Brain Fart: Thoughts on EXO’s “Beautiful” MV

Specifically, I have an idea for EXO’s “Beautiful” music video. If they ever make one for it. Are you listening, SM?

Before I start vomiting words all over the place, let me begin with the lyrics of EXO’s “Beautiful,” the last song in their new album, Exodus.  It’s a really romantic song if you look past the cheese. Have a listen before reading the rest of this post.

Since their debut, EXO has appeared in more or less eighteen (Korean and Chinese) music videos on their own. Out of those music videos, only two ballads or slow songs, namely “What is Love” and “Miracles in December,” have made the cut. The rest have been their uptempo, high-energy songs. So, I’m guessing they might not make a video for “Beautiful” to give way for “El Dorado” or “Transformer” during promotions for Exodus.

On the off chance that they do, it’s likely the concept will be something light and fun. Whites, pastels, flowers, spring. We’ll probably see all ten of them being all abusive of aegyo cute, preparing for a date, flirting, flashing those pearly whites, winking, holding hands, most likely with one girl (or at least parts of one girl) because having a fully-featured girl for each of them necessitates crowd control already. And nobody got time for ten dates to play out on screen, even if it is EXO. That’s what I think will happen in usual SM fashion.

But if I were to direct the MV, here’s my pitch: A “Beautiful” video that doesn’t feature EXO at all. The boys will be nowhere in sight. Instead, young, inspirational Asian women take center stage. Around four stories. Maybe four frames on screen. The focus will definitely be women who are inspiring others to pursue their dreams, encouraging discourse on the relevant issues of our time, causing life-changing impact for others, and making the world a better place. Women like Kim Jae-hyun, the young designer behind South Korea’s two most exciting fashion labels, Jardin de Chouette and Lucky Chouette, showcasing unique, handmade pieces that challenge the Korean fashion scene’s reliance on mass production. Women like Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, founder of Rags 2 Riches, a Manila-based for-profit social enterprise that creates eco-ethical fashion and accessories from upcycled scrap cloth, organic materials, and indigenous fabrics with the help of artisans from poor communities all over the Philippines. Women like Lusia Efriani, whose project Batik Girl Roadshow empowers former female Indonesian prisoners by teaching them how to make dolls clothed in traditional Indonesian batik, helping them readjust to a life outside incarceration. Women like Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne, a Sri Lankan global changemaker and eco-social entrepreneur, founder of Growin’ Money and Green the Climate, a non-profit organization that advocates environmental preservation, organic farming, and renewable energy. Or all the women could be from South Korea, if that’s what floats SM’s boat. Young, female South Korean athletes, scientists, survivors, entrepreneurs, and LGBT advocates.

The beginning of my “Beautiful” MV will show the ladies getting ready in the morning. At this point, they’re nameless. They look like every woman you’ll unconsciously encounter on the street. They wake up, look at themselves in the mirror, fix their hair, put on a little lip gloss, check their outfits. Their movements will almost be the same, and the camera will switch back and forth among them. Without color, scent or sound, you came into my heart. They eat breakfast, maybe read the news on their tabs, check their email. Then they head out for work, and that’s where it gets interesting. A flower rises in the sky, spring blossoms on the ground. They start moving differently, each going her own way. You get to see them in action. Giving a talk to young girls about youth leadership. Leading a meeting with local artisans to create beautiful work for her non-profit’s beneficiaries. All of your words become wind and spin around me. They’re extraordinary but still very grounded. Soon, viewers get to know them. Their names, age, and good work flash on the screen, framed by their smiling faces, the people they work with, their positive environment, the glowing energy around them. More than any star in a legend, you’re brighter. The girls who are watching this video might feel inspired to do something good like those women. Some might get ideas straight away. Others let it simmer first, but they go online to learn more about the women in the video and how they can help. They watch their TED talks, read their articles, share to others what inspires them. Something is set in motion. You’re beautiful. I’m dreaming a dream of you forever.

It sounds like an impossible plan because I think SM Entertainment will never give the green light for anything like this and even I want to see EXO just being their handsome selves while beckoning me towards the screen with their slender fingers, the precious corners of their mouths, their milky ski—


I’m playing around with this idea because I think EXO is in such a prime position to go beyond the music, the fan service, the glamour, and the illusion they’re so good at selling. I know that’s their bread and butter, but don’t you want to see them take part in some girl boss realness? Plus I don’t think they’ve ever done anything like this before. It’s a novel venture for them. I expect a lot of press because it goes against EXO and SM’s norm.

By shining the spotlight on inspirational women while a song like “Beautiful” is playing in the background, I think that strengthens the thinking and belief that being beautiful isn’t skin-deep. That strong is the new beautiful. Intelligent is the new beautiful. Assertive, resourceful, and compassionate is the new beautiful. By taking EXO out of the visual equation, I think the song becomes a tribute to those women, in celebration of their achievements and beauty that comes naturally from within. I see EXO’s message shifting from simply being “I find you beautiful because of your soft hair, your body movement that resembles a flower petal.” to one that’s implied yet truly powerful: “You’re beautiful because you’re an inspiration to many (especially me), because you are selfless and brave and intelligent, because you are a person for others.”

This idea will most likely exist only in this space, never leaping off this page into real life, remaining just between us. But ain’t the thought beautiful?


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