BTOB Comeback Review: “Movie”

You know how sometimes you like a group for their personalities more than their music? That was me with BTOB. I think that they’re hilarious and I always look forward to their variety shows, but I just couldn’t get into their music.  Don’t get me wrong, I can tell that they’re immensely talented. But I never found a song of theirs that I would put on repeat or keep listening to after promotions.  Luckily they came back with “Movie,” and I love everything about it.

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*WARNING!* This review assumes the reader has listened to the music and/or seen the music video!

Current Concept: Bright, fun and goofy

Previous Concepts: BTOB has tried a lot of different things over the years.  They’ve mostly become known for ballads, though it seems that they’re shifting back to dance numbers. Though they often change concepts, what’s consistent is their amazing vocals.

SONG:

Composed by: Ilhoon, IL

To be honest, I’ve been expecting something like “Movie” from BTOB for a while. It’s so bright and fun, and it’s a perfect fit for performers with such big personalities. Funk-pop is a great choice for them. When I listen to it, I feel Ilhoon’s personality.  Obviously I don’t actually know him; I mean that there’s no doubt that it’s his song. It’s clear that he put great thought into making something that would showcase his group and their talents.

What’s great about “Movie” is that it’s so well-balanced.  In the verses and the hook, it’s very funky and laid-back with hints of piano and low-key electric guitar.  In the chorus and the bridge, it’s dramatic and exciting with powerful vocals and loud brass. It’s equal parts vocal and rap, and it goes between the two seamlessly.  And it’s also a great mix of BTOB’s musical abilities and personalities.

I really love this song.  It seems pretty straightforward at first, but there are so many little nuances to discover if you listen to it multiple times.  It also reminds me a little bit of Bruno Mars (with less of an R&B influence), and I’m a big fan of his.  For me, “Movie” is quintessential BTOB, and I’m surprised that they haven’t come out with something like it sooner.

SCORE: 20/20

LYRICS:

Lyrics By: Ilhoon, IL, Minhyuk, Peniel

“Movie” is a sweet love song where the guys wish for a relationship just like the movies – one that’s romantic and passionate and has a happily ever after.  The chorus goes, “Love’s like a movie, it’s so predictable / That’s how I want to love you.”  There’s not really a story, but there are some hints that they’re wooing a girl fresh from a break-up.  Both Hyunsik and Ilhoon make references to this in their verses, and the hook says “Take me before it’s too late / when the scars in your heart heal” I do get the kind of “boy next door” and/or “best friend that should really be your boyfriend” vibe from BTOB, so I think it works well.

One thing that stood out to me is that different parts of the song reflect the members’ personalities.  You hear it more in the rap sections, which makes sense because I’m guessing the rappers each wrote their own verse.  Ilhoon and Peniel’s verses give off a little bit of a swag feel.  Ilhoon says, “I’ll pass on anything that doesn’t describe me as the best,” and Peniel has “When I walk up in the club all the girls stare at me.” Meanwhile Minhyuk’s verse talks about the thrill of his attraction to the girl and how it feels like someone put dynamite in his heart.  It pulls you in and makes your heart flutter, or maybe it’s just me because I’m Minhyuk-biased.

Comparing romance to the movies opens up a whole lot of options, and it’s super easy to get cheesy with this kind of thing.  BTOB avoids that by focusing more on the feelings and the sentiment, which I think makes the song really successful.  We can all relate and empathize, and it’s the kind of song that warms your heart.  On a side note, I really appreciate how Peniel is rapping in English more now.  I’m sure he’s good at Korean, but it seems like he’s better able to express himself.

SCORE: 9/10

LINE DISTRIBUTION:

All of the members of BTOB are pretty much on the same level in terms of vocal or rap (a feat surprisingly hard to accomplish in a K-pop group).  So they easily take turns singing different sections of the song.  For example, Sungjae, Hyunsik, and Changsub all sing the first half of the chorus while Eunkwang always gets the second half.  Ilhoon and Minhyuk also trade the hook back and forth.  There are some members that inevitably end up with more lines, but it’s not a reflection on their talents or capabilities.  For a group like BTOB, it just means that one person repeats a chorus or hook more than the other.  They seem to shuffle who gets more lines with every comeback (the vocals had more lines for “I’ll Be Your Man”), so I would say that it’s pretty well-balanced.

SCORE: 9/10

CHOREOGRAPHY:

(Even their thumbnails show how funny they are, I can’t even)

Update, 4/5/17: BTOB released a choreography video a couple of days ago

These days, it often seems like really complex and sharp choreography is a prerequisite for boy groups. The dance for “Movie” is very simple and easy to learn.  While it’s mildly surprising, I think that this is a very smart move.  BTOB’s no slouch in the dance department (what boy group is?), but it’s clear that their strength is in their ability to give an entertaining performance. Giving them simpler and cleaner moves allows them to really let loose and have fun with the routine.  They have very active facial expressions, and they look so effortless.

Hook

Just because the choreography is easy doesn’t mean it’s lackluster.  There’s a lot of focus on slick footwork and grooving along.  Coupled with the nice suits, the guys look very suave and chic. Above all, it’s a lot of fun.  I can just imagine it playing at a party and everybody getting up and dancing along.

Chorus.gif

I also like the little touches that they add to the routine, like in the ending when they bow.  In the music video, Ilhoon doesn’t bow and quickly makes follows suit.  In the performance I linked up there, Changsub makes faces.  I haven’t watched all of their music show performances, but I imagine each one features different members. It’s super entertaining.

Ending.gif

SCORE: 18/20

CENTER AND FORMATIONS:

Cube really seems to like giving their artists backup dancers.  I personally don’t think they’re necessary for groups with large members, but the dance uses them well.  Doubling the amount of people on the stage automatically makes the routine bigger and more grandiose, and at times it feels kind of like we’re watching a musical number.  I like how it’s structured, because it flows well.  The members dance together for key moments like the beginning and the choruses, and then certain members appear with either male or female backup dancers for the verses.  Members who are more into dancing like Ilhoon and Minhyuk use the opportunity to show off their moves, and others like Changsub and Peniel focus more on entertaining us.  Everyone comes onstage for the bridge, building up to the final chorus.  It’s very well-staged, it flows well, and it’s enjoyable to watch.

Ilhoon-Backup-Dancers

Changsub-Backup-Dancers

I don’t actually know who the main dancer is in BTOB, because they tend to favor their vocals as center.  If asked, I would guess it’s Minhyuk or Ilhoon.  They don’t have a center that really anchors the dance, but for this type of performance it doesn’t really matter.  All K-pop dances are team efforts, but in this case the focus is putting on a good show rather than depending on individual members to wow us.  All of the members get a good amount of attention during the routine, especially with the background dancers.

SCORE: 9/10

MUSIC VIDEO:

When a song is called “Movie,” what do you expect to be the subject of the music video?  If you guessed “an homage to various classic movies,” you’d be right.  The basic idea is a bunch of goofy guys getting together and making home movies.  Each member has his own specific style and concept and gets to show off his charms.  Their alto egos are super high quality, but if you look closely there are quick shots of the members filming the true scenes in the warehouse.  It gives the impression that the movie versions of them that we’re seeing are embellished versions, and it’s very funny.

What’s really cool is that they pay homage to the movies in different and more nuanced ways.  Some of them just emulate the character (Ilhoon as the Joker in Suicide Squad) or the look and style of the film (Eunkwang as Danny in Grease).  A lot of people think that Changsub is doing Kill Bill because of the jumpsuit, but I actually think that it’s Game of DeathSome of them reference an iconic moment of the movie, like Hyunsik and Pulp Fiction and Peniel and 8 Mile.  Some are parodies of a certain type of movie.  It seems there’s a general consensus that Minhyuk is James Bond, but it could pass for any spy movie.  Similarly, Dream Teller says that Sungjae is doing Mission Impossible, but it could be really any kind of action movie. (Some people think it could be Saw, but I don’t watch horror movies so I can’t confirm this) What’s fun about cosplaying different movies is that it highlights the personality of each member, and it also provides fun film references for movie geeks like me.

Update, 4/5/17: I recently starting watching K-Rush Magazine, and in a segment with BTOB they identified Changsub’s movie as Kill Bill and Sungjae’s as Mission Impossible.

Sungjae

There are a lot of other little details that I really appreciate, because they really add dimension to the video as a whole.  There’s a woman (and a really pretty one at that), but unlike some real movies she’s not always relegated to a romantic interest.  It’s nice that in these scenes she’s treated as a costar and not an object of affection for the guys to gush over, because that’s a path that’s easily (and often) taken.  I also really like the small humorous touches, like how Peniel’s rap battle opponent is Sungjae, or how Eunkwang’s date is interrupted by Changsub.  I think it’s great how they also included shots of all of the members sitting together and watching.  Their facial expressions are just so spot on.  The guys are known for being super funny and they take every opportunity to remind us that, even from the first appearance when they wrestle with their umbrellas.

Opening.gif

 

SCORE: 20/20

STYLING:

Part of the fun of a movie-based music video is the cosplay element (see: Twice and “Cheer Up”).   So of course the costumes are great.  In this case, it’s mostly the costumes that remind us of each particular movie. For example, before I picked out each specific movie reference I actually thought they would be genres.  So I assumed that Eunkwang was a romantic comedy, and I was surprised when everyone was saying he was from Grease. It was only when I looked back and saw him in the leather jacket that I made the connection.

I also like their casual outfits, which are colorful and fun.  And the suits that they’re wearing in their performances highlight the more smooth and sophisticated elements of the song.  Although I do wonder why bright red hair a continuing trend, in general it’s good styling choices all around.

STYLING MVP: Minhyuk, because I’m biased he looks so suave.

Minhyuk

SCORE: 9/10

FINAL TALLY:

Song – 20

Lyrics – 9

Line Distribution – 9

Choreography – 18

Center and Formations -9

Music Video – 20

Styling – 9

TOTAL: 94

CONCLUSION: This comeback was so good. I don’t think I put a single criticism in this review, because everything was so spot on! Whenever I listened to BTOB’s previous title tracks or watched their music videos, I personally felt like something was missing.  I’ve now concluded that “something” was their true personality. I don’t think it’s required for every group to put their personalities into their music, but it’s smart for a group like BTOB who are well-known for their goofball antics. There’s so much of them in all of the important parts – music, performance, music video – and it makes “Movie” representative of everything that they are.  And that will draw in people who are on the fence like I was.  I was a little concerned about BTOB becoming the senior group of Cube after all of that drama, but after seeing “Movie” I feel much more at ease.

BTOB is from a generation that kind of has the short end of the stick in K-pop.  Groups from this era debuted when the previous generation were peaking, and now they’re quite possibly being overshadowed by the new generation of super rookies.   BTOB is lucky to enjoy a decent amount of success, and they keep reaching new accomplishments every year. I certainly hope they have a big break, but I think they will be just fine even if they don’t.  They have a dedicated fanbase, and they clearly love what they’re doing.  They pulled me in with this latest comeback, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Sources: Youtube, Cube Entertainment, Wikipedia, Tumblr, Reddit, Omona They Didn’t (Livejournal), M! Countdown (MNET/M2), K-Rush Magazine Episode 3 (KBS)

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