HyunA's "Red" is audacious. Spectacular. Absurd. It's also our Music Video of the Month, because of these reasons, and many more. And it's not like this was exactly an easy decision. f(x)'s "Red Light," for one, could have been the red video to win July. And we also considered Yenny's debut, with her impressive "Ain't Nobody." But when it comes down to it, this is not only a return to form for HyunA, "Red" cements her as Kpop's undisputed Queen.
HyunA is a very polarizing figure. Maybe not quite at Miley Cirus levels, but her hyper sexuality, meteoric rise, and questionable musical talents do garner comparisons. We also had some misgivings about HyunA after the very mediocre "Ice Cream," which featured a cringe-worthy intro with PSY, a quasi-nineties style, and a song that was, putting it kindly, boring.
But HyunA is more than just one bad song, and she's certainly more than any of her individual talents. She's pop, and she announced that loud and clear with "Bubble Pop." And the best of pop, especially the best of Kpop, charts new corners while being both eclectic and basic. HyunA is polarizing because that mix can be polarizing. But you have to give HyunA her due. There's a reason that everyone in Kpop is talking about her and it's not just because she's provocative. It's because she's a standard-bearer.
"Red," fortunately, is a much better song than "Ice Cream." It might be a better song than "Bubble Pop" even. Maybe it's HyunA's best song? The chorus is apparently taken from a children's chant in Korea, that begins with the monkey's butt, then what else is red (apple), etc. In the lyrics, HyunA occupies the color red: "Red is HyunA. HyunA is yeah." Here, red starts as a monkey's butt but morphs into a color of empowerment. "My cuteness that makes you wanna bite me, is like art. Every night, you think of me like spicy ramen."
It's strange to hear a Kpop artist have their name directly inserted into the chorus, it feels like a western move (and maybe that's intended); while not exactly revolutionary, HyunA placing herself into the song gives the feel of a boastful battle cry, or a pledge, or, sometimes, even a threat? "Everyone stop, I’ll punish you, so stick out your butt. You won’t be able to handle me every night."
The song is frenetic, only slowing down to build the beat back up again. There's a feel of chaos that the video perpetuates. This song would be perfect for a club mix, sitting comfortably between G-Dragon and Block B. While "Bubble Pop" may have been more catchy, "Red" feels more sophisticated, and somehow more adult. Its a nice evolution for HyunA and her music.
This is what sets "Red" apart from comebacks from the likes of Sistar and Girl's Day. While both groups took a turn towards summer fun for their latest comebacks, visually and stylistically neither concept attempted to do anything different with Kpop. They played it safe. You look at HyunA's "Red," and love her or hate her, you can't deny that the video is visually stunning. Almost every camera shot can be captured and placed on your wall. The powerful reds, the warm yellows, the Busby Berkeley-esque laying of bodies in circular patterns. The Egyptian concept that comes out of nowhere. This is style placed on an epic scale, that not only sets new standards for Kpop, but also pushes HyunA into iconic levels.
We love the costume changes, the glitter, the energetic choreography, the phallic imagery, even the monkey butt. Because it's all so ridiculous, and in it's own way, subversive. We're not going to go out of our way to distill meaning from this madness, but having camera crews locked in cages, capturing HyunA's image (and backside) while being imprisoned themselves - that's an intriguing motif. Take that as you will, but at least there are interesting visual elements here that you either notice for the first time with each additional viewing or that get in your head and stay with you.
That's the thing with this video, even with all the style, HyunA is not pushed to the background. She has too much charisma for that to happen. HyunA can be sexy, but she can also be mischievous, and we're glad she's able to show that side of herself in this video.
There's also so much glitter.
And many monkeys and apes.
And Cleopatra? Because why not Cleopatra?
"Red" embraces lunacy. Though some of the concepts may seem random, the video can not be accused of being boring or halfhearted. HyunA is the Queen of Kpop. We're sure that in the coming year, other artists will be imitating this video's style and audacity. As the standard barer, that seems more than appropriate.