There’s a lot of booty in K-pop these days.
Oversexualized women in music videos are not new fads: they were here yesterday and they’re here now and they’re probably here forever.
But K-pop has made such great strides in recent years internationally, and it pains me to see such sexed up images of women so aggressively pushed onto the screen. In comparison to the male images depicted, women are still far more often objectified than men. It’s 2015. You would think we’d even up the playing field by now, at least a little. How many music videos can you name with close-ups of men’s derrieres? Men portrayed with yonic objects as often as women are with phallic props?
Sex sells. It’s simple, it’s quick, it’s effective. It also requires no explanation or brainpower to process. Sex may sell, but it’s not guaranteed respect or success. Maybe a few views, though.
Artists might use sex appeal to make their videos stand out, but to me it only makes them blend in. Maybe they’re just doing what everyone else is telling them to do. And perhaps the intentions behind those choices are aimed at mass appeal as part of a bigger marketing machine. I mean, K-pop is burning hot. Groups are produced to be successful and profitable on a global scale.
On the other hand, music is an artform. If anything, artists and fans crave things that are fresh and original. I love when a song speaks to me on a personal level, when an artist dares to be so vulnerable that you can sense real emotion behind it. Ideally, music should have the creative freedom to explore different subjects, physical desires included. But tired cliches of flashy sex appeal come off tawdry and cheap, and all those sexual innuendos elicit disappointment at what could have been. It’s hard to say who shoulders the bulk of the responsibility for these egregiously orchestrated videos, because there’s a whole team that collaborates to produce them (from directors and editors to stylists, choreographers, label execs, and artists).
I’m sick of seeing so much booty and overbearing sexual innuendos. Music videos can be a cinematic experience as much as an amazing medium to epitomize a song. When there’s little style or substance, it blows.
So, I’m calling ’em out.
By no means a complete list, these are the sexed up music videos that grossed me out, booty and all.
1. JYP, “Who’s Your Mama feat. Jessi” (2015)
A recognizable player in the K-pop industry, Park Jin Young aka JYP, proceeds to ogle women’s backsides at the gym in this music video.
The improperly titled track should’ve just been named ‘shake that booty.’ It’s quite a brazen move, asking for a woman’s measurements, and that’s exactly how this upbeat, pop-loaded ode of lust begins. A craned neck attached to that all-too-familiar male gaze, whisking us away to The Adventures Of Staring At Booty. Apparently having a robust bum invokes this guy’s enthusiasm the way a thong conjures up Sisqo (minus the backflips on the beach).
JYP is now just another creep lusting after tiny waists and big hips. I guess the guys catcalling me on the street and rappers aren’t the only ones who prefer women well-endowed on the posterior.
The song, lyrics and all, does not glorify women but their bodies, the ones with generously proportioned glutes, which the video repeatedly zoomed in on. Add another bullet point to the tattered list of beauty standards for women that has nothing to do with character. And for what? So that it’ll impress a man?
I found rapper Jessi’s brief featuring on the track one-dimensional in scope. She’s a strong female personality, if her appearance on variety shows is any indicator. According to her lines, she takes JYP’s words as a compliment and expresses pride when it comes to her body. I applaud her confidence, but I was kind of expecting her to have more to say on the matter. Some women do take it as a compliment in real life; however, the interpretation depends on a variety of factors, such as the context, delivery, and location. At the gym, possibly. On the street, not so much. More often than not, women feel uncomfortable and sometimes completely unsafe with such prolonged visual fixation on their bodies from men they don’t know.
My biggest grievance with “Who’s Your Mama” is that it makes men scoping booty seem trendy, although it’s got a long line of predecessors. The video also gives us insight into how a media image defines beauty for women, which has a formidable influence in society, however unhealthy or artificial (yeah, we know about you, cosmetic surgery meccas).
Consumer culture of media persists in powerfully shaping the perplexing, fickle, and unrealistic standards of beauty for real women. No, it’s not the only influence, but it’s a pretty pervasive one. The impact of that media construct of beauty is very real, spreading into culture and straight into hurtful words that might come from your own family, feed insecurities, and take effect in the form of netizens ripping apart a woman’s appearance or an intimate moment alone when a woman silently criticizes herself in front of the mirror.
One would hope (although not without some naivete), that video producers might thoughtfully consider the ripple effects of the images portrayed in their videos before their release.
2. Jay Park, “Mommae Feat. Ugly Duck” (2015)
There are some artists you come to respect and admire as you watch them and their work evolve, and Jay Park is one of them. And to a certain degree I try to separate the person from the talent, or the person from the ‘celebrity’ part of the territory, because they can be two very distinct things. But because Jay Park is an artist who is known for calling the shots in his own career, there’s more at stake; his work is more inherently personal. So many artists are products of well-oiled K-pop factories with established recipes for success; Jay, however, now heads up his own label with an expanding roster of talent. Without other suits putting their two cents in on how to dress, dance, act, et cetera, his name really is stitched behind everything he does. Not that it gives him or anyone in the biz full immunity from feeling industry pressures in such a cutthroat profession.
I love Jay Park’s work; I hated this video.
“Mommae (feat. Ugly Duck)” plays like one of those club after parties at an hour which is hopefully long after I’ve left, when things become a haze of sex and alcohol and hedonism which depart only with the arrival of sunlight, sobriety, and regret. But parties and clubbing are their own kind of illusion anyway, and never seem to deliver in quite the same level of greatness as they possess in anticipation.
A trio of guys at the club blow smoke as you walk by. I know those clubs, I’ve seen those guys; we’ve all seen those guys. Horny dudes joined at the hip, drooling over women’s bodies with sex on the brain. (And usually the ones to leave the club solo.) They remind me of boys at middle school dances who never manage to get the nerve to talk to any girls.
The pulsing r&b track gets into a few somatic particulars, fixating on the “twin sisters on your chest,” Ugly Duck admitting his physical arousal, and overall detailing the desire for women to drop carnal knowledge on them. At least one guy’s self aware (“if staring at you makes me a pervert, I want to be a pervert”).
I do get the nature of music videos as a fantasy of sorts. This one includes T-cut (thong cut?) denim shorts over hot pink bikini bottoms, salacious camera angles, choreographed floor humping, and snacks eaten off of women’s bodies. We’ve seen all this before, which is perhaps doubly disappointing (the fact that we’re used to seeing these things, and that we’re still seeing them – like that guy who bought you one drink and won’t go away).
The video was directed by tiger cave (who also helmed Simon Dominic’s “WON & ONLY,” and the steamy “JOA” from Gary). It would be easy to credit the director with full responsibility for the final concept of the video; however, because artists are inevitably the face of the music, particularly if it’s a track released from the head honcho of AOMG himself, much of that falls under his name.
3. Gary (Leessang) “Shower Later feat. Crush” (2014)
If “Mommae” is a debaucherous after party, Gary’s “Shower Later” is a juvenile wet dream.
Gary’s “Shower Later” video brings us the hormone-charged fantasies of presumably every heterosexual male. It’s not just the booty here, it’s every curve of a woman’s body, phallic props and other sexual innuendos pushed in your face, provocative close-ups fill the screen. Women (some of whom look disturbingly young) sucking on popsicles, jumping up and down on a seesaw. Wet t-shirts, Daisy Dukes, women operating drills. Ugh. That aggressive push of sex onscreen doesn’t exude sexiness; its just a cliche. The song itself is a soft, melodic, r&b number, and although the video’s images scream lowbrow and trite, the sexually explicit lyrics venture details into intimate moments.
4. EXID’s “UP&DOWN” (2014)
It was a catchy tune, this one from girl group EXID describing a boy who’s just a tease. If you’ve never seen the video, maybe you’ve imagined its sensual nature from the chorus. The pop-infused track was complete with choreographed crotch grabbing, booty shaking, and pelvic thrusting, along with phallic objects and dismembered bodies channeling a classic magician’s trick. (And no, I didn’t get why some of the actors were covered with animal heads – more on that in a moment.)
There is a monumental difference between a woman flaunting her body and feeling confident and then just exuding sex. Not sexiness, but sex – for the sake of attention. This, unfortunately, gave off the latter vibe.
5. ZICO “Tough Cookie (feat. Don Mills)” (2014)
Then there was Zico’s video. For something that delivered so little, “Tough Cookie” had a lot in it. Flippin’ the bird. That Confederate flag. Dude who takes off his shirt for no reason. Name drops and disses. Utilizing the hip hop video tool kit of jewelry, sparkling grills, and beautiful women standing around like hood ornaments. (Plus, a woman suggestively working a banana.) Those offensive lyrics. There were so many things I loathed about this.
The song has a heavy hip hop bounce, and once Zico gets to the chorus his vocals turn into a gritty almost-shout, as if to make sure no one forgets he’s in the room. The rapper gets into his own story, chronicling his career and experience with critics.
Overall, it felt like this video was trying too hard to be, well, hard. The song spouts off as a puffed up discourse too self-consumed in its own bravado in “how you like me now” fashion that it’s hard to take it seriously. There’s talent there; it’s just got a lot of crap on top of it. It’s better to be the best than spend so much time telling everyone you’re the best, though, isn’t it?
One of the images that stood out was the shot of two dancers gyrating booty while flanking the titular artist. These two female dancers have their backs to the camera – we never see their faces. When you consciously omit or cover someone’s face, it dehumanizes them – an occurrence which drums up the more heinous acts of mankind. (I’m looking at you, too, Hyuna.)
In a perfect world, I’d never see another banana in any music video. And if there must be a booty, by all means, let it not be a faceless one.