I just watched the new Tooji Video, as it appeared from five different news outlets on my Facebook timeline with headlines like ‘Hot Pop Star Comes Out’ and ‘Tooji Upsets Church with New Video’.
Now, I like Tooji. I downloaded ‘Stay‘, his Eurovision entry, the moment I heard it, and have been following him ever since. I liked the message he was putting out through his music and really liked his Love Yourself (LYS) song and video.
I think I always took for granted that he was gay, in the same way that people sometimes assume that I am gay upon meeting me. It is the lack of trying to hide it, of acting naturally, and being oneself. So, for me, when he came out elicited a ‘oh, was he not out already?‘ response, same as when Mika did the same.
The reason why this specific video stuck out for me was that it is a big departure from his usual style. It is an all or nothing gesture – either I will be in the closet and adopt a super friendly, non hetero-threatening image, or I will go to the other extreme of in-your-face hypersexualisation. It appeared to me constructed to attract attention, with all the Madonna tried and tested ingredients of sex and Catholic Church mingling to grab headlines.
In no way do I mind the sex or am I prudish. I just think that in this case, it is a hit and miss. The imagery steals from the impactful lyrics, and in my opinion cheapens the song. Something is not artistic because of a black and white filter, and the scenes in which he gyrates topless made me think of how his younger fans will feel seeing this. Tooji has an active young fan base, and the departure from the happy Europop songs to quite graphically simulated sex is quite a leap; it makes me wonder what it conveys to the young gay male audience that is first introduced to a gay pop star by seeing him in an ultrasexualised depiction, with the message that ‘sex sells so when I was in the closet I had one look, but now I am straddling a priest in the middle of congregation cause that’s how I roll‘.
I can reference other black and white videos that explore the same themes: Woodkid‘s ‘I Love you‘ takes place in a church and talks about a forbidden love with painful panache; Hercules and the Love Affair featuring John Grant ‘I Try To Talk to You‘ depict a heart wrenching gay romance without ever cheapening it; even more famously, Hosier‘s ‘Take Me to Church‘ is a mesh of the two, with a powerful criticism of organised religion’s intolerance coupled with an emotionally engaging storytelling that transcends gender.
I understand that the decision to make the video must have factored in a lot of different angles, so there is no judgement on my part. I am really looking forward to seeing his next video, and seeing how he decides to move his career forward. I really hope that by breaking free from one closet, he has not pushed himself in another.
For now I will leave you with these songs videos that are as magnificent as their videos.