Although they’re only on their second official comeback, rookie SM Entertainment group Riize are already proving to be one of the most versatile up-and-coming K-pop acts on the scene right now. Following the release of their last track, “Talk Saxy,” the group is already back with their most emotive single yet, “Love 119.” 

As its title suggests, “Love 119” is an expression of the feelings of experiencing a first love, likening them to that of an “emergency”, as “119” is the emergency phone number in Korea. The track also fittingly samples the piano melody from Korean band Izi’s 2005 track “Emergency Room,” adding to both its sense of urgency and dreamy, wintry soundscape.

Musically, it is a unique combination of the hip-hop beats and style Riize have so far favored in their discography and the overtly emotional pop melodies of the early ‘00s. While there are elements that can be overkill (the chanted chorus and its borderline shout-y delivery, along with the “Vroom” clunkily used to connect the first half of the chorus to the second), “Love 119” possesses a degree of sweetness and nostalgia that only continues to grow as the track speeds towards its end. 

The MV mostly holds its own to ensure this is the case. The setting is rooted in and around a high school and other retro, school life elements, even as much of its storyline revolves around the Riize members and their smartphones. Right from the beginning, the MV makes this dichotomy clear, as the first few shots zero in on a series of nostalgia-inducing objects and backdrops: a white cloth drying on a clothesline in the morning sunlight, a radio voicing a mysterious announcement, and Sohee sleeping on the floor surrounded by piles of books and a portable CD player. In the next moment, his smartphone rings, and he finally answers, only for him to jump back in surprise at the phone’s apparent glitching. A few scenes later, the MV reveals a new message, which the other members also receive: “January 5, 6pm. You will fall in love.”

As the story’s love interest, named “Briize” (Riize’s fandom name), enters the picture, the MV continues to color its visuals with pangs of nostalgia. In the few scenes before the members are back at school, they’re happily running and laughing around town, singing karaoke together, and dancing to the song’s choreography on a rooftop. Although the MV takes place during winter, beams of orange sunlight in the outdoor scenes add an obvious touch of warmth to the scenery, emphasizing the members’ carefree joy and hinting at the feelings of first love about to hit them in the scenes to follow.

The visual motif of warm, golden sunlight becomes most pronounced in the middle of the MV. The members are falling in love with Briize as they continue to spot her or spend time with her on the way to and from school, in their classes, or in the school hallways. For example, in the scenes when Shotaro mistakenly walks into Briize’s dance class, the entire setting, from the classroom floors to the ends of the hallways to Briize herself, are flooded with bright, morning sunlight.

Later, the orange glow of sunlight becomes even more pronounced when Anton is the last person left in his classroom, and Sungchan sits in the empty school hallway, both seemingly looking for Briize. That strong cast of sunlight is also most obvious in the gym dance scene, in which the members rehearse the choreography with several hiccups along the way. The light, which overpowers the setting and the members’ own line of sight, is a manifestation of their feelings of love bubbling up to the surface — and now, it stands in their way. 

Once the golden glow of the beginning of the MV wholly disappears, the storyline takes a drastic turn. Until this point, all of the members (except Sohee) fall in love with Briize by 6 o’clock per the text they previously received. However, after this time marker passes, Briize vanishes from the MV’s present, only appearing once more with Wonbin at the train station. Wonbin walks toward her, gazing at her with a sorrowful look on his face. The scene then cuts to Sohee staring at a sky of shooting stars, then back to Wonbin, then the rest of the members, with tears streaming down their faces in the midst of the night. The song cuts out, leaving only the sound of the woman’s voice from the radio at the very beginning of the MV.

At this point, the MV continuously cuts back and forth between scenes around the school and the train station — warm sunlight abound — as if to rewind and play back the members’ memories of Briize. Even though their memories appear sun-kissed and light in the visual sense, they quickly turn eerie and unsettling, as the only sound to back them is the radio recording and a phone continuously ringing. That blip of reminiscence comes to a screeching halt when the rap kicks back in; the members are shown riding a bus, then trudging through a blanket of striking white snow while wearing all black and donning the same teary expressions from a few scenes before.

The message here is clear, especially given the visual contrast between the sunlit scenes and cold, blue-tinged scenes in the snow: Briize has presumably passed away, and the members are now attending her funeral. Although the reason for her death is both extremely sudden and mostly unclear, the scene that follows provides a mysterious hint: Wonbin’s phone glitches and erases all of his texts from the mysterious number that alerted each of the members they would fall in love on January 5, suggesting that the original text itself could be the culprit.

The MV ends with a series of blue texts flurrying up the screen, a speedy rewinding of the members’ memories with Briize once again, and Riize frolicking and dancing happily around the snow, as if nothing ever happened. In these final scenes, the color scheme remains strikingly cool-toned, filled mostly with the white of the snow and the members’ black mourning outfits. Even though they appear to be happy, the warm orange and yellow tones from the previous scenes indicating their feelings of love and lust for Briize are gone. To add even more mystery, the final scene of the MV appears at first to be a shot of the six members laying cheerfully in the snow. But it zooms out to reveal the same shot of the group on a retro television.

While the meaning behind the end of the MV remains up in the air, the final flash of rewinded memories and the disappearing of the texts, then the members’ sudden chipper demeanors–as if the situation never even occurred–and the complete lack of warm colors from before, indicates some degree of time travel. It’s possible that the members suddenly traveled back to a time before they knew Briize and received the initial text, meaning that by the end, they were no longer in love nor had any prior memories of Briize. It’s uncertain, but this degree of mystery surely adds to the MV’s intrigue in terms of storyline and the greater meaning behind its nostalgic imagery.

Storyline aside, however, “Love 119” is incredibly convincing in its balanced portrayal of old-world retro and new-world technology, which ultimately becomes the mechanism for its final plot line. Between the carefully-colored visuals and members’ own emotive acting, the MV’s depiction of school life and falling for a first love also feels realistic and melancholic, just as the track itself works to relay. “Love 119” is another testament to Riize’s many strengths as a group, and the many directions they can easily take their concept and music next.

(YouTube. Images via SM Entertainment.)