"Good Enough" the sign reads, with EXID dancing underneath. They've just removed the censored blurring and embraced their inner aegyo, the music video ending with a lighthearted climax. Touted as the followup to their viral (fancam) sensation, "Up & Down," EXID's "Ah Yeah," as you've probably found, is more than just "good enough." The views are already in the millions and they're climbing the charts, so we just might be seeing EXID staying as an upper-tier girl group. But what's really interesting here is the direction they've taken this comeback, confronting the insipid and suffocating censorship that blankets Kpop.
That is what they're doing, right?
The short answer to that is: Kinda. Which is still pretty impressive. When you read the lyrics of the song, there's quite a different story underneath.
"Where do you live? Do you live alone?" A man (creep) asks. Switching between Hani and LE, the response is indignant: "You softly smile and keep pestering me. Treating me like another girl. Man, don’t do that. I don’t wanna answer those kinds of questions, no way." Even the "Ah Yeah" of the chorus is a courteous Korean way of being dismissive to someone you don't want to answer. In short, the song is confronting unwanted, sleazy attention from men. Which is an important issue in itself, with Korean society's gender roles being a decade or so behind in the race for equality.
But the music video, like the best music videos, adds another dimension to the release. The suggestive blurring of the video belies something sexual or, at least, salacious. Something that someone has deemed inappropriate for our mass consumption.
The self-censorship is an easy dig at censors that altered their iconic pelvic thrusts from "Up & Down" with their televised live performances. But "Ah Yeah" takes that a step further by looking at the presentation of themselves through the formats that are so intricate to the life of a modern Korean idol.
We get video chats and YouTube screens and view counters and newscasts, even a living poster on a wall. Much like "Up & Down," "Ah Yeah" is like some type of post-modern collage. While "Up & Down" had it's own dimensional jumps, legs separated from torsos, random images of fruits and dismembered Barbie dolls, gigantic straws and deflating balloons, and poison(?), in the end it doesn't really mean much of anything beyond the visual mayhem that the video induces so well. The music video for "Ah Yeah," on the other hand, is taking a look, or at least a glance, at media and the Kpop industry.
So what does this all mean (assuming that it's meant to mean anything)?
Could EXID be making a statement about the thin line between empowering sexuality and objectification (from the male gaze), as evidenced in the lyrics? Could they also be examining how gratuitous sexuality can garner attention, but in the end it's real talent, like Solji's vocals, that has shot them to the top?
Or perhaps EXID is just having some fun here, kicking some sexist ass and trolling their audience, showing, by the end of the video, that they're just goofing around, and that they're completely satisfied with their sequel to "Up & Down" being viewed as good enough instead of something transcendent.
Who can say? (I'd love to read your own interpretations in the comments though)
What's great with "Ah Yeah," besides being a strong followup to "Up & Down," is that we can speculate about that meaning. That adds a level of sophistication to this release while also bringing a self-awareness that we're not used to seeing from mainstream Kpop (to be fair, Stellar's recent "Fool" took a stab at examining similar issues).
While not scathing enough to be an agent of change, we're excited at the doors this video opens up. Imagine what type of releases we could get from our favorite Kpop stars, if they went beyond their traditional love and heartbreak songs, and took a moment to examine their own celebrity?
Hani is wonderful (just saying).
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.