Kang Daniel made his comeback this week, with a full-length album after a little over a year away from music. The soloist’s last release ‘Antidote’ was a deep dive into his darkest times and promise of better days to come. Just as he and his fans had hoped, “Upside Down” is indeed a brighter and much more cheerful look for Kang Daniel.

The idol explained at the press conference for The Story that the song is about uplifting yourself on days when nothing seems to go your way. He did admit that when he finds himself in one of these days, he tends to let go of what he can’t control and focus on other things.

The track carries exactly that energy and has an uplifting yet relaxed vibe. It’s the kind of track that would get listeners’ bopping their heads while cruising through on a drive (Just as Kang Daniel intended).

“Upside Down” is a light, mid-tempo pop song with hints of R&B influences. It effectively uses the hollowness of its verses and layers percussions in its pre-chorus building up to a crashing chorus, while maintaining its fluffiness. The uplifting vibe of the track stems from the buzzing bass and constant chants of “Hey!” in the chorus. It’s simple yet compelling in giving the song a fuller, more satisfying flow.

The MV opens up with shots of Kang Daniel with bright orange hair dressed in an oversized green sports jersey walking into a barbershop. From the offset he is in the way of others or bumping into people. He struggles to settle in one place and to find where he can take up space.

He begins to sing about how he is constantly told he’s doing the wrong thing or is in the wrong space. The world around him seems to be out of sync with his rhythm and he doesn’t understand if it’s only him experiencing this.

The MV is shot mainly in a barbershop, a laundry mat and on a rooftop car park with a few other short clips in other locations. None of these locations are particularly original to K-pop MVs, but the way in which the camera navigates around Kang Daniel in each shot revitalises the MV’s overdone concept.

Throughout the MV he is essentially finding his rhythm and accepting that although some things won’t go his way, he’ll continue to create his own way even if he seems to be going backwards or even side ways in some scenes.

In each shot, the camerawork and various angle choices drill in the idea of changing the world to match Kang Daniel’s new perspective: “turning upside down.” At some points, Kang Daniel is walking on the sides of the buildings or hangs upside down from a marquee.

Living upside down is Kang Daniel’s way of letting things go. He continues to enjoy his new perspective by nonchalantly dancing to the chorus on a rooftop car park with his back up dancers in some scenes and amidst BMX riders spinning their wheels around the car park.

Another constant in the MV is the theme of contrasts: daytime and nighttime, up vs down, Kang Daniel against the rest. The displacement and the feeling of being just off kilter for a moment can feel like everything is going wrong. The production of the MV does well in capturing this with smooth transitions vibrant colour grading fluid camera angles.

What’s enjoyable about this MV is that no part of it leaves the audience confused as to what Kang Daniel is trying to communicate. For example, the choreography is not complicated or particularly innovative. However the theatrical elements with the backup dancers reiterates the essence of being out of place amidst a crowd and trying to make sense of what is going on. Plus it’s fun, light and replicable by fans.

In comparison to his more recent releases, ‘Upside down’ is brightly lit with neon lights, vivid colour contrasts and trendy street styling.
It’s essentially about getting a hold of his life again. Throughout his short career as an idol Kang Daniel has faced many instabilities and endured tough times and that is reflected in his previous work. It seems that things are feeling more stable and he is able to start a new brighter journey of self-exploration through different a lighter lens on his life.

(Tong Tong culture YouTube. Images via Konnect Entertainment)