Short Film Wednesday - Power
K-pop is perhaps the most interesting and innovative pop music in the world right now, so I will be examining some of the most distinctive and artistically compelling K-pop music videos for April.
Strangely, this isn’t the first K-pop music video with a vaguely Power Rangers-inspired theme that I have ever seen. (That honor would go to Crayon Pop’s FM.) EXO is one of the most popular groups in Korea and most of Asia, thanks to the powerful influence of SM Entertainment and their ability to practically conjure immense, devoted fandoms through tons of hard work and really smart presentation and marketing. All of their groups (Girls’ Generation, Shinee, TVXQ, f(x), Red Velvet, etc.) have had massive successes in one way or another. CEO Lee Soo Man gave a talk at Stanford in which he mentioned the group and how he wanted to tap the enormous Chinese market. The main strategy was to make the group truly bilingual and bicultural. At the beginning, half of its members were Korean (EXO-K) and half were Chinese (EXO-M) until several contract disputes and accusations of overwork caused some of the Chinese members to exit the group.
EXO, almost more than any other group I think so, is a nakedly commercial one, or at least its origins were nakedly commercial. Which is why I find this video strange. Not that I hate it. It is highly entertaining, with a high kitsch value. When the cheesy narration started, I thought for a second I was watching the Adult Swim parody of a K-pop music video. Several of the boys have a flattering bit of grime plastered on their faces in a very cheesy attempt to lend reality to this absurd space shootout. The robot seems to be a reject from Forbidden Planet. Plus, at some point they turn into cartoon characters, and there’s a rogue kitten causing mischief.
Compared to their other videos, “Power” is unusual because it actually doesn’t really work to EXO’s appeal. “Growl” is an incredible extended tracking shot highlighting the difficult and athletic choreography they are known for. “Call Me Baby” is classic boy band with lots of handsome posturing and posing while showcasing their tight unity and crisp vocals. In this video, we don’t see them dance. Hell we don’t even see them sing. They’re featured mostly as individuals or sometimes as small subunits. Plus, the visuals overwhelm the group as opposed to the other way around, though there is definitely some handsome posing going on.
I almost half convinced myself this is a bad music video just from writing this review, but I admire this music video for its goofy, out-there nature as much as I have doubts about its artistry and presentation. I think K-pop boy bands tend to be a lot safer because they tend to be more popular than girl groups (since most K-pop fans are girls), and they also have to preserve an image of cool, sexiness and poise more so than girl groups have too. I also think that’s why girl group music videos tend to be more creative. “Power” could very well be a good sign of more interesting and daring work from this group and the creative forces behind it.