BoyNextDoor Opt for Surrealism in “Earth, Wind & Fire”

BoyNextDoor Opt for Surrealism in “Earth, Wind & Fire”

Thanks to rookie group BoyNextDoor, the phrase “Earth, Wind & Fire” is about to take on a whole new meaning. Known for their down-to-earth character and swaggering energy, BoyNextDoor are back with their third title track “Earth, Wind & Fire.” The song promises to take audiences on quite an unexpected journey—at times musically, but consistently visuallyvia its colorful, kitschy, and surrealist MV. 

Not a reference or homage to the American band of the same name, “Earth, Wind & Fire” instead opts to liken love to natural, vital, and oftentimes unpredictable elements: “You’re my earth, wind, and fire.” The track is BoyNextDoor’s most playful yet, expanding upon the Y2K-meets-Zico (the president of the group’s company, KOZ) musical identity they succinctly showcased in their debut EP, Who!. There’s an added gimmicky flare, however, in the form of a sped-up, chipmunk-esque post-chorus. 

Aside from the hyperpop-inspired post-chorus and a few occasional rap breakdowns, most of the rest of “Earth, Wind & Fire” is to be expected. Its Block B-adjacent sound isn’t anything revolutionary, although BoyNextDoor’s spin on it isnew for today’s generation of K-pop listeners. Still, their break from the current mold is a testament to their strong sense of sound and self, despite debuting only last year. 

What especially sets this comeback apart, however, is the uniqueness of its MV. It doesn’t possess a suburban, familiar setting as with most of BoyNextDoor’s other MVs. What it does is call back to the Block B era of K-pop visuals with its vibrancy and quirkiness, which many recent fourth- and fifth-generation releases have been largely devoid of. The group’s break from their usual visual style and narratively-structured MVs into a more tongue-in-cheek, less plot-drive format make them stand out amongst the crowd. 

As a whole, the MV for “Earth, Wind & Fire” is intensely colorful, eccentric, and surrealist—again, a notable departure from the realistic, relatable stories BoyNextDoor portrayed in MVs like “Serenade” and “But I Like You.” Rather than telling the ‘story’ of the track through tangible plot points (which, the song doesn’t really call for anyway), the MV plays with both literal and whimsical representations of earth, wind, and fire to illustrate that love is like said elements—hard, if not impossible, to control. 

As such, “Earth, Wind & Fire” sees BoyNextDoor enduring the most wild, unimaginable, and imaginative weather events and situations, from windstorms to tornados to rainstorms, to hurtling toward a fiery sun on motorcycles and mousetraps. This even trickles down to the choreography scenes, which typically serve as a break in the ‘plot’ of MVs. “Earth, Wind & Fire” instead uses these scenes to continue to portray new and sudden impacts from the titular natural elements, propelling the MV into unexpected territory without rest. 

“Earth, Wind & Fire” also plays with visual components and mediums like texture, proportion, and real versus CGI objects and imagery to emphasize the MV’s unconventional nature. The juxtaposition of these visual elements directly impacts how each scene appears once the background, members, and objects around them are layered on top of each other, creating surrealist vignettes that defy expectations of a realistic reality—something that viewers are used to seeing in BoyNextDoor’s MVs. 

For example, several of the objects in the MV appear to be made of fabric (like the pillows the members hold that are representative of earth, wind, and fire)—that is, they appear to be, or resemble. real-life objects imposed on a CGI backdrop. Other images are digitally-made, including most of the backdrops and notably the giant orange tabby cat which frightens Sungho toward the middle of the MV. While the literalness of these objects is unexpected at a time where CGI visuals are so ingrained in K-pop MVs, that’s also what keeps BoyNextDoor’s signature down-to-earth concept in play. Ironically, the objects feed further into the MV’s surrealist overtones, as the visuals continuously defy elements of an expected reality.  

Nothing in the MV is as it seems, including the size and proportion of the members against other objects and backdrops. For example, in one choreography shot, the members appear proportionally larger to the desert-like terrain they dance on, only to appear tiny in comparison in the next. Not only does this occur within scenes, but also in transitions between scenes and cuts in the MV. The MV hardly ever slows down from one elemental dilemma to the next, continuously throttling forward with no breaks by way of constant creative editing transitions, often even using the high-energy choreography scenes to continue to draw out or change up how each element impacts the scene at hand. 

For example, in scenes between the first dance sequence and the first verse, the boys are initially dancing in a blue box with holographic symbols for earth, wind, and fire behind them. The shot then transitions into the next via a snowflake pillow that is abruptly tossed into the current choreography sequence, only for it to land in Leehan’s hand and immediately continue into the next scene. In another smooth but still abrupt transition, Sungho opens his white glove during another choreography scene. The show zooms into his open glove, revealing a smaller Sungho sitting atop it. On the zoomed-in glove is also a giant CGI tabby cat, which appears to be much bigger than Sungho. The cat’s paw slaps him into space, with the camera immediately zooming back out to reveal Sungho’s sudden disappearance into the ether.

The MV continues like this throughout its three-minute run, veering viewers left, right, up, down, and every which way imaginable as BoyNextDoor endures the most physically impossible of situations, signyfying the unanticipated twists and turns of love. Overall, “Earth, Wind & Fire” is fantastical, holding onto the group’s identifiable playfulness, established in their previous MVs. At times, it’s exhausting to keep up, but for the most part its an exhilarating run—hopefully one that signifies even more excitement from the group in their future.

(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via KOZ Entertainment/HYBE.)

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