What if I told you that looks are everything? You might recoil at that statement, and wonder why I just randomly came up to you and spouted that sentence, but if you think about it you’ll realize that it’s true. As humans, we place a lot of stock in outward appearance, whether that be physical, social, or academic. We put the accomplished, the beautiful, and the unusual on pedestals, gazing upon their magnificent beauty while the rest of us strive to live up to their ideals. I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about: one glance at a store’s checkout magazine rack will tell you all you need to know about people and the way we view other people.
Modern media doesn’t help much in dissuading these widely-held social myths that your accomplishments determine who you are as a person, but there is a growing number of songs out there that encourage the listener to live life without worrying about how others view them. Songs like “Born That Way” and “Confident” celebrate being one’s own person and listening only to the sound of one’s own drum – within the boundaries of social norms, of course. Can’t be going countercultural and living a godly life or anything, that’s intolerant! Songs like these are where the difference between Asian and Western media truly shine, and that is why in today’s KPOP Friday article, I want to compare and contrasts the song “Just Right” by GOT7 to a well-known tune by the name of “That’s What Makes You Beautiful”, by One Direction.
Out of the two songs we’re discussion today, I think it’s safe to say that 99% of you reading this are more familiar with “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” more than “Just Right”, assuming you’re familiar with “Just Right” at all. Taking the world by storm in 2011, One Direction blew up the music charts almost as soon as they debuted. This song in particular was popular because it went against the grain of most Western songs in that it told its female listeners that they were beautiful no matter what they looked like, and that they were loved. An admirable goal to be sure, especially coming from the sea of appearance-focused, sensually-drenched songs targeted towards tween and teen girls these days. Personally, however, I believe that GOT7 accomplished that goal a lot better in “Just Right”, for several reasons.
The first lines of One Direction’s classic song ring out
Don’t know what for,
You’re turning heads when you walk through the door.
Don’t need make up,
To cover up,
Being the way that you are is enough
It’s a good start, and it addresses the girl’s insecurity head-on. The song tries to give hope through its verses, and goes on to say things like:
Everyone else in the room can see it,
Everyone else but you,
The way you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed,
But when you smile at the ground it ain’t hard to tell,
You don’t know,
You don’t know you’re beautiful
It feels very fun and happy and it seems to deliver a great message, but if you take a closer look at the lyrics, it feels very surface-level. A girl who is feeling anxious about her appearance does want to hear that she doesn’t have to worry, but anyone can tell you that you’re beautiful. When everything around you seems to scream out that you’re not good enough, sometimes it isn’t enough to just tell someone that she’s beautiful, but to address the sources of her anxiety.
This is the approach that GOT7 takes in their opening lyrics, as Jackson sings:
Mirror, mirror please tell her,
Scale, please tell her too
That she doesn’t need to change anything
That she’s pretty and perfect just as she is right now
Right off the bat, the song tackles two of the biggest sources of a girl’s anxiety when it comes to her outward appearance. The way we look and the way our bodies feel tends to have a large impact on the way we view ourselves as people, especially in relation to others. Mark continues this theme as he picks up with the lines:
Just be happy, don’t worry
Don’t look for your flaws,
Instead of the mirror, just look into my eyes
Instead of the scale, just get onto my back
The song seems to be written from the perspective of someone close to the girl being sung to, and thus it feels a lot more personal and supportive than That’s What Makes You Beautiful. BamBam’s lines later on in the song further reinforce this, as he sings:
I’d find a flaw if there was even a flaw that I could see
You dazzle, you have nothing missing
Do you know how pretty you are in my eyes? I want you
Just as you are, you’re the only one.
Again, both songs deliver the same basic message, but the delivery of that message is fundamentally different. Different viewpoints, different points of focus in the songs, all of it works together to create a different feel. The flaw in One Direction’s song is that while it does address the physical appearance, they don’t move on from there at all. They treat the girl as if her insecurities come from herself, and that her concerns aren’t truly justifiable. GOT7 on the other hand addresses her insecurities from the viewpoint of someone close, recognizes the sources of her anxiety, and reassures her that she doesn’t need to feel insecure because she is loved.
Coming from a Christian perspective, Just Right mirrors the way that Christ pursues His Bride, the church, a lot more than That’s What Makes You Beautiful does. Each of us have our own set of personal struggles and anxieties, and it can be hard to reconcile in our heads the image of what a Christian should be as we look at those around us to the way we act and feel about ourselves. From the outside, everyone else seems to have it all together: fighting sin and keeping healthy relationships seems to be easy for everyone else, and yet we still find ourselves struggling.
The struggle is what makes the pursuit so amazing. Christ promises that He will “never desert [us], not will [He] ever forsake [us]” (Heb 13:5), and that “just as the Father loved [Him], [He] has also loved [us]” (Jn 15:9). Like the groom in Song of Solomon, He loves us and desires to be with us. We are made beautiful by Him, and in Him our desires are fulfilled. No matter how often we fall, or how much we struggle.
Can I definitively say that Just Right is a better song than That’s What Makes You Beautiful? No. Art is subjective, and different people will receive different lessons from the same work. While I do believe that GOT7’s approach in Just Right was a lot better, in the end they’re still songs that are meant to uplift. Are they both poppy and somewhat repetitive? Yes. Pop songs generally tend to feel somewhat generic as they are meant to appeal to a wide audience. But their message is one of hope, and love, and personal acceptance; a lesson that we as music fans and Christians can learn from.
And that, in my opinion, is just right.