Music Video Anatomy #8 – WA$$UP (와썹)

Missed what I’ve been doing with Music Video Anatomy? For the most recent installments, I covered Jay Park’s 몸매 (MOMMAE) and Taeyang’s  MA GIRL! This time though, we’re looking at a girl group that probably should’ve quit before they got started… the since disbanded WA$$UP.


Title:  WA$$UP (와썹)

Artist: :WA$$UP

Setting:

The main setting of WA$$UP’s debut video is a basketball court in the middle of a city – I’m honestly still not sure if this was filmed in Korea or in the United States, actually. It’s an unsubtle callback to the origins of hip hop and teenagers coming up with rhymes while playing around in their neighborhoods. (Think of the kind of setting early in Netflix’s Roxanne Roxanne!)

There’s also a dark alley where one of the members does her own spin on ghost riding next to a very expensive car that I would be worried about crashing. I don’t think it adds anything to the music video, but it’s just… funny to me.

Sound:

Normally, I try to be fair and relatively unbiased while covering these music videos, but friends? WA$$UP is a bad debut. It genuinely sounds bad. I simply do not understand why this song sounds the way it does, barely tapped into recognizable hip hop sounds and with a very annoying chorus (pre-chorus?). I go back and listen to a lot of idol hip hop and straight up hip hop from the same time period and I get where those artists are coming from and how the producers got us to the hip hop concept seen in the video.

I can’t really do that here. I can’t pinpoint what it was trying to do when the visuals are more “hip hop” than the vocals and the group’s attempts at rap are lackluster at best.

Styling:

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the young women of WA$$UP came with the hood cosplay dialed up to five for their debut music video. Afterall, this was a group that was created to spread the message of hip hop to some extent.

I think it’s actually a miracle that they stuck to video vixen esque clothing for the group and basketball fits for the dudes instead of doing full on appropriation. The look in the video is adjacent to appropriation – because I guess Black people don’t own those fits the way we do braids (this is a JOKE) – so it’s almost like a sense of “what’s going on here” without being able to fully express why there’s discomfort with the performance.

(I’m also still trying to figure out if the girls were spray tanned for this or if we’re dealing with a combination of naturally darker complexions and weird lighting. If you know, let me know!)

Full Thoughts

I get such a strange kick out of WA$$UP as a group and as a song. The description from this video in particular – unsure if it’s on any of their other videos – cracks me up:

New 7 Hip Hop girls debut with first single album [Wa$$up]! Title song Wa$$up is exciting dance song based on club beats, funny lyrics, and comfortable melody line. Also Wa$$up added sexy dance on music and it is highly expected to be released. They practiced much time on Twerking and put it into choreography. It will be one of the greatest points to watch twerking in the MV.

7 new ladies will show great and sexy performance with first album [Wa$$up]. So please be ready to welcome warmly!

WA$$UP debuted with their first single album WA$$UP back on August 16, 2013… a little over two months after BTS’ own hood-cosplay laden debut “No More Dream”.

I know the young women of WA$$UP can and do (largely) stand on their own, but for me, what captures my mind when I look at the group and do a bit of research is that WA$$UP almost feels like a Mirrorverse version of BTS. I bring this up because as someone coming into BTS fandom later on and listening to WA$$UP’s music right after they disbanded, I see a lot of similarities in the two group’s stated goals – but that’s about it.

According to the Wikipedia page for the group, Sony Music said that “WA$$UP will be different from other girl groups. They aim to spread hip hop music through their numerous activities.” Those “numerous activities”?

Oh, just things like twerking. (Poorly.)

Their goal was to spread hip-hop music – with a side of dancehall – wherever they went. Unfortunately, their understanding of hip hop music and hip hop culture(s) was… limited. When you watch a WA$$UP video, including this one, you’ll be stunned by how much these young women relied on a really specific, stereotypical performance of Blackness to make their temporary mark on the K-pop scene.

I know I said everything is fake and authenticity in hip hop means a lot more/less than you’d think it does just last year… but this really is a frustrating level of faking. WA$$UP was a group full of relatively talented young women (as several of them would go on to semi-successful solo careers) who are performing hip hop culture for an audience of assumed outsiders –

So why did their debut look and sound like this?

About Zeenah

Zeenah writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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