You might have thought December was only for holiday ham and throw-away releases, but there's light to be found even in the depths of Kpop Winter! JYP Entertainment finished 2015 off right with Jun. K's solo release, "Love Letter." Read as Tim and Zander explain why this single deserves the not-so-hotly contested MV of the Month for December!
Zander: First of all, credit to Tim for finding us a winner for our December contest. Most months we spend time debating the merits of one video over the other challengers. In December, though, we usually can't find any challengers. So my thanks to Tim for being willing to take a risk on a December video titled "Love Letter." It paid off this time!
Zander: If you don't know Jun. K, he's the lead vocalist for 2PM and a big part of the reason they've stayed relevant over the years. He's produced some great solo material before (see "No Love"), so it's no surprise that "Love Letter" succeeds first as a song. It starts with an instrumental that could open for the Rat Pack, and Jun. K's vocals are no slouch either. But the song turns on its head with a hip-hop section that bridges to the chorus, then melds back into a more traditional pop-ballad. We all know that mash-ups are big right now, but they fail if over- or under-produced. Jun. K gets it spot on with "Love Letter."
Tim: Good point, Zander - the beginning of “Love Letter” kind of reminds myself of what TTS did this holiday season with “Dear Santa,” where it starts off as a somber ballad then explodes into a...sorry to say, rather lame Christmas song. The difference being that “Love Letter” explodes to awesomeness! The greatest part is that the song doesn’t feel disjointed with different styles and genres of music - Jun. K brings it all together into a cohesive pop cacophony. Here’s the thing, this cacophony of discordance goes beyond the music - the music video itself is a mix of modern trappings and but also is a really cool nod to Georges Méliès’ iconic silent film, A Trip to the Moon. Which was released in 1902, friend! I mean, there’s some Charlie Chaplin imagery thrown in because Kpop, but a lot of that grainy black and white footage is a loving and clever nod to the classic film of yore. Did you even notice that, Zander?!
Zander: Georges who??? Of course I didn’t notice that, Tim! I speak for the common man! Here I thought I was clever for noticing that Jun. K has a penchant for old-timey references in his music videos.
Take “Love and Hate,” for example, in which he mimics a turn-of-the-century magician for the first ten seconds of the video (and then promptly forgets about it).
I think it’s important to see this artist’s process developing over the course of time. Jun. K has always had an interest in this kind of imagery, but I think you’ve hit on something by suggesting that now he’s finally connecting the dots in a more meaningful way. It sounds like he’s going past appropriating early films as part of a stylistic conceit and is now providing a more thoughtful homage to something that clearly moves him. Is that how you see it? Can Georges Méliès’ help explain any of the puppetry and associated themes?
Tim: Of course he can, dummy! That puppetry harkens back to this older, idyllic time, just like the silent film, the typewriter, and hanging lights. Even the child in the music video can represent Jun. K reaching to his younger, innocence of childhood. But don’t be fooled! This video has a dark side - which is why it really stood out to me! As you’ll notice, surely, the love interest, about a minute and forty seconds in, is in a grave! He summons her in his remorse and she floats into the heavens as a star.
Now, I don’t think for a second that this video is about grieving over a lover’s death - although it’s certainly grieving over a lost love, confirmed about two minutes and twenty seconds in, where one of his letters is marked: “Return to Sender.”
In the idealized silent film fantasy, he travels to the Moon to reclaim her. In his “real” life he burns all the letters that have been sent back. The song is the same - we cut between the fantasy on the Moon, the brighter choreography scene, and then to Jun. K singing amongst the flames. There’s a strange tension here in the (again, discordant) images that you wouldn’t expect from something that could be characterized as a holiday song. That tension makes the video complex, and so very interesting! Am I reading too much here, Zander? Are my film-school-days getting the best of me?
Zander: No, Tim, you’re right! And when you’re right, you’re right. Maybe the best thing we can say about “Love Letter” is that it rewards multiple watches (and listens)! I’m not sure I can say that about many December releases. But hopefully the bronze bowling statue we just shipped to Jun. K to commemorate his award goes some way toward expressing our gratitude for having woken up a sleepy month. And hopefully Tim’s sharp eye has helped you, reader, find more to love in this great MV!