I had my doubts about a Jiyeon solo debut ever since it was first announced. While Core Contents Media and T-ara have consistently made some of the better music to come out of K-Pop (which is only overshadowed by how consistently CCM trips over its own feet), Jiyeon has usually never stood out as a vocalist and the teasers seemed to confirm that this would be a shallow excuse to bathe in the glory of Jiyeon’s beauty. However, while viewing the obnoxiously titled ‘1Min 1 Sec (Never Ever)’, I found myself not even caring that much about the beat (a bit lackluster), Jiyeon’s vocal abilities (serviceable) or her wardrobe (on point). What I was surprised to find was a compelling psychological horror drama which rivals any music video that T-ara has ever done.
‘1Min 1Sec (Never Ever)’, produced by the increasingly omnipresent Duble Sidekick, manages to squeeze out a passable beat for Jiyeon’s solo debut. Sounding like a bit of a cross between Sunmi’s ‘Full Moon’ and SISTAR19’s ‘Gone Not Around Any Longer’ but without Brave Brothers’ disco sensibilities, ‘1Min 1Sec (Never Ever)’ relies on sparsity and an overwrought electric guitar for its aural punch. Very muted keys dance in the background to contrast with the plodding bass but the resulting track doesn’t create much excitement or dread. There is very little build up in “1Min 1Sec (Never Ever)’ and the monotony doesn’t do the song many favors.
Jiyeon’s vocals keep things moving but she doesn’t have enough of a voice to either emphasize the bleak music nor the vocal chops to defy it. The hollowing echo that’s used over the “never, ever, ever, never” to start the song does more to convey a sense of tragedy than anything that Jiyeon sings following that. The rest is a mixture of alluring “ooh’s” and soft touches that have trouble filling the low-key production.
That’s not to say that Jiyeon does poorly in her solo debut as she isn’t a disaster by any means. Instead, the beat and Jiyeon both seem to be playing steward to a larger project.
When listened to in pairing with the video, ‘1Min 1Sec (Never Ever)’ comes across much more favorably. The bleakness of the beat and Jiyeon’s more passive presence makes a lot of sense for the music video’s story of a girl who slowly becomes self-aware of her own madness.
The non-choreography scenes are displayed in a stop-motion style and the props and set departments absolutely nail the main set piece of Jiyeon’s room as a dilapidated mess which hasn’t been attended to in ages. Everything looks slightly out of date, from the clocks on the wall, to the checkered dining room table, to Jiyeon’s knitting hobby (apologies to any knitters out there). It looks like a place stuck in time (of which the stop motion shrewdly emphasizes) and that is critical to each reveal which follows.
The first dissolution of Jiyeon’s Imaginary Playhouse turns her world into pencil art and it’s stunning to see her entire world literally erased away. This culminates into a beautifully chilling image where a hazy figure (kept delightfully vague) emerges as the embodiment of an insane nightmare.
At this point, the rest is displaying dramatic irony as inevitable tragedy, as Jiyeon figures out what the audience already knows. The final cut of Jiyeon being locked away in a sterile white room in complete isolation is as haunting as it is heartbreaking to see. Jiyeon’s acting chops (the best thing about T-ara’s long-form music videos) help breathe life into the role and she turns in a very believable and (critically) sympathetic performance for something which could have devolved into nonsense pretty quickly. It’s a testament to her, the direction, editing and the set designs that this works as well as it does.
Even the choreography scenes serve more of a purpose than to see Jiyeon get wet and break necks with her hips. Her fluidity, contrasted with the staggered cuts and story-line bits adds another layer of disorientation that is sexual but in the same way that sexual appeal is often used as something ominous in horror tropes. The video manages to make every Jiyeon thrust seem unsettling and difficult to trust and that distrust plays right into the paranoia that ‘1Min 1Sec (Never Ever)’ pulls off stunningly well.
As a song ‘1Min 1Sec (Never Ever)’ is a tad forgettable and almost distressingly empty. However, when looking at ‘1Min 1Sec (Never Ever)’ in its totality, the music video is a triumph. The listlessness of the single takes on a whole new meaning within the context of Jiyeon’s mental state in the video. The psychological is beautifully captured by the effects and camera work put on display here. Simply put, ‘1Min 1Sec (Never Ever)’ works together symbiotically to create a whole which is so much more than the sum of its parts. ‘1Min 1Sec (Never Ever)’ may be one of the most annoying song titles ever, but it’s also one of the best music videos which has been released this year.