Note: if you make it through the entire video (with SOUND ON, people) I will VenMo you a dollar. That’s a promise.
What do you get when you mix cultural appropriation with lyrics written by a 13-year-old? The answer is probably a lot of songs from contemporary pop, but most ridiculous among them is possibly “Slingshot,” by the Danish Boris Laursen. “Slingshot” was recommended for review by a close friend – how this friend came upon it is between him and his god.
We must first acknowledge and dismiss the enormous disparity between what Boris imagines this song to be (besides good), and what it actually is. In promoting it on social media, Boris has several times referred to or tagged “Slingshot” as K-pop – or Korean pop, a genre of pop music from South Korea that has skyrocketed to international popularity over the last decade.
This is, of course, as untrue as it is offensive. Boris is quite obviously not Korean – he’s Danish.The actress in the video is Thai. The very first line of the song is “Hey, chica.” The chorus involves the repeated nonsensical greeting, “Kon nichi nichi wah” (which, while technically Japanese, means literally nothing). He proclaims repeatedly that he wants “a belly dancer.” Boris’ need to label a song that has absolutely nothing to do with Korea as “K-pop” is confounding, but his appropriation of every culture the video does invoke is pretty par for the course as far as white pop stars are concerned. Especially a white pop star who thinks this Vine isn’t a crime against humanity:
Since I am physically incapable of providing an objective criticism of the cultural elements of the video, we must instead turn to its more subtle themes. “Slingshot” attempts to tell the story of sexual conquest, the slingshot representing the single-minded way in which Boris targets his object of desire. But this exhibitionist music video tells instead a story of self-absorption, of a vanity that is perhaps made inevitable by modern technology.
The video opens with a sequence of Thai model and actress Miu Niyomsilpchai getting out of a car, walking up some stairs, and dragging a baseball bat along the wall in the process. Her demeanor and attire paint her not as male-fantasy object, but rather her own sort of predator – she wears sunglasses, which allow her to look without being observed in kind. Crouching at the top of the stairs is a bizarrely dressed Boris, whose ornate black headdress is at once leonine and birdlike. Despite the effort to make him look predatory, Boris remains the object on display here. In an anticlimactic exchange, the woman hands Boris the baseball bat and continues walking down the hallway, like this is just another fake-Korean Tuesday.
When Boris begins to sing – or, more accurately, speak rhythmically – the scene ends, and we are transported to a blank white canvas, where Boris stands, clad only in tight jeans. If I had to describe his look, it’d be “actor in a gay cowboy porno,” but perhaps there’s a better way to capture it in Danish. The viewer is gifted with closeups of his buttery abs, strange low-budget effects wherein his eyes turn green, and occasional cuts of his smiling face appearing out of nowhere. The most jarring disconnect between video and song content occurs when he says, “Baby show me what you got,” and the corresponding image is two Borises: one closeup of his midsection on the left, another full-body shot to the right. The resulting effect is that of a Boris who is admiring himself from afar, who perhaps wants to see what he himself has got.
We don’t actually see another human until the chorus kicks up.* When Boris declares his want for a belly dancer, the actress reappears in an elaborate, haute-couture getup. While the lyrics demand that she “shake that ass and let me see the slingshot,” she opts instead to strike a few static poses. She challenges the male gaze, producing an image opposite to that of Boris’ stated desires. I would call this enlightened but for the very little that belly dancing, ass shaking, and slingshots have in common.
In the second verse, Boris-ness intensifies. He appears in double, in triple, in a legion of replication. He wears a transparent jacket, a leather jacket, a plastic screen over his face bearing his name in that obnoxious faux-Asian lettering. It’s a smorgasBoris. He even appears once again in his gay cowboy outfit, holding a phone in front of his face, serenading his own reflected image. Shots of him selfying are interspersed with what we must assume is the footage he has captured, symbols from a smartphone screen sloppily pasted onto the frame. This added layer of media asserts that not only is the song truly about Boris, but it is about Boris knowing that it is about Boris.
Amidst all of this, there are just a few truncated shots of Miu in a neon wig, and a Danish dancer whose face is concealed by a strange muslin sack. The focus rests entirely on Boris and his greased-up midsection. “Slingshot” may, ostensibly, be a song about a beautiful woman (and I really can’t say – the lyrics are more often than not incomprehensible), but the video is about Boris and his muscles. The jarring conflict between both half-conceived narratives reveals a theme of self-obsession and an inverted gaze, where a young Dane on the prowl is more concerned with how he appears to his targets than the targets themselves.
We can applaud Boris and the video’s director, Emil Mkrttchian, for rising above the standard practice of female objectification, but let’s be real: even though it’s almost 4 minutes of watching a harmless blond guy lip sync, it still manages to creep you the hell out.
* The chorus, incidentally, carries my favorite lyrics of the whole song: “That girl is one of a kind, that girl is one in a million, that girl is one in a million.” Boris sings her praises and calls her unique, but then he seems to change his mind. The girl goes from being one of a kind to about 6,000 of a kind. Far be it from Boris to oversell this chick.