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Halfway into their new music video for “Mouldy Beauty,” Julie Rens and Sasha Vovk tie Brussels’ top MC to a chair while he sings about how he likes his women to look. Wearing nothing but a leopard bathrobe and boxer shorts, Zwangere Guy struggles to objectify while attempting to break free, providing comic relief in the form of a revenge fantasy that plays into the video’s overall message.
Using a distortion effect that processes each face into the next, “Mouldy Beauty” quite literally shows women changing into gross caricatures of themselves, symbolizing the unnecessary changes women make to appear attractive to others. It’s a technique that fits well with the lyrics, “see what I’ve become to please you,” and the duo's steadfast dedication to women empowerment.
“'Mouldy Beauty' is about the woman,” says Rens, who, with Vovk makes up the duo Juicy. “Women doing operations and surgeries to please men when [really they] don’t need to change themselves to be attractive.”
This self-affirming, love-the-skin-you’re-in mantra echoes the body positivity and natural beauty campaigns in America, which, after several years, feels like the new way of life rather than the movements they began as. That way of thinking, while definitely a hot topic, hasn’t fully jumped across the pond just yet, as Rens and Vovk strive to make their voices heard in Brussels, where they're from.
“Cast A Spell” — also the name of the last song of the EP — is all about women and their positions in society. The album's lyrics range from playful to serious — and topics like sexual transgressions and reproductive health are not off limits. “Count Our Fingers Twice” is a phallic manhunt between two evil twins that literally ends in a celebration of "ovary power."
Though the songs run deep, Rens and Vovk made it clear that their feminism is not high-handed nor meant to torture men — even if one is tied up in their video.
“Women and men have to be equal but we don’t want to generate hate,” says Rens. “[music] is a good way to talk about what is happening now. We want to say ‘calm down and keep it cool’ without going into the hate. Our EP is about women and feminism but with humor.”
Humor is what actually jump started the duo’s success in the first place. Both daughters of artists (Rens’ parents are musicians and Vovk’s are actors), the two met at The Royal Conservatory of Brussels seven years ago and became good friends. Both loved singing so when a friend approached them in 2016 to perform in his exhibition, Rens and Vovk had an idea.
“We took songs from the 90s that were really sexist and did them in a funny way to give them new meaning,” they explain. Songs like 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” and Usher’s “Yeah!” when set to different instruments and their unique sound “gave it new meaning as a woman,” said Rens. After their buzzed-about act, Rens and Vovk received requests to perform the covers at private parties and bars, and started doing so regularly until last year when they decided to sit down and write something of their own.
The result was a fiery album with songs that challenge conventional norms about what it means, and should mean, to be a woman today. Their sound, a retro-futuristic blend of hip-hop and R&B, is a good fit for the girl power lyrics that are catchy, moving, and modern.
Watch the full video for “Mouldy Beauty,” below, and listen to the rest of the album on Spotify now.
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