From Girls’ Generation to Kara, Apink joins the list of legendary girl groups whose careers remain active and whose music transcends generations. Aptly titled Self, their tenth mini-album explores the group’s value to their mature identity while also returning to their well-known bright image.

Taking a break from Black Eyed Pilseung, who helped the group’s music evolve, the title track “DND” is an ode to APink’s masterful bubblegum pop image. It is delightful, happy, and safe compared to their past edgy releases. Nevertheless, it is nice to see the girls smiling in the music video again!

“DND” opens with the members unhappy with their current state of life: Eunji no longer finds joy in her work as an office employee; Bomi walks cautiously on the street, fearing it would rain; Chorong sits alone outside a gallery while people clamor over a painting; Namjoo is frustrated about what to paint; Hayoung is exhausted from all the dirty dishes left to do. They all convene at Hayoung’s diner until Hayoung begins singing:

Yeah, I don’t know when was the last time

I looked at the sky (Exhausting day life)

Sometimes, eye to eye one, look in the mirror

Hmm, lips are up, show me more smiley face

The monotony of their mundane life breaks when some of the members discover a portal. Eunji sees an opening in a wall of file cabinets and uncovers a pair of sparkly boots on the other side. Chorong escapes the crowd unnoticed, only to be in a room full of candles. Only then does things start to become magically different, like the light in Namjoo’s room shifting and Hayoung’s teaspoon moving in circles. Finally, toward the end of the MV, we see the girls smiling and happy where they are.

Apink has come a long way since their debut in 2011, making their fans understandably be in their 20s and 30s. In an interview with News1, Hayoung explains that “DND” is about “going on your own way.” The song is mainly dedicated to their fans; however, the lyrics and MV extend to being relatable to any adult.

Dealing with the increasing demands of life is part of being an adult, and sadly, many of us work to live. Our joy disappears, having to go to work or go through the mundane every day. We find ourselves lost, forgetting who we are and what makes us feel alive. The self in Apink’s MV comes in the form of a candle, which can be found as a painting in Chorong’s gallery, in Namjoo’s finished masterpiece, and in the center of the table where the girls have gathered.

Candlelight in still-life paintings denotes “the inevitability of the passing of time—the longer they burn, the smaller they get until nothing is left.” At the beginning of the MV, we see all three candles still lit. However, toward the end of the MV, two of the candles are already snuffed out until the one in the middle also goes out. Other than the passage of time, the candles also represent the girls’ individual dreams. As time passes, they forget their dreams until they decide to light up their dreams again—bigger and brighter.

The members realize this themselves when they stare into the camera as if they were staring into a mirror. Bomi lets go of her umbrella as if letting go of her inhibitions and enjoy getting soaked in the rain. Hayoung creates her own definition of fun while working in the diner. Eunji lets her work mess up for a little bit of fun. Namjoo lets go of her desire for perfection, and praises and paints whatever she wants. Apink’s message is clear–only you can make your dream come true. It is only you who can live your life.

While most of the members have relatable personas, what is most interesting is Chorong’s, which arguably depicts the life of an idol. There are people holding up their phones as if taking photos of the candle painting. When Chorong tries to make her escape through a rabbit hole, she looks back, and these individuals are now facing their phones her way.

Ageism continues to be a sensitive topic in K-Pop, and the members of Apink seem to know this very well. Many of them are in their late 20s, while Chorong is already in her 30s. As the group’s eldest, she seems worried about the group’s relevance and appeal over time. Now older, the group’s image is no longer cute and bubbly as in their heyday. Unknown to the crowd, Chorong walks in with a confident smile on her face. Who cares if they are no longer K-Pop’s shiny new object? Apink will continue to march to the beat of their own drum.

It is this quiet confidence that marks the longevity of Apink’s career. While they have tried riding on the girl crush concept as part of their sound change, it is their strong sense of self (pun intended) and a loyal fanbase that make them stand against the tide of burgeoning girl groups. While “DND” may not be as impactful as their previous titles, Apink plays it safe with what they are strong at and that’s okay.

(YouTube, News1, The Collector. Lyrics by Genius. Images by IST Entertainment)