K-Pop Pick of the Day: “NoNoNo”

A semi-weekly or biannual reco, straight from the playlists of yours truly…

This is where it began with Apink and I, and what a perfectly succinct introduction to this group’s bubblegum and surprisingly sexualized style. My frame of reference being Red Velvet, I do find Apink videos to be much calmer and still, willing to let the girls spend time with a single activity (in this case, baking cakes?) rather than run them through several at lightning speed (baking cakes, getting lost in the woods, stepping on cakes, breaking things, finding ants in cakes). That reduction in variety doesn’t also reduce the character: there’s still plenty of big smiles and goofing around. What could be cuter than Eunji poking Naeun with a cupcake?

And, honestly, this is the central discomfort I have with Apink and Loona and K-pop in general. Cute is new for me, and I’ve had to ease into it. Sexy cute is even newer, but how else do you describe that choreography? The swooping butts. I don’t know when this video was produced, but the song dates back to 2013, which is right near the beginning, after seven members became six. The members today look nothing like they do here, which also complicated my ability to tell them apart for the longest time. Not only are they not color-coded like Red Velvet, they have a habit of lip-syncing to all parts, so for a second in the beginning, Naeun is singing a part that Eunji is actually singing. Again, this was my first contact with Apink, and the video is a sugary miasma of indistinct cuteness sharpened by some very suggestive swooping.

Up until recently, Apink has stood apart for its lack of experimentation. Once upon a time, it was decided that they were the cute band, apart from BLACKPINK’s girlcrush (I think?) and Red Velvet’s dynamism. I don’t know if it’s coincidence then that Eunji has a parallel solo career not only in dreamy music but also drama. The point is, I suffer an inescapable male gaze, and I’m not sure I can simply drop a ring into lava and watch it topple over; treatment often boils down to not feeding the beast. So, watching the “NoNoNo” video becomes needlessly complex. I can respect the talent on-screen, but what kills me are those moments when I feel like they’re dancing for me. With Red Velvet, that never happens, because they’re so busy driving spaceships or being fruit. There’s something artificial about Apink’s birthday good-time here, and not just because the house is literally four walls.

One of the great things about “NoNoNo” is that it has a “ballad” version, and when the first piano notes began, I scoffed. Really? You’re gonna do a super sad version of an uproarious ear worm? By the end, I was pretty much in tears.

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