I have to admit, I’ve fallen a little off the k-pop bandwagon since I began cheating on dance with acting. Recently, I’ve been trying to return to my true love. Of course this means back to training and definitely back to the gym. When I run my 5 km on the treadmill I like to watch k-pop music videos to check out the choreography and concepts that are in rotation and get my creative juices flowing.
Much like Korea itself, the k-pop scene is constantly changing. I was actually really surprised to see what I had been missing. K-pop groups, especially female groups, have always walked the very fine line between innocence and sexuality. You get these young teenage girls, dress them up in tight sexy clothes, but balance it with soft pouting lips and puppy-dog eyes. Or dress the girls in cute doll-like outfits and have them perform some provocative choreography. It’s a very tricky and precise formula. Whats more is that along with these rapid sex infused changes, a fierce competition seems to be brewing for the title of sexiest group, thus pushing the boundaries of sexual presence in the media further than has ever been seen in Korea.
In Ivy’s (아이비) newest music video “I Dance,” she sings about using dance as a medium to express her broken heart and as an outlet to ease her pain. The song and lyrics are both quite good. It even features Wonder Girls’ Yubin (유빈), who in my opinion steals the show with her powerful rap vocals and intense on screen presence. While the choreography is sexy, it’s nothing trashy or over the top. What did catch my attention were the scenes of Ivy in bondage and some type of studded leather S&M getup. Of course she wears a nude leotard underneath, but honestly it looks more like the costume is wearing her. It really does nothing for the video or the song and appears to be nothing more than an attention gimmick, which is ironic for someone who is constantly trying to escape sexually related scandals in the media. So, while this video does focus more on the passionate tango inspired sequences, (which act upon the theme of the song) the bondage scenes muddle up the overall result.
“Female President (여자대통령),” by Girl’s Day is a real ass shaker, literally. The lyrics of this song encourage girls to take the initiative when it comes to guys and that it’s ok to make the first move because we have a female president now. Wait… what? Because shaking you’re money maker and seduction are “key” in proclaiming your love to a boy, that’s exactly what these girls do. Silkscreens and lit up blinds give way to the promiscuous stripping silhouettes of the young group members. It’s the first visual you get and it really sticks with you. This combined with teeny tiny hot pants, lingerie, constant body rolls, bending over and butt shaking can really send the wrong message to the VERY impressionable young girls in Korea. I wish I could say without the silhouette shots, the music video would still be tastefully sexy, but in truth nothing here really leaves much to the imagination. So, while this song is very catchy (like so many k-pop songs are) I just couldn’t help but feel like they were trying waaaaaay too hard. Not to mention that they seem a little confused as to what the difference between love and lust are. I guess that’s not surprising, when the mere topic of sex is so taboo. What I did find interesting was the fake lesbianism, but I guess it’s ok since it’s just pretend and there are “no gay Koreans in Korea,” as I have been told on many occasions.
These days, pole dancing is making quite a splash here in Korea. I know a lot of people look down on it because of it’s obvious ties to stripping, but as a dancer I can honestly say that its is a form of dance that requires a lot of skill, training and strength (no removal of clothing required). To bring further attention to it is After School, with their comeback song “First Love (첫사랑).” This song is about the painfulness of not being able to get over your first love and the difficulties of moving on. Now, what this has to do with pole dancing is beyond me. In this music video, the girls boast leather, tattoos and heels coupled with pole dancing for that ultimate sexy bad girl image. For some reason, sex and sadness seem to be a two for one deal in the k-pop world. They even take things a step further with topless individual scenes of the members. On one hand, I do give the girls credit for really pushing the envelope with the introduction of a new form of dance, I know the training must have been strenuous. On the other hand, I think it was just poor execution; pairing up the wrong song and concept. There is nothing sexy about heartbreak, and it almost makes the video humorous when you consider the lyrics.
With the changing of times, it’s not surprising that the music industry here in Korea is beginning to explore sexually driven concepts. The recognition that these groups have obtained from these videos is undeniable, but at what cost? It seems like that balance of innocence and sexuality, that was once a valuable and signature concept in k-pop, is beginning to tip the scale. When that happens, you get videos like these which have pointless imagery, confusing messages or poor execution. I remember a man approaching me last summer, asking me to represent Korea better by dressing more modestly. I was wearing shorts and a loose ruffly spaghetti strap at that time because it was summer and a million degrees outside. Watching these videos, I think back and laugh. K-pop is one of the biggest representations of Korea. As all other pretenses fade and sexuality takes center stage, how long before content is no longer a factor.