Note: Yes, it’s old and shame on me for bypassing this one when it was released. Thanks to Allison Nakamura and Vai for prodding me in the right direction. Though there’s two versions of this video now, this review will be for the first release because it’s better.
TVXQ is one of the most dependable duos working K-Pop today and both Yunho and Changmin could headline any group they damn well please and it would be solid. Together, they’re usually golden and “Spellbound” is no exception.
The production for “Spellbound” is pretty good. A smooth neo-soul beat straddles the line between cheesy and classy. Saxophones will always be welcomed additions to pop music and the percussion relies more on snares and cymbals than bass to give “Spellbound” an old-school vibe. The vocals leave one torn. On the one hand, there are few who can belt out notes with as much force and clarity as TVXQ and both are given some proper opportunities to elevate “Spellbound” during its five minute run time. On the other hand, some aggressive double-tracking and auto-tuning is used on the chorus and hooks which kind of works and kind of doesn’t. It definitely helps sell the “soul” sound but its so exaggerated that it borders on parody. In all, it was probably the right decision as the processing provides some contrast and variation for “Spellbound” but one can’t help but think that the production tricks on the vocals could have been left out without suffering much from a quality standpoint.
Whatever hangups one has about the production choices for the song should be swept away with the video. SM Entertainment is rightly knocked for using the “dance in a box” concept as a crutch but with “Spellbound” TVXQ validates everything right with falling back on the cookie-cutter. Unlike the often spastic “Mr. Mr.”, “Spellbound” knows how to make a dance video shine. The direction is clear and cuts are far and few between which means (gasp) that the viewer can actually follow what’s happening on screen and can properly see what the choreography looks like. The camera pans around and goes in and out of the routine without being invasive or distracting, telegraphing movement while still allowing the actual performers to speak for themselves.
The classy black and white styling of TVXQ is clean and works well with the backing set, which is lit just brightly enough to pop without being distracting. In fact, the only “distracting” thing in the video may end up being the backup dancers who are almost unfairly hot for window dressing. It doesn’t hurt that the choreography is fairly great and the girls (and tvxq) really sell it all.
Seriously, someone get them a deal for their own group. Guaranteed they could put on a better routine than most of the girl groups out there based on how they move for TVXQ.
Whenever the most glaring thing I can say about a music video is that the backup dancers are distractingly hot, it’s probably a good sign. TVXQ is never not the stars of their own work but that’s pushed to its limits in “Spellbound”, another very good release from one of K-Pop’s most consistent acts.
MOAR backup dancers please.
What’s that? Wish granted.