But I Am Not My Image

Today’s date is August 14th 2011. Hyuna’s Bubble Pop Music Video was released on July 4th 2011. It has been 1 month and 10 days since that video was first exposed to the public and its hype should have worn off by now. Yet a month later and I’m still replaying it. Granted, I re-watch a lot of things, and that shouldn’t be taken as an indication of a video’s artistic merit- but considering the slamming I gave Bubble Pop when it was first released, well, I feel like a bit of a hypocrite.

Scouring through the comments on the MV, I noticed an overwhelmingly large amount of backlash labeling Hyuna as ‘untalented’, ‘worthless’ and ‘slutty’.

The slut comment didn’t come as too much of a surprise, branding her as such isn’t something I condone, but I’ve seen it so many times I tend to simply shrug it off. However, the comments about her being untalented did actually get me thinking. Is she really?

Hyuna has been labelled overrated by many, which is fair enough. Her rapping borders mediocre, her singing is weak, and depending on who you are, you might argue that she isn’t even that hot to begin with. But it’s not to say that 4Minute’s (previously blonde) bombshell doesn’t have her saving graces.

Aside from being provocative, Hyuna is also largely renown for her dancing. And with that, many people argue that she isn’t all that good of a dancer to begin with either. My question is: if she isn’t all that good of a dancer, then how did she become renown for it? As probable as it might seem, I doubt Hyuna gyrated her way to recognition. Somewhere along her career I suspect Hyuna may have flaunted talent rather than cleavage. And  talent like dancing doesn’t just go away, especially if you promote as actively as Hyuna does. So I ask, why am I not seeing the talent JYP and Cube saw in her? I can only think of one reason as to why Hyuna is consistently failing to impress.

Sex.

If Hyuna is comfortable creating a name for herself based on sex appeal alone, then I don’t see anything stopping her. However, if it’s an image the company coerced her into having, then I’m a bit worried. Because although selling sex puts Hyuna on the radar, it takes away her credit as a dancer. Not just because the general public would be quicker to label her a ‘skank’ over a ‘dancing queen’, but because the image is seeping into everything she does. I have yet to see one dance battle where the main emphasis isn’t on her pelvis and butt. It’s at a point where whenever she is asked to dance on shows, all she does is pull a few body waves and precede to touch herself. I’m really hoping that isn’t all she is limited to.

In my opinion, Hyuna is trying to live up the the wrong image: the image of ‘sexy Hyuna’ rather than ‘dancer Hyuna’. And as a result people forget her as 4Minute’s main dancer, and remember her as the ‘hot rapper who can’t rap’. eg: That dance break in Bubble Pop served no purpose other than to sex things up, you know, to compensate for the lack of sexy time in the rest of the MV. Ahem.

Establishing an image is important in creating a name for yourself, because unless you’re superbly talented at something it’s hard to make a mark based on talent alone. However, overdoing an image and letting it affect your work is a big ‘no no’.

Sunny from SNSD is my long time girl crush and my absolute favourite from the band, but she’s just as good of an example of ‘image>talent’ as Hyuna is. It’s really easy for me to dismiss Sunny’s aegyo as a frivolous novelty she saves for shows- but it is a lot harder for other people. Especially when she incorporates the teeth rotting aegyo into her singing.

hoot hoot hoot

The worst of this was in Hoot, but she claims SM made her sing like she was being strangled. Fair enough, your company abused its corporate power. But this isn’t a one-off thing for Sunshine, I can make an entire album of tracks where it is clear that Sunny is subconsciously cute singing. I’ll admit it, Sunny isn’t the best singer in SNSD, and in terms of technique she has a lot of room for improvement. But she has a voice, and a very nice one at that. It’s smooth, and it naturally carries a lot of power behind it. Not to mention she has a good range and a gorgeous falsetto. So Sunny honey, why are you not utilizing that gorgeous voice and singing like an actual human being? Why would someone who can sing like this, sing Hoot like a chipmunk?

Of course, it’s not only the ladies who are guilty of this. The gene for wrongful prioritising is clearly carried on the Y chromosome too, as once evidenced by Lee Joon the entirety of MBLAQ. And man do you have to give it to their Y (horrible joke, I deserve to be stoned). There was a time when MBLAQ was completely occupied by looking good on stage and emanating the ‘sexy’ image both themselves and Rain had cultivated for them. MBLAQ had a reputation of being ‘Rain Version 2’ to uphold, and they did so at the price of their live performances. The sheer engrossment of looking hot in the limelight ultimately resulted in poor group dynamic, and even poorer live vocals to match.

a round of applause for their 'Ys'

Specimen number four would be Super Junior’s own Kim Heechul. As an entertainer, I find him amusing. As a performer, he’s absolutely grating. Heechul has built an image around ‘not giving a shit’, and oh how he lives by that image, it’d be almost admirable if it wasn’t so pathetic. I think there came a time in his career where Heechul gave up on music. He realised that he’d never be as good as KRY, so what was the point? It’s not something other Super Junior members haven’t gone through. However, Heechul is special, because with Heechul he really doesn’t give a damn anymore, and it shows on stage. And for the most part he can get away with it, because that’s his image, and he’s Kim Heechul so he’s just ‘cool like that’. I didn’t think it was possible to screw up the hook move for Mr. Simple, but that’s Kim Heechul for you, blowing my mind in the most unexpected ways since 1983.

It’s almost a shame that Heechul doesn’t try, because beyond his irritating indifference at performing, he has potential. Can you imagine a world where Heechul had stayed true to his ambitions and became ‘musician Heechul’ rather than ‘egotistic Heechul’. Yeah, I think I found my new happy place.

However, aiming to live by an image can be a good thing too – lead singers in idol groups have an image of being great vocalists by default, and although it can burden them (someone, tally the number of nervous breakdowns on Immortal Song 2, please!), in the end most do live up to their expectations. DBSK’s Yunho had the responsibility of being in one of the most vocally strongest groups in KPOP, and when DB5K separated he was stuck holding up that image with only Changmin at his side. And although he’s far from being as great as Jaejoong and Junsu ever were, he has improved by miles. And I can not find it in me to say he isn’t a decent singer at best.

However, examples like Yunho are one and few. And sometimes it worries me how much of an idol’s career is based on their ‘image’ and ‘charisma’ alone. Relying solely on those two aspects isn’t going to guarantee them respect in the industry. This is especially a problem when you actually do have talent to spare, but don’t spare it. I’m not saying there aren’t genuinely untalented idols out there, but for stars like Hyuna- they’re digging a hole for themselves. And one day Hyuna is going to be in so deep, it’ll be one heck of a struggle to burrow out of the image she has so deeply buried herself in.

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