If you're anything like us, you've been watching Taemin's incredible "Danger" MV all week. But what makes it so watchable and re-watchable? We at Critical Kpop pride ourselves at attempting to raise the Kpop conversation to another level. We'd be erroneous though to deny the part of Kpop that is immeasurable, that is somewhere between cool and ridiculous, that makes Taemin's "Danger" so addictive. But we're going to try, try to boil it down to five reasons. Hear me out.
1. The Passion of the Taemin
With so many idols grabbing for melodrama (tears, so many tears), or seeming completely disaffected (and theoretically cool), seeing Taemin erupt with passion and anger is a breath of fresh air. In "Danger," he's putting everything out there, and you can feel it in the video, this uninhibited energy. With SM being so polished it's amazing to see a video that can be sophisticated but also so raw. Even with the many rehearsals and practiced choreography, that energy embodies the video, and that energy is coming directly from Taemin, proving that passion, caring so much it hurts, can be cool.
2. The Choreography
Taemin doesn't so much dance as fight the air: punching, kicking, and jumping with tremendous, and, at times, awe-inspiring skill. It's like watching a martial arts tournament (Taemin-Fu, anyone? Anyone?). It's true that there's a grace to say boxing or karate that borders on dance, but Taemin completely blurs that often thin line further with his intense physicality.
Of course, this is a major simplification of the video's amazing choreography. Like the move where Taemin and his backup dancers swoop through the air?
Yeah, that one. Or when "Danger" goes black and white and Taemin's hair goes in a bun as he tears up the (empty) dance floor? We could name a dozen memorable dance moves. There's almost too much amazing choreography in "Danger." It's like Taemin distilled a lifetime of dance into one dense ball of pop. Like he had to get everything out at once. There's a manic urgency in every move he makes.
3. The Costumes
Make no mistake, these are not outfits, a simple wardrobe change, these are costumes. That distinction is important. While many male idols lazily choose boyish basketball tees or classy suits to lie morosely in, Taemin goes for more outlandish attire that reaches G-Dragon levels. Maybe even beyond him, past continents and time, to David Bowie circa 1986, or 1984 Prince or anything Michael Jackson. While Taemin has been criticized for being hyper masculine with this debut (more on that later), there's also an androgynous vibe that accompanies many of these costumes and styles. That clash, though haphazard, makes everything that much more interesting.
The styles and looks are so different from each other it's like we're seeing Taemin from alternate futures. Are you telling me that the costume below isn't an homage to dystopian masterpiece, A Clockwork Orange?
Or that his rocker look, clad in leather with an assault guitar as accessory, makes him look like some cyber punk android, here to annihilate us with rock?
Many of these ridiculous costumes are what the 80's imagined the future to look like. It's a brilliantly absurd mess. But you can't help but admire that with this video, Taemin and SM went all in.
4. The Bizarre
Many fans have been upset about sweet Taemin's bad boy turn, and that's understandable. But finding something problematic doesn't mean it has to also be dismissed completely. If "Danger" is a mess of a concept, the many contradictions the video provides, intentional or not, also makes it incredibly intriguing, if just to pick apart.
But I think there's more to it that keeps this video together and not collapsing into itself. What holds it together? Taemin's performance. And, of course...
5. The Song
We can't overlook that "Danger" is just a fun, vibrant song. It's catchy, reminiscent of Michael Jackson's biggest hits. It feels like new and a throwback all at once, much like the video itself. That makes the video feel more deliberate, if not completely. Musically, the song has as much going on as the choreography and the images. You can hear something new with every listen.
That's not to say that more equals better. "Danger" lacks the focus and intention to really be considered artistic. But who says Kpop has to be a work of art every single time? It's pop. And pop is often beautifully imperfect. In "Danger," Taemin is giving 100%, and the song and video matches that drive. And that is so very cool.
Timothy Moore writes from Chicago. He blogs at Read My Blog Please, and edits at Ghost Ocean Magazine. His biases are T-ara, Block B, Nine Muses, Brown Eyed Girls, and Girl's Day.