'Game-Changing' Hardly Covers It.
No punches pulled, no sugar-coating, no undue simplification . . . just taking the world as it is, representing it in a dramatic form of art, making a statement, enacting change in a call to action that if nothing else makes people think for a moment. There are two schools of thought on the issue, one that says 'Ars Gratia Artis' and holds that the only way to achieve true Art is to make art for its own sake, and one that says 'Vitam Ars Causa' and holds that life is itself Art, is caused by Art, and is reflected by Art (ie, that Art simply IS). I'm in the second camp. I think that Art must be good on it's own and held against it's own self to determine if it's good, but at the same time, whether or not art is good, it can be valuable, particularly in terms of how it relates to and affects culture.
What Bangtan Boys has done here is changed the game for kpop. Making statements about culture, and about how it needs to change, in music isn't something new, not even new to kpop really. (Seriously, I mean, F.cuz had Dreaming I... pretty recently, which actually gets at the same idea as this release from Bangtan Boys). But what this video does that the other statement-making attempts in kpop have failed to do is that it has made the issue at hand hurt to ignore. It's directly challenging the status quo, explicitly calling out the problems therein. In most other cases, in the kpop that I've seen at least, the subversive comments are made quite quietly, layered in thematic metaphor and a storyline that distracts any unfavorable critics. Bangtan Boys have released something that refuses to be ignored or brushed aside like that, and that is something to really applaud. It's a ballsy thing to do anywhere, but South Korea's pretty dang conservative . . . MVs can be banned simply because people with weird haircolors are shown as being successful in school with 'normal' kids. This . . . makes a pretty bold-faced argument, one much more aggressively controversial than anything I've seen in the past like it.
I really hope that this does actually influence a new era of Kpop music, pushing kpop to move beyond performance art and transcend into protest art that is Art in and of itself, and good art at that. It's possible. Big Hit Music's little slogan is something like 'Music & Artists for Healing' right? Well, here's a chance for others to latch onto the idea and start healing society from the inside out.
That having been said, including the fact that I cannot lavish on enough praise for this in a twenty page analysis, let alone a quick review, I do have some critiques of it. The song is okay. It's got a decent dose of drama to it, but mostly in what it's saying, not how it's saying it. I love the orchestral elements, but the overall form is pretty simple and there's nothing to really make it stand out as a track. The Pre-chorus vamp is fantastic, real tension is built and energy and angst, but it all falls sort of flat in the chorus. I'd have liked to hear a more heart-wrenching, aching sort of summation to it all rather than the rather less than dramatic release . . . My thoughts personally went to GD's chorus in Crooked, how the aggressive call and response in that one feels so much more intense than the one found here, and how it keeps the energy up better. These angsty sort of real-world pain depictions shouldn't have the release of tension found in other sorts of songs, there's nothing to warrant a release of tension until the final resolution. The chorus should be a culmination, a breaking point, the limit reached just before everything falls apart and tumbles into the bridge before a modified chorus fully releases the tension for the outro.
Lyrically, it's fabulous. And it makes an excellent point. There's something truly broken about the world's educational system these days . . . some places are better than others, but seriously, once we started being more concerned with the grades than with the actual experience of learning and developing a viable skill set, 'school' as an institution began to decay. It's tricky to deride the educational system without bad-mouthing education as a whole, and I feel that NO does a pretty solid job of it. (I also particularly enjoy the irony of the situation that is the reason I'm late in posting this is that school is working me to death and taking over my life and what I'm posting is a review about a song explaining how it's not right that school works you to death and takes over your life...).
As for the MV itself, the visuals are definitely striking. There's a fantastic drama to it all, a staging meant to really draw a viewer in and to force them to acknowledge the state of the real world by over-playing it in a metaphoric world. I'm not a terribly huge fan of the way the sets were incorporated into the plot-line (especially the hands and the clouds one), but they're not too terrible. And I would have had the boys develop more as characters; they start out as identical robots, and they pretty much end up nearly as identical... a few hats are added, sunglasses, some jewelry, but not really enough to delineate them if you don't already know who they are (as I found out quite acutely in trying to show the mv to a friend...) and I think it could have benefited thematically from more marked evolution. The choreography is glorious. Bangtan Boys is definitely my Baby Band of the year, I've decided. The choreography here is spot on perfect for this MV; it's aggressive, it's emotive, it's perfectly in sync and fantastically worked into the plot and the lyrics. I love it.
Also, if we're going to talk about epic choreography, I feel that the Concept Trailer for Bangtan Boys' latest album should definitely come up. This Concept Trailer is easily one of my very favorite of all time and no small part in why this release has sealed the deal for Bangtan Boys as my personal rookies of the year for 2013.