Sometimes, a title will be cleverly deceptive. A name that sounds innocuous, or even ridiculous, can actually hide a solid gold pop hook; “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” comes to mind, for just one example, or “Zimzalabim”, for another.
Whilst Victon’s latest single, “Stupid O’clock”, isn’t quite in this nonsense language realm, it does seem to hint at a kind of silliness. After all, “stupid” isn’t the most mature word in the world. Maybe this song will harken back to the light, fizzy tone of their debut, “I’m Fine”—a kind of cute, childlike bop?
But this is where the title’s misleading nature comes into play. Rather than anything infantile, “Stupid O’clock” is a relentlessly groovy slice of funk, with a dark undertone that is amplified through the woozy MV. Filled with blurry, dreamlike imagery and unusual angles, the song is revealed as the expression of confusing, middle-of-the-night thoughts. The “Stupid O’clock” in this world is one that leads to guns, fire, smoke and confusion. Far from anything cutesy, this is Victon taking an intriguing left turn in the presentation of an angsty, possessive love song.
The most striking aspect of this video is its cinematography. There is a particular section, featuring a barely distinguishable Chan, obscured by deep red lighting, blurred bulbs and windows. The camera moves from side to side, and people cross the camera so closely as to, again, become obscured. This section in particular feels like K-pop nodding, once more, to the work of Wong Kar-Wai, and it is far from the only filmic moment in the MV.
The angles in this MV do suggest ideas and structure in the narrative, though it is not clear to exactly what end on first viewing. We see shots from the floor, looking up at Subin as he kicks a key across a red carpet to Sejun; almost hand-held wavering behind Hanse as he swaggers dangerously around a luxurious dinner party; and even upside-down shots of Sejun in front of a burning car.
The whole MV is widescreen, and is filled with both close-ups and wide shots. All of this brings a sense of life to the camera and thus the perspective: as an audience we are being encouraged to, quite literally, look differently at these members in these scenarios. Whilst the reasoning behind these choices isn’t instantly apparent—why is Sejun upside down, lyrical mention of a “tilted moon” aside?—they are visually striking, a move away from a lot of the common K-pop format.
Another interesting decision is that the MV waits until the second chorus to give us a group dance shot. Up until this point, the members are shot almost entirely solo, which, whilst fairly standard practise for K-pop MVs, is normally edited between more grouped images. The decision to leave the first half of the MV sparser in this sense is also arresting. We are waiting for a dance sequence, especially in a song with such a striking hook, but we see each member in isolation instead. The shots of said members are almost blurred and obscure in their own perspective. Altogether, these sections also add a sense of oddness.
To top all of this strangeness off, the backdrops of the MV are often cloaked in darkness. Taking place entirely indoors or at night, there is ample use of shadow, and blasts of light sources such as fire, to create the MV’s setting. For example, as one of the climactic shots, the group is seen running down a road bathed in a deep red from dozens of lights on the floor. This alternately creates an intense colour-filled screen, or long silhouettes of the members, depending on the angle of the shot. It is distinctly a darker-toned colour palette, and, yet again, one that seems to obscure rather than reveal.
This obscurity clouds the narrative that there is in the MV, bringing into question of exactly what this is, and why it is so murky in its presentation. The general theme is some sort of art heist, beginning with Seungsikeyeing up an elaborate necklace on a marble bust as Hanse disperses the crowd with gunshots. We later see this crowd running out of a fancy-looking building, followed by our members running down said red street, before the final shots show Byungchan gripping something jewellery-like in his hand.
However, these scenes are fairly randomly dispersed, with angles that make it difficult to ascertain exactly what is happening and how it connects to the other moments in the MV. Aside from Hanse’s focal moment with the gun, where his confident rap from atop a richly laden table is pretty hard to miss, these scenes could almost pass you by if you were focussing on the visuals, strong as they are here.
But is this a flaw of the MV? When we reconsider the title, these disparate elements all seem to fall into place. As highlighted throughout the lyrics of the song, we are in the time of night, sleep, and the dream world here:
I’ll make you dream all night
You can’t run away
You’re caught, stuck in my arms
This temptation is so deep
Tearing through all of your subconscious
Until the sun rising
On a simplistic note, this gives an explanation to the literal darkness of the MV, but it also explains the sense of strangeness—the “subconscious”—throughout the visual presentation. This MV is a representation of the haziness that we experience deep at night, maybe when sleeping or maybe in between sleep and waking. These are the ways thoughts work in the “Stupid O’clock” hours. Unclear narratives, unusual perspectives and striking lights and shade are all things that could be associated with dreaming, and they are cleverly realised here on the screen.
The only point where Victon miss in this well-thought-out MV is in their styling. As well put-together as the main dance outfits are, the combinations of black and white, the use of harnesses and strategically-placed rips are pretty much standard-issue for darker concepts in boy group performances these days. It would have been exciting to extend the dreamlike possibilities to the fashion of the video, perhaps in an unusual colour palette or more atypical clothing shapes. Perhaps these choices are meant to not distract, as the rest of the MV’s normcore styling certainly doesn’t. But it could have been exciting to see.
This minor setback aside, “Stupid O’clock” ultimately explores the meaning behind its strange title in a subtly clever way. Undercutting the funk of the song with a woozy, dark little dreamscape, Victon add intrigue to their latest title track. It’s a sideways, blurry-eyed look at how to do groove pop. Whilst not delving into absolutely every corner that it could to be experimental, this MV takes enough of an interesting side step to create a cinematic oddity to add to their catalogue.
(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via IST Entertainment.)