K-Pop Meta: The 7th Sense- NCT U

Just some guys, some boxes, and a hint of power ranger

You can watch the video here or below .

For this installment of K-Pop Meta we will be examining the video for the song the 7th sense by NCT U. I will be using images from the music video and the performance video because SM Entertainment has blessed us with double the angst and synchronized pop and lock to look at.

First off, I really did not like the song the first time I heard it, but it is an undercover banger. Not only is it an undercover banger, but the dancing is very much on point throughout the whole video. However, what is most striking are the aesthetics. The first time I saw it I clutched my imaginary pearls because I was stricken by the power of slay in the video. It was like millennial meets power ranger because of how unique they all looked, yet still so slightly dystopian. I was waiting the whole time for them to assemble and become the mighty Megazord.

The moment before they united to save Earth

Alas, that never happened. Instead we get a very trippy yet emotionally introspective video that is also full of visual references to urban(black) street fashion and millennial nostalgia.

It’s gonna be a fun ride.

So depending on the video I sometimes look at the lyrics to help me better ascertain an understanding of the video itself. I do this like 70% of the time and I sure in the hell did it for this video. Some central themes in the video revolve around the idea of barriers as a means to shield yourself. Yet what can barriers, especially ones we create ourselves, actually do in the face of uncertainty? Let’s start with some images of the boys in all their angst.

It isn’t too late to form megazord

All of their portraits are a semi transparent view into another world or scene in time and yet, you can still see the faces of the boys. It is like they are being transported somewhere else without quite being there yet. They are stuck between a here and the next, uncertain of which they belong in. It lends itself to a dream like quality found throughout much of the video. It’s one that aligns with the main hook of the song, open your eyes. But what exactly are you opening their eyes too? Rather, from what dream or dream like state do we wake?

That is an an unanswerable question because though the lyrics urge us to open our eyes, we aren’t ever made privy as to what. It is this feeling of uncertainty that gives the video a certain tension. This tension is heightened by the signature red veneer seen below.

Tension and maybe a potential exorcism

This use of red is so foreboding. It washes over everything, much like the a sense of uncertainty. Like uncertainty, the red is both alluring and unnerving. There is a duality to it, much like how the boys were between this world and the next. However, not being completely between this and the next can be a comforting experience. It leaves things open to where decisions are never fully made. Nothing is ever really final and there is always a way to turn back. Yet, though reassuring, we can also become stuck in a barrier of our own creation much like the boxes the boys frequently end up in.

A box for every occasion

The boys look out from these boxes onto us, each one unique. Though there is a literal barrier, most often it is as if they boys could simply walk of out of them if they wished to. In fact, even from inside their boxes, they are always visible to the viewer. The camera even pans so close at times it is like you can grab them and pull them out, but you can’t. You aren’t there and they are the only ones with the power to leave the box. They have formed a barrier of their own and only they can penetrate it. They are straddling another duality of being at once accessible yet entirely untouchable. Even their performance stage is like a box with its monochromatic nature and unending corners.

Dab on your repressed feelings

This all bears a similarity to my generation, us good ole millennials. Following the baby boomers we believed in so much promise for ourselves, and yet we see all of our dreams falling short as we come of age in a time where our futures seem more and more unclear. We are caught in a bit of yearning for a time where we had more hope for ourselves and our future as promised us in the nineties (of all decades), hence the overwhelming sense of nostalgia that characterizes my generation. We are stuck in between the two; one of hope and one of disenchantment. Waking up and opening our eyes to the future may just leave us open to further uncertainty.

I wouldn’t mind waking up to him though, lets be real

However, the lyrics still urge us to open our eyes and, to face the uncertain. We can do it slowly,quietly, and with help. The future will arrive with or without us being prepared, but we have to face it. Why not do it together? We can try to put ourselves into a box but our box is made of glass and glass can be broken. Embrace change or not, it will come, so why not open your eyes and let it in?

Now a side note about the blackness in this video. From the moves to the fashion, blackness creeps in everywhere. By blackness, I mean the blackness that springs from the black people found in the states. The bandannas around the head and neck. The hair cuts with the slight fade. The white sneakers looking like they fresh out the box. Even the dance moves retain a bit of the swag present at old school line dances.

In the middle of throwing up signs, shout out to the west side

K-Pop has a tendency to use black culture as a means to gain rep as being cool and edgy. Often it feels, and is, appropriative especially considering South Korea does not have near enough black people to create a sizable population to generate it’s own black culture, but it is more than just appropriation. I believe that as a country, the United States exports not just American culture, but black American culture as well and South Korea is consuming it. Not to cast these entertainment industries as innocent or unknowing but the use of black culture while absent black people is an American invention and one that we spread with us everywhere we go.

NCT U’s final form

With that thought, we come to a close of this installment of K-Pop Meta. Keep in mind that this is my interpretation, so feel free to share your own. That’s what makes this fun after all so please, if you feel differently, feel free to share.

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