“Short Hair”, the latest single from AOA (Ace of Angels) represents a slight adjustment for the group. AOA, like a ton of other groups, had been focused on providing as many sexy concepts as one could shake a proverbial stick at. And while some groups have seemingly doubled-down time and time again in their efforts to turn sexiness into popularity, AOA has somewhat surprisingly decided to dial down the overt sexuality with “Short Hair”, especially when compared to previous efforts “Confused” and “Miniskirt”. The good news is that, despite the toned down sensuality, AOA has never looked better. The bad news is that the decision to step on the “sexy” conceptual brakes without offering much else leaves “Short Hair” with the look and sound of a fairly average K-Pop release.
Whether one likes “Short Hair” as a single will come down to how one feels about a boilerplate Brave Brothers track. The production team of Brave Brothers pretty much has one gear. They can make a slightly sensual beat through a mixture of swirling electric guitars, disco keys and patient percussion. A Brave Brothers song isn’t unlike a Calvin Harris song, in that their beats often sound homogeneous and instantly recognizable at the same time.
“Short Hair” is a Brave Brothers vehicle through and through. The beat tends to overwhelm the vocals (although, to be fair, AOA has yet to really make a mark for itself vocally) and the auto-tuned sheen over the delivery causes the lyrics to be subsumed under the weight of cymbals, keys and guitar runs. It’s not necessarily a weakness and there are some surprisingly good moments here. Jimin, for perhaps the first time, tones down the “brattiness” of her rapping and the song is served well for it. The “Oooh-oooh-oooh-ooh” hooks are simple, clean and catchy. The girls sound nice, if a bit anonymous. The song as a whole is well-packaged and produced but nothing about this screams an “AOA” song as much as it screams “BRAVE BROTHERS, A SUBSIDIARY OF BRAVE BROTHERS PRODUCTIONS AND BRAVE SOUNDS.”
The music video is good but that’s almost in spite of itself. While the song could have been sung by any number of vocalists working in K-Pop, the video solely works because of AOA. The sets are perfunctory and minimal. The choreography is a mixture of hopping and jazz hands that barely registers. There’s no attempt to do anything wildly creative. Hell, the direction barely even bothers to make the sets look like anything but sets. The various backgrounds are not unlike those one would find at a local amateur theater production. As for the camera, the predictable beats are all here; solo shot, group shot, choreography shot, solo shot. Rinse, repeat.
As basic as this all is, there’s little denying that AOA makes it work through the power and magic of “pretty”. The group looks fantastic from top to bottom. Choa and Yuna are their usual perfect selves and Seolhyun stans have much to cheer about but every single girl looks great (MVP probably goes to Hyejeong though).
The outfits and bob cuts evoke 50’s Americana but it’s done so subtly that I’m not even sure if it was even worth the bother. The various occupational outfits straddle the line between cute and sexy without seeming exploitative (or as non-exploitative as a group can look while leveraging its wild abundance of pretty young women), a tricky balance that is achieved here through a mixture of smart styling and conservative editing. AOA carries the video but mileage of how enjoyable one finds it will undoubtedly fall on how much one values hotness over creativity.
“Short Hair” is a success on its own terms, but those terms don’t aim to be much more than a reminder that AOA exists and is very attractive. The song is well-made Brave Brothers fluff. The video is a compelling argument for AOA’s continued ascension in the cutthroat girl group market of K-Pop. What “Short Hair” fails at is providing a clearer picture of just what this group is supposed to be. “Short Hair” proves that AOA can elevate a completely average K-Pop concept and video to levels that it has no business reaching but “Prettier Than Your Average Girl Group” isn’t a group identity that inspires much confidence.
If only AOA had a concept which could help make it stand out against the insane amount of girl groups out there… Like a band concept or something. Now, that could be something worth exploring.
BONUS: “Short Hair” Dance Practice “Eye Contact” Version. I am not sure how to feel about this yet. Stupidly hot? Slightly creepy? I think Choa broke my brain.