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Posted by KayRosa AKP STAFF Friday, March 16, 2018

[OP-ED] The visual power of NCT's Music Videos (Part 1)

I'm sure you've seen at least one of them. Six lengthy teaser videos (2 Yearbooks + 4 NCTmentarys, so far), four full-length MVs, and numerous short clips leading up to each release. NCTmentaries are like pseudo-documentaries with interesting narrations and CGI, explaining NCT through 'science' and 'neo' technology. NCT's 'NCT 2018 Empathy' era is all about content -- lots and lots of content -- and most definitely the conceptual pinnacle of the group's identity as all the members connect via dreams.

Accordingly, the music videos and teasers of NCT were shot in diverse locations around the world (physically and virtually), and the settings' mood and atmosphere naturally captured each story which embody different layers. In terms of physical locations, two of the videos were shot in Kiev, the other in Los Angeles, and the rest in Seoul. What is interesting about these locations, however, is that SM did not go abroad just to utilize the city for their ultra touristy spots; instead, the videos give me the impression that each setting was carefully chosen in terms of the location's architecture and ambience to complete the mise-en-scene that best accompanies the concept of their music.


As much as this song was the first track to be released, the music and the visuals had to have impact, and they achieved it through darker color palettes and intensity. The word 'boss' and its implications cue the concept of leadership, authority, and even dictatorship, and the lyrics also suggest the notion of (world) domination and hypnosis. 

"Whatever I touch, I get" / "My heat, the feeling of falling in, the moment it touches the tip of (my) fingers" / "The world is ours, world is ours."

In my opinion, the architectural and historic setting of Ukraine suits this concept quite well. The modern architecture of post-WWII Eastern Europe gives this sense of ominous vacuity and industrial coolness that merge the old with the new. The great and unified but hollow-looking halls are reminiscent of the Cold War and its era of information agents and secret science experiments and interrogations. (Hence the link to NCTmentary's scientific dream labs?) The Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine (primary location of the shots) is home to one of the largest scientific and cultural collections in the world, and the interior and exterior of the building seem to have their own historical significance and aura, as they were constructed prior to the Fall of the Berlin Wall. The boys of NCT, dressed in black, look simply smart in what appear to be vintage uniforms, dashing and crisp in these settings as they dance. But, it is also important to note out that despite possible connotations, NCT do not appear to be conveying a certain form of political message. If there is one, it is the scene with Mark and Taeyong running toward each other from opposite sides for a fistfight, implying the brawl in which opposite ends of the spectrum race to become the boss. (The commentary of the MV explains that they were divided between the hyung line and the maknae line, older generation vs. newer generation.)

2. NCT U - Baby Don't Stop

If you ask me, the song "Boss" and this song are of the same genre -- almost exactly the same -- as if both the song and the MV were born on the same day like a twin track to the former. Of course, that is because this video was also shot in Kiev, but this concept similarly aims for the cool atmosphere with cutting-edge stylizing. The music video starts out with Ten performing by himself in front of a facade, a fake brick wall, and he stands up from a small anachronistic staircase like a prop on a theatre. As the camera turns, it is revealed that the setting is indeed an auditorium, with a shot of Taeyong in front of rows and rows of empty seats. Starting from then on, no other soul appears in this MV; it only features Ten and Taeyong exploring more of those empty hallways, projection rooms, and outdoor plazas. Because the rooms are so large and empty, they do feel very dreamy, and the whole theatrical concept only strengthens the concept of REM sleep. In addition, the scenes are grayscaled when the two members go outside, perhaps to contrast the snow-covered natural background with their dark suits, producing more striking imagery that goes against the red font choice at the very end.

Continued in Part 2 for "NCT Dream - GO," "NCT 127 - TOUCH," and more.

  1. NCT
  2. NCT U
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