It’s already a year and a half into the career of Laboum, yet they have the charm of making each comeback feel like a fresh debut. This sweet effect is all the more engaging for their hardcore fans since, to our chagrin, they have thus far failed to break out into the mid-tier ranks of visibility and success their contemporaries like Lovelyz and Oh My Girl have made it to. Each new single feels like the one that could make their break-out success– will “Fresh Adventure” be the one to do it?
The new video pulls the trick of taking a lot of simple, presumably low-budget ideas and cooking them up into something that feels “bigger” than what it would appear to be. Largely this is down to the members’ infectious high energy and their aptness to play off of each other– a comedic quality in great evidence throughout all their Pops in Seoul performances. What’s in front of the camera amounts to a few tossed-together sets, as if for a juniors’ catalog fashion shoot, but Laboum prance and preen with so much enthusiasm, this simple “narrative” of girls slumber-partying and dream-camping takes on a life of its own.
As an English-speaker, I admit I wince to see the slogan “You Only Live Once” emblazoned across their dance studio (in America, this is a phrase associated now with the lowest, drunkenest dregs of society), but it’s one of those things I can’t expect the Korean directors and designers to pick up on. Otherwise, the video is, in its remarkably simple way, faultlessly charming.
A lot of this comes down to the exuberance of the new single. What separates “Fresh Adventure” somewhat from “Sugar Sugar” or “Aalow Aalow” is that, where last year’s releases consciously and cleverly responded to classic pop hits of the 50s and 80s, the new song sets itself squarely in the field of early SNSD: a song unapologetically engineered for the fresh, eager, clean-cut energies of early adolescence. It is, as some old wag once put it, a “three (or four) minute symphony for kids”. If you accept that, in God’s eyes, the unsullied enthusiasms of thirteen have their own immortal vitality, “Fresh Adventure” is a sonic romp: a perfect embodiment of what K-pop is supposed to be about. Like much of the best pop, there’s a flickering tone of melancholy amid all the bouncing zest for life: a kind of adolescent memento mori, the recognition that all this energy of youth, its boundless optimism, is fleeting, so savor it while you may–and never sully it with the unforced betrayals of abandonment or abandon.
And yet in all this enthusiasm too there is the promise of comedy, that when all is said and done and the curtain closes we shall all live happily everafter. Amid all the pieces of horseplay in evidence, I’m particularly struck by Haein miming running after the van that’s “leaving” her. Pretending to drive away in a parked vehicle is, I suppose, a rather childish game. But in its dream escape from bedroom to forest, “Fresh Adventure” isn’t a fantasy of flight (even with its Narnia-like teleportation through the trees) so much as a continuation of all the fun that sleepytime rudely came to interrupt. What the girls seek in dream is not anything outside themselves; it’s really only about keeping forever in each other’s company. And when Solbin blearily awakens from her dream (with such hilarious overstatement!), only to cast a stray twig from her hair and smile in recognition, this hint of magical realism promises that Laboum’s adventure can be unending. Hence the “end credits” affectation a la T-ara’s gigantic “Roly Poly” MV– because “Fresh Adventure” is Laboum’s story, their fairytale that has still only just begun.