After announcing that she would not be renewing her contract with JYP Entertainment, 15&’s Park Jimin has released her final song and MV with the company. For an artist who gained fame pre-debut for her singing talent, the number of opportunities that Jimin has had to release and promote music in the last seven years has been disappointingly low, and her decision to start afresh is understandable.
Confidence in one’s appearance has always been a small yet present theme in K-pop, though it is usually either from a male perspective addressing a woman, or from a female perspective addressing themselves or other women. “Stay Beautiful” is a refreshingly simple song which subverts these trends twice: the song has a female singer addressing male self-confidence, which really is a great initiative, and interestingly, it also lacks an obvious romantic message. The MV is equally fresh and straightforward, following Jimin and a group of her real-life male friends enjoying a carefree day out together. Yet, the casualness of the MV is both its charm and what holds it back.
Most of the MV follows Jimin and her friends filming themselves with a camcorder and a handful of these shots through the camcorder are sprinkled throughout the MV. These candid videos add a warm, personal touch to its message. The lack of flashy camerawork, elaborate sets, dance routines, and other usual key features of typical K-pop MVs strip the “Stay Beautiful” MV of a high quality production. However, this particular choice was made to construct an MV that genuinely feels like a video thrown together by a group of friends, allowing more personality to shine through.
It is certainly pleasing to see a healthy representation of male-female friendships as they are; it does not turn into a cliché scenario in which all the guys are somehow secretly in love with the girl, nor does it suggest that advice on maintaining self-esteem stems from the ulterior motive of an underlying romantic attraction. Without the hindrance of a romance subplot, the simplicity of the MV here helps to keep the focus of the video on the song’s lyrics.
You don’t need to care about what others think
There’s no right answer
We’re learning to fall while climbing these walls
You just need to be next to me like this
In isolation, it may be easy for listeners to presume that the lyrics to be romantic. The MV provides a different way of interpreting them. Care and affection can be shown between friends too, and it is hardly only women who care about physical appearance. This alternate way of reading the lyrics reflect how confidence and beauty can be encouraged through friendship and the desire to make others happy, rather than solely stemming from romantic ties. That is not to say that romance would definitely cheapen the notion, nor that the song and MV deny the existence of romance. The song is definitely open to interpretation, but there is no confirmation of romance either. Jimin’s more open approach to the topic makes this friendship version of it more possible and more intriguing.
While simplicity works in favour of the song’s themes and makes it more personal, it can in several places cause the video to feel slow and repetitive. This is because a small amount of footage has been drawn out to make a full MV. The scenes of friendship are heartwarming, but with only a couple of different settings, making it easy for the video to quickly lose its audience’s interest. It is not entirely necessarily for the MV to have a plot, but more could still have happened to give the video some substance, beyond just having Jimin and her friends walking, sitting, and trolley-pushing.
Given the context behind Jimin’s final MV with JYP Entertainment, this lack of substance may not have been the best idea: it comes off as though only a minimal budget and amount of time was spared, and that Jimin herself was the driving force behind the creative process, if not the existence of the MV itself. In one way, the fact that her friends in the MV are her friends in real life adds to the sincerity of the video. Yet, if we look at it another way, Jimin saved the company the effort of finding and paying for actors.
Even in the MV preview, which is just a short behind-the-scenes clip and then Jimin introducing the song to the camera, she thanks her fans for waiting for a music release from her, “again.” All of this comes together to suggest that even this final project with JYP Entertainment has been a victim of the lack of opportunity and support that likely led her to leave in the first place.
A well-meaning MV with a brilliant message but limited resources: could more have been done for it? Readers, what did you think?