It starts out in a dark room lit by blue neon lights. Seemingly standard fare for a video from SM Entertainment. But within 15 seconds, SHINee’s “Dream Girl” MV makes it obvious that this is no “boyband dancing in a brightly lit room” video. This video is SM’s most ambitious and artistic effort in recent years.
Intentional glitches, a wardrobe that screams “We stole this from a Debbie Gibson video” and visual effects reminiscent of U-KISS’ “Doradora” make “Dream Girl” a standout among SM’s previous releases. The video is kinetic and dizzying, moving between black-and-white surrealist scenes and pastel dance sequences.
It’s a breath of fresh air for fans of SM Entertainment’s artists, who too often have had to deal with videos of their favorite group dancing in a box. Complaints abound on Twitter and Tumblr whenever a new MV is released. The excitement for a new MV wanes quickly once each dance move has been turned into a GIF, rendering rewatchings of the video useless.
BoA is the only SM idol who is regularly given videos with plotlines. Her “Disturbance” MV did not feature any dancing (and had minimal moments of BoA facing the camera and singing), instead telling the story of a couple whose relationship is crumbling. What makes “Disturbance” different from other SM videos is that BoA’s brother, Kwon Soon Wook, directed the clip.
Every SM group has had its share of box videos. Super Junior are the kings of the theme – each of their title songs since 2009’s “Sorry, Sorry” has taken place inside a room where the members dance. The only things distinguishing the videos are the clothes and the hair of the members (also, which members aren’t present due to army service).
The girl groups aren’t immune from the trend. Girl’s Generation and f(x) still regularly perform dance routines in their videos (such as GG’s “The Boys” and f(x)’s “Electric Shock”), but their space is a little more open. But that doesn’t mean the lack of a plot is excusable. Give the girls something to do other than dance or stand there and look pretty.
If SM wants to keep pace with its peers and have videos that fans will remember, it needs to pull its groups out of boxes and give them more to work with. A year from now, will fans remember the plot twist to B.A.P’s “One Shot” or the fancy camera tricks from Super Junior-M’s “Break Down”? Videos that aren’t dance driven are more memorable. While it’s easy for a company to churn out videos of their artists dancing in a brightly lit room, fans want something different. It’s going to take more than slick dance moves to keep viewers interested.