“Sensual” is a term that goes hand in hand with the name Taemin. The youngest member of Shinee is returning to focus on his solo work this year, starting with his latest release “Want,” the eponymous title track of his latest album. “Want” is a provocative song and music video building on Taemin’s previous discography with reflections on symbolic representation.
From the beginning of his solo career it was very evident where the artist gained his inspirations from: Michael Jackson and George Michael. In his earlier works, “Danger” and “Press Your Number,” the inspiration came off more as an imitation focused on movements, smoky makeup, hair styles and wardrobes similar to the two great artists. But in 2017’s release of “Move,” the world saw Taemin begin to mold these inspirations into his own.
“Want” is the next step in his evolution of becoming a great artist. From first viewing, it may seem like nothing is different from his previous releases; his music videos do tend to focus on his skill as a dancer and the screen focuses on Taemin’s smoldering looks. But on the second viewing, we realize it was done with a deep artistic purpose. Taemin has become the epitome of our attention, our wants and our desires.
The video opens to a room filled with magnifying glasses focused around a shadowed figure that is roped off, similar to an art installation. The camera brings the viewer forward into focus to the one and only Taemin. The magnifying glass is the first significant symbol of this music video; it is represents a critical eye. A magnifying glass is used when you are trying to examine something further, an object of your interest that has piqued your curiosity. Taemin being cordoned off by the ropes only extends this theory further. He is the object of our desire; however, like all objects of our desire, they are often difficult to attain.
The use of cameras emphasizes this focus on Taemin as an object of desire not within reach. In the empty white room he is normally accompanied by two circles with T-lines through them, resembling what you’d see through a camera viewfinder. A viewfinder is a tool used to focus on the subject of the photograph. The symbolism of the camera appears in additional scenes, as Taemin is literally surrounded or wrapped by camera film, and scenes transition with a flash similar to that produced by a camera.
The third symbol is that of the Vitruvian Man, which is displayed barely for a second before becoming Taemin in its place. The Vitruvian Man is a drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci based off notes from the architect Vitruvius; it is a drawing of the ideal human male body, perfectly proportioned. If it wasn’t already obvious through different means or methods, Taemin is hammering the idea that he is the object of our fixation. He is the symbol of perfection–our perfection–and we’re thirsty to know more. The song even begins with this line:
The moment you take me in you’ll be thirsting for more, incomplete
It puts the viewers in their place: it does not matter how much you learn, study, or grasp of Taemin; you will never feel complete and this is a dangerous path down temptation.
Taemin seems to be playing the part of the devil, the ultimate personification of temptation across different cultures and religious traditions. The story of the devil simplified is the devil tempting us with our greatest desires and giving out “deals” that are enticing. The deal is an agreement to be given the object of our desire, but we’d have to give up something else of value in our lives. In the end, the discovery is that even though we have attained our object of our desires, we’re still left feeling empty and possibly now desiring something else. We’re incomplete.
He teases these deals with us, saying “I’m your eyes,” but pictured behind is an image of Taemin covering his eyes. He constantly tells us we’ll be thirsting more for but instead of giving us the satisfaction he leads us to “Hot, Hot”. Taemin sings to us that as long as we open our body, minds and soul to him, he will make us realize what we wanted all along, but where does that ultimately bring us? Wanting more.
This representation of the devil is backed by biblical imagery. A snake is shown all throughout the video slithering on top of Taemin. The snake is most well-known for causing the fall of man, tempting the first woman Eve to eat fruit from the forbidden tree.
This sweetness of the forbidden apple tempts you
The impulse awakens the senses
In this sweet flow
Taemin’s skill as a dancer is proven again through his representation of the snake. His initial movements are fluid and sensual, meant to hypnotize and draw you in. Nearing the climax of the song the camera film surrounding Taemin drops, transforming into snakes slithering to their master. At the climax (the 2:45 mark) Taemin’s movements sharpen as if the snake has finally struck and latched onto its next meal.
At the end of the video a large gate appears in the black background. The gates shown are The Gates of Hell, a sculpture by French artist Auguste Rodin. By this moment, Taemin as the devil has won. He has taken control and led the viewer down the depths of hell with him.
There is the saying, “A good artist copies, a great artist steals,” and Taemin has been a great example of this evolution. The sources of inspiration molded Taemin’s genre of pop, soul, disco, funk, and so on, and “Want” is a result of Taemin making those genres into his own.
Within his inspirations his deep root in this faith has surfaced on the pop scene. Taemin is known to be a devoted Catholic–he carries a rosary with him and is open about his faith. At first viewing, it was curious as to why he would create something so provocative. But after reviewing the use of religious imagery, this artistic decision makes sense, making the song’s message all the more powerful.