I’ve written a fair share about Korean pop and Japanese pop queens over the years. But the Queen of C-Pop™ just returned in the final hours of 2018, so it’s time to take trek over to Taiwan and bow the fuck down.
Jolin Tsai is generally considered the Queen of Chinese Pop for a variety of reasons: she’s been going strong since ’99 (just like a certain other Living Legend, and a certain other First Love – legends only), releasing critically acclaimed albums, garnering international attention, topping the charts and – perhaps most relevant to me and my readership of 12 gays – speaking out as an ally to the LGBTQ community for years. Gay icon? Oh, very much so.
“Ugly Beauty” marks the grand return of Jolin after four long years since 2014’s Play – and, as it turns out, she’s got something to say to the haters, trolls and nay-sayers who’ve been running their mouths in the comments section and fan forums for far too long.
The trap-tinged, beatboxing banger is a self-empowerment anthem done right: it’s full of fiery sass, as opposed to sentimentality. “If you can’t see my beauty, you must be blind,” she matter-of-factly declares. Did she lie?
The point is really driven home by the outstanding music video – undeniably a last minute submission that’ll fuck up all of your “Best Of Music Videos” round-up for 2018. (No, I’m not doing one. Yes, this would be on it if I did.)
Jolin demonstrates all of the ugliness and hypocrisy of society’s Impossible Standards of Beauty in the (ironically gorgeous) visual, opting for the right amount of campy hilarity – vomiting up likes and reaction emojis! The court’s slogan (“In Beauty We Trust”)! – and glossy pop fierceness while tackling critics of her weight in paparazzi photos, her diet, her proportions and everything in between.
Fuckless as can be, Jolin throws a middle finger up (not literally, unfortunately) to the negativity from critics by doubling down on her own beauty and embracing everything she’s been mocked for instead.
Like Taylor Swift mocked the media’s perception of her personas throughout her career with the “Look What You Made Me Do” music video, Jolin’s also tackled the critiques of the community. The video’s actually full of references! Look what you made Jolin do.
The marionette look, for instance, is an homage to her 2006 world tour, the Dancing Forever World Tour, which resulted in GIFs galore after stans poked fun at the choreography and styling.
Then there’s this – a reference to a dress she wore to the 19th Golden Melody Awards in 2008, in which she was mocked for looking like…a squid.
“I used to be called fat, seafood sauce, squid, my facial features were called strange…when I was walking down the street during that time, when people looked at me, I would think that everyone hated me. At that time, although I seemed to be fine on the surface, in fact, my heart was already very unhappy. The cover of the album actually intends to tell everyone that I have overcome this, so you can too, I think I am very brave,” she said during the album’s press conference this week.
It’s both an important, RuPaul’s Drag Race-esque message of self-love after one too many self-esteem diminishing scrolls through Instagram and a fierce pop banger all in one – the best of both worlds, really. Because if you can’t love your embarrassing memes, how in the hell you gonna love anybody else’s?
At the same time, Jolin also dropped her accompanying studio album – also called Ugly Beauty – on Wednesday (December 26), which features a fabulously diverse array of sounds and themes -including “Womxnly,” an ode to Yeh Yung-chih, a teenager who was brutally murdered at school at the age of 15 for being effeminate, as well as powering through the lows of depression (“Life Sucks”) and everything in between.
I’m still processing the whole package (as well as the provocative imagery, which is also A+), but so far, it’s really great.
Now, then: let’s get ugly.
Ugly Beauty was released on December 26. (iTunes)
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