In a new YouTube video on his channel, Dare U Naeju, NCT‘s long-time hair stylist Park Naeju explained that “Make a Wish (Birthday Song)”‘s visual concept was inspired by Middle Eastern folklore.
According to Park Naeju, tales like The Adventures of Sinbad and Aladdin formed the basis of the “Make a Wish” concept. Both stories are found in 1001 Arabian Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folktales written in Arabic. The character Sinbad the Sailor hails from Baghdad, Iraq, while Aladdin comes from the fictional Arabian kingdom of Agrabah in recent versions of the tale.
The stylist went on to explain that the first concept image the visual team came up with for Taeyong was that of a snake charmer. In turn, this inspired Park Naeju to add turbans to Taeyong’s hairstyle. The styling team sewed several turbans together to “maximize the volume“, adding curls to his hair to prevent the style from looking “too dull“.
The first image of him was the cobra coming out of a pot along with a pipe playing and I wished someone would wear a turban.
— Park Naeju
As for Lucas, the rapper’s hairstyle was inspired by Aladdin‘s genie. In the Disney animated and live action movies, the genie character has a ponytail, which the styling team tried to recreate on Lucas. They used hair pieces in multiple colors, then added safety pins for more texture.
While Park Naeju talked positively about the team’s style decisions, many fans recently criticized “Make a Wish” for cultural appropriation and insensitivity. Aside from the styling, fans noted that the music video and stage sets looked very similar to the architecture of Islamic mosques—particularly the archways. During one stage, NCT U’s backdrop also featured text from a sacred Muslim prayer.
Because no one is talking about this, if you still don't know, nct today displayed a sentence from a prayer Muslim Shias use, as a part of their stage background and for aesthetic purposes, what happened today at the performance is beyond disrespectful for all Muslims to be clear pic.twitter.com/zwoEs72NFj
— næ ✸ aot 134 (@aotpatriotic) October 25, 2020