As they approach their two year anniversary, Ive has become one of the most dominant girl groups in the industry. From their debut “Eleven” to their previous title track “I Am”, Ive has established an image for the group as rich, elegant, and confident young women. 

“Either Way,” an emotional ballad from their forthcoming album I’ve Mine, marked a transition away from their signature style. The second single, city-pop track “Off the Record”, bears some in its more subdued sound, look, and greater approachability. While in a music video like “I Am” with the Ive members are strutting down runways or dancing on the wings of a private jet, “Off the Record” depicts more relatable experiences, namely friendship among young women and desire for love.

It’s not clear yet how well “Off the Record” will resonate with audiences who are accustomed to the more confident and glamorous Ive. “Either Way” deviates from the Ive formula but tackles criticisms the members have faced, making it poignant for those familiar with the group’s experiences. “Off the Record” does not have this touch point.

“Off the Record”, however, is a song that displays Ive’s versatility, as it comes between the affecting “Either Way” and more hype girl crush sound of their forthcoming title track “Baddie.”  Fueled by a groovy bass guitar, “Off the Record” is mid-tempo, yet simultaneously upbeat. The breeziness of the song suits the members’ airy vocals, which come together in layers and harmonies. 

Meanwhile, the music video for “Off the Record” is accomplished and creative with its dreamy and nostalgic aesthetic. The video has greater focus on storytelling than their earlier MVs, which had many scenes focused on choreography (“Off the Record” has none). Beginning with an instrumental recalling “Memory” from the musical Cats, the “Off the Record” MV initially has a gauzy, warm, but slightly desaturated look. The first shot shows spinning, and several seconds later, the members are shown sitting in a circle, spinning a bottle. This opening imagery resembles slumber parties filled with “late night conversation.” 

The video also presents individual members in their own scenes, each conveying a different experience with love. As in “Love Dive“, Rei appears as a Cupid-like archer figure, but here she wields a crossbow and successfully hits her targets. The Cupid imagery also surfaces in Gaeul’s story, in which she wears a veil and imagines kissing a young man, shown in silhouette with an arrow in his back. She later sits forlornly in a diner while he kisses another woman, and so her story comes to represent unrequited love. Wonyoung also spots a “target” whom she watches through a telescope, but she hides away, particularly as experiences a literal earthquake of emotion that loosens dust from the ceiling and sends a glass of water crashing to the floor. Liz, meanwhile, daydreams while sitting on a swing or twirling an umbrella with apples on it. 

Images of apples run throughout the members’ stories. In one scene, Leeseo plants a glowing pink seed; she prays and hopes until it grows into a full apple tree. Yujin, playing a young woman who spends her nights in a closed, empty market, is accompanied by a large, glossy red heart with an apple stem. The song certainly intends for the apple to represent temptation, as Wonyoung sings in the second verse: “Go to the forbidden island, look for the forbidden fruit.” The temptation, however, is mostly to be shared rather than acted upon. Yujin continues as a spotlight illuminates various apples, “Take off your innocent mask. Reveal your darkest desires.” 

These desires—as well as the highlight of the song—appear in the bridge, which includes an interpolation of the chorus from  “Lovefool” by 90s Swedish band The Cardigans:

A breathtaking trailer
With a huge plot twist
Romantic psycho
Endure through it all if you want me
Love me, love me
Hurry, go leave me, leave me
Day by day killing healing
But, just stay

The song “Lovefool” was featured on the soundtrack for the 1996 movie Romeo + Juliet. The sample from that soundtrack, and references to movies in general (“trailer” and “plot twist”) suggest the singers’ desires for drama and excitement, with both “killing” and “healing.” A rap from Rei and Leeseo (with a lot of layering to create a sing-songy effect) precedes this bridge. Lines in the rap like “OMG! For real?” suggest that the desires for something “more secretive and thrilling” may come from a naive and inexperienced place.     

In lieu of depicting a dark and dramatic romantic relationship, the music video implies that the Ive members feel liberation through expressing their feelings to one another. The late night conversations, shown in scenes where members are whispering to one another, allow them to open up and possibly be ready for more mature and intimate relationships. Gaeul, for example, is able to rip off her veil, and Yujin’s intimidatingly large apple shrinks to something bite-sized. Set to Liz’s high notes and ad-libs with Leeseo’s background vocals, the post-chorus section of the MV portrays an overflow of joy and freedom: the girls are drenched by sprinklers in the night, crates of apples spill over and bounce down stairs, and pastel-colored balls flow over a pool and fly through the air. The final images, and the enduring impression, are of the girls’ camaraderie.

“Off the Record” certainly steps up Ive’s storytelling in music videos, and provides a departure from Ive’s typical sound and elegant image. It remains to be seen whether this is the start of a new direction for the group, or a pleasant, temporary diversion from their signature style. Regardless, “Off the Record” does well to diversify what Ive can do artistically.

(YouTube. Lyrics via YouTube. Images via Starship Entertainment).