Orange Caramel operates in a weird space for one who doesn’t like aegyo or cute concepts (me). On the one hand, Orange Caramel does a lot right. The group has it’s own visual and musical style. They don’t follow trends and their concepts are often visually memorable. In a sea of similar sounds and looks, Orange Caramel sticks out like a brightly colored, frilly beacon of sugar. Executing a concept with a clear and distinct point of view is commendable and rare. On the other hand, it’s Orange Caramel and whether one likes the group and it’s singles will largely depend on whether one can stomach the exaggerated “quirkiness” and “cuteness” of the group and its concepts. As someone who loves distinct points of view but hates aegyo, Orange Caramel often leaves me torn. The group won’t help solve that quandary any time soon either, as “Catallena” is yet another release that has Orange Caramel’s unique branding all over it.
The song for “Catallena” is what one has come to expect from Orange Caramel. Nasally-stylized vocals dominate the upper registers with a sleek synth and strings driven beat backing them. The snare keeps the tempo but this leads to the song belonging almost entirely in higher ranges with precious little middle or lower tones balancing it out. It makes “Catallena” purposefully light and “quirky” but much like the raw fish that dominate the video, it’s a certain acquired taste. Part of that is due to the group’s limitations when it comes to singing (Raina is probably the trio’s best singer but it’s a low bar to hurdle considering that the competition is Nana and Lizzy) but part of it is undeniably due to Orange Caramel’s determined off-beat humor and style.
The video is also typical delightfully non-sensical Orange Caramel fare. When the trailers were being rolled out, it was hard to say what the actual concept was. Polka dots? Sushi? Mermaids? Turns out, it’s all of them. Lizzy, Raina and Nana are Minnie Mouse fetishists/fish/mermaids/sushi who are ignored and put on discount until they are eaten… by themselves. And then they cry for reasons presumably dealing with eating themselves and breaking reality or something.
“Plot” aside, the video looks decent. Much like their previous single “Lipstick”, the editing in “Catallena” is smartly understated but it also has a definitive purpose. There’s slight panning in and out but little movement, which – with the help of cuts that aren’t too frequent – gives “Catallena” its portrait-like look. This is only emphasized by the actual use of portrait borders in the mermaid shots. The backgrounds are incredibly minimal, highlighting the bright colors and fashion of Orange Caramel. The dance set of the wooden board is well done and the various individual solo shots of the members lying on rice/bathing in soy sauce are visually memorable and striking.
The styling is… well, it’s Orange Caramel so the wardrobe and styling almost have to be graded on their own curve. The outfits stand out and are costume-y but they have a point to them outside of looking strange which gives Orange Caramel a leg-up on the Jeremy Scotts of the world. The polka dot themed clothing bring fish scales to mind while the other outfits either have a shine or pattern that bears resemblance to fish skin. Is it pretty? No, it’s actually pretty cartoonish but considering that it’s Orange Caramel, that was undoubtedly the point and the video does a good job of fully realizing the oddness of the concept.
While one could understandably mourn the fact that Orange Caramel contains Nana and Lizzy and yet opts for aegyo-cute over bombshell-sexy, “Catallena” is another example of a group solidifying its image and sound. In a genre where everyone seems determined to trend-hump each other into the ground, the fact that Orange Caramel sticks to its guns and commits to its fun-house mirror version of aegyo is commendable. “Catallena” gives fans of Orange Caramel plenty to enjoy, from the distinct visual style to the wardrobe choices to the sight of Lizzy lounging in a saucer of soy sauce. However, for those that have found Orange Caramel to not be their cup of tea, “Catallena” isn’t going to win any new followers to the Cult of Caramel.