Block B – H.E.R – Album and MV Review

After the ‘Jackpot’ promotions were cut short (due to the Sewol Ferry disaster) It was great to see Block B back with a follow-up mini album a short while later. The promos promised something fun, slightly off-kilter and most of all… very VERY pink!

Block B are a group whose MVs I always enjoy, as they’re usually a bit deranged with a hefty side of tongue-in-cheek winking at the camera – this is not a group who are afraid to destroy their idol image on camera at all.

Their last two promo cycles were ‘Very Good’ – bank robbing themed mayhem, and ‘Jackpot’ – circus themed mayhem. So in keeping with this tradition, ‘H.E.R’ is appropriately full of riotous pop colour, excessive and exaggerated aegyo, and a fun time is had by all.

When the first concept photos were released I will admit I was slightly taken aback – was Block B going to do a cute concept? It just didn’t seem… Block B. That’s not to say that they don’t have some lovely slower and romantic tracks in their discography, but they’ve never really been boy band cute. They’re more… chaos that is barely restrained. It’s like they are all ‘idols…. pfffft we’re here to have a good time!’

Thankfully ‘H.E.R’ throws the cute out the window (sort of) and embraces the silly, over the top joy that the feeling of being in love brings. It’s literally a cute concept on crack, or addled with caffeine and ADD… But it still manages to poke fun at the usual tropes of cute kpop while having a lot of fun romping around. The song has a really bright and upbeat tempo and like a lot of KPop this year, is somewhat of an homage to music styles from the past. This has a brassy 60’s pop feel, and the over saturated candy colours in the MV reinforce that connection. It’s catchy and fun and still has the distinctive Block B feel. Zico has done a really great job producing a cohesive body of work that captures their personalities and showcases their talents.

The live stages were a heap of fun as well, and best of all, we were treated to a few performances of ‘Jackpot’ as well.

MV Moments

Candy-Coloured Set

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I immediately loved all the pastel and pop styling! Especially as it looks like one big surreal play-set. I think they had a lot of fun just goofing off in a lot of the shots for this MV. There is a choreographed dance routine, but most of the MV is just romping around

Golf Shenanigans

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This GIF is a few scenes spliced together! But I laughed so much at the set-up and then the payoff for this.

HER

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So the chorus is very catchy! I especially like the kaleidescope effect where the basketball hoop shots are all smushed together.

Zico and the Ostrich

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This is so incredibly strange and dada-esque that it delights me – Zico also has a rather expressive face and makes some great GIF moments here.

1+1 Promotions

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So cute! Also rather clever as I remember seeing these all around the super market when we were in Korea. P.O’s noona-slayer pink (bright pink!) hair is also a highlight.

Taeil’s Heart

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So sweet! And another echo of the kaleidescope imagery in the set and the pop-art sequences.

U-Kwon slaps the aegyo out of Zico

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Hands down, the best part of the whole MV. My bias!!! But really, this is too funny. The show within a show is a great conceit as well.

Endless Block B

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The show interview pulls back to show the premier stage performance of Block B, and again to show Block B as the band playing the instruments. You can never have too many Block B members in shot at the same time 🙂

Album Review

In a sea of black and subdued albums ‘H.E.R’ and its bright candy pink packaging definitely stands out from the crowd! Unlike other groups, there is no consistency to sizing or styling with any of Block B’s previous releases. Each album is distinct from the last – which makes for an interesting and eclectic shelf arrangement.

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‘H.E.R’ is a 15 x 15 box enclosure (yay boxes!) constructed from a matt laminated card that is screen printed, foiled and spot uv highlighted. Interestingly it’s an interlocking die-cut rather than a cut and glue. (The print and design part of me likes to see how these albums are made, it’s a big part of the reason that I buy a physical copy, because they use so many interesting design techniques). This is a cheaper method, but the corner mitres are snug and the inner flap has an additional layer glued to it to add weight and improve the finish.

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I like the paisley design that is subtly printed on the black too! It’s a super feminine touch to an already overwhelmingly pink album. The cover is also a magnetic closure with a ribbon pull tab that is printed with their logo.

Rather than including a photocard, you instead got a random ‘paper doll’ of a member enclosed. I got Jaehyo! It’s a wonderfully kitsch inclusion that makes me love the album that much more.

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The photobook is also a lot of fun, featuring bobble-headed shots of the members posing with props. It’s totally cute – in a kind of exaggerated hyper-adorable way – it’s almost like they’re dolls with their tinted pink cheeks and toy scale props.

I’m quite tempted by the Special Edition as well which includes a DVD and extra photoshoot with a larger photobook, but it may have to wait until I am more financially solvent! there are too many albums to buy this year!

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The mini album has 6 tracks in total that are a kind of grab bag of styles and sound. I enjoyed the rough version of ‘Very Good’ and the ballad ‘Embrace Me Now’.

This was a great comeback and it was fantastic to see them get a few more wins under their belt too!

“Just a little bit of you”

And bonus dance practice in super cute onesies!! All dance practices should be this adorable!

Infinite – Be Back Repackage – Album and MV Review

I’m back – after a break of many moons! And there is so much kpop to talk about! I’ll have to restrain myself to albums and singles that I have actually bought (which is still like… 30 things! OMG… so many posts to make…)

I’ll kick it off with my strong contender for song of the year…

Anytime Infinite has a comeback makes me a happy fangirl, so the very moment that they announced a repackage for ‘Season 2’ I had a countdown clock in place. Not that we had to wait long at all, as this promotion followed quickly on the heels of ‘Last Romeo’. ‘Back’ is certainly my favourite song of the year so far – and that’s fending off some very stiff competition in what has been a very good year of songs and concepts from all the groups that I follow and collect.

I might be a tad biased (Infinite being my second favourite group and home to my ultimate bias Sunggyu) but this is a solid song full of the familiar Infinite sound and excellent vocals. It starts with a slow buildup, steadily moving towards the drop where the full orchestral sound kicks in and it gallops along from there. Best of all, there’s some great line distribution in this song – everyone has something – and for a 7 member group that’s pretty good! This has had heavy rotation on my i-Pod and playlists and the more I listen to it, the more that I love it.

MV Moments (Performance Version)

The initial release of the MV was the story version, which features Infinite showing up to a gang fight to rescue Sunggyu’s sister armed with questionable items (an umbrella for Sungjong… really???) and receiving a pretty thorough beat down before they rally for a final showdown. It’s fairly stylised violence, but I still find it pretty hard to watch – even though I know it’s not real. I don’t know… it just makes me uncomfortable. I also have a hard time watching similar themed MVs and tend to minimise the screen / bail entirely as soon as blood appears (see: BAP ‘One Shot’, VIXX ‘Voodo Doll’, and the MV that cannot be watched ever again ever: MYNAME ‘Baby I’m Sorry’). Death and violence just aren’t my jam. So although I absolutely ADORED the song and watched every single live performance, I only watched the actual MV about 3 or 4 times. I can only watch Sunggyu being beaten in the head with a baseball bat so many times…

So it was a great relief when Woolim released the ‘Performance Version’ aka the version that focuses on the dance. Infinite has impeccable choreography as always – but it can be hard to focus on it for live stages and even in MV versions because of the camera cuts. It’s a real feat to be able to pull off a 7 member dance that has knife-like precision and is also interesting to watch.

Mirror Dance
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I really love the mirrored movements in the opening here – it’s clever as well as visually striking! Of course I’ve decided to focus on my ultimate bias here (who is looking FINE)

Can You Save Me?
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As the song picks up the pace, the dance also pulls the members into formation. I like how they all circle each other slightly too.

Back Back Back Back Back
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Body rolls… always a fave! This one is subtle (if you can call a body roll subtle) but I love it! The second one is more obvious, but I like the focus on L here 😀

Knife Dancing
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Infinite are known for their precision and this dance is no exception. It’s an odd mixture of fast and slow, but the high energy points are really great!

Dongwoo Sings!
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Normally part of the rap-line, Dongwoo has a vocal part and he nails it! (My squee was heard from miles away when we first listened to this)

제발 (Please)
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Not only do I love this dance move, but it’s a whole line for Sungyeol!

돌아와줘(Please Come Back)
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As we reach the climax of the song, the line formation here really looks great!

I Say Save Me
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And it ends perfectly as well!

Album Review

One thing that I have LOVED about Infinite’s albums this year for both Korea and Japan is how consistent they have been with their branding and packaging carrying across several years of albums and mini-albums. ‘Season 2’ was an exact mirror of their first album, with the same style slip cover and format. And now ‘Be Back’, the repackage, is also a mirror of the first album’s repackage ‘Paradise’ with the same envelope style casing! It’s a small detail, but the print nerd in me loves it!

My version of the album also came with 2 x posters. I have to laugh, because that makes 5 posters for this round of promotions and I can’t even choose which one to display – I may just have to rotate them in and out as the mood grabs me. There can never be enough Infinite on my walls!

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The outer packaging is printed on silver card with an emboss and spot UV highlight, die cut and folded into an envelope. It’s a clever way to make everything look like a present that you can unwrap. The image on the front is also version A of the poster (possibly my fave version). This is also a pretty big album! It takes up some serious shelf real estate when on display.

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Once unfolded, you have the CD mounted and recessed into black foam-core (I really love that they have the logo on EVERYTHING as well – sidenote, Infinite do an iteration of their logo for every album and I quite like this one – it’s a bit more feminine which works well with the ongoing ‘Last Romeo’ theme). Instead of a photocard, you get a giant postcard (random member) printed in colour on the same silver card as the outer packaging. Yay Woohyun! And in this first press edition, 2 x photobooks.

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The Special Edition photobook is full of candid behind-the-scenes photos from the ‘Back’ MV shoot. Lots of great photos and the paper is a good weight (not cheap feeling).

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The standard photobook is also great – the paper is a pearlised finish, so it gives the photos a slightly dreamy quality. Fans of the group will appreciate the many pages in both books – the repackage is significantly different enough from the original album to justify having both in your collection.

The repackage album has the same tracks as ‘Season 2’ but with the extra songs ‘Back’ and ‘Diamond’. Because it’s such a pretty looking album, this is my current facing outward on display showpiece for Infinite. I was super happy with this purchase and with the whole promotion cycle.

‘I want you back back back back back’

And as a bonus – the amazing dance practice video! The choreography for this dance was, as I mentioned, thoroughly ON POINT. Though Sunggyu obviously did not get the memo about wearing tight pants…

Henry – Fantastic – MV Review

Henry Lau is back again with a new mini album and MV titled ‘Fantastic’. I absolutely loved his solo debut last year, so this was a comeback that I had been anticipating – especially since he did SO MUCH trolling and teasing on all of his social media in the months leading up to the actual announcement of a date and time for the MV.

Being the maknae of Super Junior M, he’s already pretty high up my Suju bias list, and all of his appearances this year on variety shows have cemented him even further as one of my favourites. He’s definitely grown as a solo artist, however I do feel that SM haven’t given him anything particularly special to work with for this MV that would really elevate him as a star to watch.

That said, I did enjoy this MV and I also like the song. The violin adds a different feel – especially as he plays it himself and the chorus is quite catchy too. It’s not a song I skip when it comes up on my i-pod, that’s for sure!

The other songs on the mini album are also fun to listen to – featuring cameos from Chanyeol (EXO), Hoya (Infinite) and Seulgi (SM Rookies). I see what you did there SM… It does come across that they feel the need to shoehorn in other artists to support Henry, but I won’t complain too much as they add some additional colour and match well with Henry too.

Of course I ordered the album, and it will come at the end of the month with my other July KPop – with a bonus poster yay! I also hear that there is a photocard included too!

MV Moments that I appreciated

SM Love Their Maze Sets

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Kekekeke! I had a slight concerned frown here as I was thinking… wait… is this the EXO set recycled? I’ll put it down to a thematic coincidence and not just SM cheaping out. I do like the transition from the moody B&W noir feel here in the intro, to the colour of the song. The way the red bleeds / seeps into the frame is done well – it is totally in keeping with the ‘giving life through music’ storyline.

The Violin of “Destiny”

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Did JJ Abrams direct this MV? So many lens flares! Henry is rather talented, playing piano and violin (a modern renaissance man!) so I’m pleased to see him showcasing that here. Sure, this is a little bit cliched to have the violin create his dream woman – but at least there is a plot of some sort! I am a bit squicked by all the tubes – I have the same kind of feeling about Beast’s ‘Shock’. It’s just somehow unnerving to me.

Henry Does This…

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Straight to my ‘crotch dancing’ playlist! Actually titled “Calling Attention to Packages – aka blatant crotch dancing” (39 videos and counting as I work my way back through all the kpop). It’s almost a body roll too! The choreography in this MV is great to watch, it hits all the beats and also has a few set pieces that are quite clever.

Let Me Show You My Co-ordination Skills

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I am aware that he doesn’t actually do this ‘live’ during his stage performances – but you do have to admit that it looks pretty amazing fantastic!

Smile For the Camera!

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Henry is super cute as it is (and Emily’s ultimate bias), but I do love that he really looks like he’s having a lot of fun here. K-Pop is full of MVs that include the cute camera staredown – it’s a way to engage directly with the viewer (and let’s face it, I can’t resist it either). Henry is just the right amount of flirtatious and cheeky.

A Box Set That Actually Works

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SM love their box sets – but this one has a great detail! I love that it’s actually the ‘inside’ of the violin. If the camera swooping in didn’t clue you in at the beginning of the sequence, the cut-outs in the ceiling should. I especially like how this affects the lighting, causing a spotlight on Henry. This is actually pretty clever, so I give some applause to the set designer for this creative take on the typical box.

All the Henrys

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This was an interesting visual choice by the PD and set designer. For me, this kind of display of monitors reads as a dystopia – think Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’ or Big Brother from ‘1984’. It has overtones of surveillance and control and the focus on multiple angles of Henry does nothing to dispel this reading. My take on the plot is that he uses the futuristic technology to channel the energy of his music into creating his perfect girl. This set, to me, makes this act come across as something that is either forbidden or dangerous, it’s kind of odd, because SM aren’t really known for making their MVs make sense at all. Ehhhh I’m probably reading too much into it…

Henry Makes / Gets His Girl

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The CG here is SUPER cheesy – but I still like it. And yay! A positive ending for an MV!

Watch the MV below – and don’t forget to check out some of the live stages – they’re pretty fun to watch as well!

It’s gonna be fantastic!

B1A4 – Solo Day MV

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B1A4 ‘Solo Day’ MV – Gif Set

And the cute MVs just keep coming!

Watching this really makes me wish it was summer and I had some cute boys to go alien chasing with.

B1A4 are back again after only 6 months with a fun and cute new MV and mini album. As always, it’s very much in their quirky style with bright colours, a great story and a catchy tune (with some dubious English thrown in, but it wouldn’t be B1A4 if it made actual sense!)

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Hahaha I had to scroll SO FAR BACK in our Kakao chat to find this exchange… how do we manage to send so many messages a day? (lol all kpop related too).

I love all of the elements in this MV – it’s great to see a group get out of the ubiquitous ‘box set’ and tell a story. It’s definitely different and bears repeated viewing so that you can catch all of the small details – especially in the signs and backgrounds.

This MV went on so many of our random playlists… (pink hair, beach, cute head bobbing, big round spinny things, random shopping trolley, nanana/lalalala, video game, glasses, doggies, stripey shirts, party – alas that the car was not actually a useless car…)  Well done B1A4! We should totally make that whistling playlist now, right?

How cute is Baro with his detecting gear and his utter glee at actually coming across the aliens! I also adore Gongchan and the dog (may have squealed a bit because it was so adorable).

Jinyoung did an amazing job composing this! I can appreciate his talent as a songwriter here as this is so much fun to sing along to.

I’m hoping we’ll get a dance practice at some point too – as the live stages are unbearably cute to watch!

Solo solo day solo solo day girl

100% – U Beauty – MV Review

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100% “U Beauty” MV Gif Set

It’s the cute flower boys of summer!

100% are back again with a 180 degree shift in concept. Their last mini album “Bang the Bush” and MV ‘Beat’ featured loads of vampire / frankenstein imagery (plus abs – yay! and lots of rather hot stage outfits featuring leather). ‘U Beauty’ is ALL about being adorable and piling on the aegyo. I’m not complaining though, as I love and adore cute concepts – especially cute concepts with colourful hair!

There’s a glut of adorable MVs out at the moment – which are all celebrating the northern hemisphere summer (as I type this, there’s a thunderstorm outside and I have my electric blanket dialed up to “3”). This MV isn’t anything super different, but it’s fun to watch and the song is very catchy! 100% have gone for a fresh and cute idol concept as they sing to a pretty girl (and slightly stalk her in the locker room).

100% are currently promoting as a team of 5. Their very attractive leader Minwoo is in the army and the maknae Sanghoon is on a break as he decides what he wants to do. Rokhyun has taken over leadership duties and is currently making himself my bias because he’s just too sweet. These boys are label mates with Teen Top with Top Media (yay!) and it’s fantastic to see them promoting back to back. They’re very underrated as a group and I’m hoping that they’ll continue to build their fanbase and popularity so we can see more of them!

I love the vocal line in this group – they are all talented singers and this is a light summery song with a good hook line ‘니가 예쁘다’ (niga yeppeuda) which will worm its way into your brain and have you singing along. I like the brass elements too – overall the song is bright and cheerful and has a fun rap chorus too.

I have to mention the colourful hair too! Jonghwan is blue, Rokhyun blond, Changbum pink, Chanyong is orange and Hyukjin escaped the stylist this time!

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I also appreciate the choreography – it fits well with the song, and has some pretty well executed moves that put their athleticism and flexibility to the test! I like that there are some jazz ballet moves too!  The live stages have been a real treat to watch so far as well with their strong vocals coming across.

I have ordered the mini album ‘Sunkiss’ from MNet (as they’re doing a signed meet and greet) The promo pictures were adorable giving me hope that the photobook will be full of boys with flowers. (just like CN Blue’s ‘Can’t Stop’). I’ll have to go back and get their first 2 mini albums now… and to think I mercilessly teased Aimee when she bought them in Korea…

I have embedded the original and dance version MVs below (The dance version is my favourite because it’s really good!) and if you have time you should also check out the acoustic piano version because it’s AMAZING! All the harmonies!! *melts* These boys are so talented!

You’re the one and only

HISTORY (히스토리) – Psycho (싸이코) MV – Review

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HISTORY (히스토리) – Psycho (싸이코) MV Gif Set

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a fan of suggestive boytouching in an MV, and this is certainly one that delivers that in spades. It’s creepy and very possessive (with that stalker-who-might-stab-you-vibe) kind of boytouching, but I clearly have some deep seated issues because I loved this! Of all the KPop releases in June, this was one that made an impression.

There have been a slew of ‘dark themed’ KPop MVs recently with a fascination with Zombies, Vampires, Voodoo (hey VIXX! I swear you’ve done all of these…) and general death / gore imagery. However, I don’t think that many of these have successfully carried out the ‘creepy’ feeling (although ‘Voodoo Doll‘ by VIXX certainly made me squeamish at certain points). By creepy, I suppose I mean more unsettling; where the storyline / visuals / lyrics make the viewer uncomfortable because of what is implied rather than directly shown. A good example of a similar MV to Psycho would be G-Dragon’s ‘She’s Gone‘ where he literally chases his captive down and stabs her – it’s super disturbing with the lyrics implying that it’s because he can’t accept that she doesn’t love him ‘even as he lingers by her side as a friend’ *shudder* It’s the whole Nice GuyTM turned into a bitter psychotic killer because rejection just isn’t in his worldview. Maybe it’s just because this is a more realistic scenario than zombies IDK…

History are a group that I have followed since their debut, and I own all of their mini albums (curses, another group that I collect! There’s some excellent eye candy in their photobooks too for anyone wondering if they are worth getting). These boys are a bit chameleon-like, in that every release has been a re-invention of their image. They’ve tried out several different music and visual styles, so you can’t really pin them down to a genre. Their debut was the very excellent ‘Dreamer‘ which is a real departure from most KPop as it has very layered harmonies – almost like ‘Queen’. Their next title track ‘Tell Me Love‘ was a super catchy dance track (and is still on my favourites playlist) and was followed by ‘What am I to You‘ which is almost a melding of the two (and has the maknae in his underwear for most of the MV as he spirals into drink and depression…).

They are definitely a vocal focused group, with all members having a really fantastic range and ability (and eye-candy – there are some pretty boys in this group, not gonna lie). I was really pleased to see them coming back with another mini album relatively soon after ‘Blue Spring’ and the teaser for ‘Psycho’ definitely caught my eye.

So, back to the MV! ‘Psycho’ has its thematic and visual roots in the Hitchcock movie of the same name and pays clever homage to it throughout (as well as a few other Hitchcock films that share the same obsessive and possessive elements). It’s an MV that has had some thought put into it; it reflects the lyrics very well (which btw, are also very disturbing). I particularly appreciated how the storyline which is presented in Black and White contrasts with the dance scenes which are in colour. The more times I watch the MV, the more small bits and pieces I notice. It’s tightly shot and full of symbolism – like the mirrors that surround them and the fact that the initial costumes have a slight straight jacket quality to them and then later change into chain gang black and white stripes.

And although I appreciate hot boys all over each other as they dance, the best thing is really the fact that the MV and the song has something to say.

The opening confessional scene ends with the most excellent neck grab by Kyungil to Sihyung and then the maknae Yijeong smirks before it morphs into a full blown creep-tacular smile. The MV then launches into scenes of stalking, surveillance and delusional obsession. It feels claustrophobic at times and then celebrates the thrill of illicit voyeurism (which ties in so well with the relationship between popstars and their fans that I can’t even deal with it). The implied ‘multiple personalities’ and their conflict with each other is also really well done, on first watch I thought that Yijeong was protecting the girl, but nope… he’s struggling with some inner demons that he ultimately comes to embrace (or they embrace him – literally –  mmmmm Kyungil). It blurs the lines between reality and psychosis as well, you’re not quite sure if it was all in his head. Ugh I really can’t praise it enough, it has so many excellent set pieces.

The dance is crotch-tacular with loads of creepy caresses between the members. Kyungil (the hot leader) is rather magnetic taking every opportunity to sex up the camera, in fact they’re all really enjoying playing up the killer vibe *cough* Dokyun and Yijeong especially *cough*. So praise to the choreographer for pulling this together – it’s even better on the music shows with all the fans screaming their heads off. The slight irony of their obsessive love makes it particularly enjoyable to me.

The song itself is also excellent. It has a slight 80’s feel with History’s harmony lines throughout. All in all, this is shaping up to be a strong contender for one of my favourite MVs and songs this year.

I really think my main issue is that despite the truly ‘Psycho’ meaning of the lyrics and the underlying threat of violence and possession that runs through the visuals, my main thoughts are ‘Kyungil is suuuuuuper attractive here’ and ‘I wouldn’t mind if he stalked me a bit…’ and the fact that this taps into some of my rather dark desires is the truly creepy factor.

‘You’re gonna like this play’

I also recommend watching their performance MV as the choreography for this dance is ON POINT! The live stages have also been a real treat! Their ‘Let’s Dance’ is also terrific 🙂