If Gain isn’t your favorite K-pop star you’re probably doing it wrong. While the majority of Korean pop artists churn out maximalist, pastel-drenched fodder for teeny-boppers (much of which is excellent in its own right–see The Pink Tape), Gain has set herself apart by developing a uniquely mature, enigmatic and stone-cold sexy persona since her solo debut almost a decade ago. In collaboration with composer Lee Min-soo, her music and general aesthetic thrives on the polyglot style that defines so much of contemporary Korean pop culture. But her releases seem less like an all-you-can-eat buffet than like an elegant fusion dish. But music is only part of the equation. Not only are K-pop artists expected to record and tour, they also have to be able to dance in their videos, act in K-dramas, host live radio and reality shows, all while acting out their persona off-camera. Essentially, they’re expected to be the kind of Gesamtkunstwerks that would make Wagner roll over in his grave. So half the fun of any K-pop release is in the consistently stellar accompanying music videos that tie together the music, choreography and utter spectacle that define Korean pop. And Gain does not disappoint with “Paradise Lost,” the lead single off her new mini-album Hawwwah.
Gain has set the bar pretty high with her past videos; she’s masturbated in her kitchen, explored the dynamics of relationship abuse and responded to “Blurred Lines” with a song twice as good sans hashtags and/or implications of rape (plz don’t tell Marvin Gaye’s family tho). But “Paradise Lost” is something else entirely. Culled from a concept album about the Judeo-Christian genesis story (“Hawwah” is Hebrew for “Eve”), Gain attempts to reclaim Eve’s narrative by taking on both the roles of Eve and the Snake. From the church-organ prelude to the scale-encrusted apparel to the ass-swaying choreography (not unlike the swaying of the forbidden fruit, no?) the whole thing might have come off as glib and melodramatic had Gain not committed so utterly to the concept (and had the production value not been so goddamn high). Really what sells the video, though, is her engrossing sexiness which never seems pandering but rather nuanced in a way that feels totally subjective. One of the video’s best moments is when she’s dancing alone in front of the mirrors totally vulnerable yet self-involved. The video’s ultimate pinnacle is the mass of nude, writhing men ebbing away from her at the video’s finale. I’ll leave you to absorb this video and the rest of Gain’s discography. And if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be practicing my ass-swing until Gain finally accepts me as her protege.
Joshua Palmer is a writer, musician, and dilettante-about-town living in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated from Trinity University with a major in Wumbology, a minor in English, and did his Honors Thesis on the effects of listening to the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds while crying in bed about stupid boys who don’t even deserve you. He does not have a twitter and apologizes to everyone for this.