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Why Jessi’s ‘Down’ is making waves in K-pop scene

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Updated : July 12 2018

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Although rapper and singer Jessi has had a dedicated fan base for years, her newly released song “Down” hasn’t quite been embraced with open arms by the general Korean audience, likely because of its risque music video.

Even before Jessi released “Down,” she was seen as different from other artists. Tanned skin, visible tattoos, an unapologetic attitude and a bold manner of speech have set her apart in Korea, though these traits would hardly stand out in her home state of New Jersey.

Thirteen years have passed since her debut, but she still hasn’t given into societal pressures to be like other, more “feminine” entertainers, as evident in her most recent track.

Jessi’s music video for “Down” has hit over 2 million views on YouTube since its release five days ago, but most of the conversation has been about how taken aback viewers have been by its mature concept.



In the video, bikini-clad Jessie does everything from rolling around in the wet sand to twerk on a platform to suggestively sucking on a lollipop. The only scene appropriate for all ages is the ending shot of her feet, which serves as a background for the rolling credits.

One Korean YouTube viewer commented, “I used to be such a fan, but now I’m just disappointed,” while a foreign fan wrote on Instagram, “You were perfect and the MV-- amazing! We know Korean society is conservative, but we don’t live in the 1950s anymore.”


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Regarding critics, Jessi stated, “My new song has a tropical vibe, so I wore swimsuits often; but because it doesn’t fit with the Korean standards, I received a lot of hate ... I’m okay now. I hope all women live with confidence. I believe that being able to show confidence in your body is a good thing. “

Groomed K-pop idols have typically been attractive singers with porcelain skin, stick-thin figures, killer style and precise dance moves -- an image almost too flawless to realistically cultivate.

This recipe for producing K-pop sensations has been successful for many entertainment companies, but it has also created a certain unrealistic standard that idols are now pressured to strive toward.

However, as more Western audiences are being introduced to K-pop, there has been a bigger spotlight on Korean artists, such as Jessi, who challenge the stereotypical image and incorporate Western entertainment industry trends into their work.

Jessi is best known recently for her hit “Ssenunni” and collaboration with Park Jin-young in “Who’s Your Mama?” -- both in 2015. She has also appeared on popular variety shows like “Real Men” and “Sister’s Slam Dunk.”

By Serena Soh (sjsoh@heraldcorp.com)

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