Last year, South Korea was overrun by some great new music, and some of that music came with beautifully shot music videos that had the KultScene team enthralled. So here we present our best K-pop music videos of 2017.
“Goodbye” by 2NE1
From the standpoint of my emotional attachment to 2NE1, this video, the group’s last, is still difficult for me to watch. At first glance it is easily the group’s darkest music video, filmed entirely in black and white. Starting with CL arising on a bed of roses and candles, she passes in front of projections of past music videos, concert footage, and photoshoots. Most notable is the inclusion of Minzy in the video clips, not as a passing member but sometimes as the sole focus of the video, despite the fact that she wasn’t included in the song at all and had previously left the group before the group disbanded. The visuals remain equally depressing throughout as Dara sits on a staircase full of candles, and passing shadows of Bom eventually materialize into her appearance in the second chorus.
Every depiction of group activity, from bowing at concerts to smiling for pictures, is a painful and evocative shot for fans watching. It grows even more painful when one tries to interpret the video’s abstract stylings such as Dara’s veil, the shiny curtains, etc. as having some sort of deep meaning about the group’s disbandment or future.
The most striking moment of the video, however, is the last second, when the three of them lay together on a bed, Bom and Dara cuddled around leader CL in the group’s final shot together. As a Blackjack, I’m thankful that, despite all the scandals and confusion leading up to disbandment, at least 2NE1 dropped a high-quality, gut-wrenching final video for fans to reflect on before the members went their separate ways.
“Hands Up” by B.A.P
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “hands up”? For some, it could mean to have fun, like when the DJ at the club or event tells everyone to put their hands up. For others, this phrase can make them tremble in fear, like being held up. Fortunately, unlike the negative perception that surrounds this phrase, B.A.P’s recent comeback with title track “Hands Up” off of their 8th single album Ego, is about shooting for the stars and living out that dream you’ve been dreaming about. The music video starts off with the camera pointed at the blue skies up above, panning down at member Himchan as he raises his hand. To have him be the face we all see at the beginning of the music video, with hand raised, actually makes a lot of sense considering the fact that he’s usually the first member at a B.A.P concert to tell the audience to put their hands up.
To help correlate the lyrics “Ayo, believe in yourself this moment, put your hands up to the sky toward your dream, hands up” it’s no wonder a lot of the choreography had various hands up movements for each verse. There’s a sense of empowerment everytime they lifted their hands up pointing towards the sky, to never back down and to strive towards whatever it is you want to achieve in life. B.A.P usually doesn’t have this many dancers in their music videos but it was a pleasant change, especially since it gave the video a “this is my squad and we’re going to live it up” type of arua. Aside from the 8 second (and very unnecessary) intro that TS Entertainment always puts at the beginning of every B.A.P music video, “Hands Up” is a reminder to everyone, no matter how old, to break free of whatever stigma that might be holding you back and to fight for your freedom. Let this be the new anthem to inspire.
“Power” by EXO
While the song itself might leave something to be desired, the music video is anything but. Replete with self-deprecating humor and Easter eggs, it is a fresh tongue-in-cheek change of pace from the usual deadpan concepts we are used to seeing from EXO. The melodramatic opening is a jab at the phalanges-curling “Mama” introduction, which then flips to a scene of elves on a far-out planet, a beckon to a segment the boys have done before at their EXO’rdium concerts. The narrator leafs through more pages of the comic book of a video, skipping past references to their parallel universe teaser and “Love Me Right” era, until we arrive at the appropriate page, a strip that has the members wrestling against a robot with one of Dr. Octopus’s mechanical appendages. The rest is straight out of a sci-fi action film, with every cut as busy and entertaining as the last. Nothing must have came cheap. The modish 3D animations vibe well with the 2D Cartoon Network-esque artwork, while the random transitions amidst all this to toys, falling orbs, kittens, and Power Ranger sequences are imaginative and kitschy. The editing and production value is by far one of the best K-pop’s ever seen. It’s really nice to know that at least all that EXO money is being put to a good use.
And then there’s the ending. Following the members’ show of superpowers (yes, one final nod to the pre-debut EXO lore we all hate to love), the convivial tone takes an abrupt turn for the dark and mysterious. Baekhyun falls out of the sky and into a body of water, looking suffocated and dazed. It seem like it could be a preview to something for “Sweet Lies” off of the same THE WAR: The Power of Music album, but until this cliffhanger is explained, the music video does not really have any closure. In the meantime, we can only settle on the fan theories.
“Lip & Hip” by HyunA
HyunA isn’t afraid to be herself and come out with a funny concept while remaining true to her aesthetics that she’s been showing us in her solo career. The music video for “Lip & Hip” is full of sexual innuendos and double meanings that had some viewers laughing out loud and other ones gasping and thinking to themselves, “Is this video going to get banned in Korean TV?”. HyunA owns her sensuality in a very sexy and smart way on this music video. Even if she flashes her cleavage or her derriere it doesn’t seem vulgar. “Lip & Hip” is one of those videos that if you pause it you can literally find really cool references and little well thought details that were created by amazing art direction. One really good example of this is when HyunA is sitting in the toilet, if you pause it and take a look around you’ll see how with every little detail they are defying what society thinks of femininity and how a woman should look. Once again HyunA slays us with one her funniest music videos and gives us a little to think about without really putting it on our face. Yes that was pun intended.
“Limitless” (Rough ver.) by NCT 127
As K-pop seemed to take a break from story driven music videos this year, it was a great time for groups to have some fun with the more cliched video styles. Nobody did this better than NCT 127 with the rough version of “Limitless.” It’s a grand song about connecting across the entire world, becoming a limitless version of yourself. Instead of supplementing this idea, the music video completely undermines it. It’s contained in one derelict setting, the members wear tracksuits and other odd clothes as they mess about with basically no point to anything. They start lip syncing in a shot and then stop to chew gum, they pose like gorillas, and stare blankly at the camera. Adding to that, it’s partially shot with an actual low quality camera and seemingly edited by a child who just learned how to use a computer. That’s not to say it’s all a big mess though. It is in fact so deliberate to border on genius. It feels like they’re making fun of the grandiose and silly videos of the other boy groups of the day namely BTS, Infinite, and EXO. As if they had to make an epic video with no budget and somehow ended up with the best postmodern K-pop video in history.
Also on KultScene: 25 best K-pop songs of 2017
“I Smile” by DAY6
The song on its own would have been emotional enough, but this beautiful music video greatly enhanced it. Sungjin truly impressed with his acting in this video, especially since he could only do it with his expressions. He was shocked at first when he saw his ex listening to him perform, then showed through his expression that he was accepting how she had moved on and was with another guy, and finally a painful smile to show that he was happy for her. He embodied the song perfectly. I loved the way the music video built up to a climax along with the song, where at the final chorus the female lead smiles for the first time in the whole video, and the video brightens up along with the instrumentals. It was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, which was perfect for this bittersweet song.
“Lonely” by SISTAR
Sometimes it’s not so much about the music video itself, it’s about the context that provides meaning to it. The disbandment of SISTAR caught everyone off guard, since they definitely weren’t lacking vitality to survive between the newer acts. “Lonely” was their goodbye, and the music video for this mellow pop ballad was a touching metaphor of their trajectory not only as SISTAR, the successful group, but as Hyolyn, Soyou, Bora and Dasom, the human beings. Even in spite of SISTAR being one of the biggest chart-topping girl groups in K-pop, what was emphasized in the visuals for “Lonely” was the ladies’ success in staying friends and being there for each other. After all, just like becoming relevant in a competitive scene is an impressive achievement, keeping good friendships for so many years in this environment is not easy either.
With a trip to Macau as a background, the music video shows a series of cute moments of the four ladies having fun together, but also being introspective and sometimes reflecting on their own. There were punctual little moments that allude to significant aspects of their history, like a scene of Hyolyn and Soyou taking a picture together, with Bora and Dasom in the background trying to make an appearance (a probable metaphor for the fact that Hyolyn and Soyou, the outstanding vocalists, received more praise than the other ladies). But what’s sweeter about those moments is that they were always followed by others when the group is complete and happy. Even when Bora is swimming alone in a pool, she afterwards found out that the other girls are behind her, watching her all the time. Even when Hyolyn, Soyou and Bora are driving and Dasom is left behind (a probable metaphor for the fact that Dasom was the least popular member), Dasom doesn’t seem rejected; she is laughing and having fun with it; and later we see them all together again. It’s for little things like this that “Lonely” is the type of music video that can make you smile and cry at the same time.
If you were a fan of SISTAR, it will bring you beautiful memories and warm your heart with all those details of the group’s dynamic. If you weren’t a fan, it will certainly touch you too, as you will be reminded that everything comes to an end, and when it happens, what’s worth remembering is the impressions you left on those you love, and vice-versa. And, for both, it’s safe to say “Lonely” is always going to be remembered as one of the most significant disbandment music videos ever.
“Dream In A Dream” by Ten
While most K-pop songs are created with a music video as an afterthought, the relationship between Ten‘s “Dream In a Dream” and the video is different: the song serves as a dedicated soundtrack to the glorious performance-focused video. There’s something innately magical about the brightly-hued aesthetics of this music video, with a vibrant, ambient colorscape that emulates an animated dreamstate. Blending traditional and modern choreography styles together, the video focuses on Ten’s expressive physicality, highlighting his delivery of the dance moves and his facial expressions. There are three different dance scenes primarily featured throughout the video: one featuring Ten in all white surrounded by backup dancers, a second where he is performing a highly-stylized courtship dance, and a third where he is on his own, as if the other two segments are part of his solo dreams. There’s surely some deeper meaning in “Dream In A Dream” than is obvious to my unartistic eye, but even at its most basic understanding it is a magnificent piece of K-pop visual artwork that is worthy of praise.
“Peek-A-Boo” by Red Velvet
In a time when the cool girl concept for K-pop girl groups is nothing but a memory, Red Velvet pulled through with their last comeback of the year and cemented their position as that b*tch. “Peek-A-Boo” is a cutesy, boppy song, but the music video told a grimmer story. Decked out in amazing outfits, the girls lured a pizza delivery boy into their house with their charms and looks and pretty much killed him for sport — and implied they had been doing it to more than a few. Music video plots are rare in K-pop, especially with SM Entertainment, making “Peek-A-Boo” stand out even more so. The girls all looked sickening and completely owned the roles they were playing. Red Velvet has proven they’re not above a bit of wickedness in their music videos (I mean they did all try to kill each other on “Russian Roulette”). With “Peek-A-Boo” though, they’re taking the infantilized imagery that both audiences and, initially, their company projected onto them and pretty much destroying them. Whether the group pursues less cute concepts moving forward is still up in the air, we’ll always have Yeri hunting down the boy with an bow gun.
“L O O K” by DIA BCHCS
Like NCT, DIA BCHCS (a sub-unit of DIA containing Yebin, Chaeyeon, Huihyun, Somyi, and Eunice) took a classic music video formula and made it weird. “L O O K” is half Friends-inspired sitcom half 80s music video. Directing team OGG Visual uses tropes from both, and adds modern takes to each, adding vapour wave and a Twitter style confessional shot, to tell the meta story of how all the members hate Chaeyeon because she’s beautiful and popular. In a cruel turn however, Chaeyeon is still the main character and she plays it with relish. Her blank angelic face is a wonderful palette for all kinds of expressions. The best of which comes at the beginning as she smiles alongside the first synth wail. It’s a catalogue of great Chaeyeon expressions. Newest member Somyi is the other standout as she hams it up at every chance. Her face at the opening couch shot is the best mix of awkwardness and cuteness I’ve ever seen. Her excessive blinking is just right.
“Move” by Taemin
One of the best songs of 2017 wouldn’t deserve less than one of the best music videos as well. The photography of “Move” is beautiful, the urban scenarios are amazing; everything is incredibly well designed to lay emphasis on the alluring presence of Taemin as he seduces us with a mature, sophisticated, brave, sexy performance that defies gender stereotypes. The main vehicle for it is the choreography, beautifully and intelligently created to draw attention to Taemin’s thin body line, that elegantly moves as if it’s guided by a strong yet subtle energy that does not present any signs of commitment to neither a masculine or feminine concept. Taemin and choreographer Koharu Sugawara have said that it really was their intention to make something mysterious and appealing by blending both masculine or feminine movements, and dear Lord, they made it.
It’s impossible to blink when Taemin moves his hips in the chorus; it’s so slow but so intense. It takes a lot of confidence to use body language with so much control; and his firm, mesmerizing gaze during the whole time in “Move” shows that he knows what he’s doing, he’s absolutely aware of his sex appeal and of the amount of energy that is being carefully discharged through the alternation of languid and powerful moves. Let’s make it clear, though, that when we say he’s in control, it’s not because there is something to be manipulated or hidden; instead, it seems that Taemin is exploring all the possibilities of himself, completely unafraid of being labelled in regards to his sexuality or gender. And again, we say: you have to be really, really confident to do such thing.
“Lilili Yabbay (The 13th Month’s Dance)” by Seventeen (Performance Unit)
For any true New Yorker, there’s no mistaking the first few seconds of audio at the start of “Lilili Yabbay (The 13th Month’s Dance).” From the chattering to the honking horns to the squealing of the traffic, this is is New York City at its finest. (Or not, depending on how you feel about Brooklyn.) And laying there, on a gross, disgusting, New York City sidewalk that nobody should ever lay down on, are the four members of Seventeen‘s performance team in white outfits straight out of a contemporary dance class. But, New Yorker-bias aside, this music video in its aqua-filtered hues is one of the most glorious dance performance videos that K-pop’s ever seen. The videography follows the fluid motions of the dancers, zooming in and out in rocky motions to emphasize each key point of the dance as the quartet moves in ways that make the viewer question both the abilities of the human body and the limitations of gravity. It’s sensual and passionate while all at once overflowing on screen with a sense of classical grace; crotchgrabs and grinding are countered by smooth motions, as the four move as one and as individual entities. Seventeen’s choreography is always impressive, but it is hard not to be awestruck by the presentation of “Lilili Yabbay.”
“All Night (Clean Ver.)” by Girls’ Generation
“All Night” captures Girls’ Generation at their 10th anniversary prime, enjoying a girls’ night out together as girls who have been friends for longer than ten years would do. From the video’s first shot, the girls’ sequined outfits and the hazy, colored disco lights set the song in a retro dance-party, matched by the song’s retro-influenced instrumentals. Like any great GG MV, the video flashes between shots of choreography (which, for this song, is surprisingly unique and complex). But unlike “The Boys” or “Lion Heart,” the camera at times takes the role of another guest at the party, quickly panning around the setting as a tipsy party goer might. This effect is even utilized in the dance shots, focusing only on one or two members at a time and making full group shots elusive throughout the four-minute video.
This video is one of 2017’s standouts for the simple reason it shows the Nation’s Girl Group do what it does best — dance, sing, laugh, and wear beautiful, shiny outfits. With unique choreography and styling, “All Night” is simultaneously the quintessential Girls’ Generation video and an innovation on their previous work. But most importantly, it makes me want to meet up with them for a night on the town.
Also on KultScene: K-Pop Unmuted: 2017 Awards – Part 1
“Teenager” by GOT7
“Teenager” showcases GOT7’s youth and playful side with laid back choreography as they dance with relaxed smiles on their faces. The simplicity of the set and mellow choreography made it all the more fun to watch. There’s no noisy background or flashy props to take away from the members just having some good ole fun, to which you can see they truly enjoyed themselves. When member Youngjae sang this line “I don’t know why I’m like this when I’m with you. I’m so excited, everything seems fresh to me,” with that big ole grin and joy oozing out of his eyes, you could tell that he (and the other members) could relate to those words. Whether the feelings came from previous dating experiences or even with a family member or friend who truly makes you feel like you’re on the top of the world. Just like anyone else out there, idol or not, one of the best feelings you could ever ask for and receive is pure bliss, and that’s what “Teenager” showed.
GOT7’s ability to go from back and mid air flips “Girls Girls Girls” to an intense choreo full of angst and emotion “If You Do” to something so chill as “Teenager” shows their versatility and development through the last four years. Of course it wouldn’t be a GOT7 video if there wasn’t any dabbing involved, although minor usage compared to their live performances but I’ll let this one slide though, considering the rest of the music video was delightful and charming.
“Spring Day” by BTS
I was first enthralled by BTS’s live performance of this song, but the music video ended up leaving such a strong impression on me. It wasn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it was beautifully shot and well thought out, with some subtle (and others not so subtle) references made to movies and books, like Snowpiercer and Omelas, which added layers to the video. These gave rise to a lot of fan theories about the meaning behind the music video, which were interesting to consider and made the viewing experience more enjoyable to watch (or examine). There were many scenes that resonated with me in particular, such as Jungkook joining the crowd running around him (3:23) or Jimin holding a pair of shoes in front of a tree (5:08). These scenes spoke to me about conforming to society, about being left alone, about loss. And whether or not this video was meant to be this symbolic or not doesn’t matter because of the emotions it evokes, accompanied by this very meaningful song.
“Will You Go Out With Me” by DIA
The best kinds of music videos do not need high production, big budgets, or fancy effects, and “Will You Go Out With Me” by DIA proves exactly that. Taken from the streets of Tokyo, it follows Chaeyeon — the group’s natural main character succeeding her appearance on Produce 101 and participation in the now disbanded I.O.I — as she roams the city and coyly messages “oppa.” Fortunately, the rather trite plot views less like an accompaniment to a song than it does a tourism campaign for the busy capital, which plays into a strength considering how the romantic, scenic backdrops of nighttime metropolis can translate to love in a strange city. The deliberate shots of ramen, cherry blossoms, railroad crossings, and claw games are all definitely attempts at capturing Japanese culture for their exotic value, but since they are also done so in a way that makes them picturesque, this furthers giving the music video depth while giving the country its free promo. The dreamy purplish filter might have something to do with this, and so might the gloomy aesthetics of the world still wet after a refreshing rainfall. It’s altogether the kind of moody and wistful that will have viewers longing for a place they have never been to on the basis of how the colors interact or on the potential of an intertextual reading alone.
“Dinosaur” by AKMU
Starting with their teasers that were full of mystery and reminded us of posters from Netflix series “Stranger Things,” AKMU let everyone know their inspiration for their music video. When the MV for “Dinosaur” was released we were able to confirm their inspirations but we also got to see other references from cult movies like Spirited Away and vintage mythical legends like the Loch Ness monster. The track itself already made us feel like we were listening to a score from a movie, but accompanied with the music video everything fitted perfectly. The MV is a little short film that depicts a dream that Chan Hyuk said he had and when onto create this track and music video. But if you instigate closer and knowing AKMU’s brothers past family financial difficulties, the meaning of the video turns a lot darker, with many fan theories out there about what the “Dinosaur” music video really means. The video is accompanied by a beautiful cinematography, a beautiful color correction, CGI creatures, and amazing drone shots that follow the brothers in their cute little story that created one of AKMU’s most memorable videos to date.
“Don’t Know You” by Heize
Part of Heize’s allure is her overall aesthetic. From her music, to her fashion, she just screams dope girl. And now, her music videos are following suit, namely “Don’t Know You.” The concept centered around 14 ways to, mind the misspelling, “loose your teddy bear,” which is really just how to get back at your former flame. The ex-boyfriend in question is a huge teddy bear, which Heize beats, throws tennis balls at, kidnaps, shoots, and pretty much anything abusive you can think about. Though the actual execution of the plot is a bit wonky, it doesn’t take away from the fashion, the photography, and the originality. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it turns out this jerk teddy bear is played by SHINee’s Onew. Heize is an up and coming artist, and with songs and music videos as amazing as “Don’t Know You,” we can bet she’ll be a household name in no time.
What was your K-pop music video of 2017? Let us know what you think of this list in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.