Many Chinese K-pop stars have been hitting the headlines lately for their public statements in protest of rulings made against China’s claim to large parts of the South China Sea. The ins and outs of this don’t interest me too much but it’s interesting to see the effect that it’s having on miss A’s Fei and her solo debut. It’s likely these idols (f(x)’s Victoria, Fiestar’s Cao Lu, and Super Junior-M’s Zhoumi along with Fei) were just hoping it would help their chances of expanding into the Chinese market and avoiding a Tzuyu-sized scandal. Korean fans however, have not reacted well and Fei’s debut single “Fantasy” is charting terribly likely because of it.
Letting politics get in the way of an actually important topic like pop music is only hurting the fans themselves however. “Fantasy” is the most sensual release of the year and has a video bursting with sexuality like we have maybe never seen in K-pop before. You’d be a fool to ignore it.
Written and produced by Park Jin Young with help from the brilliant Marcan Entertainment team of producers, Denzil “IDR” Remedios and Ryan S. Jhun, “Fantasy” is a subdued mix of glittering synth pop and lush R&B. Dreamy crystal synths reverberate throughout over a beat that can barely even be called a beat: it’s a variety of 808s that tumble in and out without drawing too much attention to themselves. They create the languid atmosphere that pervades “Fantasy.” It shimmers slowly across your mind, implanting different feelings with every listen.
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The structure does nothing to alter this atmosphere. “Fantasy” moves from verse to chorus with little caution, maintaining the sexual energy rather than bringing things up a level. This lack of movement does not hamper the song in anyway. The second verse and bridge add a number of sounds to keep things interesting. Fei is taking her time to seduce you. Her breathy vocals in the verse turn to sensual opines in the chorus and finally a climatic moan in the bridge. A perfect slow burning progression of sexual possibilities.
The lyrics play up the sexual elements as Fei is a woman ready to fulfill the fantasies of her lover. “I’m your girl now, You can tell me your hidden fantasies” she whispers in the verse. It’s hard to see where “Fantasy” falls in terms of being a positive or negative song for female sexuality. Lyrics like “I’m your girl now” and “I made up my mind” suggest a submissiveness that she is almost being coerced into this by the man. Yet she also takes quite an active role, telling him not to hesitate and to tell her all his fantasies. Even in these more active parts however, it is always in service of the man, “I wanna do everything for you tonight.”
As a male I can’t really say whether or not it is ultimately offensive to women. What I will say is that it is an interesting new angle when considered alongside the video. It takes the fantasy to literal levels as Fei plays a Virtual Reality sex worker.
A man sits down in a dingy neon lit backroom as a woman puts VR goggles over his eyes. As soon as they are on him he sees an underwear clad Fei with her hula-hoop. Whether the hula-hoop is merely a prop for her dancing or a particularly female symbol for her openness to any of his fantasies is unclear.
What’s really interesting is how the camera depicts this sexual digital world. I don’t know if it’s just me but there seems to be a lot less close ups in this video than most K-pop videos that feature the artists. It isn’t until around the one minute mark do we get a good look at Fei’s face and even then we might be slightly distracted by her new day-glo orange hair. Most of how we see Fei is in wide or medium shots where her body (always in some sort of underwear) is emphasized. For the VR viewer this disconnects the person who owns this body from herself. He can watch and take pleasure without thinking about an actual person as she has become an object, a fantasy.
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Aesthetically this is enhanced by a weird digital sheen. The quality seems to have been deliberately made worse for the parts when Fei is dancing in her synthetic realm. It gives the viewer a feeling of discomfort, that maybe we are not supposed to be watching this let alone taking pleasure out of it. Reality is being distorted just enough for us to see the falsity yet not enough for us to stop. In a rare clear shot Fei, lit by a single light, lounges on a bed looking directly into the camera. It is the most brazenly pornographic image in the video. Its clarity is disturbing in comparison to the previous shots and the POV element brings the viewer right into the action, making us complicit.
The final part of the video uses similar techniques to deliver the conceit. The man takes off his goggles seemingly finished with his viewing but Fei then buffers into his view in real life. She continues her dance as he watches mesmerized and then starts to walk towards him, takes off her top and leans in to kiss him. It then cuts to directly to a red title screen with the name of the song, “Fantasy.” It seems like Fei is coming to life in order to be with this man, a conclusion that would be disappointing normally. The camera tells a different story though. As she dances Fei is shot in the same style as before. Wide shots that offer no intimacy. More telling is how these were (I think) shot with a lower frame rate which is what makes it look like it’s skipping a bit. Our view is of the real world but the Fei that is dancing before us is definitely not real. This is the danger of porn and virtual sex. For the viewer, the person he watches on screen becomes indistinguishable from real life people. Either he can only find pleasure in the virtual or he starts to expect real people to act like his virtual loves. He expects them to fulfill everyone of his fantasies without hesitation.
2016 has been a bumper year for female soloists with Taeyeon, Luna, Hyomin, Hyosung, and more. They have released a large variety of great tracks all showing a great maturity in their individuality. Like most of them however (except Taeyeon), Fei is proving to be less than popular with the public. This is a great shame considering “Fantasy” biting thesis on modern sexuality, as well as being a beautiful slow jam. Its charms don’t end there also as the choreography makes use of hula-hoops and backing dancers in really interesting ways. Slip into Fei’s “Fantasy” for the future of sex.
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