Review: Hyuna – “Red” Works Against All Odds Thanks To Its Impossibly Charismatic Lead

hyuna red

In many ways, “Red” follows in a long line of Hyuna hip-pop projects. It has the requisite hip-pop hooks and verses and the visuals are bright, colorful and often hot in ways that still manage to surprise. Of course, when a project goes for bright, colorful and shocking, it can often unfortunately veer off into the realm of the nonsensical and tasteless. However, that’s never the case with “Red”, a single which largely succeeds thanks to one of the few K-Pop idols who could hold something so chaotically loud and nonsensical together: Hyuna.

“Red” as a song isn’t that far from what Hyuna has delivered in her past solo releases. The beat, like many K-Pop productions in the past year, isn’t afraid from packing as much sound as it can possibly muster into every single bar. A sharp cymbal and escalating synth riff to start promise that Hyuna isn’t turning down for anything. The hip-pop beat that follows is a pretty standard mix of bass, synths and snare drum that wouldn’t sound out of place on a G-Dragon b-side.

Given the ubiquity of “Red”‘s production, the song rises and falls based on how well Hyuna’s voice is utilized. The verses, which require Hyuna to rap more, are definitely the weakest part of the song but “Red” thankfully front ends most of that so that the back end of the track works incredibly well. Hyuna may lack the range to sing very well and she has a “bratty” rap cadence that is an acquired taste but the double tracking of the hooks and choruses are superb and perfectly suit Hyuna’s hip-pop vocals. Once “Red” is able to forego the two opening verses for the choruses, bridge and final breakdown, the single coalesces into a real banger of a song. “Red” doesn’t make a great first impression but it definitely ends on a high note.

Dem legs tho.

Dem legs tho.

Like most Hyuna related material, a large part of any discussion surrounding her work will inevitably come down to the visual side of things. Hyuna singles have always worked to balance the fine lines between sexual, cute and scandalous. She’s had her successes (“Bubble Pop”) and her failures (“Ice Cream”) but “Red” falls more in line with Hyuna’s better efforts.

It’s not perfect by any means. A lot of the video appears to be half-formed ideas that the conceptual directors hoped to hide behind Hyuna’s impossible legs. What monkeys and apes have to do with vaguely Ancient Egyptian motifs and sex cages is anyone’s guess. The direction doesn’t try to do anything very ambitious and the monkey theme more or less seems like an excuse to produce some weird imagery and to get Hyuna to straddle a banana. If there’s one thing that the set direction is able to accomplish, it’s providing a red and yellowish gold color scheme which stays fairly consistent between all the cuts. It gives “Red” an illusion of conceptual unity that isn’t really present.

Aaaaaand scene.

Aaaaaand scene.

It’s a testament to Hyuna’s star power that she’s able to hold all of this together. The eye can’t help but hone in on her like a laser and she never gets lost in the insanity that’s happening around her. She is the real glue of “Red” and it’s hard to think of another idol who could have presented all of this with a relatively straight face and have succeeded with anywhere close to the same results. There’s a subtle knowing smirk that Hyuna is able to convey while she’s slapping the ass of a man wearing monkey mask that allows “Red” to come off as fun rather than desperate. It’s actually quite remarkable how Hyuna is able to flawlessly transition from literally monkeying around to twerking with authority to eyeing the camera with a look that could melt stone within seconds. “Red” is all over the place but it’s never out of control thanks to the girl at the center of the stage.

Slap dat.

Slap dat.

If nothing else, “Red” demonstrates how valuable an idol like Hyuna can be to a project. There aren’t many idols who can make a monkey orgy by way of the Nile work but if anyone can it’s Hyuna. Her past work and persona has afforded her the opportunity to go for weirder concepts because her brand and charisma are so strong that it can tame even the wildest of fires (or in this case, baboons). “Red” may speak to the color which is ubiquitous throughout the music video but the one true uniting force of “Red” is Hyuna.

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14 comments

  1. Fleur De Seoul · · Reply

    This video, and Hyuna in general perplex me as a feminist. There’s a lot of problems with music videos I have to shelve in order for me to enjoy many Kpop songs, but Hyuna is weird for me. A lot of what I take issue with is that she seems to be playing a sexy character for the video that she doesn’t come into harmony with, which leads to a cheap and non-empowering feeling. What does seem to resonate, is the coy sexy shots, like the one where she’s wearing the sweatshirt and the underwear. That feels like Hyuna’s true personality to me and I don’t feel skeevy watching that because when I see her doing what she normally does it doesn’t make me feel like I’m exploiting her cause she’s a spectacle.

    The dances are another thing. She can dance so powerfully, and even change certain moves from pandering to liberating (the butt shake and arm roll in this one come to mind). But when you have close ups on ass while twerking, well there’s no saving that.

    Watching a Hyuna video seems to be a study of what happens to a powerful sexy woman when male executives want to pander to a young male western audience for views and money. I hope she gets more chances to make her own branding choices.

    1. I hear you on the whole “Where does Hyuna fit in terms of being problematically objectified” issue. Sometimes it’s blatant but sometimes it seems satirical or harmless, often within seconds of each other.

  2. Fleur De Seoul · · Reply

    Also, to explain some of the monkey/banana styling choices: http://msthugbear.com/2014/07/28/hyunas-play-on-words-and-props-in-red/

  3. “The Monkey’s butt is red. Red is Hyuna” ? wut? so you sayin’ that hyuna is a monkey’s butt? i know it’s connected to the korean child rhyme, but it doesn’t make sense whatsoever.

    Where is Bestie’s ‘Hot Baby’ anyway?

    1. No, the children’s song is “monkey butt is red, red is apple, apple is delicious.” Hyuna’s version is monkey butt is red, red is Hyuna, Hyuna is, ah” and your mind should be filling in the blank (“delicious”), especially as she is riding on a banana. It’s sexual innuendo.

      1. Ah, that’s why I can’t stand the beginning rap. Nursery rhymes are the worst.

    2. Don’t know if I’ll have time for that one, we’ll see.

  4. Love your reviews. Often I agree sometimes I don’t. All the points you make you back up and fully articulate. Great work.

    1. Thanks! I try to give an honest opinion but formulating words can be hard haha.

  5. My comment on Reddit right after I saw it for the first time: “Well that’s it then. They can stop making MVs now because it’s never going to get any better than this.” I’ve watched it and listened to it a lot since then and it holds up. I’ve not been a fan of Hyuna’s solo work up until now, but this song really resonates with me for some reason. And it’s not the kind of stuff I typically like. So for me it’s her best work by far. The song, the choreo, the MV, her look, everything is just right on.

    1. It just snowballs into being a blast.

  6. black soshi · · Reply

    Once again you eerily parallel my views, or I yours, whatever. I think the song is great, by the second listen I had the hook and Hyuna just keeps killing it from there. Knowing that its a play on a children’s rhyme makes it even better. Good one Cube. Hyuna bias activated.

  7. moyaaa · · Reply

    Not getting into the song (yet) but wow, the MV is really something else and has the looks of something produced by YG Entertainment instead of Cube.
    Hyuna straddling a banana… no sexual innuendo there since it’s a children’s rhyme, right? Let’s see how long before this gets banned from broadcast due to public outcry.

  8. kaiyu621@gmail.com · · Reply

    the album outfit. the skirt is cute.
    brand is???

    thank u for ur apply.

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