Korean singer's song Nice Body slammed
Fans and industry insiders divided over K-pop video about body image
A nice body never fails to get people talking.
And for K-pop idol Hyomin's new track, Nice Body, the talk has come fast and furious.
In the song, which is part of her first solo debut album, the 25-year-old member of Korean girl group T-ara, sings about going on a diet and enduring pain to achieve a nice body so that she can get the guy she wants.
The chorus of the song from her newly released EP, Make Up, goes: "I take note on everything I want to eat/ I live noxiously everyday/ I endure all the pains/ I'm going to be prettier".
The lyrics did not sit well with listeners, with many netizens slamming her for propagating the wrong values to her young fans.
YouTube user Kelly Nguyen commented: "What happened to idols being role models."
Another online user ageekinthecommunity added: "Body image is something you do for yourself, not for the pleasure of others.
"Unless you're at a point where it's life-threatening, you shouldn't change your body for the sake of pleasing others."
He added: "The video felt very superficial and though I admire Hyomin as a talented K-pop idol, this is just uncomfortable to see."
The music video to this song has so far received 7,500 likes and 5,300 dislikes, indicating that there are many fans who do not agree with the song.
K-pop music videos usually receive far more likes than dislikes.
T-ara's previous hit Roly Poly, which was posted on YouTube in 2011, garnered 44,300 likes and only 3,000 dislikes, while Girls' Generation's recent song Mr.Mr. has more than 350,000 likes and 30,000 dislikes.
The music video for Nice Body starts off with a fat woman stuffing her face with doughnuts while daydreaming about being slim.
A lean-looking Hyomin then shows up in a tiny outfit with the numbers 34, 24 and 36 labelled on her bust, waist and hips respectively.
She performs a sultry dance (above) while holding a measuring tape and steps on a weighing machine which reads "Nice Body".
Hyomin told Korean media that she felt "really pressured" by the song's title, which is why she went on a strict diet and also exercised to prepare for the music video.
She said: "I did crossfit exercises and diet side-by-side... I also did the lemon detox diet and lost 4kg in seven days."
Local K-pop fans that The New Paper spoke to expressed disappointment in her new song.
Student Tamana Mulchand said: "Young kids who are K-pop fans are going to listen to this song and think that they have to be stick thin to be beautiful. Idols should use their power to influence their fans to do good things, instead of promoting such superficial stuff."
The 17-year-old added: "Even though I am chubby, I've never had a problem with guys. If I listened to this song when I was 12, I would have felt very demoralised and insecure."
However, music industry insiders feel that the song could be about looking good and attractive.
Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, managing director of Rock Records Singapore, said: "The message 'starving to lose weight' is of course not healthy and shouldn't be encouraged. From another angle, we could read the message as staying slim and looking attractive."
He added that audiences should be discerning enough to see it as merely a catchy song.
"Just enjoy the song, the good look and the sexy images, isn't that what they are selling?" he said.
Mr James Kang, artists and repertoire director of Warner Music, said: "I think the message is more about looking your best and achieving your full potential. The song is fun with an interesting message that I think all girls (and some boys) can relate to."
He added: "Who wouldn't want to look better with a hotter and healthier body - all we need is a little push and encouragement, and MVs like these could actually drive us to make that first step to achieving our best."
NICE BODY LYRICS
Translated lyrics from a few verses of Nice Body:
All girls want to show some skin
All girls go on a diet at least once
All girls want to be loved
A prince of my dreams will appear for sure
(Not eating what I want to)
I will be strong
(I will endure through the pain)
I will become pretty
I will fall in love, I will show everyone
I will change
You do deserve it
My body is a nice nice body
Long legs, sexy waist
(Give me love, give me love, give me love)
My body is a nice nice body
Everyone is shocked, everyone falls for me
Now no one can look down on me
Body fixation can only end badly
After listening to Hyomin's song Nice Body, the first thought that came to mind was: Man, am I glad my only child is a boy!
My three-year-old son happens to be a huge fan of T-ara - the gorgeous K-pop sextet of which Hyomin is a member - and he's had endless fun dancing to their sprightly ditties like Bo Beep Bo Beep, Roly Poly, and Number Nine.
Catchy, infectious and filled with punchy hooks, T-ara's tunes are also winners because of their simple, inane lyrics. (Number Nine contains the lines: "Only you can make me laugh/ Only you can make me cry/ You are my Tuxedo Mask").
Ironically, it is precisely the lyrics of Hyomin's Nice Body that made me frown.
What if I had a K-pop fanatic daughter ready to worship her idols' words?
Would she be inspired to starve herself to look especially slim, which is what Hyomin advocates in Nice Body?
NOT JUST A SONG
I can see some of you saying that it's okay, it's just a song.
Well, it's NOT okay. Crash diets are dangerous.
Do you want your children to have the false impression that love is only for the thin? (A terrible impression we all know is untrue.)
More girls - of all ages - should know that there are men who adore women with curves, women who are healthy and happy.
The consequences of poor self-image is well known. Should we put up with those who put forward ideas that could start feelings of insecurity over physical image? Insecurity that can start the downward spiral of low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression... The list goes on.
Given that Hyomin is a role model to legions of youngsters, her solo debut is, sadly, disappointing and ill-considered.
T-ara remains my son's favourite pop group, but don't bet on me including Nice Body on our YouTube favourites playlist. He might be a boy, but that doesn't mean he should live in Hyomin's realm of superficiality.
- TAN KEE YUN