Hyuna (현아) releases a new, surprisingly clever single and music video

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Lip & Hip teaser
(The teaser art of Hyuna’s new single “Lip & Hip” courtesy of Soompi.com. I know what you’re expecting, but trust me, the song and dance do more than sell sex.)

K-Pop star Hyuna’s new single “Lip & Hip” might seem shallow and oversexualized but under the surface, it is surprisingly clever.

“Lip & Hip” opens with Hyuna and four dancers doing sexy hip rolls. At first glance, the music video seems like it’ll be another K-Pop music video selling mostly sex. While Hyuna definitely does sexualize and infantilize herself, she tempers the sexualization with tongue-in-cheek self-awareness.

“Lip & Hip” is about the fantasy and reality of gaining confidence and self-esteem through sex appeal. The music video honors the pursuit of the fantasy while acknowledging how it falls short in reality. After the first hip roll ends we see Hyuna sitting in a chair bored and daydreaming in a dim, static-filled room.

This set up is crucial: Hyuna is daydreaming. Half of the segments in the video aren’t real but the imagination of a woman or girl who wants to feel as sexy and confident as a K-Pop star appears to be.

In the barrage of images, you can easily miss how fantasy skips over to reality and vice versa. The fantasy and reality sequences blend together to the point where the fantasy carries into the room at about the 2:55 mark. Just when it seems like fantasy and reality are meeting, the real Hyuna wakes up from a nap on the floor.

These juxtapositions happen constantly, with fantasy Hyuna doing something super sexy and real Hyuna living without glamor. Sexy fantasy Hyuna smokes a cigarette, while real Hyuna eats fries on the toilet. That video has a pretty cool visual contrast but it’s held back by the fact that real Hyuna still looks gorgeous and absurdly made-up. Even as Hyuna dissects and gets clever with K-Pop fantasies, she stays safe and makes reality way sexier than it is. The only time the reality ever feels truly unflattering is at the very end when Hyuna’s pants are ripped.

If Hyuna had made the contrast between natural reality and sexualized fantasy starker it’d be visible much more quickly. As it is, it seems like a lot of people are missing it.On her YouTube channel, Hyuna fans have commented that it feels oversexualized. Hyuna getting mistaken for what she’s dissecting isn’t a great sign that her concept is landing.

Outside of the concept, Hyuna puts in several humorous and tongue-in-cheek visuals that play off the turbo-sexualized video well. Early on she holds up a newspaper with an advertisement of a woman holding pineapples over her breasts, then goes to check her own. The camera zooms in on what looks like a butt. It zooms out to show it’s just the fold of Hyuna’s arm. Hyuna stabs into two meatballs with a fork and makes a phallic symbol that would have steam shooting out of Freud’s ears.

My personal favorite comes when Hyuna’s smoking and they blur out the cigarette. This is a quality reference to the cigarette as a phallic symbol and the idea of women smoking as risque.

The lyrics, too, are better than you might think. There is relatively little romance and more focus on confidence and self-image. You’ll definitely find perfect sexy lines like “my lips will melt you sweetly” but a lot of lines have a deeper side. “Sometimes I’m sexy / my walking is more confident / it feels like things are working out today.” That line does a great job of getting at the value of feeling sexy and having a positive self-image.

The chorus, too, is more about body confidence and feeling good than sex.

“This might be the last time, I won’t hide anymore
Time is fast and it doesn’t wait for us
wherever you’re led, whatever you want
Don’t stop.”

The chorus also reveals an aging, more mature Hyuna who has a sense that time is limited. You could even read this music video as a teenage Hyuna growing into her future self.

I felt pleasantly surprised by how clever Hyuna’s music video is. It took me a few watches to catch all the references, but when I did, I came away appreciating how she mixed fantasy and reality and sexy and funny. By the end, I felt endeared to her in a way I rarely do to most pop stars. “Lip & Hip” is a clever song and video.

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