Today we’re going to look at Xiah Junsu’s raunchy new solo song, Tarantallegra. Proceed with caution, kids!
I’m struggling to even know where to begin with the concept for the music video of this song, but I’m going to have to start off by saying that I don’t think it is to British people’s tastes.
The video itself is dark, with the outfits worn and the settings of each scene being mostly black and greyscale, which casts an intriguing and inexplicably adult feel to the whole video. This mood set by the dark visuals matches very well with what is actually being displayed in the video, which appears to be hints and innuendos of various fetishes. Nothing explicit is shown, but the background dancers and Xiah himself are shown throughout the video taking part in fairly tame versions of bondage, voyeurism, cross-dressing and a few other fetishes. Very sexualised music videos are something that we have become accustomed to here in the UK, with the likes of Lady Gaga, Madonna and Rihanna breaking down the barriers to female sexuality. Rihanna’s song ‘S&M’ is explicitly about fetishes, and while this song received some backlash from listeners around the world, I think it is still generally accepted as a part of pop culture in the West. In this sense, I think the video and concept for ‘Tarantallegra’ wouldn’t be anything that we’re not used to seeing in music videos, but the fact that Xiah is a man may make viewers feel uncomfortable; I’m not convinced that people in the UK are ready for men to be so open about their sexuality in a music video.
Clearly, most people won’t have a problem with watching an attractive man sing and dance, but obvious allusions to fetishes are quite likely to make some UK viewers uncomfortable…especially when the visuals and outfits are highly reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In so many places throughout this music video, I’m heavily reminded of The Rocky Horror Picture Show: the red hair, the mesh clothing, hyper-sexualised ‘minions’, the touching and writhing. Now, I’ve only ever seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show twice, but I’m pretty sure the lab coat that Xiah wears during the ‘Tarantallegra’ video is incredibly similar to the one worn by Dr. Frank-N-Furter.
(Despite all the similarities between the film and this music video, I’m so glad they skipped any notion of Xiah in stilettos…)
The clothing worn by Xiah and the dancers in the video is quite experimental and a lot of skin is showing at most times. Half-naked men might discourage a proportion of potential male viewers from watching this video, but this is also quite likely to draw the attention of female viewers. With regards to the style of outfits worn in the video, the monochrome colours give off a sexy vibe, but at one point Xiah appears to be wearing something that looks suspiciously like a dress (I’m pretty sure it’s not, but it made me double take) and also a mesh-style-jumper which are way too feminine for British people to be comfortable with a man wearing. The style is very Lady Gaga (shoulder pads, excessive adornments on clothing, etc), and while we in the UK can accept such eccentricities from female singers, no men have really done it yet, except someone like Boy George in the 80’s. (When such things were in fashion…Karma Chameleon, anyone?)
As this is a video by a male artist, there are too many outlandish hair styles perhaps. Again, this is something that British people are used to from female pop icons, but it is somewhat a foreign concept for male artists. Not even mentioning the excessive use of eye makeup and nail polish, which is highly likely to put people off even giving this song a chance. I cannot stress enough that as K-pop fans we’re accustomed to boys in eyeliner and eccentric styles, but for someone completely new to Asian music cultures, this is going to be too big of a culture shock. The video’s style concept is definitely inappropriate for UK people.
UK Potential: 2/5
There are no main focal points throughout this choreography, because every part of this routine genuinely looks like some kind of poetry in motion.
The dancing is fierce, powerful and masculine which completely contrasts and offsets Xiah’s ultra-feminine look in the video. Despite wearing makeup and having some feminine qualities, every movement is executed effortlessly, confidently and with a certain level of aggression that confirms that Xiah is nothing less than a man.
The dance is pretty sexy and it’s plain for anyone to see Xiah’s dancing skill and prowess with this choreography. In some ways, the choreography seems to have bewitching properties as you could almost be seduced with his eye contact and ultra-confident dance moves. Even if British people don’t like the concept of this song, I defy anyone to dislike this dance. I could gush and praise this deceptively effortless routine all day long, but it’s commanding, masculine and intense.
UK Potential: 4/5
The song has a rock edge to it, and sounds fairly dark and sensual which obviously matches well with the concept and style of the video. The sound of this song reminds me in some ways of some of George Michael’s songs; sensual, electro rhythms that are addictive and highly enjoyable. It is also quite minimalistic sounding which makes Xiah’s vocals the real focal point of the song, as nothing detracts from him or his voice. It’s almost like you have no choice but to pay attention to him.
If I’m honest, Xiah’s voice has always been my favourite out of the five members of TVXQ, as his voice possesses unique and stunning qualities. These qualities lend a real hypnotic characteristic to this song, and the vocals are signature Xiah; with the husky sound contrasted with his pitch-perfect high-notes.
The song sounded a little outdated first time I listened to it, like it was something I would hear on an album from some generic pop band in the 90’s; a ‘filler’ track from an NSYNC album, perhaps. But first impressions aren’t always correct, thankfully, and now I find this song highly interesting and addictive.
There are a couple of added ‘rap’ parts scattered throughout the lyrics, which matches with the feel of the song very well. The rapping is confident but laidback, which allows a normally aggressive style of lyric delivery to not be overpowering, and not to mention that it adds a cool overtone to the whole song.
The only English that I’ve really found in the lyrics is the part Xiah speaks at the beginning, and then the rapper saying ‘What music will you listen to?’. Xiah’s English introduction was a little stilted, but not cringe-worthy. The English part of the rap section was very catchy, and I found myself saying it along with him without even realising. This repetition of a well pronounced English phrase in sections of the song would probably be enjoyable to non-Korean-speakers.
UK Potential: 3/5
Unfortunately, this song has received probably one of the lowest ratings I’ve given a K-pop song so far with regards to its potential in the UK market.
On a more positive note, Xiah has got a lot of confidence in the video; smirking and self-assured dance moves which renders the viewer unable to look anywhere but him. It appears that he is a man very comfortable with his own sexuality, but portrays a different kind of masculinity to what we’re used to in the UK, as such I think men won’t like the video. It would be a very easy assumption for people to make to suppose that he’s gay. We know that the culture in Korea is very different, and as K-pop fans we’ve accepted and even celebrate this, but we must understand that this kind of video may make people feel uncomfortable in the mainstream UK market. Personally there isn’t really anything about this video or song that I don’t like, but not everyone is going to agree with me. As such, I don’t think that this is a very viable option for the UK; it’s not the kind of music we’re into right now perhaps, and especially not the video/visuals!
Thanks for reading! Post your thoughts and votes for next week below!