With Yein’s unhappy ankle injuries meaning she may not be able to join this cycle of promotions, Lovelyz’ latest single comes to us adumbrated with yet another potentially career-hobbling misfortune for the group.
But hopefully Lovelyz will continue to build their popularity, with an ambitious new album that adds venerated K-pop producers Sweetune to their signature musical guru OnePiece to create a lightsome and quirky collection of artfully girlsome (I like the sound of that!) pop.
The “Wow” video ostentatiously dives into the collected Lovelyz videography– a very underrated body of work, btw–pinning a lot of visual tags to all the previous videos. For fans, it’s an amusing exercise, and it tempts the mind to enquire what other easter eggs are buried inside the video, but more casual or uncommitted viewers might ask whether this is a premature strategy for a non-veteran group. Lovelyz, an immensely gifted group whose debut was long looked for, have thus far not quite ascended to the prominence they are worthy of, probably in large part due to the false “scandal” the group was besmirched with at the time of debut. The “Wow” video thus perhaps subtly hints that Lovelyz is looking to rechristen themselves in the public eye, even though the video and song are overall consistent with their thus-far seamlessly evolved image.
Where their previous comeback “Destiny” invoked the rich vein of melancholy we associate with GFriend’s “Rough” and April’s “April Story”, florid lovelorn dance tunes with dashes of J-pop sensibility, “Wow” takes a step back towards the effervescent makebelieve of “Ah Choo”. Yet not completely: with its flirty but “essay-like” lyrics and midtempo groove, “Wow” plays with the bittersweet tones of even the most exhilarating crush, the lyrics providing a self-admonishment about the mysteries of love and using an odd metaphor of drawing and two-dimensionality to suggest perhaps that love is a game and/or an illusion. With the progression from groovy intro to breathless, but stripped-down, bridge, to the shimmery and quite “Destiny”esque chorus, “Wow” provides an odd musical journey that teases the listener with a babbling brook of emotions– the effect is bright but cool and crisp, like a walk through the forest on a very early day in spring.
The physical environment here is very colorful, yet claustrophically “realistic” compared to the open spaces of the fantasy schoolhouses of “Candy Jelly Love” and “Ah Choo” or the Technicolor dreamhouse of Oh My Girl’s “Liar Liar”. The Lovelyz members are posed in various iterations of the trendy Mannequin Challenge, occasionally in gravity-defying postures, which enhances the slightly deranged feel of the video, which presents a chic yet slightly plausible environment and then subtly blurs its lines into pure fantasy and game playing. [NB: Was I blind or drunk when I wrote this, because why did I not comment on the Duplicator pop-up doppelgangers filling the halls for the members?!]
Thus, I suppose, all the stickers. I have to say that, from childhood, I’ve always hated stickers, so I just can’t pretend that it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. But, this is Lovelyz, and the video is a feast of sharp colors and chic costuming (I love those orange matte leather skirts). Jin has her hair back to a reasonably womanly length, and she and Mijoo both, for the moment, are decked in strange yet tempting orangish hues, and while it’s odd I can’t say it isn’t appealing. Mijoo of course with her “mood-maker” vivacity can make anything work. Baby Soul looks especially winsome in her strange, girly-woman way in this video. The oddest transformation for me is Jiae, who looks right now awfully like Crayon Pop’s Soyul (a married lady now, btw!), but there’s nothing wrong with that!
It has to be confessed that “Wow” is liable to prompt comparisons with Red Velvet’s latest and most argued-over works, “Russian Roulette” and “Rookie”. Like those tunes, this is a self-consciously arty and experimental number that, for whatever reason, chooses to avoid conspicuous hooks or soaring melodicism. If this indeed is the second leg of “A New Trilogy” (as announced by the title of their previous album) then perhaps it is meant to work in a template that imposes a “breather” between the romanticism of “Destiny” and whatever is destined to come hereafter.
For Red Velvet fans presently exulting in the (unwarranted, in my view) success of “Rookie” there will be a tendency to “I told you so”. Well, I still stand by my less-than-enthusiastic assessment of Red Velvet’s recent singles. And frankly, I don’t think “Wow” is Lovelyz’ signature masterpiece. But like “Hush” in the canon of A Pink’s musical catalog, this is a spirited evolution in their work, highly enjoyable and worthy of attention. Unlike the gracelessly annoying “Rookie”, “Wow” has genuine charm in its plinky arrangement and genuine variety in its developments. It captures something of the unspoken fire of excitement in first love, and the hopefulness that is so welcome in this time of the year, as well as in this great Trumpening era of history.