February was a good month for Kpop MV lovers with strong releases from the likes of Winner, 4Minute, and Ladies’ Code. But this time around, we’re doing something never before done in the history of Music Video of the Month: we’re giving the award to a performance video! Yes, you heard us right. But Taemin’s “Press Your Number Performance Video Ver. 1” is no ordinary performance video. It is, quite literally, the best thing we’ve seen all month!
Zander: Let’s be honest, Kpop fans, some months we struggle to find a worthy candidate for the great honor of Music Video of the Month. And if you haven’t yet seen Taemin’s performance video, you might think that February was one of those months, and that this is just a desperate attempt to find a worthwhile winner. But you would be mistaken. Tim and I had already identified several strong contenders for the month, and were actually fairly set on Winner’s “Sentimental.”
That was until I received a late-night email from Tim with a crazy idea: what if we gave the award to Taemin for a performance video? Crazy right? Except I had been planning on sending Tim the exact same email. This is not just a unanimous decision from the editors at Critical Kpop, but it’s one that we both came to, independently, fully aware that it more or less breaks the rules of the competition in the first place. I really don’t know if I can find higher praise for this video, but we’ll try! So, Tim, did you ever think we’d give this out to a performance video? What was it about this video that captivated you so much?
Tim: Did I ever think we’d give this out to a performance video? Absolutely not! Performance videos often give a closer look at the choreography and the outfits that you’ll be seeing anyway in the many weekly music shows.
What separates this performance video from the rest, even Taemin’s other performance videos (one for “Drip Drop,” and the second performance video for this very song) is one word: Abandon. While most performance videos look like a variation of a stage performance that I’ll be seeing for weeks, this video takes a life of its own. Whereas I can tell when idols are thinking about their next dance move, this feels strangely unrehearsed, like Taemin has simply been captured by the music, and he can’t even control himself. Even the handheld camera gives this a more impromptu feeling for me, which was what really captivated me, since none of this is actually impromptu. Are we on the same page, Zander? Or did something else grab your attention here?
Zander: I think we’re at least in the same chapter! I mean, I love the word abandon to describe this performance video, but I’d probably point to a very specific moment when I feel it. To back up a bit, so this makes sense, the video opens with a motionless Taemin standing in the shallow stream of a spillway and set against the backdrop of a concrete bridge (it’s beautiful, but in a detached sort of way). The music starts, softly, and Taemin matches it until the line “I’m feeling freaky,” when he drops to one knee, firmly planting his leg in the water. It’s the first sign of the abandon to come.
Immediately after, he swings his legs around and sweeps the water with his hand, drenching himself but creating a wonderful effect. Even then, though, I don’t quite believe it. I don’t believe that Taemin will be so bold! But something changes when the chorus begins, and what I see is an idol abandoning all pretense of what a typical idol in a music video should be (perfectly composed, detached and somewhat emo). Taemin just goes for it. He literally drops down into the water and lets go of anything that might be holding him back. He feels with such intensity in his dancing that I feel it too. And, for me, that ability to convey emotion is what allows this performance video to be analyzed as a traditional music video.
Tim: Emotions sure, but can we talk a little about the uninhibited sexuality in this performance as well? Talk about bold! I’ve said this in the podcast, that there’s a distinct Prince and early Michael Jackson vibe I’m getting from this release. Some of the teasers too (including the one where he’s about to kiss himself) really have shaped this androgynous image for Taemin that we don’t really see in a lot of Kpop releases, where clear-cut masculine and feminine archetypes seem to be preferred.
While Taemin’s music videos for this album don’t really push any major envelopes (and I agree with Helen that the other video for “Press Your Number” is a mess), the closest video that does push the envelope is this performance video. I’m talking the more obvious crotch grabs (circa Michael Jackson), but also the dramatic twirls and flips, as well as the employment of his long limbs to create moves that many male dancers just can’t do. He’s like a wet ninja ballerina. Isn’t that the definition of SEX in the dictionary (or am I looking at the wrong dictionary)?
Zander: Sure, is that Webster’s? I think that both of us are suckers for Kpop idols who bend the rules, especially when it comes to gender norms and stereotypes about sexuality. I guess the reason I love this performance video is that it showed me that something more was possible. It shattered my expectations, and it raised the bar for future releases. That, friends, is worthy of an award! Even YouTube has cottoned on to how much I love this video. Every time I open YouTube, Taemin’s “Press Your Number Performance Video Ver. 1” is sitting right there in the “watch again” section.
Park Sa-lim, Seoul