Several years after his debut in NCT, Ten has released his long-awaited debut solo album Ten, with the all-English title track “Nightwalker.” Ten has previously revealed various sides to his artistry: “Dream in a Dream”, for instance, displays his ease with contemporary dance and traditional elements, “Paint Me Naked” his brighter side, and “Birthday” his intensity and sensuality. His promotions for Ten involved a performance film for two B-sides, but “Nightwalker” is a foray into a narrative music video that still incorporates his dance talents. 

As the title suggests, the MV portrays Ten as an unassuming biologist who transforms into a demonic ‘Nightwalker’ at the stroke of midnight. The Jekyll and Hyde trope is certainly not the most original, but it is well-executed, both visually and musically, and showcases Ten’s strengths as a performer in an appealing and accessible way. 

The video deftly establishes the duality of Ten’s characters within the opening verse. In its first few shots, the MV effectively created an eerie vibe, with its mimicry of security camera footage and flickering lights. Ten unfolds from an unnatural pose: slightly hunched over with one leg bent, one arm back. Sounds of crickets and nocturnal birds signal that it is late at night. If those elements did not produce enough of a creepy atmosphere, then the medium close-up of Ten, sans eyebrows, raising his eyes to the camera with a sinister smile, certainly would. 

Through a skillful match cut of close-ups, the MV transitions to the characterization of Ten’s other persona in this video: a scientist in a lab, leading an orderly and mundane life. In an overhead shot, Ten organizes cashews into rows, with Petri dishes and other lab equipment also lined up  symmetrically. “Hiding my power, after the calm lies the storm,” Ten sings during these moments. 

The song reinforces the video concept, and vice versa. The plucking guitar in the verses, for instance, illustrates the simmering desire for Ten’s biologist to break out into the Nightwalker. When Ten’s powerful falsetto emerges in the pre-chorus, stating “Rising from the shadow / Gotta face against the devil,” the overhead fluorescent lights in the lab start flickering, suggesting the transformation that is underway. The flickering stops as the chorus begins, with the industrial-sounding dance beats portraying the impulses of the Nightwalker. Ten’s costume change into a sweat-drenched grey T-shirt reinforces that he is stripped down to his most raw elements. 

The most outstanding element of the MV, however, is its expressionistic choreography. Through it, Ten not only establishes his own metamorphosis, but his hypnotic effect on others. In the first dance sequence, Ten waves his right arm like a conductor while his female co-workers (who whispered about him earlier in the video) sway along to his movements. They begin to follow him in a line and mimic his dance, at turns graceful and spasmodic. Ten awes in his ability to tense up his body to indicate a state that is not quite human. 

Ten’s second transformation occurs when a group of men in black suits, presumably investigating the disappearance of the women in the lab, attempt to apprehend Ten and bring him in for questioning. As the lights flicker while they are in the parking garage, one man is able to run away, but the others are quickly drawn into Ten’s power. Now wearing all black, Ten matches the men. In an impressive tutting sequence, Ten and the other dancers all move as though they were one entity with many limbs. As the dance sequences continue, the image cuts to Ten in various costumes, with different dancers. The shifts suggest how often the cycle of turning into the Nightwalker has occurred. 

In a behind the scenes video, Ten expressed an intent to break out of the typical pattern of the soloist as the center of attention. He stated, “I wanted the choreography that doesn’t just focus on me but looks good as a whole.” While Ten certainly takes the center position and naturally attracts the viewer’s focus, he does also achieve his aspiration of a cohesive group choreography, particularly in the tutting part.     

While he does not have an elaborate solo dance sequence, Ten does display his beautifully twisted body lines. His solo part falls during the bridge, whose lyrics go:

It’s a nightmare, so persuasive
You shouldn’t chase it, but I want it
I feel my heartbeat get distorted
It’s a nightmare, I created
Like a disease haunting your dreams

Ten spins, uncurls his arms, and moves his head in slightly distorted ways, illustrating how the “nightmare” has affected him, and how he is the nightmare. Ten has deservedly been revered as one of K-pop’s best dancers, and this video not only showcases his dance skills, but his gift of telling a story through movement. 

“Nightwalker” is a clever choice for an official solo debut: just as his character reveals various sides, Ten is similarly multifaceted as an artist. Just as his character hypnotizes those around him, Ten likewise transfixes his audience with his vocal and dance talents, as well as his versatility. Ten seems determined to explore different facets of his artistry with each release — one senses that he would not repeat the vibe or concept of this music video again, and that he is just beginning to find his way creatively. “Nightwalker” is a satisfying start, and it will be fascinating to see in the future which versions of Ten endure most in his legacy.

(YouTube [1][2]. Lyrics via YouTube. Images via SM Entertainment).