Sexy. It’s officially defined as something sexually attractive or exciting, but it is a completely subjective concept that is nonetheless used as an objective measure. In K-pop comebacks are often referred to as having a “sexy concept,” and outfits chosen by stylists are referred to as being “sexy,” but what do we really mean when we label things with that word? The way the word “sexy” is used in the K-pop world is highly inconsistent, and always a cause for disagreement.
The amount of disagreement over what and who is considered sexy in K-pop is the biggest indication of how subjective the term really is. While arguments about whose bias is the better singer at least have hard evidence to back them up arguments about whose bias is sexier can never truly be won. Hours of heated discussion will only lead fans to the same fruitless end as if the argument had never occurred because you simply can’t control what someone else finds attractive.
This is also why the term “sexy” can be used to describe K-pop concepts that actually have a large range of different content. Hyuna’s “Bubble Pop,” with its unsubtle dance moves and mini-shorts, was directly designed to be sexual while still coming across as casual, whereas SISTAR’s “Alone” was sexy in an intensely feminine way with a dance and outfits that were sexy but refined, making it more sensual than sexy. Both of these music videos were labeled “sexy” by viewers, but not every viewer may have agreed on which one deserved the title.
It makes it difficult to know what to expect from a comeback when a company announces a “sexy” concept, or a concept using any of the other code words for sexy — such as mature, adult, evolved, or grown-up. With boy groups the term “sexy” has so many meanings that it is nearly impossible to predict what their comebacks will include. 2PM’s “A.D.T.O.Y.” was certainly sexy in its drama concept, as the MV had a plot involving sexual activity and the choreography was suggestive, but the outfits were relatively conservative.
In contrast, former group Dalmation’s MV for their single “E.R” was hardly sexy in concept – unless you like corpses — but the lack of clothing throughout the MV was definitely intended to be enticing. Even here, though, the term sexy is up for interpretation. Yes, lots of people find abs attractive but, while being shirtless is clearly meant to be sexy, there are also more subtle wardrobe choices that can also be marketed the same way.
MBLAQ’s “Smoky Girl,” for example, personified how subtle “sexy” can be. The concept, MV, outfits, and choreography were all designed to excite and elicit attraction from the audience, but it was almost subliminal. The outfits for the MV and stages featured slits, or lace, or mesh instead of simply having the members be shirtless, and the dancing threw in smooth hip-based movements, but didn’t rely on super obvious grinding or thrusting. All three of these MVs showed a different type of sexiness, and yet all three fall into the same “sexy concept” category.
How subjective “sexy” can be is exactly what allows K-pop to function, though. While we constantly discuss how homogenized the beauty standard is becoming in the industry it is also true that there is still room for many different types of people and different expressions of sexiness. If there were truly only one “sexy” than there wouldn’t be boy groups or girls groups, only solos. If “sexy” were more objective, companies wouldn’t create groups like Exo with twelve members that are designed to appeal to twelve different types of consumers.
How boring things would be if “sexy” weren’t a personal preference and was rather the cookie-cutter concept companies make it out to be when they announce comebacks. Viewers will always be passing judgment on how “sexy” something is, and offering critique on how it is “not sexy enough” or in some cases “too sexy.” It doesn’t actually matter, though, since for every person that doesn’t find something attractive there is someone that does. Whether you prefer ab flashing or lip rubbing, booty shaking or short shorts, there is something for you in K-pop.
Which means the constant contention over whose bias group or whose personal bias is “sexier” is really a moot point. You can’t decide for someone else what makes their feelings tingle –if you know what I’m saying. Sexiness is in the eye of the beholder, and while there might be stereotypical actions or clothing that are considered “sexy,” that doesn’t define the term for everyone. You think 2AM’s Jo-Kwon is sexy? Awesome. You think 2PM’s Chansung is sexy? Hurray! Don’t let anyone else tell you what you should be attracted to, and the next time you see a group marketing a “sexy” comeback, you just wait and decide for yourself whether or not it is “sexy.”