direction, desperate to show some variety? Will they fear change and replicate the same formula as closely as they can (looking at you, Momoland)? Or will they be clever enough to find the middle ground, remembering what worked for them, but without ruining the magic that caught the zeitgeist? 

When it comes to rookie girl group Ive, these questions have clearly been pored over and considered well. Their debut in December 2021 with “Eleven” was a massive hit, scoring 13 wins on music shows and cementing its place as one of the most successful debuts of all time. Strong on melody and memorable visuals, along with the in-built support provided by the presence of former Iz*One members Wonyoung and Yujin, the track was the right mix of catchy and unique. April sees their follow up with “Love Dive”, a similarly infectious song with a lot to love, though without the distinctive touches that elevated “Eleven”. 

Telling a fairly commonplace tale of yearning and curious love, the MV for “Love Dive” structures itself around knowing symbolism, styling, and choreography, along with sumptuous backdrops. Although the release never fully manages to make it out of the shadows of its big sister, the overall effect is engaging and exciting, making for a strong and effective first comeback. 

Set in a luxurious mansion and its grounds, “Love Dive” drops its main motif immediately: that of Cupid and his arrows of love. The girls sit among four gigantic neon “heart-arrow” sculptures, before we see rows of feathery costume angel wings. In the first verse, Rei appears as the archer herself, complete with a quiver of gaudy arrows headed with love hearts. This particular symbol is peppered throughout the backgrounds of the MV, from the cushions on the sofa that Wonyoung sits on, to the decorations hanging from the ceiling in the interior scenes. There are also feathery wings that adorn the flying car that the girls ride on during the song’s chorus. It’s not subtle–the god of love is at the forefront of this MV’s visuals. 

However, as consistent and delightfully camp as these visuals are (what is more camp than bright red hearts and feathers?), there doesn’t seem to be a strong commitment to any meaning behind them. Whilst it could be argued that there isn’t really a meaning to be found, it is slightly disappointing to see Rei’s characterisation as a Cupid figure lead nowhere—this motif is purely aesthetic, adding nothing more to the lyrics’ central “love dive” idea. 

This unexplored potential is heightened by the chorus’ reference to Greek mythology through the line “Narcissistic/My God I love it”. It feels like there was a missed opportunity here to really play with the symbolism of these two mythic figures. However, if we think back to the campiness of the symbolism, we might see that this reference to narcissism takes a similar playful approach, as revealed by the choreography. 

As the main point of the dance during the chorus, this particular line is accompanied by the girls using their hands to represent a compact mirror, staring at themselves as they sing about their curiosity in their attraction. This is about as clear a visual representation of narcissism as possible, to the point of being slightly ridiculous. Similarly, when singing the line “you into me, me into you”, the girls literally point at each other in pairs, another delightfully literal choreography moment. This literality gives the cupid symbolism a more knowing edge; this MV is not about exploring these symbols in depth, but about using them to have fun. 

This sense of fun is carried over into several of the MV’s set pieces. As mentioned above, certain soaring sections of the song’s chorus are accompanied by scenes of the group in a winged open-top car, flying through pink and coral clouds. The closing sections of the MV also see a fairly typical K-pop confetti party take place, amongst effects of shooting arrows, bright costumes, and yes, many heart balloons. There is even a heart-shaped pool. Much as the choreography of the song is not designed to dig deep into the idea of yearning love, so too do these backdrops demonstrate a light-hearted, arch approach that is pitched well for the nature of the track. 

Nonetheless, there is a sense of creative flare missing here, one that was strongly present in “Eleven”. This was most visually distinct in the group’s styling for that MV, particularly their all white suits with one elbow-length, royal blue velvet glove. Not only was this a bold styling choice, but it also made their armography stand out significantly during the dance sections. In “Love Dive” this inspired styling is distinctly missing, and the costuming instead ticks off a more standard list of K-pop trends.

School uniforms? Check. Jewels plus leather? Check. Sparkly monochromatic looks? Check. The styling could have leaned into the cartoonish nature of the heart motif to emphasise the campiness more, or, alternatively, the Greek God theme could have been considered if the production team were looking to create a more dramatic undertone. Even the feathers of the wings seemed an easy material to incorporate into outfits, but this did not happen. 

The styling makes clear nods to current fashion trends and viral moments, but in following rather than leading, these fall flat. One of Ive’s sets of outfits includes what appears to be a modified version of the iconic micro mini Miu Miu skirt, a wince-inducingly short pleated affair in sandy tones. Even for K-pop this was apparently too mini, so it gets lengthened here, losing what made it distinct (despite giving the girls a lot more safety). The outfits in the dance break are Calvin Klein bras under cropped white shirts, baggy cargo pants, Nikes and a belly chain: another look that it’s not hard to see all over TikTok or Instagram explore pages. Given that this group has shown the public far bolder and more iconic looks, this styling seems especially unoriginal, and undermines any potential for the costumes to highlight the song, which their debut achieved so well. 

That is not to say that “Love Dive” is ultimately a failure. It is dealing with a larger, almost retro soundscape–the echoing vocals and pounding synth around the “love dive” refrain are the peak of this–and so there is necessarily going to be a difference in the MV’s presentation from its predecessor. It is in its campy elements and committed set pieces that it succeeds the most in striking forward in a new direction. As the crucial second step in Ive’s career, “Love Dive” is well-crafted and has potential, but misses out on hitting its targets in terms of creativity. There is great set up here that does not always end in great delivery. But if Ive can move forward with the originality of “Eleven” and the knowingness of “Love Dive” together, their future work could combine into something ever more dominant in the K-pop scene.

(YouTube. Images via Starship Entertainment.)