This week has been all about boys. U-Kiss came back with their over-the-top threesome implied, "Quit Playing." While B.A.P released their cute city romp, "Where Are You?" Both groups are doing dramatically different things, and doing them, for the most part, well. But really, out of all the comebacks this week, we may be most impressed with Big Bang's Taeyang and his deceptively simple, "Eyes, Nose, Lips." It was a long wait for fans, but we think we might have stumbled on one of the best songs of the year.
Slow and Steady (Wins the Race)
With "Eyes, Nose, Lips," Taeyang brings us something completely different from his energetic "Ringa Linga." This ballad takes its time, Moving from an extreme close up and pulling out to a slow reveal. Accustomed as we are to epileptic-inducing cuts, outfit changes, and outlandish choreography, it's strange that a Kpop video would trust its viewers to be patient as much as this video does. That's what makes it so inventive.
Some idols need flashy gimmicks or intricate choreography to make a killer comeback. They have to make an impression so they continue raising the stakes and escalating their sexiness or their cuteness so they won't be lost in the shuffle. But there are some idols that become icons. We're talking Lee Hyori, Girls' Generation, and yes, pretty much any member of Big Bang. Their credibility and status allows them to play with the form. That's why the glamorous Lee Hyori can dress as a man in the conservative Korea. And that's how Taeyang can have a camera panning away from him in "Eyes, Nose, Lips," and keep us riveted. Focusing on an emotive, shirtless Taeyang feels so natural, and, appropriately, iconic.
We're not a big fan of ballads. Maybe it's the language barrier, but most Kpop ballads, to us, are overwrought and sound strangely similar to each other. But we love this song. In the same way that we enjoyed Taeyang's video when a camera trained on a single artist would normally bore us to tears, this ballad really grabbed us.
Like the slow pan out, the song builds, starting with a simple piano melody. It's not until we're nearly two minutes in that we get an accompanying drum beat that slowly tangles with the other instruments, until by the end of the song, everything, from the impassioned singing to the more dramatic choreography, the complex music to that smoldering picture in the background, it all reaches a climax, a simple, but very effective, arc. Mostly effective.
The burning picture of the girl does seem pretty random. We can easily assume that it's a lost love. The lyrics give a hint to why the burning effigy is there: "I can still feel you, but like a burnt out flame, burnt and destroyed, all of our love." Did we say hint? It's so blatantly represented in the video that it ends up being way too literal. We don't need to see the flames, we see that pain in Taeyang's performance. The fire reminds us of Big Bang's exploding car at the end of "I Hate this Love Song," a move made more for shock value when everything preceding it had a cool sophistication. We have to admit, the sounds of the fire are a nice touch, and so is the image of Taeyang dancing in front of flames. But we feel like the video could have worked even better if it had forgone all the gimmicks and simply let Taeyang bare his soul.
By subverting our expectations and embracing simplicity in a crowded Kpop field, Taeyang truly shows a confidence that carries "Eyes, Nose, Lips." That's a true measure with how far an idol has come. While other artists are trying to be cute or sexy, Taeyang is simply being Taeyang.