K-Pop gets a rep for its ‘box sets’ and cleanly executed choreo, but every now and then a trend comes along that pushes K-Pop in a more theatrical direction.
One of my favourite of these is the trend for Fairy Tale inspired videos. I am fairly sure you can’t have missed this trend, but if you have, you are in for a treat.
The first example that springs to mind for me is Boyfriend – ‘Bounce’
For the most part a fantastic ‘Alice In Wonderland’ themed romp. The video actually begins with a girl in a ‘Red Riding Hood’ reminiscent cloak. If fans were left in any doubt about the nature of the theme, the following cuts of iconic ‘Alice In Wonderland’ iconography clears things up nicely.
Each member seems comfortable with assuming their role wholeheartedly and the video is far from subtle with its imagery. I love the bold, super -theatrical sets and costumes. Of course, this being Boyfriend, the video is chopped up with cuts to their stage sections showcasing the dramatic choreography that has defined their last few releases. Most of you probably realise girl groups are my first love, but Boyfriend are one of those groups whose last few dramatic releases have won me over!
Of course, ‘Alice In Wonderland’ is a fairly universally known part of popular culture, so it should come as no surprise that Boyfriend are not the only people to use it as inspiration. One of my favourite examples comes from Big Bang’s loveable, problematic maknae Seungri!
A much more subtly inspired display compared to Boyfriend’s, Seungri’s ‘V.V.I.P’ borrows a lot of imagery from ‘Alice In Wonderland’ to a give a kind of crazy and weird vibe to the video – from the girl’s dress, to the playing with comparative sizes of props and right on through to a game of croquet!
‘Alice In Wonderland’ isn’t the only fantastical children’s story to have had the K-Pop treatment though and girl groups have gotten in on the action too. TINT – ‘Wolf Is Stupid’ is an adorable take on the ‘Red Riding Hood’ story!
The cutesy romp is split between modern, cartoony takes of a man in a wolf costume and shots of uniformed girls dancing sweetly. If you were in any doubt as to the theme, the liberal sprinkling of the girls in red riding hoods should fix that!
Well, it’s been a good couple of paragraphs since I mentioned Boyfriend last, so you might not notice I’m about to mention them again right? No? Tough! Boyfriend clearly love the twists on kid’s tales, as they tackle a Peter Pan and Wendy love story with their track ‘Obsession’.
‘Obsession’ is a bit less in-your-face than ‘Bounce’ and incorporates the children’s story more through the use of metaphor than direct story telling. The video begins with a young woman opening a ‘Peter Pan’ book and as the story progresses we see the boys taking on a role to rescue her, as the story flips on its head with Peter becoming the bad guy of the tale (with the help of a cartoon level bundle of dynamite). The very end shows a hook being placed on his arm.
Moving away from videos and into lyrical territory (and I really could go on forever here, so I will pick just a sample) there are so many K-Pop songs that either tell the story of these children’s favourites or use the story as metaphor the whole way through.
First up is EXO’s ‘Peter Pan’. With lyrics like “I’ll go looking for you to Neverland by following Tinkerbell, who was sent by the memories” and “You were prettier than Wendy or Cinderella”, they took the theme beyond just the title.
Girls are far from outdone in this and Gain’s ‘Tinkerbell’ leaves us no doubt as to its inspiration with its opening line “If I’m Tinker Tinkerbell, would you be my Peter Pan?” and lines like “The dawn star is my home”. I love Gain’s vocal in this song. Normally I wouldn’t be a fan of the way she is singing, but it seems so appropriate for the content and sets a feeling for the song so well.
Even as recently as last month, groups were taking inspiration from the stories that many of us were put to bed to. No prizes for guessing what story inspired CNBlue’s ‘Cinderella’. CNBlue went all out, with the song and video both drawing on the tale of the girl who left her glass slipper at the ball allowing herself a happily-ever-after and it was great to see, for me, a return to form from the guys.
Finally, an honourable (or should that be dishonourable) mention to SNSD for the Fairy Tale that disappointingly never transpired. Teaser images for ‘The Boys’ showed each of the girls donning the style of a different fantasy heroine, bringing fans hopes up to maximum. As I would imagine most of you are already aware, the high hopes of people created by those teasers were never fulfilled as the music video for ‘The Boys’ did not continue those characters on for the girls.
What Fairy Tale, or children’s fantasy story concept in Kpop is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!