You can always depend on VIXX to deliver when it comes to making great music. So it should come as no surprise that after thoroughly slaying their unsuspecting fans (who’s bodies were most certainly not ready) with the sexy and titillating ‘Chained Up’ (2015), VIXX are back with another great song. This time their Japanese debut single, the dramatic ‘Depend on me’ (2016), a beautiful fusion of pop and classical elements that perfectly marries Kpop and Jpop sensibilities, and will no doubt steal the hearts of countless Starlights (myself included).
One of the things that I love about VIXX is how vocally diverse they are for a boy band. As a kpop fan that started out as a SMEnt-stan (and I still am in many ways), who binged on the likes of TVXQ(5), Super Junior, ShinEE, EXO and so forth, I had gotten used to groups having a pretty homogeneous sound as far as their vocal tone and range went. Sure lead/main vocals were often very distinctive (see Ryeowook, Jonghyun and Xia), but other group members typically sounded very similar, to the point that they were almost interchangeable and that sometimes even die-hard stans would struggle to distinguish them.
Experiment time! Take a Super Junior song (preferably not a single) close your eyes and try to pick out all the members singing. If you’re the world’s biggest ELF you probably have the line distribution of all of their songs memorized, but if you’re a casual fan you might find it a little hard to pick out all the voices. Not that that is a bad thing. SMEnt, like most companies, is known for having a ‘sound’, and that sound includes vocal tone and range.
When I stumbled across VIXX’s ‘Hyde’ (2013) I was surprised by just how distinct all of their voices were, in particular N and Hyuk, both of whom have quite interesting vocal tones that I had never really heard in Kpop before. Since then the group’s vocal diversity has only improved as Hyuk has grown into his deeper voice (anyone else getting Onew vibes), and Hongbin’s lower range – which made it’s first appearance in ‘Rock Your Body’ (2012) – has come into play more. In fact, ever since it’s surprise appearance in ‘Error’ (2014), Hongbin’s lower range has become a feature of more of VIXX’s singles – (see ‘Chained Up’ (2015)) – a development that I hope becomes permanent, considering many groups tend to shy away from the lower register.
So what has all this got to do with ‘Depend on me’(2016), well everything, because just like ‘Chained Up’ (2015) and ‘Error’ (2014), ‘Depend on me’ (2016) embraces all of the members’ distinct voices and shows them off beautifully against a backdrop of classical strings and synthetic beats that, compared to their previous singles, has a distinctly Jpop sound to it. Something that fans who listen to Kpop exclusively may find a little off putting, but for those Starlights with an anime/Jpop background it may be a nice change of pace that feels strangely familiar.
For me, as fan of anime, Jpop and Jrock in addition to Kpop, ‘Depend on me’ (2016) actually reminded me of Arashi’s ‘Truth’ (2008) – one of my favourite songs by the group. In fact the songs feel so similar that you could almost substitute one for the other, like one Japanese Starlight did here. Jpop VIXX is a nice change of pace, that is not so far removed from what they have done up until now that it doesn’t feel like VIXX anymore and I look forward to some more original Japanese singles from them.
Now when it comes to choreography in Kpop BTS are my undisputed, ultimate group, but VIXX has always managed to deliver interesting choreography – if not a little cheesy at times (‘Love Equation’, 2014), – with the occasional acrobatics (‘Voodoo Doll’, 2013) and they don’t disappoint with ‘Depend on me’ (2016). In typical VIXX fashion the choreography is underpinned with ‘literalism’, in which lyrics, and concept and/or musical themes are translated into very ‘literal’ movement and gestures. Some examples of this in their dances include:
- ‘V.I.X.X’ in ‘Super Hero’ (2012) and ‘Love Equation’ (2014)
- ‘Emerging from each other’ in ‘Hyde’ (2013)
- ‘Vampire/Rising from the dead’ in ‘On and On’ (2013)
- ‘Stabbing’ each other during ‘Voodoo Doll’ (2013)
- ‘Unplugging’ in ‘Error’ (2014) and so on…
Of course this kind of ‘literalism’ is not unique to VIXX, but they are one of the few groups that has been able to do it well consistently and not look like utter tools doing it. We all remember EXO’s ‘Wolf’ (2013) and ‘Overdose’ (2014), don’t we? Good songs that have sadly be burdened with choreography that was maybe just a little too literal. I love EXO, but I am willing to admit that they have had some less than awesome choreography from time to time (‘Wolf Ears’ and ‘Jump Rope’ being my biggest cringe moments).
Somehow VIXX have managed to avoid that level of ‘literalism’, for which I am grateful. Compared to other VIXX routines, ‘Depend on me’ (2016) is considerably less ‘literal’, unlike their previous single ‘Chained Up’ (2015) with all it’s kinky ‘whipping’, and ‘hair pulling’. Surprisingly though it does give a subtle little nod to it’s predecessor’s choreography here, with members holding their arms behind their backs as though restrained.
Overall it’s a clean, smooth routine that fits the song well, though it does recycle a number of moves from previous routines and lacks any real stand out moments – like the ‘Ken throwing’ in ‘Voodoo Doll’ (2013) or Ravi ‘rising from the dead’ in ‘On and On’ (2013)- or a trademark move, such as the ‘self-strangulation’ in ‘Hyde’ (2013) or the ‘whips and chains’ in ‘Chained Up’ (2015), that would help the routine stand out.
For more Kpop Music & Choreo Reviews check out “Burn the Floor”
About the Author: Reiyezerwyre is full time language teacher, and part-time otaku, based in Japan, who loves to write about their love of film, music, language and fandom in their spare time.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this review are those of the writer, Reiyezerwyre, and come from their own experience as a dancer. Thus, Reiyezerwyre does not claim that the opinions expressed in this review are authoritative in anyway.