Friday, December 20, 2013

Holly Jolly PV Week: Kara

Before you ask, no, this PV is not French Kiss. It's Winter Magic! You know what that means, right? We get to hop in my time-traveling fish and go all the way back to 2011! Yay! Ah 2011, when I'd just started the Wonderland and Kara was still relevant in Japan. Those were the days...

I should probably clarify right now that I am not going to address the elephant in the room that is Nicole leaving Kara. Maybe I'll talk about that in my French Kiss review or a separate post altogether. I want my Holly Jolly PV Week reviews to be full of happiness and lighthearted fun, and talking about the departure of a member from a group is far from fun. Is that okay with everyone reading this? I hope so, because now we get to talk about Winter Magic! Ah, Winter Magic... I actually remember when this was released. However, what I've always found funny about the release of Winter Magic was that it wasn't released in December; it was released in October. Early October too. Around that time, it wasn't even cold where I live, let alone winter! I wouldn't be pointing it out if Winter Magic didn't have such a wintery, Christmas feel. It's very clearly meant to be a Christmas single. Which is nice since I don't have to spend this review trying to justify why I put this song on Holly Jolly PV Week. I do think it's important for me to look at the lyrics for Winter Magic since it is a Christmas song though.

Yeah, yeah, I know I don't place a lot of emphasis on lyrics in my regular reviews, but since these are songs specifically about Christmas, I do think they at least need to be looked at. So what are Winter Magic's lyrics about? Well, it's a love song. A love song about the singer's desire to be with her romantic other, fueled by the "winter magic" the two are experiencing. There aren't any specific references to Christmas, but more to common themes and ideas of winter such as snow, coldness, winter. Actually, the more I look at these lyrics, the more I realize that depending on the way you interpret it, this can be either a winter song or a Christmas song. Or both! I see Winter Magic as the latter option. The lyrics to Winter Magic really aren't that groundbreaking; it's a love song with a theme that has been done many, many times in idol music. Does that mean it's bad? No, but if you're looking for a Christmas idol song, then Winter Magic may be a little too vague for your liking.

Personally, I think lyrically and musically, Winter Magic is okay. Not amazing, just okay. I remember when I first heard Winter Magic, I was actually pretty disappointed. After the amazing Jet Coaster Love and Go Go Summer!, I thought that Winter Magic was too low-key to to be the last single of 2011 for Kara. There was just so much about it that sounded strange, especially the minor key of the chorus. Winter Magic almost sounded like it was supposed to be a sad song, even the the lyrics indicate the song is supposed to be happy in a very hopeful way. I'm all for sad Christmas songs. Even a few of the upcoming songs in Holly Jolly PV Week are sad Christmas songs! The thing is, if I'm listening to a happy Christmas song, I want it to sound happy. Like ecstatically happy. And energetic. Because what I always associate with Christmas is that bubbling, almost hyperactive feeling of happiness. You know, when you're a little kid, lying in bed on Christmas Eve and practically counting the seconds until Christmas day. There's just that feeling of absolute happiness and excitement that I can't really put into proper words.

I do like Winter Magic, but I wish it could have captured a little more of that feeling. Winter Magic is happy in such a laidback way that it's kind of hard for me to get into it. Then again, it's less about the joy of Christmas and more about the anticipation of being with your significant other. So I guess I can see why it's written the way it's written. Even then though, it's little too cutesy for me to get into it. I guess because I'm not that much of a romantic person, and the idea of being romantically with someone on Christmas is an idea I can't relate to that much. Now if this were a song about being close to your family and friends on Christmas, I'd be totally down with that. And I suppose that this song does do a good job of capturing that feeling of intimacy with someone else. In my opinion though,Winter Magic is still a tad bit too mushy-gushy for me. But then again, Christmas can be a very mushy-gushy time of the year!

And it's not like I dislike Winter Magic. It's just not my favorite Kara song I've ever heard. Actually, you know song Winter Magic reminds me of? Honey, one of their K-pop singles. Although I think Honey has a slightly more distinctive sound than Winter Magic does. And come to think of it, those two songs don't sound that much alike... I guess it's the tone of each song? Well, both songs are equally sugary-sweet! Comparisons aside, Winter Magic is a genuinely sweet song, even if it gets a little saccharine at times. And the low energy of Winter Magic did slowly grow on me. In fact, it's kind of nice to listen to Winter Magic when I'm not under a lot of stress and can just relax. And what a better time to do that than Christmas break? When all my finals are done and I have nothing to do until next year, it's kind of nice to play relaxing songs like Winter Magic. I can turn on the fireplace, make some hot chocolate, grab some blankets, and just chill with this song playing.

So if I can ignore the hokey lyrics, Winter Magic is actually a somewhat enjoyable song for me to listen to. Again, not my favorite Christmas song but that doesn't mean I don't like listening to it! As a reviewer though, how does Winter Magic hold up as a regular ol' song? Well... I still think it's pretty okay. It's not breaking any new ground for Kara, since there are several of their J-pop songs that sound mighty similar to Winter Magic. But I like Kara's music all right, and even if Winter Magic isn't anything special for them, the girls still sound nice. I especially like at the very last chorus when the key changes. I always like when that happens, and with Winter Magic, the key change added some much-needed energy to the song. And the instrumental for Winter Magic was decent as well! Other than that, there isn't too much else I can say about Winter Magic. I think it's a nice-sounding song, but it could have used a little more energy. As a Christmas song, it's not at the top of my list, but it still stood out enough that I felt that it deserved a spot on Holly Jolly PV Week!

All right, let's knit some scarves and frolic in the snow! Well... since I can't do either one of those at the moment, let's just watch the girls of Kara do that in the PV for Winter Magic!

And the PV opens with a warm and fuzzy shot of all the girls wearing what may-or-may-not be nightgowns!

This was also back when they were brunettes!

Enough of that room though! It's time to go outside!

Kind of. "Outside" is a set that's whiter than slice of Wonderbread.

Time to call Perfume and gloat about stealing their set from Nee!!

I always find singing into the phone to be funny. Like imagine if someone called you and started belting out the National Anthem.

How are those flowers not dead? Eh... MAGIC!

Aw, that's both dorky and sweet!!

Even now, I've always been very 50/50 on this set. I mean, it does fit with the winter theme but everything being one color kind of washes everything out.

A piano!? And a white baby grand piano at that!? Must... play...

What are you doing!? You can't drink in front of the piano!!! You might spill something on it!

I think I made this wrong but it's the thought that counts, right?

Even if the set's a little blah, it does give the PV this fairy tale-like charm.

I mean, this PV's really piling on the enchantment and whimsy!

Seungyon, I don't think that's how you wear a scarf...

See? Now you broke it! You did the impossible and broke a scarf!

That's the face I made when I didn't get a letter from Hogwarts.

Jiyoung is building her gummy bear army to take over the entire world!!! Mwahahaha!!!

You can tell they're sad because the lighting got dark!

Um, can't Hara just flip her bike back up? It doesn't look damaged... does it have the flu or something?

Oh, to play such a beautiful piano... that would be a dream.

Ugh, this PV gets more snow in two minutes than I do in a whole year.

You're happy now Hara, but that plant's gonna die if you don't get it inside!

So they're supposed to be waiting for boys? I think I'd prefer snow over a boy. Just saying.

Actually, does anyone live in this town besides the girls of Kara?

Oh, here's that other shot! I was wondering where it had scampered off to...

Aw, see? You don't need boys as long as you have each other!

Oh. I guess the girls of Kara don't feel the same way about this as I do.

He finally showed up! Well... his feet and ankles did. We never see the rest of this guy, so as far as I know, he's just a pair of feet!

Either way, he showed up too late to be in the PV! Oh well!

While the song is more wintery, the PV for Winter Magic is most definitely a Christmas PV. Presents? Check. Snow? Check. A hot guy? Eh... half a check? We only saw the guy's feet so... Despite the fact that we do not see the guy for most of this PV, he does play a very pivotal in it. The girls of Kara are all waiting for this one guy to show up so they can give him presents. I'm not sure if he's their mutually-shared crush, or he's taking turns dating each one of them, but it's an idol PV, so I won't dwell on it for very long. So they're all getting their gifts ready, but as the clock ticks on, the mystery man doesn't show up. The girls get sad, it starts to snow, then at the very last minute, the mystery man appears! And the PV comes to a very happy ending. Or I assume it does. As you can see, the plot of the PV for Winter Magic isn't exactly Memento-level complicated. In fact, anyone with eyes can probably follow the general plot of this PV. It is nice that the PV for Winter Magic has a very easy-to-follow storyline, because I've had some difficult PVs I've had to interpret!

 But just because the plot of Winter Magic is simple, does that mean it is good? Well... I'm not sure. Honestly, I never really pay close attention to the plot of Winter Magic when I'm watching the PV. I mean, it's pretty cliched, and I've probably seen this in several other PVs I can't remember right now. It's a cute story and all, but it's not very engaging nor is it the general focus of the PV. In fact, when I first watched this PV, it didn't even click with me that the girls were waiting for a guy until like halfway through! I don't know, I feel like I've seen this plot too many times for it to really stand out to me anymore. I mean, it didn't stand out much to me the first time I saw it! The only music video where a girl waiting for a guy that truly stood out to me was the PV for AKB48's Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru, and that was for very, very different reasons. Seifuku ga Jama wo Suru Winter Magic is not (though that's probably a good thing). Like the song, the plot of Winter Magic is just a little too cutesy and sweet for me.

And yet... even if this plot is really predictable, I can't fully bring myself to dislike it. One of the reasons is that the plot is so out-of-focus. A lot more of the PV is spent on the girls themselves doing various things from knitting scarves to riding bikes to frolicking in the snow. And the girls of Kara do look like they're genuinely having fun in this PV. Sure, them trying to look sad is far from Oscar worthy, but when they look like they're enjoying themselves, I believed they were enjoying themselves! And I like the way they worked in the idea of "winter magic." This is going more meta, but I personally believe that the winter magic in Winter Magic happens when it starts snowing in the little town. It's probably more magical for me because snow is such a rare occurrence where I live. I'm serious, one time school got canceled because it might have started snowing (P.S. it never did). I liked that the snow they used in this PV wasn't edited into it, and I get to see the girls of Kara enjoying it. It's like the girls forget about the guy they were waiting for and just spin around enjoying the snow! Almost like that was nature's way of saying not to let the guy not showing up get them down.

Of course, the guy shortly shows up afterward so- wait a minute. What if the guy controlled the snow? Maybe he's like Elsa from Frozen and he can magically control the snow and the ice!! Probably not, but wouldn't that make an interesting PV? Something about an idol meeting a guy who has snow powers but ends up accidentally freezing the world and then the two have to save it... I don't know, I'm making this up as I go! Back to Winter Magic! The plot of Winter Magic is pretty threadbare, but the way it's handled is just so sweet and earnest. There's just this atmosphere of sugary sweetness permeating throughout the entire PV that prevents me from being too harsh on it. Winter Magic doesn't take itself too seriously; it's meant to be a fun, cute little PV about the girls of Kara experiencing a little bit of Magic on Christmas. Or Christmas Eve. Either way, I like the PV for Winter Magic.

On the technical side, I also love the overall look of this PV. Winter Magic is a PV that looks wintery. The town in particular is my favorite part. At first, I found it kind of strange that everything in it was white. Even now, I'm still kind of split on the idea of making every building and object in the town one color. It's very monochromatic. On the other hand, it does give a very distinct look to the PV. Making everything white gives the set a wintery feel without having to add snow until necessary. Like when I watch the PV, I believe that it's cold in that little town. There's also something very whimsically surreal about the whiteness of the town as well, like the girls are living in a storybook. The one-color scheme also makes the girls, clothed in colors, stand out against their surroundings. I guess the more I write about it, the more I like the main set for Winter Magic...

I should also mention the one other set where the girls are all together in one room, but not a lot of time is spent on that. In fact, I wish there had been some more time spent in there. Maybe because it was just one room, the director didn't want the PV to show a lot of the room? Other than that, the stylistic choices made for Winter Magic work well in the PV. The little details add a lot of charm to the PV and only make me like Winter Magic even more. So how does Winter Magic work overall as a Christmas PV? I think Winter Magic has its heart in the right place and does deliver a visually appealing PV. I just never pay a lot of attention to the plot when I'm watching this PV. I watch Winter Magic to get in the mood for cold weather and hot chocolate and the anticipation that snow might fall this year. If we're lucky, we'll get an inch. Two inches tops. As a Christmas PV, Winter Magic doesn't try anything new, but the things it does do, it does well. So as long as you don't go into this PV expecting something groundbreaking, I think you'll enjoy Winter Magic! I know every year when the holidays roll around, this is always one of the idol PVs that I like watching wearing my oversize sweater and wrapping presents.

So yeah, as unoriginal as Winter Magic is, I can't bring myself to dislike it. There's just something so gosh-darn heartfelt about the song and PV. Even if neither one is particularly amazing... I'll give Winter Magic three fruitcakes! If you like Kara and are in the need of a chill, simple little Christmas love song, I'd check Winter Magic out! For me though, I have more Christmas PVs to explore! Stay tuned for tomorrow's and Merry Christmas!

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