Ladies' Code - So Wonderful
Two days before Valentine's Day, Ladies' Code uploaded the new video for their second digital single "So Wonderful." At the time of this review, around four days in, they've racked up over 180,000 views for So Wonderful; their previous two videos, Pretty Pretty and Hate You, have racked up well over a million views -- Pretty Pretty is well on its way to 2 million.
For nearly a week, fans viewed the too-brief and sometimes strange teasers that Loen Music (now 1theK) released, whetting their appetites for what was to come. After the vaguely disturbing nature of last year's Hate You, I wondered what we were in for.
It's a fairly simple video plot-wise. The girls dance and sing in front of stand-up microphones, occasionally there's a solo shot of them sitting somewhere else singing, and there's some lonely guy making mannequins of the members of the group. In addition, we have a surprise ending, which is always fun: we learn he is a mannequin, too.
The song, musically, is very similar to Pretty Pretty, but visually very different. Where Pretty Pretty was bright, pastel-colored, and bathed in light, this MV uses the darkness with neutral and muted colors. Even the occasional oranges, reds, and whites look subdued somehow, not bright and vibrant like you'd expect. The lighting is very muted, giving a paranormal air to this whole affair. I half-expected gouts of flame shooting from braziers or at least some runes on a table somewhere. Maybe I'm a bit too ostentatious for my own good.
On Ladies' Code as mannequins, I have to say that the expressionless faces really didn't creep me out as much as I'd expect. If the emotionless faces in Hate You were unsettling, this feels more comfortable. I'm not sure if that's because we're used to seeing this, or because they didn't give off that Children of the Corn vibe.
A comparison to the MV for Nobody (English Version) by the Wonder Girls is almost inevitable, and some fans (and haters) are starting to notice. Standing mics, very similar dance routines, and the mere fact that Wonder Girls fans are called Wonderfuls. This video, however, is thankfully bereft of the bathroom scenes with JYP. To be fair, however, how much can you really do while you're behind a microphone stand? How many arm positions are there? What are they supposed to do, stand perfectly still? A bit of overlap is to be expected. How many K-pop videos are made each year? And you want to be on semi-familiar ground when you make a video, anyway. Too outre, and you can alienate your audience. The mannequin coming to life story is at least 130 years old.
Regardless, this is a song that gets your feet moving and your heart beating. It's undeniably catchy, the video is certainly well-shot, and the members of Ladies' Code are definitely easy on the eyes. If you haven't seen it yet, do yourself a favor and take a look. Derivative or not, it's a lot of fun packed into 3 and a half minutes.
Because the video is tied to their new single, I'd like to tell you a bit about the song on its own merits. How does it stack up musically? Is it "So Wonderful" after all?
From the mournful horn at the beginning, to the first synth riff, the song is full of promise. The first vocal part is the chorus, which is textbook K-pop: start out strong to bolster the rest of the song. In my opinion the chorus is not as strong as it could be. It's very similar to last year's Pretty Pretty, which to my ears is more substantial. There's sort of an insistent R&B groove to it. Ironically, I like the verses better than the chorus. The timing makes it interesting, as well; at 1:51 there's pause held for a couple beats. Instead of the traditional rap part, they have a very Motown-inspired bridge which works quite well.
Sojung's and Ashley's pipes definitely get a workout here, much more than in Hate You. That said, the vocals are well-done, and build up nicely to the chorus. I just wish the chorus was less repetitive and more powerful, because it's a little disappointing after the build-up.
The lyrics itself are a bit of a paradox. The song is about a man who left our protagonist, and she's crying and can't sleep. The wonderful part must refer to the man, but the lyrics also do not fit the tone of the song. The melody is upbeat and danceable, but the lyrics are sad. It's a strange tone for a breakup song, overall.
The girls said they used more real instruments in this song, and you can definitely hear them -- brass section, bass guitar, drums. The instrumentation in the chorus sounds very 80's, as is the intent. In the short, staccato blasts of the horns, I can hear echoes of David Bowie's Modern Love and even the Spice Girls' Who Do You Think You Are? Makes me wish I could have this on vinyl, because digital does tend to lose sound quality, but you can't have everything.
With all that said, I do enjoy the song, perhaps because what it reminds me of -- it's a catchy, pleasant addition to my playlist.