As artists and idealized performers, SHINee, Macklemore, One Direction, and A$AP Rocky each display image(s) of masculinity. From wholesome imagery of young men such as One Direction in sailor outfits to SHINee’s glam and more androgynous look, representations of masculinity resonate throughout their musical videos. While the artists and the lyrics to each song contribute to ideas of masculinity, the set design and choice of outfits for each music video helps enhance each artist’s performance of masculinity.
SHINee‘s “Lucifer” video perhaps represents the least masculine tone (from a typical American audience). Although there are certainly examples of American artists who share similar attributes to SHINee such as Adam Lambert, most Americans have not seen boyband groups that dress like SHINee. Yet while elements of more feminine exist with one of the band member’s long hair and all of artists wearing makeup, the music video of five guys singing clearly exudes masculinity. The backdrop to the singing and dancing, especially, presents a very masculine tone that would be recognizable to an American’s eye. Knowing the actual lyrics might help in discussing the location of the video, but nevertheless the three stylish sports cars and the black, generic industrial layout feel very masculine. Quite different to Taylor Swift’s backdrop of Paris, considered a more feminine city, the setting to “Lucifer” is dark, bold and flashy.
A similar minimalist set appears in A$AP Rocky‘s music video, although perhaps more is done to differentiate masculine and feminine action. Whenever one of the male artists raps, the background is simple, usually a dark color, no props, and most importantly has a spotlight on the singer. Besides the rare frames of a woman “dancing” near a guy, many of the scenes featuring a women are shot from different angles compared to the men (distorting the woman’s body or accentuating certain parts), there is no spotlight or at least not one to show her face and sometimes there are props. Lighting for the video helps to create a stark contrast between man/woman and perhaps masculine/feminine. The male artists can always be seen with what they are saying and doing, whereas when the women dance or rather grind much of their body is out of the spotlight. Additionally, several scenes show a woman laying on a couch or slowly humping a metal bench. While the women are hypersexualized through their body movements and selective lighting with tight clothing, the men in the more dominant role stand up and are illuminated.
Macklemore‘s “Thrift Shop,” while introducing more complex scenery than SHINee and A$AP still showcase similar representations of masculinity. While more people seem to laugh at Macklemore’s video and show less offense when viewing “F***kin Problems,” the masculine traits in A$AP’s video of dominance and ego still remain. The Delorean driving up the road inserts a typical symbol of masculinity: cool cars. And then Macklemore entering a bar/dance scene with the line of “Walkin’ to the club like what up I got a big cock” introduces masculinity immediately. Not many lines help showcase masculinity more than “I got a big cock,” a defining feature to some in order to be masculine. Later in the video Macklemore is shown in some area of the thrift store in a onesie and coonskin hat. While these may represent more of a boy’s masculinity, the batman symbol on the fabric and the popular hat with young boys show typically male costume.
Lastly, One Direction‘s “Kiss You” music video continue to show idealized or popular images of masculinity. Again cars and this time, a motorcycle, are present in the video and continue the connection of good looking cars with men. The beach scene with the band in Hawaiian t-shirts and then dressed in sailor suites showcase strong images of masculinity. The scene with One Direction wearing Hawaiian shirts and leis gave off a very strong memory of Beach Boys for me and helped create a more wholesome sense of masculinity. In the same attitude of Taylor Swift’s imagery of virginity with femininity, One Direction’s music video showcases less a super sexual masculinity, but rather qualities such as being good looking and approachable. The band members in sailor uniforms furthers this theme of a iconic male figures. Whether the smiling-lei wearing surfer or a young sailor on shore leave, both contribute to popular views of masculinity or roles that exemplify masculinity.