Sub-unit (or Shuffle Groups as they are called in J-Pop) is when part of the main line-up of a group becomes it’s own separate group, with singles and videos of their own. Whether or not they are just a one-time publicity gimmick or a set group that blossoms on their own is all up to the music they are given. Orange Caramel, a sub-unit of After School, has received a lot of praise for their music, videos, and overall cutesy feel of their personas. With this latest song, they have achieved an even higher level of success and acclaim, despite not sticking to the same tropes as their competition.
Let’s listen to Orange Caramel’s third singe Catallena.
Here’s the music video with English subtitles:
In terms of the lyrics, the song is a “girl’s admiration” song, where the girls talk about how cool, cute, and overall amazing she is. In this song, the girl, the “catallena” or “red sun” is not the most appealing girl in the world — she’s moody, a little snobby, sort of vain. Even still, despite her obvious negative qualities, they all want to get to know her and hang out with her, which is weirdly a thing that girls do.
There is a part where they sing “jutti meri/paula mera” which is actually Punjabi for “my shoe/my sandal” and is taken from a folk song. While it’s pretty standard for K-Pop acts to throw in some English phrases, it’s cool to see them pulling from other sources as well, especially when it’s actually unique. Why they included it and what it means, I’m not sure, but points for effort.
The video is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time — it’s creative, it’s funny, it’s full of color and movement with clean editing. This is the type of video I would love to see more often in K-Pop. Yes, it’s overly cutesy but this group is more on the lighter side of pop. The sushi theme is well down and designed, down to the giant chopsticks and fake plastic containers for the fish. The costuming pretty good, with lots of costume changes throughout, most of them good. The cinematography is crisp and beautiful, with excellent color design. The dance is a mix of cute and funny, which works great for the motif of kaiten sushi.
Some say that the sushi imagery is a metaphor for different types of K-Pop groups. The girls of the group represent basic pop acts, the egg is the gimmicky ones, the hot guy and girl are the very sexy acts, and the octopus is the top groups, the Girls Generations, the 2NE1s, so to speak. At the end, when the girls eat their respective sushi counterparts, they cry because it’s the consumption of their careers, leaving only the octopus left to rule the genre. It could also be the reverse, where just because the octopus the fancier, more expensive seafood doesn’t mean it will be eaten by anyone, and might be left to rot on her own.
In terms of the song itself, the tune is fun and light, definitely not a bitter one of jealousy, but rather of rosy-cheeked admiration. It’s smooth and danceable, with the catchy chorus to help its lasting power. The vocals of the three members (Lizzy, Nana, and Raina) are distinct, giving the song character but without any harmony, it still feels like they’re all waiting for their turn to sing. I hope we’ll get some songs where they work as a group but for now, it works vocally.
In the end, Catallena is an amazing song, and it’s no wonder it almost went viral a la Gangnam Style. Whether or not it was missing something crucial or just had bad timing but it could have been a big hit. As it stands, it has brought a lot of attention to the group which is a very good thing for a fairly young group. I look forward to what they’ll be producing in the future.
– Excellent video execution and design.
– Great song.
– Great costuming.
– Concept is a little confusing.
– Simplistic lyrics.