T-ara has struggled for relevancy ever since the Great Bullying Scandal of 2012. Attempts have included domestic and foreign comebacks, two subunits, and now, a couple of solo debuts. The first, Jiyeon‘s Never Ever, was fairly well-received. It was a high-quality EP, with top tier production work, a clear effort to make Jiyeon the soloist separate from T-ara, and a great deal of respect shown for a subject that the ROK doesn’t have the best history with: mental illness. Now, it’s Hyomin‘s turn with “Nice Body”.
“Nice Body” has the same care shown to two-thirds of it. Though Hyomin is by no means a powerhouse vocalist, she sounds pleasant. The R&B instrumentals both complement her light vocal tone and higher range, whilst staying away from T-ara’s signature dance-pop and the darker tone used by her groupmate. The last element, though, is not so successful.
“Nice Body” is a song about the attractiveness of a female body sung by a woman. The expectation of many fans was that “Nice Body” would be a confidence song, something to tell young ladies that they don’t need to fit unrealistic beauty standards. Instead, “Nice Body” makes it clear that the only thing of value a woman has to offer is her body.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYs_GMfCqTI]
This is one of the most disgustingly misogynistic songs I have ever heard. It is made painfully clear that Hyomin does not think she has a nice body because she likes her body; Hyomin has a nice body because men like her body. And that one thing about her is the only reason she’s happy, or has a modicum of self-confidence. She had to diet, work out, and possibly go under the knife just to like herself.
Featured rapper Loco’s verse just drives the point home even more. After all, nothing says “You have no worth outside your appearance” quite like having a somewhat schlubby guy lust after a knockout, and fully expect to get her. This isn’t a jab against Loco; if he’s happy with how he looks, more power to him. The issue is that he’s allowed to have these high physical standards, but she’s not. If Hyomin held men to the same standards they held her to, she’d be written off as a shallow bitch.
This song is abhorrent but, on its own, I honestly have no objection to it. Sure, it’s a smidge boring, but everyone has days where they feel pretty because other people think they’re pretty. I don’t have to like it, but I can admit that this is an accurate depiction of a facet of how adult women see themselves. In a vacuum, it’s fine. But the huge, overwhelming reason I loathe this song is that it’s not in a vacuum.
“Nice Body” is a pop song. It’s played on the radio. Hyomin promotes it on music shows. People are going to hear it even if they don’t seek it out. More specifically, young girls are going to hear it. They are starting to think of themselves as young ladies, and are going to start looking to the world around them to guide them in how they should act. “Nice Body” tells these girls that if they want to be happy, they need to be attractive and nothing more.
When you’re that young, you don’t really understand how the world works. Yes, in theory, a 14-year-old girl is going to understand that Hyomin is a professional singer who lives a very different life than her. But in reality, she’s too young to really get that Hyomin’s job is, quite literally, to be attractive. When that girl turns on Inkigayo and watches Hyomin perform “Nice Body”, she doesn’t see someone just doing her job.
Instead, she sees a woman, one who’s popular, and confident, and loved. That woman has everything an insecure 14-year-old could want, and she even says how she got it! If that girl wants to be as admired as that woman, she needs to study less and work out more, start a diet, maybe skip a few meals. After all, if being happy means having a nice body, then that’s what she needs to focus on. No one cares about her mind, anyway.
It’s been suggested that “Nice Body” is satire, an attempt to poke fun at South Korea’s overly high standards for women. It’s been pointed out that young girls are not the target audience. Neither of those things matters in the slightest. The MV plays this song straight. It’s three minutes of Hyomin looking stunning, and one minute of her in an offensive fat suit. And no young girl is going to hear this song and think, “I can ignore what she’s saying about female body image as I’m not the target audience of this song.”
The problem with “Nice Body” is that it takes one part of the complex issue of body image, and tells girls “This is all you are, and all you can ever be.” “Nice Body” gets 0/5. To give this song a shred of approval would be a betrayal of my entire gender.
(Images via CCM, KT Music)