Mad Scientist Moments: VIXX, the Concept Kings

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I’ve talked about many artists for MACG Magazine. VIXX is definitely a group whose Mad Scientist Moments I’ve wanted to focus on here. As I mentioned in my Rapid Review of “Jekyll,” VIXX came out of the gate in a very unique manner. When I got into K-pop, a friend gave me a list of songs and videos to check out. On that list was VIXX’s “Hyde” and “On and On.” I was stunned when I realized they were still rookies.

I have a soft spot for this group. After eight years, they still surprise me with their talent, dedication and flair. From superheroes to robots, love equations to scientists, let’s take a look at what makes VIXX special.

Cinematic

If I had to describe VIXX’s style in one word, I’d chose “Cinematic” or “Opera.” It’s not that they constantly release big, epic songs. In fact, VIXX switches up styles quite often. However, while other groups will style their comebacks around a concept, VIXX will fully embrace it. From instrumental to makeup, they just embody the concept and its deeper meaning. A live VIXX performance can easily double as a number from a musical.

Take “Voodoo Doll,” the song that earned them their first win. With a quick glance at the lyrics, you see it’s about a toxic relationship. While that’s a common theme in music, it’s how VIXX delves further for “Voodoo Doll” that makes it extraordinary to me. The singer is willing to give up so much of himself to his love, he’s essentially an empty husk doing her bidding.

As I said, other groups have explored this topic. But you finally see the pictures and teasers. It’s weird how it’s been six years and this whole comeback still launches me into fangirl mode. 

First of all, the overall styling is amazing. While “On and On” has them looking like ethereal otherworldly creatures, “Voodoo Doll” made them grim, abused and generally unsettling. Still attractive, though, because VIXX is all about the aesthetics. Mistreated, exploited puppets … but make it fashion. 

If the style wasn’t enough, we also have the routine itself. They frequently move as if some unseen force tethers them together. You also see one person try to fight against it. During Ravi’s rap, he tries to shatter the link connecting them all and “stabs” himself with the pin, only for Leo to remove it. Try as they might, they are stuck.

And the pin prop! You have no idea how many times I watched the dance practice to keep up with who has it and at what point. It’s such a simple thing, but it reminds you of the unseen threat. For three minutes, this isn’t a boy band with great coordination. These are six men held captive and doing someone else’s bidding. 

Living Art

VIXX is one of the few groups I can call “Living Art.” Yes, there are countless artists at work in Hallyu. But to me, VIXX is always up on their game. I intended to discuss another song here but nope. It’s time to talk about LR, Ravi and Leo’s subunit, and “Beautiful Liar.”

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Even if you don’t know Korean, it’s easy to understand its message. I’m honestly not a fan of the song, but I’m awed at the care and work the duo put into its production. For me, it’s the small details that makes “Beautiful Liar” so amazing. The scene of Leo and the woman at the table. As one reaches across the table, the other draws away and vice versa. How Leo is dressed in all black while Ravi is in color, but you’re never sure who is the “real” narrator. The fact that neither trained as dancers before joining Jellyfish but do an amazing modern dance.

“Beautiful Liar” is a K-pop gothic story. And no, we’re not talking modern goth. The literary Gothic stories such as “Wuthering Heights” or “Frankenstein.” The symbolism alone is enough to make my head spin, but to remember that these are the same guys who gave us “Dynamite“?! It’s mind boggling.

Bubblegum … But Make it Fashion

It would be a massive disservice to VIXX if I didn’t mention their lighter songs. This group contains multitudes, dear reader, and that includes the fluffy songs as well! Of course, it can be hard to reconcile the two. And yet the bubblegum, fluffy songs fit them as well as the grim and dark. I am picky about my music. Yet I love “Heaven” just as much as “Chained Up.” “Say Love” is such a 1990s teeny-bop song that I tried not to love. I failed. It makes me so happy. I just have to dance along to it.

I’m also surprised how well it fits Ravi? Yes, the fans know that he’s a giant cinnamon roll, but vocally, his voice is pretty deep and raspy. You’d think his voice would be jarring in these songs but it works. There are songs where the rappers feel out of place in songs like this. But Ravi never feels out of place. It’s no more jarring than their darker hits.

Whatever concept or song they take on, they make it work for them rather than contort themselves into something they’re not. In 2015, they decided to cover R.ef ‘s “Love Equation” for its 20th anniversary. However, while both are light dance tracks, VIXX still made the song to work best for them. 

Also, Leo totally pulls out a gun at 0:36 of “Love Equation” and Hongbin needs more lines. I honestly felt I needed to mention both of those things.

VIXX refuses to be contained in one box. Dark and luring, light and soothing, synthpop or hip hop, they will take it all on and excel. Right now, group promotions are on hiatus as leader, N, is doing his mandatory military service. Still, I’m always excited to see what they do next, both as a group and individually.

(YouTube [1][2], Soompi, SBS.)

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