And now for something a little different …
On Jan. 21 at 10 am (KST), HOLLAND debuted with single “Neverland.”
The song itself isn’t remarkable, the lyrics telling of a typical love affair and the desire for our protagonist to truly belong to the one he loves. It houses some nice composition. Smart. It’s comprised of the same R&B-driven pop construction of most love songs in the past few years. However uninspiring, though, it’s no less lovely. That being said, HOLLAND’s voice isn’t fully developed enough to compliment the music it sits in. He wears his status as a newly debuted rookie very obviously. There’s a nasal quality to his tenor, though there’s some nice texture there, a tone that clearly has potential. He certainly has a great deal to improve upon musically and vocally.
What’s generating the most buzz, beyond the chatter about his sexuality, is the imagery of the music video
Mostly unremarkable, the video’s color palette is certainly indicative of a love story: all muted blues and pinks, light pastels to highlight the newness of love. HOLLAND is himself quite adorable, and the camera angles and long shots certainly play up that boyish charm, which is matched by model Jo Youngshin‘s sharp features.
But as in every MV with romance at its core, the focus is the young couple: two young men who are trying to navigate their relationship. We see shades of that honeymoon phase all new couples go through, the wistful looks, the cute moments of sharing food, playful pokes, walking hand-in-hand on the beach. It’s mostly a typical MV, certainly nothing to earn that 19 rating. Which, of course, is the point.
Then … there’s the kiss. (And, of course, the actual reason for that 19 rating. Wouldn’t want kids thinking it was okay to kiss whomever they please. But I digress.)
While the creators and HOLLAND himself no doubt want to show that love is love, and it’s normal in all its forms, it’s not lost on anybody that a kiss between men in a music video — without any of the irony or melodrama that accompanies most music video’s whose focus is a same-sex couple — is quite revolutionary. The kiss is sweet, as most kisses in these sort of cloying love stories are. The timing is a bit odd — following what appears to be a quick (and mostly random) lover’s quarrel on the beach. But the moment is poignant in its significance.
While many won’t see the importance of a moment like this, for young queer youth who are fans of Korean music, it no doubt caused at least a jolt of excitement. Here we have a young man who has proclaimed his sexuality without noticeable fear. Further, he’s released a music video that openly portrays a young gay couple in the throes of their romance. That kiss, while sweet and lacking a great deal of pomp, is certainly sensational.
It’s a full kiss, nothing euphemistic or cutesy to play up some feigned shyness or over-the-top shock. Where videos like K.Will’s now iconic “Please Don’t” or SISTAR’s “One More Day” play on the idea of forbidden love, love with violent consequences, “Neverland” takes the approach of every other music video out there: normal, natural, unstressed affection. It’s love, plain and simple, without any of the frills or dramatics of most representations of same-sex relationships in mainstream videos in South Korea.
At the end of the day, “Neverland” is nothing too exceptional. It’s what you’d expect from any young idol’s debut. That’s what’s so brilliant about it. The MV doesn’t insist upon itself. It presents HOLLAND and his debut as every other new artist wanting to get his break in the industry. That’s the magical part. We can and should celebrate what it means for queer youth in Korea, but what matters is we can focus on the artist himself and his future.
Ultimately, HOLLAND has much he can improve upon. What we’re all looking forward to is what he releases in the future and how far he takes his career. He has quite a lot of potential. Here’s hoping HOLLAND continues to push himself musically and makes himself a contender in the idol industry.