The colors red and green are opposite each other on the color wheel, so how do these opposites work within art? Red has so many meanings, and Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe once said about it, “The effect of the color is as peculiar as its nature.” Meanwhile, green has a more simple meaning, “The beholder has neither the wish nor the power to imagine a state beyond it.” When the colors are used separately, red mostly represents violence, passion, and power, whereas green is generally used as a filter or hue, typically to represent the mundane or dull. The combination of the two colors is best suited to be used as a symbol of emotional imbalance or idealistic fantasy, and when they are used in unison, it’s usually for that purpose.
Given that K-pop music videos frequently borrow inspiration from art, it should come as no surprise that they use red and green color theory in them. While there are many K-pop music videos that artistically use red and green, either separately or together, the two that popped to mind as effectively incorporating the two colors were Ravi‘s “Bomb” and Suzy‘s “Yes No Maybe“.
While “Bomb” is not particularly artful, amusingly enough it’s the best example for the use of the red and green color theory. It actually has a lot of similar traits to ‘Amelie‘ in those terms, which surprised me as much as it should’ve surprised you reading that.
Throughout the music video, there’s a green filter to highlight that Ravi has a gritty, mundane life as an artist, but the use of red in his hair suggests that his mind is passionate. It’s also not a coincidence that the moment the heavy beat drops and Ravi starts dancing powerfully, the music video switches to a red filter. The constant contrast between the two colors in the hallway set, along with Ravi trying to paint the walls and objects, seems to best represent the war between his life and his dreams. Meanwhile the fantastical art room set, which is right next to the hallway set, appears to represent his idealistic fantasy, much like ‘Amelie’ used the colors to have that type of relationship with romance.
The twist is that there’s something of disruption from the red and green in the middle of the music video, which turns out to be San E rocking blue and coming out of a blue light. Even when San E is not wearing blue, like when he’s in the gallery set with Ravi, there’s still looming blue through Ravi’s self-portrait painting in the corner that has changed color schemes from just moments before the set switch (so it’s purposeful).
This kind of thing is done in ‘Amelie’ as well, primarily with objects, and they’re used to introduce a new character and/or show a disturbance to the status quo, not unlike how San E was used here. Eventually San E is gone, but after lecturing Ravi in the gallery room, it sure seems like Ravi wants to exit his mundane green life in favor of embracing his passionate red artistry.
Like it’s not even subtle by the end of the music video.
As for Suzy’s “Yes No Maybe”, it draws on color theory from ‘Fight Club‘ and obviously a bunch of Wong Kar Wai films. The green shows Suzy’s rather dull reality with her other half, whereas the red represents her dramatic fantasy world. Once again, the subtle use of blue (like the cups) shows there’s a disturbance lurking in her reality. Similar to in “Bomb”, adding a new color like that suggests bringing in a new character — a technique used frequently in old Hong Kong (like Wong Kar Wai) and Japanese films — but it could also mean the same character adapting a different persona. As it turns out, that’s what Suzy has going on here, and she dives right into a fantasy world that reaches out to her from the clothes dryer. Shouldn’t be a surprise to see what color she was wearing and what color she was looking at when this happens, right?
In that world, she’s stealing jewels, things are passionate with her man, and she’s generally exciting, all hallmarks of using red.
There are a few scenes in “Yes No Maybe” where Suzy comes back to reality and the red is more of a warm orange, which is a technique you see utilized in ‘Fight Club’ a lot to show that it’s a transition. That can also be used for ambiguity, and you see warm orange at the end when Suzy and her man are dead to make things ambiguous to the viewer as to whether they’re seeing fantasy or reality.
While K-pop may not always be that deep, some directors of the music videos surely are. From time to time that artistry manifests itself rather clearly in the end product, and it’s always fun to discover and breakdown what they’re saying when they do.