Tiffany, a Record of Consistent Growth 리뷰&감상

Tiffany, a Record of Consistent Growth

 

Tiffany, an Artist

The first time I discovered the potential of a singer named Tiffany was when she performed a cover of Umbrella during Girls’ Generation’s first concert, Into the New World, in 2009. At that time, because I was still looking for work, the decision to attend this concert was not a financially easy choice; however, just from the first verse of Tiffany’s Umbrella, I knew that this concert was worth every penny.

 

Why did I get so excited with the Umbrella performance? It’s true that I did admire Tiffany as a singer even prior to the concert. While browsing the web, I happened to stumble upon her cover of We Belong Together. Although I was not a fan of Girls’ Generation at that time, I listened to it repeatedly because I enjoyed it for some reason. I could not understand most of the lyrics because it was in English, but I did think that it had a great appeal, and I wanted to hear more of her songs.

 

Is an Idol a Singer?

In South Korea, a country with strong prejudice against idols, the phrase “not an idol, but a true singer” is often used. I am relatively free from this prejudice, but from my experience of being a fan of Japanese female idols, I believed that idols, especially the female ones, could never be free from the misogynistic societal views; thus, I thought that it would be more difficult for female idols to show off their true talent in comparison to their male counterparts.

 

Could Girls’ Generation overcome such societal and psychological barriers? From Tiffany’s Umbrella, I glimpsed the possibility of it becoming a reality. It was this point that I started to dream. I dreamed of Girls’ Generation – and Tiffany – expressing their true colours and individualities successfully as artists.

 

There was a time when I stopped to dream. When Girls’ Generation came back with The Boys, they yielded amazing results, such as their successful debut in the United States. Despite the success of the song, however, I was disappointed. Instead of expressing their individualities and identities as women, The Boys’ lyrics were centred around comforting and appeasing men, just like their previous songs Genie and Oh!. I thought I witnessed the limit of East Asian girl groups, and so I distanced myself from them for a while.

 

However, in 2014, Girls’ Generation came back with Mr. Mr., and I got to attend their fan meeting. At the fan meeting, I witnessed Girls’ Generation that was strong against the reality that was disgustingly oppressive against female idols. They showed their determination to stay standing and to continue progressing forward for the sake of their fans, and that determination, along with the high quality of their new album, sufficiently convinced me to change my mind once again.

 

Girls’ Generation did not fail to meet my expectations. Despite the chaos of 2014, Girls’ Generation successfully reformed as a stable group of 8. Taeyeon also successfully debuted as a soloist. When Tiffany’s solo debut was announced, I was excited but scared at the same time. While I was excited to see Tiffany’s potential that I saw on Umbrella stage again, I was also worried that this debut could be very different from what I expect from her.

 

On May 11, 2016, after listening to I Just Wanna Dance, I cried.

It was tears of gratefulness for knowing an artist named Tiffany.

 

I Just Wanna Dance was the best song. It was the kind of song that I wanted Tiffany to sing as a soloist. Tiffany interpreted the song amazingly. The overall album was well-structured. Her self-written song What Do I Do was beyond my expectations. FOOL’s harmonization of multiple voices was out of this world. Once in a Life Time, which was supposedly dedicated to fans, was a calm song that could make me overcome with emotions. Other songs of the album were also amazing. The high standard of the album almost made me question if this was indeed Tiffany’s first time debuting as a soloist. I could tell how much effort Tiffany had put in. I could see that she has dedicated entirety of her musical talent and ability into the making of this album. What an awesome first step as a solo artist. I could not even start to imagine how much more Tiffany would develop in the future.

 

Style, Tiffany

Music video of I Just Wanna Dance was also impressive. The music video, which was filmed in California, successfully captured the distinctive Western ambience of Tiffany and the song itself. The aspect that captured most of my interest was the visual concept of the music video. Tiffany is well-versed in fashion and styling. She has even worked as a visual director TaeTiSeo. She is also able to successfully convey different messages and images using filmography, as shown with her participation in producing of Heartbreak Hotel and Don’t Speak music videos. However, for I Just Wanna Dance, as Tiffany herself stated, she focused only on the music and the songs. Aside from the musical aspects of her album, she relied on her staff. As a result, Tiffany’s visuals which were created by SM Entertainment’s main art director, Heejin Min, ended up being slightly different from the Tiffany’s visuals that Tiffany herself have directed to be.

 

Tiffany has a very clear dualistic appeal. In her early days as an artist, she was known for her cuteness and loveliness that comes from her eye-smile and her clumsy Korean. On the other hand, however, she has no fear in actively showing off her sex appeal. In Heartbreak Hotel, she puts on a slip. She enjoys wearing a heavy makeup and having fancy nails. She is also capable of pulling off high fashion in an amazingly gorgeous way. While her gentle complexion gives her an image of a “lovely first love”, she is a woman who knows exactly what she wants, and tirelessly pursues her goals. She has a very clear subjective self-identity, just like Disney princesses. Of course, Disney princesses have been critiqued of conforming to the stereotypical images of women. However, it is hard to deny that these princesses portrayed active, rather than passive, images of women, and that they have been very good role models for girls who seek their own adventures. Tiffany fills this role faithfully.

 

How did Tiffany and Heejin Min each try to showcase this charm of hers? East Asian girl groups tend to emphasize on having the image of “immature and obedient women”. The early image of Tiffany – A lovely and clumsy girl with a beautiful eye smile – fits quite well with such image. Out of the members of Girls’ Generation, Tiffany was the first one to rise to fame. It is not unlikely that this was somewhat due to her image that aligns well with that of a typical East Asian girl group. The art directing of Heejin Min seems to derive from similar East Asian views and standards. In the case of I Just Wanna Dance, although there were outfits that were daring and sexy, most of them were athletic outfits that would usually be worn by women in late teens and early twenties. These outfits, of course, can be used as a method to better deliver the concept of I Just Wanna Dance and the distinctive energetic feeling of California in the music video; however, many of jacket images of the album gave off an image of a passive and immature girl. Most of the songs in the album honestly and maturely talk of love and relationship of a woman in her late twenties. The disjoint between the songs and the jacket images felt almost foreign.

 

On the other hand, while Tiffany is still utilising the outfits from the music video and the album jacket images, her stage styling and outfit portray a different image. Instead of projecting an image of passive and immature girl, she showcases maturity and vivid colours that are more fitting of women in her age group. Same outfits were worn, but by utilising them differently, contrasting images were portrayed. In that case, is Tiffany aspiring to achieve a bold and sexy image rather than a gentle and meek one? There is no way of affirming this for sure. However, through the music videos of Heartbreak Hotel and Don’t Speak, both of which Tiffany actively participated in producing, it is clear that Tiffany is aware of her charm that derives from her duality, and that she understands how to utilise it.

 

In the music video of Heartbreak Hotel, Tiffany sported an innocent look before she met a man and started a relationship. As she progressed through her relationship, she slowly unfolds her maturity through different styles. At the part where she sings about her current status and feelings, Tiffany shows how she has grown from the experience with her smoky makeup and her fragile beauty. Don’t Speak music video is not about break up, but it also focuses on contrast of Tiffany’s two sides: powerful and confident Tiffany at the auditions, and meek and pure Tiffany preparing for the auditions.

Patriarchy painted women who are true to their own desires as witches, and women who are innocent and obedient as saints. Using these images, women were controlled and restricted. With this dichotomy, it is difficult and confusing to categorise Tiffany. However, if we abandon this dichotomous way of categorising women and look at all the music videos that Tiffany partook in producing, we can find clues to figure out how Tiffany truly views herself.

 

In Don’t Speak, Tiffany who prepares for auditions is at the stage of preparation before she reveals herself. After intensive preparations, Tiffany who begins to reveal herself in front of others overpowers the audience with her heavy makeup, dark outfit that reveals her lines, and intense stares.

 

Tiffany possesses gentle eyes and a lovely smile, yet with her distinct complexion and bold body lines, she gives off a strong impression if she wishes to. At the beginning of her career, Tiffany’s style was centred around being bright and lovely, but as the years went by, her style became more intense and daring. Bold details such as red dress and dark eyelines were added to Tiffany’s style, and the boldness easily and naturally became Tiffany’s new charm.

 

In the End, It’s All Tiffany

Tiffany as a girl possesses an innocent beauty. On the other hand, Tiffany as a woman and a solo artist voices herself and actively shows off her sex appeal. New looks and new images can be easily unnoticed because of being overshadowed by pre-existing images. They can also be considered as contradictions that seem illogical. However, for Tiffany who listened to her inner voice and diligently worked hard to continue moving forward, her new looks and images are not self-contradicting. Rather, it was a record of her consistent growth.

 

When directed by art director Heejin Min, she strived to create an immature and passive image of Tiffany to easily appeal to the public. However, when Tiffany directed her own image, she showed off her duality by showcasing both her gentle and bold sides at the same time, and portrayed her own story of own growth and progression.

 

Wouldn’t consistent growth be a keyword to describe Tiffany as an artist? Wouldn’t this be where Tiffany is headed towards?

 

Aside from visual directing, Tiffany tirelessly worked to become a leading artist in many aspects. She became the first Girls’Generation member to have her own song in an official album. The song, as expected of a work that passed a highly selective judging process of SM Entertainment, was at the level comparable to other well-known song writers. Just like that, Tiffany exceeded my expectations yet again. On top of her own song, her choice of songs and excellent vocals yielded her very positive reviews, and allowed a new glimpse into an artist named Tiffany. Her collaboration with Far East Movement further reaffirmed my belief.

 

What does Tiffany want to become at the end of her non-stopping growth? To become an artist who can produce all of her own songs like her role model, BoA? To become a successful fashion businesswoman like Victoria Beckham? Tiffany saw her biggest dream of being a solo artist come true. It was done extremely successfully as well. Considering that, it is understandable why she was unsure of where to head after the release of her first album, as she stated in the interview with Marie Claire. Tiffany needs to discover a new path for herself. Whether it is acting, or achieving more things as a singer, I will await excitedly.

 

Girls’ Generation and Tiffany has always exceeded my expectations. Before I knew it, my dreams have started to walk with their future.


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