VAV is one of those groups who have perpetually floated under the radar. They always had a decent amount of international fans, but struggled domestically, and when 2020 came and members began their military service, it felt like that may have been the end for VAV. Yet, three years and the departure of their vocalist later, VAV have returned with a new EP, Subconscious. And like most of their releases, Subconscious is a solid round of genre roulette held together by slick production and a common lyrical theme. In this case, devotion.

Devotion is a complicated emotion. When both parties in a relationship are equally devoted, it can be the thing that truly cements a bond; both partners put each other first and are fully committed to the relationship. Unequal devotion, on the other hand, is a recipe for disaster. One partner giving themselves fully to someone, irregardless of their feelings, is asking for a sense of codependency. And while the less devoted partner can likely realize it’s not healthy, it is incredibly alluring, preying on one’s need to be loved. And while at first glance, it seems obvious who’s getting taken advantage of, Subconscious highlights the subtle manipulations of devotion.

Subconscious opens with the title track “Designer”. The production is basic but serviceable, leaning on Latin influences with a bouncy groove that has just enough edge to make you want to start dancing. The vocals are the true gem, though — slick and smooth, with just the right amount of Spanish heat as VAV coo enticingly. They profess their love not as a statement, but an offer, something for this girl to take advantage of with no thought if she feels the same way. Being able to be with her is enough.

Following “Designer” is “Call U Mine”, a guitar-driven track that brings a touch of organic instrumentation against an otherwise EDM-heavy production. It’s a bit sleeker, but also brings in an edge of desperation, highlighted by the vocals. VAV are pressing their advantage, trying to persuade their crush object to accept their devotion. And again, there is appeal to this, to the promise of being adored for seemingly little effort, which VAV are starting to lean into.

Things continue in this vein on “By My Side”. Musically, “By My Side” is the most adventurous track, pulling from late 70s R&B and and disco influences for a track that is fun and bouncy. Yet it takes a darker turn, with minor keys and a distorted riff at the end to provide a sense of unease. “By My Side” sees a shift in VAV’s devotion. While before they had been offering themselves, and still make reference to running to their lover’s side, here they switch it. Now, they are demanding their lover stay by them, subtly placing themselves as the dominant power in the relationship even as they plead for another chance.

That subtle insidiousness is then amplified by the closing ballads of “Reason” and “Cause I Miss You”. The tracks are separated by different production styles. “Cause I Miss You” is an acoustic ballad, very stripped down and sparse, with emphasis on the softer vocals. “Reason”, on the other hand, is more built out, featuring both fuller instrumentation and a good use of space in the arrangement that allows the vocals to ring through. Lyrically, both tracks share the same sentiment, pleading for a lover to return to them. Not just pleading, but painting a picture where this woman is the center of their lives. She is everything, the only thing that truly matters.

Subconscious is slyly manipulative. Each track on its own is a profession of long-lasting love; harmless at worst and incredibly romantic at best. But Subconscious takes all of those songs and stacks them on top of each other. Over and over, VAV make it clear that they adore this woman and will not stop, which is darkly appealing. But moreover, they never consider her feelings. They place themselves at her feet without any regard for how that might actually impact her. And given that we live in a society where women are often taught they need a good reason to refuse a man who likes them and “I don’t want to” does not qualify, it almost creates a sense of guilt and obligation. That you have to accept their devotion or you’re a monster. And the darker edges on many of the tracks make it clear that VAV not only know this, but are actively cultivating that response. 

Subconscious is a solid EP. It’s got some good musical ideas, the vocals are smooth as silk, and the lyrics definitely help it punch above its weight class. It could stand some improvements in the production, but as a comeback, VAV have delivered another gem.

(Images via A-Team Entertainment, YouTube)