Welcome to the tail end of July. It is the midpoint of summer, and the most light-hearted of K-pop seasons is in full swing. Every year sees the colour palette swerve to warm tones, the melodies switch to the effusively bright, and the mood to something almost aggressively sunshine. Stepping into this atmosphere is Mamamoo’s iconic Hwasa, extending her brand as one of K-pop’s more idiosyncratic women, and rapper Loco, back after a year since his last feature on George‘s “Just Like This“. 

After their second duet since 2018’s “Don’t Give It to Me”, Hwasa and Loco are back this summer with the similarly unfussy “Somebody!”. More upbeat and joyful than their first collaboration, the song is a whimsical breeze through the gentle mid-tempo that offers a more laid-back, mature version of summer, with gentle little quirks thrown in. 

With this description, the obvious choice when thinking of “relaxed”, “warm” or “fun” would be one place: the beach. In addition, the musical stylings of the song do lean in to this choice. Electric guitars jangle over a retro drumbeat, and Hwasa’s breathy vocals are given full space to shine. Surely this would perfectly match the breeze on a shore with waves softly lapping. 

Maybe so, but the setting in “Somebody!” is completely counter to this, in a way that can only be deliberate. Rather than great sweeps of nature, the primary locations of the MV are actually empty or abandoned man-made structures. Hwasa opens the MV snooping around a brightly pastel, but still slightly grimy apartment complex. The hallways are bright, but the walls aren’t clean, and the plant life outside is close to sneaking in. Other locations include a desolated swimming pool, some kind of car wash, and cement courtyards outside empty apartments. 

These locations are not completely separate from nature. As hinted at above, plant life is actually encroaching on the apartments Hwasa runs around in, and other scenes show the pair driving through beautifully green roads and flying over picturesque fields. However, there is a sharp distinction drawn between the natural and the man-made, a contrast between the two states. Echoing the song’s lyrics, this beauty beside this mundanity represents what is desired against what the narrative’s couple actually has. 

Come a long way

Even if it’s a dream

I’ll be fine

It’s so warm here

Is it dawn over there?

The beauty of nature in this MV is the “dream” for these two characters, with concrete representing their reality. This is furthered by the quirky, and occasionally even surreal moments that the MV gives us. When Loco arrives on the scene, he comes into shot on a white scooter, complete with a giant replica hamburger behind him. At various points, Hwasa rides in said burger, and the two ultimately sit in front of it whilst the whole scooter floats in the sky amid raining CGI versions of the same snack. Really. 

Alongside this more distinctive visual moment, there is a huge amount of more subtle playfulness as well. The scooter is lifted by a crane, complete with two very obviously fake fabric dummies of Loco and Hwasa. The two muck around in some kind of car wash, complete with plastic raincoats and hoses. They perform po-faced among blooming greenery, Hwasa in a huge furry hat and Loco in a helmet with a massive leaf attached in front of his face. They even play around with stickers and a sticker book; they end up sticking them on a leaf, Loco’s tongue, and even the camera lens. These moments are childlike in their whimsy, again following the lyrical nods to the innocent nature of the narrative’s relationship. 

Flowers in the Eunhaeng intersection are still blooming

I want to take off the name tag

I’ve been hiding and give it to you

Alongside this lyrical expression of nature amongst concrete, Loco and Hwasa also reference giving their name tags to each other. Whether this was exclusively a sign of romance in the zombie high school drama All of Us Are Dead, or a general trend, I’m not sure. Either way, it suggests a school-age affection that explains, or perhaps more accurately, compliments the joyful playing around that the MV gives us. 

The cinematography of these playful scenarios also adds a greater sense of cheeriness and joy than a more obvious beach setting could. The colour saturation throughout is bright without veering into cartoonish territory, with the yellows and blues turned up across the sets and costumes. From Hwasa’s orange crop top to the blues of the swimming pool tiles and the sky, these colours are delicately peppered throughout, and subtly suggest ideas of a beachscape without having to take us there. In a musical landscape (and season) where the more overtly summery a concept can be, the better, it is refreshing to see two artists confident enough to take the more lo-fi approach here. 

The composition of the scenes also adds an extra layer to the whimsy. There are many shots throughout the MV which feature either Hwasa, Loco, or both, perfectly centred, within the building backdrops of that specific scene. When combined with the almost completely square framing, a shadow of Wes Anderson‘s style comes through. Considering his work’s arch yet often comic approach, this seems a fitting visual reference. When these aspects are combined with POV shots, and even one instance of a fourth-wall break as Hwasa sticks a sticker directly onto the camera lens, the MV takes its mischievousness to a structural level. 

The overall energy of this song and MV feel very much like the big brother or sister of the standard summer bubbly pop track. With lyrics that calmly repeat “All day, I wish you to be okay”, a gentle declaration of affection if ever there was one, this is clearly a work of more maturity and comfort in its own skin. It is unsurprising that we got a song like this from Loco and Hwasa, who were similarly restrained and thoughtful in their first, though moodier, duet together. As the former is actually a rapper rather than an idol, while the latter has made one of this generation’s most successful moves from girl group member to soloist, it is clear that these two artists are at a place where the obvious or trending is just not as appealing. 

In this track and MV, the two explore innocence and light-heartedness through more subtle visual decisions (raining burgers aside). These pair perfectly with the lyrical narrative of yearning to go far away together, as well as the musical style that jangles in a happy mid-tempo pace without ever feeling the need to drive anything louder or bolder. It isn’t a revolutionary work for either Hwasa or Loco, but it is the accomplished, mature yet playful viewpoint of two of the industry’s coolest older siblings. 

(Youtube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via AOMG and RBW Entertainment.)