FNC recently debuted subunit AoA Cream to supposedly highlight the less popular members. Since AoA Black has the band concept, fans were wondering what AoA Cream was going to do. Teasers indicated a cute concept along the lines of Orange Caramel or Rainbow Pixie, though the former leans toward satirical while the latter, in their one release “Hoi Hoi,” played it straight. Turns out AoA Cream went with the latter approach, which is actually a smart move on their part given that copycat accusations are the last thing they need (not that that stops netizens). A conventional cute music video directs more attention to the song rather than the MV (unlike Stellar, whose controversial MVs detract from their songs, which is unfortunate since their songs are so good). Given that AoA relies on its members more than its sound/image to set itself apart—Jimin’s chipmunk voice (as much as fans like to complain about it, you can’t say it isn’t unique), Choa’s vocals, Seolhyun’s media play—without the standout members, going with a stylistically different non-Brave Bros track was AoA Cream’s best bet.
The title is full of the kind of punny wordplay that I love. A friend who speaks Korean informed me that “질투 나요” in this context is “I’m jealous” which becomes “jelly” as slang, and Jelly Babies are a soft gummy type candy in the UK, similar to Gummi Bears. As for the lyrics, I’m relying mostly on the English subtitles at the 1theK upload. As you might have guessed, the song is about a girl who is jealous of her two-timing boyfriend and vows to get him back. Not exactly the most empowering message, though the video employs a Sailor Moon-esque magical girl concept in which the group members wreak revenge on the guy via a series of mildly unfortunate events. This suggests a possible interpretation of the lyrics as making the boyfriend want the girl again so she can dump him, which I can get behind because I’m a misandrist. The MV features a kind of Barbie’s Dream House aesthetic full of soft pastels and pretty dresses, striking that kid’s cartoon-show balance between a simple plot/silly humor and innuendo for the adults—suggestive ice-cream licking, lyrics like “how can I scold you (all night long).”
The MV opens in a café, where Hyejeong sits at a table texting with her guy while AoA’s “Heart Attack” plays in the background. Her guy flakes out of their date saying he’s too tired. Yuna and Chanmi arrive and they all exchange high-fives. But wait! Outside the café window, the boyfriend walks by with another girl, in the affectionate manner that clearly indicates that they are an item. The group members all see him and formulate a plan of revenge. Then they all transform in a sequence I’m told by other fans is reminiscent of Sailor Moon. (I’ve never watched Sailor Moon, cue collective gasps. Uh, guys… I’m old, remember?) There’s a pretty cool bit where the members open their eyes to reveal circle lenses with sparkles and cute symbols edited onto their eyes. I know ifans love to hate on circle lenses for some reason—y’all working for American contact lens companies or what?—but I love them, and now I’m resentful that the air’s been awful here and my eyes are too irritated to wear them.
The song begins with the point choreo and hook, which is simplistic but extremely catchy. As usual ifans are bitching about the choreo but I’m not sure what they’re expecting the group to do here. When you’ve got a hook as simplistic as “baby bae/baby bae/질투 나요”are fans expecting the group to bust out something super-athletic and fancy? And before any of you start in about groups like G-friend and the Ark who do aerobic workouts in dance form, think about the kind of song/concept we’re dealing with here. The choreo will usually match the melodic complexity of the song, and there isn’t much of that here (and no, that doesn’t make a song bad, either). It should be obvious that point dances for catchy hooks are meant to be simple and memorable, almost like a meme in dance form, so fans who aren’t dance majors can easily bust it out when they’re in the mood. Yet fans keep complaining that these dances aren’t complex enough and I don’t know why I’m trying to figure out fandom, as it always ends in a logistical rubix cube.
After the transformation sequence, the first verse begins. We see the male love interest with his girl, but we’re never shown her face. Is there something wrong with her face? Or is it some “it doesn’t matter who the girl is; it could be anyone” thing? This “not showing the face” thing is done a lot in K-pop videos so I always wonder about it. We have solo shots of the members in various settings looking cute. Chanmi is in a colorful gym setting with a punching bag (sadly, we don’t see her in gym clothes furiously punching the bag, though I guess that would ruin the cute fairy-princess thing this MV’s got going on). Yuna is on a couch snuggling with some huge teddy bears. In spite of all this Barbie Dream House imagery and aegyo in the choreo, this MV somehow comes off less infantilizing than most cute concepts. Perhaps it’s because we’re spared the school uniforms for once. Thank Seungrisus for small favors. The group members are all sporting glittery bedazzled eyebrows, which is something I’ve never seen before and that I kind of love. I’m totally going to bedazzle my brows next time I go to the grocery store or Zippy’s.
As we go into the prechorus, the song’s tempo switches to a quicker, more swingy jazzy rhythm (I know, I know, I’m using highly technical language here). This might be my favorite part of the song. It’s a really fun little section that gets you pumped up for the chorus. Another thing I like is how smooth the tempo changes are. Many recent K-pop songs have experimented with tempo changes and while some have worked (Stellar’s “Vibrato,” Girl’s Day’s “Ring My Bell”), many have fallen flat (4Minute’s “Hate,” Big Bang’s “Bang Bang Bang.”) Before y’all ask me what I mean by “worked” I mean “transitioned in such a way that I don’t feel like I’ve got aural whiplash combined with chorus blue balls combined with wondering what the fuck this song as and if this is real life”). Yes, “I’m Jelly Baby”’s chorus is repetitive, but at least it’s melodically repetitive and grabs some of the momentum built by the pre-chorus. I’ve reached the point with K-pop where I’m offering thanks to various deities when a song’s chorus consists of something more than a repetitive instrumental hook plus chanted words or phrases.
In the MV, the group members freeze the guy and his faceless girl in time, then high-five each other after kicking him in the leg. Congrats, I guess? I’d have gone for the shin though; that platform stiletto could’ve done some damage. Then Yuna puts an itching spell on him that looks like she’s perving and I had to watch that part twice before I figured out what was going on.
The group members lick the whipped cream off the guy’s coffee which isn’t exactly hygienic unless one of them has a cold and is trying to spread it, in which case I approve.
The second verse starts with Chanmi’s rap. There’s a filter over it making her voice sound extra raspy and metallic, a stylistic decision I find slightly mystifying since the autotune sound that was all the rage a few years ago doesn’t seem to fit with cute songs. In the MV, the group members observe the results of their handiwork. They’ve positioned the girl’s hand mid-slap like some kind of telenovela, so she smacks the guy a good one before he suffers from a sore leg (maybe the kick gave him a magical muscle cramp?) and then starts itching worse than a tourist after hitting a mosquito-infested hiking trail on the Big Island.
We go into the prechorus again and I’m boppin.’ The dude and his girl seem to have patched things up and are now sitting in his convertible. The girl disappears and then Chanmi appears in her place. The group members appear and disappear one after the other to mess with the dude, and he thinks he’s losing his mind. I don’t know about you, but if AoA Cream were randomly appearing in my vicinity I’d just go with it. The guy runs out of the car and all three of the group members teleport inside. Stealing his car? This took a Thelma and Louise turn.
Now there’s a bridge breakdown, a little funkier and quicker than the chorus but not so jarring it’s startling. The choreo involves a conga line-type butt shaking dance. There’s a beat drop going back into a stripped-down chorus, a standard feature for pop songs. In the MV, we’re back in the café, with some nice product placement as the girls hide behind magazines to observe the guy. He’s on this phone creeping on instagram girls. Hyejeong enchants a fork and sends it flying toward him, and I thought for a moment she was going to take his eye out or something. But the fork just stabs a cupcake and scares him. Hyejeong magicks a whipped cream-looking substance onto the guy’s coffee, but he makes a face when he tastes it, so maybe she did the old shaving cream trick instead. She does a spell that takes control of his body movements, making him dance like a white guy. Meanwhile, the chorus picks up with Yuna’s money note, before the song winds down with the “Baby bae” refrain.
After the song ends, there’s a little scene in which the group members cast a spell on a guy that causes hearts to explode in a video editing filter and then confetti rains down on everything. Yeah, I don’t know what this was all about either.
“I’m Jelly Baby” is a well-constructed pop song that takes some risks with tempo changes which pay off in the form of a fun, lighthearted bop. The music video’s concept and aesthetic are just the kind of tacky shit I love. No, it’s not the most unique or exciting offering out there, but like the Jelly Babies in the song’s name, it’s sugary, sweet, and satisfying.