Jul 15, 2015

Nugu Boy Group Combined Comeback Post Part 2 (Speed, Boys Republic, High4)

HIGH4 - Baby Boy

As promised, here is the next part of my two-part nugu boy groups comeback review, featuring Speed, Boys Republic and High4. Out of these three groups the only one I've ever written about before is High4 when they had their comeback in January with "Day By Day", and although I was left with a good impression I wasn't 100% satisfied. The other two are completely unknown to me, and although both of them have been around a while they never sparked my interest before.

Speed debuted way back in 2012 and unfortunately so did many other boy groups, so they quickly faded into the background although hailing from a successful company. Or at least MBK Entertainment was back then when they were called Core Contents Media and managed at the time a very successful group called T-Ara. However when it comes to Speed, they still haven't managed to get that public recognition even 3 years after their debut.

With this video for single "What U", it's not too hard to understand why that is. Actually I think the song is quite good, but it doesn't suit the vibe of the video at all. The song is also a bit too slow and dragged out to be a title track, and the energy-level is very low-key. Still, the melody is enjoyable and although the production quality isn't very high it's most definitely a good listen.

The video however, like I said, feels kind of strange to me. I don't really get what it's about and even if it's somehow related to lyrics, whom I can't seem to find an English translation to, it's still very ambiguous. One of the members is seen obsessively stalking a girl whilst she looks confused and scared, and let me just say that I would be too if a guy followed me the entire day. On top of that the video it looks very cheap, and you can tell that MBK didn't put that much money into it. It basically looks like they grabbed a camera and went around to different locations in Seoul and shot it right there and then with little editing done afterwards. You might say that I complain a lot about MV's looking cheap, but let me clarify something. I don't care even the tiniest bit how much money actually went into it, but about how it shows in the MV. A video can be shot on a budget but still look respectable, and this just isn't one of those.

A highlight of the video however, is the fact that the group is all wearing and incorporating Heelys into their choreography, which I don't think has been done before. It looks quite cool as the literally roll around in their formations and include the function of the shoes in various moves. If anything they should have promoted that aspect more, since it's probably the most original thing about the MV and comeback. Like many groups stuck in nugu territory Speed has trouble finding a solid identity. I feel like they've tried every concept and musical style there is, without truly having anything to call their own. With this comeback they still haven't managed to do that, and after three years I'm unfortunately starting to think they probably never will.

Song: 3,25/5
Video: 2/5

Next up is Boys Republic, who debuted more recently in 2013, but have also struggled to stay relevant despite being connected to an ever bigger company; Universal Music. Although they are prominently managed by a less known Korean company having those kind of connections should mean success in one way or the other, but that hasn't been the case. I have personally never listened to them before so I wondered what kind of image they would give off with their new MV for "Hello".

BoysRepublic2015At first listen I was slightly surprised by the song they were putting out. I guess my expectations must have been for them to sound like any other typical boy group single, but "Hello" was quite different indeed. The song is a mid-tempo ballad with a clean and simple musical construction, allowing the members' vocals and rapping to take center stage. I actually like the song more than I would've expected, and it seems that all the members of the group are quite talented too at what they do. It's always refreshing to hear something more natural and not as processed, and although I'm not sure if this has always been their concept I can totally get behind it if it is. I'm not sure however if I can say the same thing about the MV.

My main issue with it is the fact that each shot has been filtered and color-edited to no end, and because of this it kind of gives off the feeling of being overworked and over-processed. Not to mention the filters aren't even very appeasing to the eye but more so the ones you would avoid if you were to upload a photo to Instagram. Some shots are straight-up blue and others are this close to being without color because it's been stripped away, and I just don't think it's flattering for the members. The plot also leaves much to wonder about, because although there are snippets of what the lyrics imply it doesn't really go anywhere else with it. You can see the members reminiscing about happier days in various ways, but they way they each handle their grief is as far as it goes in providing a plot for the viewer. What I'm saying is that there could have been more, and that although it works as it is I think it could have been developed even further.

Still, there are a few positives about the MV with the first being the concept itself along with the matching song, which I mention previously. I also guess it depends on what you compare it to, but the scenery and sets used are quite nice and everything fits with the bitter-sweetness that the song embodies. Additionally I was quite shocked by how good-looking I found the members and how talented they seemed to be, so now I'm definitely curious to find out more about them.

Song: 3,5/5
Video: 3,5/5

As I wrote earlier I have written a review on High4 before, and if I remember correctly I said that they had potential to become successful in the future. On that point I stand firm. "Baby Boy" is a high-quality release and it doesn't feel like it's too far out there in terms of what they've done before. Since they have two rappers and two singers their music style is very solid; the rappers handle the verses and the vocalists the choruses. This is a concept that works even more so here, but the song itself leaves me a bit confused.

HIGH4 - Baby BoyI've discussed many times before about songs in which there is a disconnect between verse and chorus, and how I don't like those kind of songs. Unfortunately "Baby Boy" is somewhat bipolar in that sense, because it's definitely one of those mix-matched tunes. The initial reaction when the beat drops and Alex starts rapping with full force is: "Not another one of these try-hard hip-hop songs please!", but unlike those exact type songs this one actually answers to our prayers. The chorus is not only surprisingly sweet and cute but flows at a completely different beat and tempo. At first I was a bit hesitant but the more times I listened to it the more natural the progression felt, and now I actually really like the song. It does help that all the members are good at each of their positions, which is of course likelier the fewer members the group has.

I also have very little criticism about the video, because it's a pretty good one. The lyrics of the song are quite funny too as the rappers go hard about how bad-ass they are, and then the sweet chorus kicks in and the vocalists sing about how they, in front of the girl they like, become soft and timid. The video centers around a female lead (model Song Hae Na) who does have complete control over the guys' behavior, as symbolized by her switching through different channels with a remote control. They do all sorts of things as requested by her, such as cooking, bringing presents and doing intense push-ups. The contrast between the verse and chorus becomes even more apparent as it's symbolized through the video, and it makes me think that the disconnect does serve a purpose because of the song's lyrics and that it wasn't only because their songwriters messed up.

Out of all the videos I've watched for this series "Baby Boy" is by far my favorite. I enjoyed how well-executed it was and how there was a clear theme that went into both video, song and concept. Aesthetically the MV was highly enjoyable too, as it was both colorful, playful and included beautiful sets. Not to mention the styling which I am crazy about, and how amazing all of the members look.

Song: 3,75/5
Video: 4,25/5

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