For the best viewing experience, the music video for SNSD’s latest single, “Mr.Mr.,” should be watched in GIFs. After all, that particular medium that fixes many of the most commonly cited problems with the video, like the frantic pacing of the video since GIFs exist mostly in two to ten second increments. When all of these GIF’d scenes play on over and over and over again, it is easy catch the interesting scenes or important details. And those jarring, acidic colors and grainy textures also come off as less grating and actually sort of pretty when viewed in a 400 x 300 pixel rectangle instead of full screen. GIFs can even rescue the dance sequences, or lack thereof, as it seems a little more substantial when viewed collectively in GIF sets, instead of spliced between close-up shots.
None of this is by design of course. Although SNSD may be a bona fide dyed-in-the-wool Internet phenomenon whose video for “Mr.Mr.” sailed past the one million view mark mere hours after its release, this is all only part of their mythology. Any impact it has on the aesthetic-side of things is evident mostly in what they do to court their global fanbase. Making a video that looks good mostly in GIFs, a format familiar only to certain Internet niches would not fit their usual style, but a comeback with a mini album and music video that does not require a pre-requisite knowledge and appeals to a more broad and diverse audience? That was deliberate as that has been SNSD’s approach in nearly all of their releases ever since their global pivot circa 2011.
As the latest installment in their discography, their latest comeback with “Mr.Mr.” is as good as any of their past releases over the last several years for illustrating their approach of broader appeal. With a single that is more mainstream friendly than their previous, “I Got a Boy,” the mini album, Mr.Mr., is a typical SNSD release tweaked enough that it sounds fresher, but is still in comfortable territory for SNSD. If you liked their past releases, you will most likely enjoy Mr.Mr. too.
The video follows the model set by the mini where it is more or less the SNSD fans know and love, only with some alterations. The usual dancing in a box has been swapped for a more storyline driven video — that takes place in rooms — that can be mined for symbolism, but still retains the hallmarks of an SNSD concept. There is still the usual glitz and glam including a bedazzled heart à la Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God, bright colors in excess, and gratuitous shots of the members that do not necessarily fit the storyline ‘but wow-they-just look-so-good!’
While for other groups would be read as ‘blandness’ or ‘more of the same old’ is in regards to SNSD read as a laudable consistency’ and a ‘solid’ release. What is important here is not so much the qualifier as the subtext, both of which hint at the malaise that has dogged most of SNSD’s releases ever since their shift to the global when they started making music for Everybody. The latter point sounds like a laudable goal, one that would be cited in an article citing the power of the Internet and k-pop’s global spread, but it is more of an impossibility. Everybody is not a quantifiable and thus knowable group making any attempt to try and tailor or target to such a group futile yet this has not stopped SNSD from trying which is the crux of the problem. The specter of Everybody is stifling. It allows SNSD to only alter their image or sound so much, its presence only becoming known when they begin to run the risk of doing something that Somebody may like, but not Everybody. And so they withdraw. Better to just stick to what they know, even if it means every comeback feels a little more sterile, merely good, but not often great.