Wildly boppy hyper-pop with a hippy trippy MV that makes you wonder whether the whole art department were hallucinating – anything that opens with songwriter Jinyoung’s apparently disembodied head singing in a box trips my weird-o-meter. The song’s just a guy berating his girlfriend for lying all the time, but for some reason the sets are cartoonish and disturbing, while the costumes are in colours and patterns that will suck your eyeballs right out of your head. Be warned.
Psychedelics aside, it’s hard not to sing along with this one, especially given the smattering of English in the lyrics. My advice is just give in to your bad self and sing those incorrect Korean lyrics – you’ll definitely want to shout out “got-ji-mal”, which means ‘lie’.
You know those trashy magazines with headlines like “ALIEN worms CRAWLED in my EAR and ATE my BRAIN!!!”?
They’re talking about this song. From Jonghyun’s first powerfully belted “Baby”, through the hypnotic bridge of “Rocka rocka rocka rocka rocka rocka fantastic” (and so on), to the triumphant “Ring ding dong” chorus, this song is one long hooky earworm. You’ll be infected, you’ll be infested, and soon you won’t be able to think of anything else. That’s why it’s the song most banned by students during college entrance exam periods – they said that listening to this song drove everything else out of their heads.
Musically, it was a departure from their debut, which was mellow R&B, from the ‘Princes of K-pop’. This is tight EDM, with a beat that will have you dancing whether you want to or not, from the bad boys.
Or at least that’s what they claim. Yes, they’re dressed to kill, and their dance skills are awesome, and Jonghyun, Minho and Key at least look sufficiently wild, while Onew’s voice alone gets him over the line. But Taemin was still only 16 when they did this song, and despite the black ‘fallen angel’ wings, seeing him drink milk makes him look like the innocent he really was, with his floppy Beatles haircut and his baby face.
Not many artists would be brave enough to finish their music video posing like a paint-splashed Christ, but you can always count on Taemin to go the extra mile.
The fact that he spends a portion of the MV wearing an upmarket gimp mask is a trifle unusual, but hey, his hobbies aren’t my business. The tartan outfit might be taking it a tad too far, but again, man’s got a right to do what he chooses in the privacy of his own, ah, music video. Yah, I see where that went wrong.
Prepare to be gruelled. This film will take every tender feeling you possess and run them through the mincer, then stomp on the bits.
The hero of the story is Jae Hyeok, brought to life by the incredibly talented Kim Nam Gil. This is not the sex-incarnate Kim Nam Gil of Bad Guy, or the lovable doofus turned responsible doctor of Live Up To Your Name, or the arse-kicking priest of Fiery Priest. No, this Kim Nam Gil is almost unrecognisable – Jae Hyeok is a lazy, truculent, loser, who complains about the nuclear plant at which he works, and disappoints his mother and his girlfriend.
This one is almost guaranteed to make you feel nostalgic. The MV was released on 23rd April 2021, to celebrate the 10-year anniversary since their debut. Production is sensibly subtle – a good strong beat to keep the rhythm but minimal instrumentation, leaving the vocalists to shine. And oh man, do they shine – it’s one of their strengths, and they work it hard. There’s a recurring echo of fan cheers from past concerts, adding to the nostalgic feel – if you’ve never felt the thrill of being in the midst of a concert, then I want nothing to do with you.
It looks like a travelogue, and for good reason. Shot on Jeju Island, which is wall-to-wall beautiful scenery, I think they just took the boys (yes, I keep calling them boys, despite the fact that CNU would turn 30 in a couple of months) out for the day and let them loose. And when you turn these boys loose, this is what you get – goofy, affectionate, playing like a litter of puppies, making the world a nicer place. That’s another of their strengths – they’re quite close, and are not at all shy about showing it.
Be honest – nobody watches Taemin’s music videos for the biting social commentary, do they?
I love the way he starts the video wearing a t shirt with the slogan “Take a small bite” – sorry, mate, but I’m not going near that comment, not for a big clock.
This is Taemin doing what Taemin does best, which is dance like he’s being poured into his skin. “Cat-like grace” is an appropriate descriptor here. Lithe, fluid, sinuous, and sensual, are also adjectives that spring to mind when watching Taemin’s performances – the man actually slinks, which is not something most non-felines can accomplish. Add in the solarisation, and he appears to be slipping between planes of reality, which is not something most humans can accomplish, or at least none of my acquaintance – YMMV.
You’ve seen their cover of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang, Bang and their awesome original Not Afraid – well, their cover of Dick Dale’s version of Misirlou, that old surf classic which some of you might know as the Pulp Fiction theme, is amazing live.
The director deserves to be bathed in warm chocolate for this one, because it’s the most mesmerising MV I’ve seen. From the opening, with apparent multiple versions of Sadako from Ring crawling over a light box, to the close, with Eunhyuk plunging the stage into darkness, I don’t think I blinked once.
The music is semi-operatic, the choreography semi-balletic, and the costumes make you expect D’Artagnan to leap out and start waggling his rapier (hello sailor). But wait, there’s more: the real magic comes from nothing more than hand-held lights.
Hang onto your hanbok – this collaboration brings the attitude in great big gobs, from some of the best in the biz. And nobody, but nobody, does attitude like Heechul, unless it’s Bibi, with her voice like melting chilli chocolate and her controversial image.
Universe Hipsters, comprising Heechul from Super Junior and his partner-in-crime Min Kyung-hoon, team up with DinDin and Bibi, to give us this Joseon-era hip hop triumph, written by the Hipsters themselves and produced by DinDin.
The crew give it maximum sass and swagger, including idol group Ateez, who stalk out not to sing, but to dance, with a compelling, arachnoid choreography that damn near creeps out of the screen and onto the couch.
This is a ‘smoky jazz club at 3:00 am’ sort of song, haunting and beautiful.
Written by CNU (pronounced Shin-woo), who gave it to Sandeul for his solo album when he asked nicely (see what politeness gets you, kids?). CNU then released a cover video on his 30th birthday this year.
Which to watch?
If you want a great live performance, watch Sandeul – not exactly a smoky jazz club, but close.
If you want an MV from the songwriter, watch CNU. It’s strictly noir, and quite bleak, with repeated motifs of being caged, hinting at mistakes that can’t be walked back.
The best vocal performance? That’s a tough one. Both men are strong and versatile singers, but Sandeul is generally acknowledged in the biz as an exceptionally good vocalist. Sandeul has a beautifully clear voice like liquid silver, but CNU has a heartbreaking high falsetto that could make Thom Yorke from Radiohead throw down his mic and take up crochet. Either one could easily convince me to give up both kidneys and most of my liver if they put the request in song.