It seems that Trendz have selected their player in the boy group game by now: dark and hype. Following on from summer’s shouting and (literal) howling in “Who”, the seven-piece group return for their third single with the similarly hyped-up “Vagabond”. This song seems like a fitting marker of the place that many 4th generation boy groups are standing in at this point: there is bluster, energy, and aggression, but no new direction, just a strict adherence to (ironically) the trends of the moment.
The backdrops of the MV, though intriguing at points, are the biggest visual indication that there is a lack of originality at play. The main soundstage for the dance sequences is a dusty desert scene, a setting we’ve seen done better by groups like Seventeen. It’s a good way to combine a minimal aesthetic with something more natural, but it’s been done so often as to simply be uninteresting at this point. Similarly, the computer graphics as backdrops, from a huge Death Star-esque planet behind Leon, to the pinball machine animations looming over Yechan, are well-done, but lack a clear purpose that one might see in a group with more creative lore, such as ONF.
That’s not to say that there is absolutely nothing visually notable about the settings, particularly in relation to the lyrics that they are representing. Playing with themes of a confusion and chaos, there is a lot to work with within the song.
Cold and nothing
Falling down from it again
Circling around in a chaos
What am I waiting for
We can see this concept of chaos briefly in the backdrops, namely in the mismatched visuals of a bus interior being overgrown with foliage in Yoonwoo’s solo section. The beauty of nature in such a confined setting is striking and arresting here, and it’s disappointing that this wasn’t carried across to more of the MV to echo the lyrics’ ideas.
The other notable backdrop of the MV does a similar job of being distinctive and surreal to look at, echoing the lyrics’ talk of “never ending confusion” and a “land of no rules”. This setting comes in the final third of the MV, and gives us a brilliant white soundstage with bold turquoise blue furnishings starkly placed among it—a bin, an angled wall leading nowhere, steps on their own, a lampshade and several café tables.
After the expected 4th generation red or dark lighting that seems to inevitably accompany moodier musical styles, the brightness of this setting is especially bold and unusual. Random people, along with the members, are scattered around these furnishings, and it creates a surreal tableau that truly stands out from most of the rest of the MV. Again, it’s a disappointment that this appears so briefly, as it could have lent a much stronger signature to what is otherwise a collection of scenes we’ve seen before.
The choreography also has small flashes of innovation, though again, this is pretty much to be expected of a 4th generation group at this point: this is the era of performance over everything else after all. At the very beginning of the MV, the group echoes their move in “Who” by lifting and swinging Hankook forward, a bold and brave opener. Later, we see 4 members lie on their backs on the ground whilst the other three stalk towards the camera between them. Again, this is an unusual group arrangement that does initially seem exciting. However, much like the brief flashes of creativity in the backdrops, these moments are just that- only moments.
Much of the rest of the MV are the same group formations, high-octane jumping moves and signature arm positions (here they are crossed over the face) that we’ve come to expect. When the group clearly has the ability to move beyond this, it becomes a little frustrating to watch more of the same moves we’ve seen a hundred times before.
The fashion tells the same story. Again, it’s worth returning to the lyrics here to see the potential that’s been wasted, with the frequent mentions of neverland and mirrors.
Never ending confusion
In the mirror reflection
You can call me vagabond
Even the title of the song is suggestive of a kind of cheekiness, a sort of old-fashioned rogue with an inherent potential for play, along with the Peter Pan connection from the “neverland” reference. Though doing reflective or symmetrical clothing might have been too overt a nod to the mirrors of the lyrics, there is nothing here to suggest them beyond the usual similar palettes and fabrics in the members’ outfits for different set pieces.
We see the usual all-black combination (come on guys, hype/darker theme really does not have to equal black every single time), a white and beige palette, a red, white, blue and black leaning styling with ample leather jackets, and a denim-and-long-sleeved-shirts selection, that baffled me when I first saw it in Monsta X’s “Fantasia” and is equally baffling here. When neverland, confusion and chaos could open the door to more exciting colours, fabrics and shapes, it’s confusing that we instead get the standard issue of outfits for this hype style of song.
There is one brief moment of eccentricity that creeps in, through Eunil’s black outfit with white accents. The sharp points of his white shirt lapels are matched by equally pointed triangular cuffs, adding a touch of whimsy that is absent from the rest of the group styling. Once more, there are brief flashes, but not enough to lift the MV out of the generic.
This is the ultimate problem with “Vagabond”. None of the elements themselves (except perhaps the abundance of denim) are weak. In fact, there are enough flashes of excitement to make a case that Trendz are a rookie group to watch. However, if these brief flashes of choreographic brilliance, clever set design and good costuming cannot be brought forward to really embellish and deepen the lyrical content of their work, these boys will end up embodying their name in the worst sense. Trends are great as a basis to bounce ideas off, but here they form the entirety of the MV. Hopefully they will have the bravery to break out of this mould as they enter their second year together in 2023.