It’s been almost two years since Rainbow last had a comeback, which is sort of impressive in its own right. The group has been around for awhile but has never really been one of the most popular groups in the genre, partly because it’s difficult to say what sort of identity Rainbow strives for (simply naming each of your members a color doesn’t count) and partly because DSP Media can’t seem to duplicate the success that they had with KARA with anyone else. Their 2013 releases, “Tell Me Tell Me” and “Sunshine”, didn’t peak higher than 14th and 13th on the charts, respectively. The good news is that “Black Swan,” Rainbow’s latest single, is better than both of those songs. While it may not change Rainbow’s place in the K-poposphere, “Black Swan” is a smartly-made single that knows how to play off contrasts as well as its black and white motif would suggest.
The most surprising aspect of “Black Swan” is that the verses are the strength of the single compared to the chorus. Creepy staccato beats and a crisp snare create a rather tense atmosphere that is quite riveting and different from the usual electro-pop that has typified K-pop as of late. Here, the barrenness of the production is actually more interesting than having every sound in FruityLoops thrown in the mix. There is an economy and restraint in “Black Swan” that works. Even Woori’s rap breakdown, which is usually the home of the most brazen dubstep-like breaks, is merely hinted at and never fully embraced. Things get even slier from there, as the production then dials everything back with a low-key verse rather than pushing for a climax at the end. It’s a fakeout of immense proportions within the construction of the song, but it definitely plays into the eeriness of “Black Swan” and keeps the listener on their toes.
As for the aforementioned choruses, they aren’t the most catchy things in the world, but they do help turn “Black Swan” into a weirdly upbeat song. The long, drawn notes do well against the sharp-hitting verses and give the listener something to groove to between the more tense verses. In any other song, these choruses would be duds, but “Black Swan” is a song which seems to want to subvert expectations, and the choruses do that nicely. They have a hypnotic tone (if not exactly a hypnotic quality) to them that complements the sparser beat without running over it.
The music video for “Black Swan” is exactly what one would hope for given the music and the title of the song. It’s dark, alluring, sexy, and slightly creepy without being all that macabre (a darker song could have gone for scarier imagery, but given the poppiness of “Black Swan” at points, I’m glad they didn’t). “Black Swan” is pretty much a dance-in-a-box video, but it’s well-made and tailored for the just-spooky-enough look that Rainbow is clearly striving for with this comeback. The black and white tones and occasional video filter gives “Black Swan” a serious lens. The sets are similarly sparse but very different — from a snowed out woods to a polygonal set piece, “Black Swan” makes sure that its backgrounds are varied enough to make up for the mostly two-tone color pallet — and the editing stays out of the damn way. Frenzied cuts are largely saved for individual shots, while choreography shots last just long enough so that one can see what the dance will look like in a live setting.
Rainbow’s choreography doesn’t look like the most intricate of dances. The main dance move might as well be called “ass-dusting the room”, but the music video for “Black Swan” knows how to blend its creepy images with its sexy idols. Rainbow’s wardrobe is outstanding. Lace and long-sleeved tops give Rainbow an air of sophistication, while the group’s legs slay everything in their path. The members look alluring and anguished, but it doesn’t come off as schizophrenic or confusing. The balance of sexy and scary is hard to pull off, but Rainbow walks that particular tightrope just fine.
“Black Swan” is a much-welcomed return for Rainbow, and represents the group’s best comeback since “Sweet Dream” in 2011. “Black Swan” is not insanely catchy, and the more measured production almost works better as really damn good background music than it does as a lead single. However, as long as Rainbow keeps putting out music like this, there will always be plenty of reasons to look forward to the return of Jaekyung and company.