Feb 9, 2016
Winner Makes A Grand Comeback With Double Title Tracks "Sentimental" And "Baby Baby"
Like with all YG comebacks the idea of them actually happening is always so far away that I never quite believe that a YG act is releasing new material until it's concretely out there. The same goes with Winner, one of my favorite groups to debut in 2014, and appropriately that year was also the year the group latest released music. It's fair to say it's been a long ride to get here for all Winner fans, especially with iKon jumping into the game and killing the charts, but finally the time has come for this magical group to make a return to the scene; and magical it is indeed.
As the title suggests I'm only going to talk about "Baby Baby" and "Sentimental" here and not Taehyun's solo MV for "I'm Young", and that's not because I don't like the song or video. In fact I think the MV is incredibly beautiful and artistic, and the directing, cinematography and production quality is beyond admirable, but it is Taehyun's song, not Winner's per se. Although that argument doesn't really hold up considering the other two title tracks (which are Winner's) are also prominently works of Taehyun (with Mino and Seunghoon helping out with the lyrics), but those two songs are after all promoted by the entire group.
With their debut Winner took quite an nontraditional route, and everything from their high-class model concept to their subdued, low-intensity title tracks and dark videos. The focus always seemed to be put more on the quality of the music rather than flashy videos or complex choreography. Of course it makes sense, as almost all of the members are heavily involved with the making of their music (with Taehyun, Seungyoon and Mino doing the most), and this results in a sound that separates them from other idol groups. With these two title tracks, and the entire EP actually, it's only a matter of time before Winner might be able to slowly shed the idol title and become recognized as real musicians and artists with control of their output.
First of all I'm going to share my opinions on "Baby Baby", which I think I like the better out of the two. I say think because both songs are really great in their own ways, and embody Winner's musical colors as well as feeling fresh and innovative. "Baby Baby" is definitely the slower out of the two, and it has a bluesy kind of feel which makes for a very relaxing sound that the members' rapping and vocals capture perfectly. The song is basically about feeling lonely, and not wanting to feel lonely, and the lyrics are really, really sad. A lot of the topics brought up are very relatable and the sense of despair is so well conveyed that you can't help but to feel gloomy while listening to the song. The video isn't making the situation any brighter either, because although it might be one of the most beautiful videos I've seen in a long time it leaves you feeling incredibly vulnerable.
In the beginning scene we see a real-life recording of Winner presenting at an award show last year, as they give away the one they themselves received the year of their debut; best new group. This candid piece of film sets the mood for the video quite well with the words that are said, such as them being on the edge of their seats due to all the new powerful groups that have come out. Already you get a sense of what the video might be about; being afraid of being forgotten and feeling alone, and that's exactly what it is about.
All of the members play different roles in this MV, but it is believed that they do play themselves, or more so versions of themselves. A lot of the things that might have happened during their hiatus could be portrayed here although exaggerated; partying, meeting girls and writing music. Here however everything that happens is covered in a veil of sadness, because although how happy they might seem partying with friends or meeting girls the lyrics of the song play a different story; it's all just a front they put on, a disguise to hide their true emotions.
Seungyoon and Seunghoon are clearly the light of the party, as they roam around drinking, dancing and hang out with tons of girls. They smile and are seemingly happy, but the truth is elsewhere as they deep down feel very lonely. Jinwoo is also at the party but sits by the bar on his own drinking his pain away, and as girls approach him he ignores them. Hence he displays another way of dealing with loneliness. Mino and Taehyun are stuck at their hotel rooms (and the latter seems to be coming back from a plane trip which I assume is related to the plot of "I'm Young", and thus his actions make a lot more sense here as well), and while Taehyun plucks at his guitar Mino texts a girl to come over.
She eventually does, but it's obvious that there's no emotional connection between them and he doesn't feel any better because of it either. The real climax of the video comes at the end though, as the members all find a way to be alone with their thoughts as the night reaches its darkest hour, and the city's sky explodes with fire works. Here the feeling of loneliness is highlighted more than ever, and the sense of feeling so small in a world so big. The shot of Seungyoon at the rooftop, sipping at his drink and looking at the colorful night sky, is absolutely stunning and hit me right in the heart with how emotional it made me feel.
Apart from how well the emotional message is conveyed with the members' all individual stories woven together the visuals of this MV are breathtaking. Every shot is just so beautiful and so carefully planned out and execution, and the attention to detail is truly impressive. The color palette, with careful yet strategic use of bright, neon colors is fantastic and like I said before the use of colorful fire works in the dark night sky is a brilliant move in my opinion.
The other title track for the promotions of "EXIT:E" is "Sentimental", and this video is quite different from the sulky "Baby Baby". Well it is, but also isn't, because the songs have themes that are somewhat similar. It also deals with the topic of being alone and not quite being able to accept it. but the feeling of the song is overall much lighter (both lyrically and instrumentally). Here they feel restless, out of energy and you guessed it, sentimental, due to the absence of a significant other rather than the general feeling of loneliness that was so apparent in "Baby Baby". "Sentimental" shows that those kind of emotions can have different outputs, because the mood in this song and MV isn't depressing as much as it is sort of passive and out-of-touch.
The video has quite a different look than the other as well, both in the way it's shot but also the cinematography and scenography. What makes this video unique is the fact that the majority of it is shot from a bird perspective, as if you're sitting at the ceiling looking down at the members as they're simultaneously staring back at you. Each of them has a room of their own as well, and the camera moves swiftly from one room to the other as you witness the members take out their frustration in various ways.
They crawl around on the floor, throw around things, play with the props and if you're Jinwoo; lay in the bathtub with clothes on. All of them have their own ways of expressing their tiresome feelings, but the message comes across perfectly nonetheless. If I was bored and lonely I probably would do many of the same things. Additionally there are some scenes in which the members play around together, which also are the only ones shot from a ground level perspective, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this might be the first time we see Winner dance and sing together in one of their videos. Sure, the dance sequence is short but it's still there, and that's got to be a first. This also makes me realize how much I've missed seeing them interact in this kind of way in a MV, because it's something most other groups do at one point. Although the mood is very casual here, as they're jamming on instruments or play around on their own in the background, it's still so nice to see.
I also have to comment on the production quality of this video, which is like with "I'm Young" and "Baby Baby" incredibly high, and the video is such a aesthetic experience. I'm in love with the sets and the props that are so detailed and add so much character, as well as the vibrant color palette that does feel quite strange to watch because you're so used to Winner's videos being so dark. It's highly appreciated though, because it explores a new side of the group that feels like them despite being different.
When thinking about it, this might be most "traditional" video of Winner to date, and yet it's still on such a different level than most other standard K-pop videos. If anything this shows that Winner are playing at a different league, despite it only being two years after their debut, and that's quite amazing if you ask me. If this was any other group a video like this would've been a real highlight, but with Winner it's just a cute treat for their fans to see a brighter, more colorful side of them.
The video maybe isn't as deep or emotional like "I'm Young" or "Baby Baby", but it does have a subdued emotional impact as well as being a visual explosion of colors, clothing and sets. The premise might be more on the simple side, but the way the video is shot and edited makes it stand out over any other video of the same theme, and that's what makes it so interesting. Even when Winner tries to play it down, it still heaps better than most K-pop videos out there.