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Cucumbers and VHS: A Review of HA:TFELT’s “Happy Now”

For all my ladies hurting from bad breakups. To the boys who enjoy playing games,” reads the promotional tagline of Ha:tfelt’s new single, “Happy Now,” featuring MAMAMOO’s Moonbyul. The former Wonder Girls singer’s new song is an angry criticism of the way men use women as status symbols with a backdrop of cheerful, retro-esque synths. The subversive content of the song and the raw emotions presented are not a surprise from Ha:tfelt, especially after songs such as “Ain’t Nobody” and “Pluhmm,” but she’s never been this bold before, with lyrics that hint at her former lover being in the public eye, too: “your role model is that Hyung dating Miss Korea.”

It’s an addictive song, with a beautifully made, powerful short film to go along with it. While Ha:tfelt’s return isn’t that conventional of a K-pop star, no less a former member of one of the biggest girl groups the industry produced, the song and the short film resonate with many, including myself and is a loud, unapologetically feminist voice that is so refreshing to hear from the K-pop industry.

The short film opens with Ha:tfelt pointing a finger gun at her temple, something that reminds me of Sunmi (her former bandmate) in her latest music video for “Noir.” Ha:tfelt also focusses on the effects of social media, giving focus to DM’s but her feelings of betrayal and heartbreak take center stage. Her soft voice and the simple, minimalistic synths contrast against the harsh (but deserved) criticism of men who’s “motto is ‘no commitment” and who’s “hobby is to DM.” In many ways, this reminds me of “Why So Lonely,” one of Wonder Girls’ final songs before they disbanded. The use of VHS filters and Ha:tfelt’s visuals are reminiscent of the pink-toned 70s style music video revolving around getting revenge on an emotionally abusive lover, which itself has parts shot with a VHS style filter.

Image via Amoeba Culture

Other than the content, the short film itself is subversive, showing Ha:tfelt drinking hard liquor and getting drunk, themes that are just not present in the dainty videos that we associate female K-pop idols and groups with. The video portrays Ha:tfelt as a woman who gets angry and gets hurt about the way men use her, which I love.

There’s one scene where Ha:tfelt pours Windex into a Listerine bottle and then smiles for the camera as if it were an advert, which is probably one of my favourite scenes in the short film. Many of the scenes in the film remind me of adverts, like the birthday cake scene which zooms out to reveal a filming set, suggesting that being “happy now,” for Ha:tfelt, has become an act for the televisions which frequent the film.

Image via Amoeba Culture

It’s tempting to call the short film a music video – it’s a video of Ha:tfelt performing her song in various outfits and scenes. However, the content of the video and the lyrics imply that it’s too bold and ‘explicit’ to class as a music video. Previous videos such as GaIn’s “Paradise Lost” and Orange Caramel’s “Catallena,” which are also quite subversive in terms of their content and lyrics have been banned from airing on South Korean television, which is probably why Ha:tfelt chose for this particular video to be a short film as opposed to a music video. It allows for a much more freeing, rebellious viewing experience. This version of Ha:tfelt, with the Windex bottles and the placards reading “you weren’t that good in bed,” and explicit language hasn’t been watered down for the eager eyes of the industry.

Image via Amoeba Culture

Moonbyul enters the video about halfway through, holding a Katana while looking stunning in a suit and eye patch. The pair look like a power couple or some sort of badass duo but there’s something playful about the way Ha:tfelt plays with the Katana which softens the edges of Moonbyul’s rap. The video then crescendos into scenes of Ha:tfelt flipping the bird at the camera, shooting a bubble gun and destroying the set in a wedding dress while singing “are you happy now?” It’s beautiful and exactly what the second half of the video needs. At one point she even breaks a cucumber in half, with a blank look on her face which sends her point home. Ha:tfelt is powerful in her anger and resentment towards men who use women like this, and all I could ask for is for the short film to be longer.

“Happy Now” is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.

Featured Image via Amoeba Culture.

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