I fear there are too many music videos full of pretty boys coming out lately, and I am unable give them each the full recap treatment in a timely manner. It’s unfortunate. So I’m going to so a special two-fer tonight. Double the recap, double the pretty boys!
Here we have two tales of frustrated male longing, so basically your typical K-pop boy band songs. However, while one music video is all about the sexin’, the other’s all about the angsting. Although there’s some implied sexin’. You can probably guess which is which.
So let’s tackle U-KISS first. The song is a smooth R&B jam, which, judging by online reactions, seemed to disappoint those expecting a dance jam like “Neverland” or “Standing Still.” Me, however:
I am living for this song. This is some fuckin’ music and I am here for it. Apparently, so is the music video, because NH Media really pulled out all the stops this time. They managed to impress even my jaded eye with an actual threesome scene (my initial commentary compared it to Japanese porn). While it’s true that U-KISS has never shied away from mature content (“Shut Up,” anyone?) “Quit Playing” is more overtly sexual than their previous offerings (well, heterosexual anyway). Ironically, and hilariously, this is the first music video featuring new member Jun, who also happens to be too young to watch this 19+-rated video. Ahh, echoes of Dongho in “Shut Up.” There are a lot of similarities to “Shut Up,” actually, what with the Eurotrash aesthetic, black leather, vehicle porn, and establishment of the Not Gays™ via a beautiful female love interest. However, while the “Shut Up” choreo was heavily homoerotic and absent of female dancers, the “Quit Playing” choreo relies heavily on female dancers with some Trouble Maker-esque moves:
Only thing missing here is Hyuna’s pussy poppin.’ (Fun fact: since writing this, I have learned that U-KISS’s choreo has been banned from public broadcast in South Korea. They have arrived!)
The video’s “storyline” (and I use that term very loosely) features a typical club setting, no stranger in U-KISS videos (their recent Japanese release, “Break Up” also featured a club setting). There’s some back-and-forth flirting between various U-KISS members and their female love interest (yup, it’s another “same girl is everyone’s love interest” scenario, like many boy band videos), culminating in said infamous threesome scene and another bed scene (I guess Eli lacked a wing man). From a feminist standpoint (at least, in my opinion), the messages in this video are as mixed as the lyrics claim the love interest’s signals are. In many scenes, the woman is receptive to, and sometimes the initiator, of the flirtation or physical contact. In Eli’s storyline, the woman is seen turning his head to her, pulling him toward her, and opening his shirt. This mirrors his aggressive behavior earlier in the video (pushing her against a wall) and makes it clear she is a willing participant and actually initiates the sex. During another scene, she’s seen climbing on top of him, making it clear she’s the one in control here. It’s actually pretty hot.
The threesome storyline is a bit more ambiguous, and I suspect the one that most of the criticism stems from. I wonder if any scenes were edited out of the video, because most of the flirting scenes seem to position the men as the initiators/aggressors, with the woman either resisting or acquiescing. In some scenes, she’s smiling and seems receptive, while in others, she quite aggressively pushes one or the other away (in one particularly hilarious scene, she totally bitch-slaps Hoon).
In the threesome scenes, however, she’s clearly an enthusiastic and willing participant. I suspect the scenes of her resisting/pushing the guys away were meant to tie into the lyrics as a kind of “hot and cold” thing (“stop messing with my head”) but there’s still a kind of creepy ominous undertone (“I’m warning you”). (For the record, I’m quoting just the English lyrics, since I don’t speak Korean, and am relying on this translation for the rest. Perhaps Korean speakers might come away with a different interpretation). Now, I’m not even going to lie—the “I’m warning you” part would be pretty hot from a BDSM standpoint (although the idea of Kevin dominating anyone is hilarious to me—Soohyun, however? He can spank me anytime). But for people whose minds are less consistently filthy than mine, there’s a lot more ambiguity, and the video’s storylines plus the song’s lyrics definitely play into the all-too-common narrative of “no means yes” or “if she says no, keep persisting and she’ll eventually say yes.” I wish the video had done away with the ambiguity and just had the woman be straight-up into it from the start. Sure, the tenuous connection between the song’s lyrics and the video’s content would be compromised, but let’s be honest here—when the intent is to make a sexy video to get fangirls’ rocks off, they’re really not going to care if the content matches the lyrics or not.
And also, what is it with using the same girl for all the romances in the video? Is this some kind of polyamory? This happens all the time in K-pop boy band videos. Big Love: K-pop style?
As a feminist, I find myself able to enjoy the “Quit Playing” video once I turn my brain off to the nature of the “storyline” or make up farfetched explanations for it (perhaps Hoon and Kiseop were trying to make the girl choose between them, and she’s all “fuck it, I’ll take them both!” This would make her a woman after my own heart). In terms of aesthetic, it’s a sensual bombardment of beautiful people and body parts, and fangirls and noonas alike will eat it up with a spoon (provided they aren’t the type to get jealous of the dancers).
Moving on to VIXX, “Eternity” is an offering that feminists will find more pleasing, as there is nothing overtly questionable about it beyond typical manpain. Once again, however, we’ve got a polyamory situation, with the same actress playing the love interest of all the VIXX members. How can I apply for this job?
“Eternity” is one of those ballad-with-a-beat type of songs, definitely in a different vein from VIXX’s previous club-banger releases like “Voodoo” and “Hyde.” Personally, I think it’s a fabulous departure, since it keeps them from stagnating and still manages to showcase their powerful choreo and vocals (Leo hitting that C5 after the bridge? Daaaaaaaaaamn). VIXX continue to be among the most impressive idol dancers, and they are so on point in “Eternity” it is painful. Their choreographers definitely know what fangirls want, with those body rolls:
Those VIXX fen of the nerdier persuasion were delighted at the Doctor Who-esque concept of “Eternity,” what with the steampunk imagery, suit-and-sneaker outfits reminiscent of the tenth doctor, and time travel-focused “storyline.” The song is VIXX’s usual shtick of longing and desire, this time describing a nightmare in which their lady love leaves them, and begging her not to go. N seems to be the featured player in this video, and inherits the bed scenes (far less risqué than U-KISS’s and unfortunately devoid of male nudity; the aesthetic is actually vaguely reminiscent of Joon’s scenes in MBLAQ’s iconic “Y” video. Can we have some N shower scenes, please?). Nonetheless N looks quite fetching in a white shirt while sharing a postcoital cup of coffee with his lady love:
I do wonder why he’s dark-haired in the flashback scenes and blond in the dancing scenes, but it’s a K-pop video; I try not to question it too much. Maybe he became blond when he regenerated.
Other members feature in various flashback scenes of happy domestic life, dancing or playing piano or drawing (I wonder if the members drew the portraits themselves… a highly important question to take away from this video, I know).
And I also wonder if playing the piano together is a highly erotic activity in K-popland, since it seems to feature in so many romantic storylines. Anyway, the girl, and objects representing her (the drawing) disappear in a puff of smoke, and it’s a kind of simple and cool effect to convey the dreamlike nature of these flashbacks. The video ends on a kind of ominous note with the lightning flashes and huddled formation, which also happens to be an excellent showcase for VIXX’s fine behinds (what? I’m observant, OK?)
What I really like about the “Eternity” video is that it doesn’t reach too hard. It knows just what its scope is and stays there, sticking to a very basic narrative and evocative images rather than chasing an unwieldy and often nonsensical storyline (J. Tune Camp, take notes). But it’s still got more going on than the weird rooms with flashing lights (SM, take notes). See, this is how you make an effective music video. Keep it simple. Stick to a consistent aesthetic. Take advantage of the variety of stimuli at your disposal—visual, audio, narrative. Know your audience. Showcase your group’s assets.
And if nothing else, don’t forget some gratuitous homoeroticism: