**What follows is merely a fan’s perspective on the meanings behind the song and the music video. Discussions are welcomed! ^^
Tarantallegra: a magic spell that causes uncontrollable dance. (Cr. CjesJYJ Youtube)
Etymology: The Tarantella is a dance originating in Italy. It was believed to cure the effects of the bite of a Tarantula by causing the victim to sweat out the toxin. It wasn’t until centuries later that scientists determined the Black Widow was actually the venomous spider in question; people merely blamed the Tarantula because of its size. Allegra may be derived from allegro, a musical tempo meaning “quick and lively”; or simply from the word “leg” as this is the only body part affected by the jinx. (Cr. Harry Potter Wiki)
If you happen to follow me on twitter (@Knotname), you would know that I had a very strong first impression on what this song and its music video are trying to get across. Though I continue to hold such thoughts, I have discovered more intricate layers of unsaid messages as I looped the video indefinitely. In retrospect, what I originally thought was nothing but only a small supplementary portion of Junsu’s message.
Well, let’s start with my initial impression. First time through the video and the lyrics (http://jyj3.net/2012/05/13/video-junsu-official-mv-tarantallegra-full-ver/), I thought Tarantallegra was a statement to the current K-Pop industry, where all music begin to sound the same and the audience mindlessly following meaningless trends. Under monetary pressure, the artists are making music to follow such trends in order to please the public who had no idea why they enjoyed it in the first place. This vicious cycle makes voices lost, and Junsu and Junho’s purpose is to point it out.
This is a very superficial read of the lyrics and the music video. Junho, Junsu’s twin brother and the lyricist, says this quite blatantly in the lyrics, “Music is all the same everywhere/It cannot escape from that format/But my standard is different from you/The world is gradually moving faster/The trend will change in the blink of an eye”. However, once I moved further down through the lyrics, I cannot help but gain a sense that a message regarding JYJ’s recent difficulties also exists within the song. As you all know, JYJ is currently under a lot of restrictions and discrimination in South Korea, where they could not perform on television, their music videos could not be aired, and this recent case of charting injustice. And the lyrics talk about it pretty straight on, “Now aren’t you tired of the world controlled by them”.
Enough about trivial understandings and moving onto something (perhaps) a little deeper.
After looping for about five hours straight (I wonder if I’ll ever grow tired of the song?), I’ve gathered that Tarantallegra has multiple central ideas:
- The need to bring music back to its roots
- Junsu’s intention of unbounding himself
- “What music would you listen to?”
Please do note that all the ideas can (and should) be extended to broader topics beyond music, but for the purpose of this analysis, I will be keeping it within said scope ^^.
Bringing Music Back to Its Roots
One of the things Tarantallegra points out is the necessity to strip this thing called music down to its barest form, and bring it back in its rawest shape. Phrases in the lyrics such as “Let’s enjoy/Be intoxicated with music/So what/The music/You will feel it” says it all. The reason why music exists in the first place is to entertain, to release people of their emotions, to bring people onto their feet and enjoy a good time. Music in and of itself is, ultimately, tarantallegra.
Granted, Tarantallegra is a fancy piece – there were some audio refinements (including auto-tune) and rich background music (gotta love the strings) – and may make you think that this song does not align with its message. But it is precisely the strong beats, the flare in Junsu’s voice and Flowsik’s rap that speeds up one’s pulse and immerse with the music. It is about taking music away from the usual love-related topics, and let the sounds – the rawest form of music – take control. This leads me to another point: The goal of this song and music video is to make it a tarantallegra.
This is evident from the beginning – Tarantallegra is meant to be captivating. We don’t need Flowik to say “Xia get them” to understand this. I’ll boldly say this: I think Junsu and the staff succeeded. The song itself is a spell, it pulls the audience into an alternative world of beauty and raw emotions, even some parts of the song sound other-worldly. One interpretation of the spider scene is that Junsu is capturing all of the audience in this web called music, which serves as a wonderful link back to the etymology – that tarantallegra stems from the words tarantula and allegro.
(Gif Cr. ♥김준수 @Angelxiaholic)
Well, Junsu himself knew that he had successfully placed a spell on the audience through this song – his victorious smirk in the end says it all.
Junsu’s Intention of Unbounding Himself
On Youtube comments, I constantly see things in the lines of “This is really gay” or “I think I’ve found Mr. Gaga”. I highly doubt Junsu actually wanted to say something about gender, but rather he is using it as an avenue to get his point across, especially since people are so sensitive to those kinds of hints nowadays. Throughout the lyrics, phrases that follow tarantallegra all refers to indulging oneself into music, to release bounds and to enjoy the moment. In the previous section, I’ve covered the first, and now moving onto releasing oneself from limitations.
I know throughout the music video it seems that Junsu really wanted to discuss sexuality, especially with all the catwalks and suggestive movements by dancers of both genders. However, though it may seem sexy on the surface, all the tensions in Junsu’s gestures don’t seem to stem from sexuality to me, but rather his desire to break free. When he twists his body, what I see is this sharp emotion of struggle and of defiance. Instead of using a soft melody to share his tears, he chooses a distinctive allegro that describes his pain under such restraints and uses his body to showcase these feelings.
In the opening scene where he sits on the throne, the vibe that Junsu gives off is that of a dominating figure who is above all. However, he is also heavily bounded – here come the second (and I think the better) interpretation of the spider/web scene. Junsu is limited by himself, because of his extant image as an idol and a public figure, there are things he could not say in words or in his music. As those dancers strip him from the web, Junsu is freed from his own bindings; and on his face, that commanding look again.
This constraint is also illustrated in the scene where all the dancers are holding cameras around Junsu – the watchful and judging eyes around him imposes great pressure – his facial expression and the way he exerts power through his arm signify all the strain and frustration. I feel that it may be a statement towards the sasaeng fans and their unrelenting watch. And this is where I had a sudden realization that all of this connects back to the etymology – tarantallegra is the dance that cures the bite of the tarantula. If Junsu himself and the standards around him are the tarantula, then his dance speaks all about his freedom and nothing else – Tarantallegra is his cure from this “bite”. What really says it all is the scene later where Junsu also takes on the camera, where he poses question and judges those standards around him; at that moment, he is no longer bounded.
(Gifs Cr. ♥김준수 @Angelxiaholic)
Remember that scene where Junsu is being touched by multiple hands and all Junsu-bias went screaming “noooooooooo”? Yes, the scene was arousing and many of us wanted to be the ones who were touching him, but don’t forget his eyes – even when he was caressed by so many, his eyes were cold, unmoved and filled with indestructible strength. With so much influences and desires around him, Junsu remains unswayed with his firm faith. This is definitely something that is present throughout the music video – while so much suggestive movements are ongoing, Junsu’s expression is never wavering. It’s always composed, calm, and in control.
Pointed out by emm gee in comments, the back-up dancers are all interesting picks. The male dancers look fairly feminine while the females dancers possess strong features – both countering gender stereotypes. She further suggested that this may be Junsu’s way of breaking the sourceless trends of what is called “beautiful” and thus releasing the audience from such bindings.
Now, let’s talk about that drop of tear. Within this powerful atmosphere throughout the music video, this tear seems to be out of place as tears are seen as a sign of weakness. However, in this scene, this drop of tear is not sadness or cowardice but rather his strength so that even during unbearable pain he would not let his emotion overtake him – he is still, after all, dictating himself. As a reader commented below (dbullock @___djb___), this Junsu in tear most closely resembles the AngelSu that all of us love and are used to – the bangs, the lesser make up, the non-flaring expression. Notice that the old angel-like Junsu is behind glass and in confinement while the new devilish and dominating Junsu is dancing freely, enjoying his tarantallegra.
(Gif Cr. Ruki the Eyi @EyikuR_1224)
The female Junsu that instigated so much reaction in comments everywhere, I think, resembles the ultimate boundary that this world sets for itself; and by crossing that, Junsu is above all control. There is also another reading too: Since women are generally viewed as figures that are quiet, obedient and generally lacking self-control in traditional Asian cultures, this female Junsu represents the previous Xiah who was under company control and the current Junsu who is under so much ban and restriction in the K-Pop industry.
Throughout the whole music video, Junsu has made leaps beyond the AngelSu that I was used to. The heavy make-up, revealing clothing, and the choreography that requires every inch of him was nothing like I have ever seen before. Going back to the sexuality comments on Youtube, these extraordinary attempts that Junsu made in this music video serve nothing other than saying: He is going beyond all the preset boundaries and truly breaking free.
“What Music Would You Listen To?”
And this question posed throughout the song, “what music would you listen to?” really glues everything I’ve discussed thus far into one. In an industry where music deviated from something that touches souls and changes lives to something so superficial it erases individuality, it is necessary for the audience to realize what moves them, instead of mindlessly following the so-called trend. In this sense, the public is emancipated from these blinding stereotypes on what is “good music” and instead listening to what truly shakes their souls – what music really is. In short, the music you would listen to is your tarantallegra, it’s whatever puts you on your feet and sets you free.
———————————————–End of all serious thinking.
To those who have made it this far, thank you for reading. I hope you find this to be, at least in the slightest bit, enjoyable. Some thought food perhaps? Please feel free to discuss in comments, I would love to hear what you think! ^^