K-pop is good, but the importance of music videos is what really makes Korean music stand out from other international music scenes. Countless hours are spent creating music videos for K-pop songs, and 2015 did not disappoint. This year had a lot of new, experimental aspects included in K-pop music videos, with more emphasis on cinematography than in past years, while some music videos just surprised us with their unique attitudes. We also saw a lot of groups coming outside their boxy, dance-driven music videos for ones with actual plots or being more interactive. There were many videos to choose from, but we narrowed down our top 20 Korean music videos for you to celebrate the greatness this year brought us and to ring in the new year with the right foot.
20. Super Junior – “Devil”
One day, sometime this year, someone in the SM Entertainment building decide that Super Junior’s members were ready to star in a blockbuster film. After last year’s spaghetti Western-inspired “Mamacita,” “Devil” gives us a smoother, more debonaire Super Junior while still giving the audience a lot to look at and stories to think about. With explosions galore and a mini-film set up for individual members, “Devil” is a bit of a WTF in the best way possible. The film noir elements, the stunts, and the movie posters intercut into the dramatic scenes are new for Super Junior, but not unwelcome for the group, who take their mini-films in dashing sartorial style. With shoot outs, poker matches, and a variety of other cinematic tropes, “Devil” gives the story of a seducing female in a variety of settings and does it in a way that allows viewers to get a bit of individuality from each member before also offering some shower-oriented group dances. Super Junior is first and foremost known for their synchronized dances, and the plot-based music video of “Devil” offers up a taste of that without taking away too much from the fun action of the rest of the video. “Devil” was the first music video celebrating Super Junior’s tenth10th anniversary since debuting, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
19. INFINITE – “Bad” (360 VR)
I loved the original music video of “Bad,” but when INFINITE released this 360 VR, it instantly became my favourite version. It’s not often that K-pop music videos have interactive features and the idea that the viewer can look all around the music video set by simply playing with your mouse or your screen is a really cool one. It enhances the video because we can see sides to it that we are unable to through the original one. Take for example a scene where the INFINITE members are standing in a pink hallway. In the original video, we could only see the member who was singing, but in this VR one, we can also see the other members who are standing in parallel hallways waiting for their turn. It’s a fresh perspective and one that I hope we’ll be able to see more often in future K-pop music videos.
18. BIGBANG – “Let’s Not Fall In Love”
BIGBANG is generally known for having two types of music videos: party-like flashy ones or lonely emotional ones. “Let’s Not Fall In Love” does not fall into either of these categories as it goes for a more subtle and dreamy feeling; from the pastel color scheme of the video to the adorable actions of the members throughout the video. The video complements the somewhat mellow song well too, especially in the choruses, which were more toned down than in normal BIGBANG songs. It’s fun and refreshing to watch the members playing around in the video in contrast to their normal cool and serious images. I mean, how often do we get the chance to watch T.O.P making cute faces?
17. GOT7 – “Confession Song”
GOT7’s music video for their latest holiday song “Confession Song” is as sweet as the title suggests. This has got to be their cutest music video to date, and they’ve had a lot. Despite the reindeer mascots the boys donned, they actually play wingmen and cupid as they go to schools and drag students to a school gym, where they are greeted by their secret admirer. The opening features a hidden camera type cinematography, which enhances the realness factor that is supposed to make the video so heartwarming. What’s even more heartfelt was the fact that the members arrived early to personally decorate the set, transforming a mundane gym into a festive and romantic Christmas wonderland. There’s also a bit of a suspense buildup too; the music cuts off as the masked lovers reveal their identity and confess their feelings to their significant other. The atmosphere becomes very still as we wait for the inevitable reciprocation. Despite whether the acceptances were real or not (it’s hard to say no when a dozen cameras and expectant faces are on you), we still cannot help but celebrate with GOT7 when we hear that “yes.” Just be sure to have a tissue on hand.
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16. Super Junior D&E – “Can You Feel It? (Chok Chok Dance)”
The kings of K-pop dances are back, but with the most unexpected hit of the year. Super Junior’s subgroup comprised of just Donghae and Eunhyuk surprised all of us this year with the music video that literally had the entire KultScene staff dancing. This video has no flashy aspects, it actually looks like it was filmed on a variety of cameras and cellphones, but this all-in-good-fun dance video made us want to shout “JUST GET UP AND DANCE.” The practice video of D&E formally learning the dance and the pair playing with one another with some of the silliest hairstyles they have ever sported make the video seem pretty normal before it turns into Super Junior, SM staff, EXO, BoA, TVXQ, Girls’ Generation, f(x), SHINee, Red Velvet, and just about everyone else dancing any and everywhere. The easy dance moves are upbeat tune are addictive, and the antics shown throughout the video just show D&E, and everyone else in the world, having a fun time. Sometimes, simple is simply the best.
15. Beenzino – “Break”
Do you know what makes a music video truly enjoyable? It’s when you can see the artist having a ball of a time filming it, something that can be clearly seen in Beenzino’s “Break.” This guy is hysterical; everything from his nonchalant facial expressions to his self-body gags. Beenzino is always trying something new; his conceptual styling is different every time, making it the reason why his music is more entertaining than others. His lyrics speak wonders and always have a strong message, as does his music videos. Zino’s an artsy man, with a lot of out of the box ideas, which surely shows considering no one else would probably have filmed a video of them head banging against a wall. The moral of the story was of him breaking out of this shell that others were trying to box him in; he wants to be whoever he wants to be, dream of whatever he wants to dream, all without being told that he can’t. There’s always a silver lining hidden in Beenzino’s music videos, you’ve got to analyze as you watch. On a lighter note, “Break” makes me wonder how many takes it took and/or if those involved died of laughter while filming the less than serious scenes.
14. SHINee – “View”
For the first time in quite some time, SHINee was let out of the SM box only to be kidnapped by a group of fangirls on “View.” Sound familiar? Only because it’s, well, every fangirl’s (cough, cough, saesang) dream to kidnap or rescue our favorite boy band from the greedy hands of their management companies that overwork them in order to give them a much deserved fun-filled day. The music video follows SHINee’s journey — from being chloroformed and taken against their will to developing Stockholm syndrome for their captors to the point of almost getting hot and heavy with them–, giving us an actual plot with scenes of them dancing the choreography at a bar webbed in there. The fact that we got a plot, let alone someone at SM being sadistic mind readers, is a feat in itself, for we’ve grown accustomed to SHINee’s performance videos. Don’t get us wrong, those are awesome too, but “View” is on another level. Moreover, the cinematography, color palette, and styling were all as chill as the song itself, which overall gave us a new and fresh side to the boys that impress with every comeback. SHINee, indeed, never disappoints.
13. DΞΔN x Anderson .Paak – “Put My Hands on You”
For a smooth jam like “Put My Hands on You,” Dean could’ve gone down the road most traveled and given us a generic intimate bedroom music video. But for the sonic masterpiece that this song is, the actual video is anything but. With mesmerizing visuals, the video is more like an R&B video game featuring all the parties involved in the song (including producers Mr. Carmack and esta.). Together with Dean’s enchanting vocals, the music video takes the viewer into a trance, guiding us through colorful waters, vibrant skies, an overall psychedelic paradise. More than explicitly showing Dean and the subject of his infatuation getting freaky, the video is a representation of the emotion and feelings behind the song. “Put My Hands on You” is not just another song with its music video, but a surreal and artistic experience in itself.
12. IU – “Twenty Three”
When you hear that a video might be based on Alice in Wonderland, you might immediately yawn like me. Yet if you were to avoid the video for IU’s “Twenty Three” you would miss out on something so much more than another take on an old story. The video borrows from a number of other surreal sources, like artist Rene Magritte, to tell a story about IU. Thanks to this, it brilliantly portrays the confusion of IU’s transitionary period in becoming an adult. It mirrors the song’s lyrics in increasingly interesting ways from the literal fox and bear moments to the controversial Barbie image. This execution of ideas has created what is probably the most conceptually effective song of the year. From the music video all the way to the lyrics, no one has made such a singular piece in K-pop.
11. Shinhwa – “Sniper”
I don’t know about you, but I’m completely okay with middle aged men dabbing on some eyeliner, especially if it’s being used as a form of expression like in Shinhwa’s “Sniper.” For this music video’s concept, the members opted to go down a rather mysterious and vampy road versus their usual lighter hearted videos. The members displayed a sexy, yet perplexing side of them in “Sniper,” which included a series of rebellion and dark moments. Their gazes are intense and although you’re watching the video through a monitor, it almost feels as if they’re piercing your souls right through the screen. Shinhwa looks classy, sexy. and sleek, like the suave men that they are. Although it’s a bit on the slower side, the choreography for this music video is ultra smooth, so good that it deserves a dance version video. Say what you will, but “Sniper” is simply just another reminder to the viewers and listeners that although they’re in a “boy band,” Shinhwa are a group of fully-grown men who mean business.
10. EXID – “Ah Yeah”
EXID came back after the surprise success of “Up and Down” with what at first seemed like a complete rehash of it. The “Ah Yeah” video begins to tell us a different story though, with blurred out pelvises and a number of abstract images. It’s a reflection of the self on EXID’s part. They are responding to the circumstances of their fame. This is seen most clearly through Hani and LE’s roles in the video. Hani essentially playing herself, is seductive as she makes eyes with the POV camera similar enough to her famous fancam. LE also could be playing herself, or maybe just another side of the argument. Her angry counterpoint plays like a musician’s reaction to EXID’s fame, not happy that a sexy video brought them there over music written by LE herself. She also addresses the POV camera, but this time in an accusatory manner. The video is giving us both sides of the story, letting us know there’s more to EXID than sexiness.
9. Primary – “Don’t Be Shy (feat. ChoA & Iron)”
Most people’s first reaction to Primary’s music video for “Don’t Be Shy” was probably along the lines of, “Wait…what the hell is going on?” Don’t deny it, we were all extremely confused. The concept for this music video was everything but normal, leaning very much so on the more peculiar side. Things stay at an all time creepy throughout the video, but that’s what makes things 10 times more intriguing. Every time something odd happens, it just makes you want to find out what’s going to happen next even more. I really couldn’t help but continuously wonder what does a girl’s sleepover, Pokémon cards, and voodoo dolls really have to do with one another. Doesn’t it make you wonder, “Who really won that Pokémon battle” too? “Don’t Be Shy” definitely differs from any of the other videos that came out during the summer, and as weird and dark as the music video was, it was refreshing not having to see something bubbly and cute — especially coming from an AOA member.
8. BTS – “Run”
It’s easy to say that each of BTS’s recent videos needs to be seen together to fully be appreciated. That sentiment takes away from the single achievements of the videos though. “Run” brings back much of the images of “I Need U,” but uses them in different ways. Their use of actual sets brings a much needed sense of reality to music videos. The set details of BTS’ little home gives it great life and brings them closer together as characters. For the hundreds of different theories that fans project onto them, this is what I like most about BTS’ videos. The camaraderie of all the members, their energy, and the lack of self consciousness.
7. TWICE – “Like Ooh-Ahh”
Just by their music video alone, it’s near impossible to tell that TWICE only made their debut this year because everything, from the song to the dance to the cinematography, was as if this fresh JYP Entertainment girl group were already experienced artists. Vibrant, colourful, and energetic, the music video for “Like Ooh-Ahh” was the perfect way to introduce the group because it represented their diverse personalities and their youthful energy. Though it featured zombies (it was released around Halloween), the rest of the video was fun with the creative usage of environments like a school and the back of a truck. The styling of the girls was on point too as they were dressed in bright colors like red, which not only suited their music, but also showed off their individual charms. I don’t know what I expected from TWICE after watching them on their pre-debut show “Sixteen,” but I do know that we can look forward to more great work from now on.
6. BTS – “Dope”
Not exactly a literal one-take music video, BTS’s “Dope” is still nevertheless shot in a way that only accentuates the dynamics of the dance and song. In particular, it tries to emulate the popular one-take style by green screening and splicing various clips into an effortless production. One member sings his part and runs off the screen, revealing the next member who does the same. Besides how well choreographed it all is, the video also uses an interesting set. Interesting in the sense that the production value seems rather low – the whole video looks like it is shot in the same dark brick room – but somehow it works. Again, it’s mostly because of the way the video was shot, which incorporated interactions between the members and the camera, or us as viewers. But most importantly, it’s also because the members do not need any flashy set to distract us from their talents. The focus is constantly on the members, who look like they are having genuine fun dressing up as detectives, police officers, doctors, officer workers, pilots, racers, and bell boys. Overall, it appeals to a wide audience and it’s no wonder why, statistically speaking, it is their most popular music video.
5. SHINee – “Married To The Music”
SHINee’s retro-funk song “Married To The Music” was really good on its own, but it’s “Rocky Horror” throwback-styled music video is where the real fun begins. The horror-lite music video shows the members of SHINee at a party that’s straight out of someone’s nightmare. Drinking the punch has never been so dangerous, and someone is out to make a Frankenstein monster out of the members. The editing is also notable, with the CGI coming across as more realistic than most other instances in K-pop videos, and the cinematography really harkens back to the horror films and television shows of the 1970’s. SHINee is also given the chance to show off their precise choreography that the group is known for. But, while all these parts come together as a whole for an enjoyable video, it’s the hilarity and carry through of the concept — ranging from headless members to another vomiting confetti to singing cakes — that makes “Married To The Music” really enjoyable and one of our KultScene top music videos of 2015.
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4. GOT7 – “If You Do”
A song full of melancholy and angst needs a just as melancholic and angsty music video, and that’s exactly what we got with GOT7’s “If You Do” — which is our favorite song of 2015, by the way. Since their debut, we’ve grown accustomed to GOT7’s cheerful and vibrant energy from “A” and “Just Right,” but for this single, we got a glimpse of a whole new side of the guys and it wasn’t cute. Ok, maybe it was still cute, but through the song and video, they conveyed a more mature and rawer image, dealing with their inner demons and taking it out on inanimate objects. Moreover, even though the group has excellent dancers, choreography has never been a focal point for them. However, this changed with “If You Do,” where we got fancy footwork and a more ferocious overall choreography on par with the sentiments behind the lyrics. With an emphasis on the powerful dance moves and their rageful portrayals, “If You Do” allowed their individual and group talents to shine through without any gimmicks. With this song, GOT7 let everyone know what they’re really capable of and that they’re in it for the long run, and we’re all super excited about what 2016 will bring from them.
3. BTS – “I Need U” (Original Ver.)
It’s such a shame that the original version of BTS’s “I Need U” was banned from broadcast because of violent imagery since it is easily the group’s best music video. With this rendition we see a more comprehensive story as opposed to the PG version that was – let’s face it – nothing more than a highlight reel. This one actually follows the misfortunes and angst of the seven members, covering themes such as depression, loss, and self immolation, all problems that plague the youth that the group is known to target. But other than the dark themes, there are still a lot that needs to be explained, including the relationship between the members and what led to their individual downfall. This was the start of all the numerous fan theories, which continued into the ensuing prologue video and even up until their “Run” music video released six months later. From getting viewers to think critically to the grungy yet gorgeous cinematography of the video itself, the original version is absolute art. The members’ acting were more than convincing, especially V who had the honor of executing the murder scene. Even without having read the theories, it’s a very depressing video taken at face value. But its ability to tug at viewers’ heartstrings is also exactly why it still remains as a fan favorite.
2. GOT7 – “Just Right”
Leave it to the boys of GOT7 to pull at our heartstrings and make us all feel like squeamish middle school girls with their fun song “Just Right” and the equally playful and uplifting music video for it. Reminiscent of NSYNC’s classic “It’s Gonna Be Me,” the guys play dancing mini dolls(?) in an insecure little girl’s bedroom who try to make her feel good about herself by telling her she is more than enough as is. From the guy’s expressions, to the actress, to the dance and the very kawaii color pallette, everything is meant to enhance the cuteness of the song. And what otherwise could be the cringiest music video ever — with Jackson coyly laying in a powder compact or them fooling around in a Mini Cooper car — is actually miraculously just the right amount of sweet and cheesy. “Just Right” is the biggest fan service ever from them, but instead of being one of those “only fans can love” tracks, it’s fun and catchy and meant to stay in your head for hours, lyrics and point dances wise; anyone and everyone can love it. The music video is one of the best of the year given its adorableness and playfulness that you just don’t get in K-pop anymore. And not that you need a guy to tell you that you’re beautiful or awesome, but there’s just something endearing and reassuring about Mark hanging from your clock and telling you to step off of the scale and onto his back for a piggyback ride. Sounds like quite the deal to me!
1. BIGBANG – “Sober”
It’s impossible to turn away from the beautiful cinematography of this trippy music video, making BIGBANG’s “Sober” our favorite video of the year. The music video for “Sober” is one of the most bizarre music videos out of Korea this year with brilliant settings and an important message through its psychedelic images. Throughout the entire video, the members of BIGBANG are running around, acting like crazy people, just doing their thing as they chase their dreams and hallucinate. The electronic melody of “Sober” diverges from the idea of being sober and takes a stab at emphasizing the struggles of BIGBANG as individuals: G-Dragon’s fast-paced antics belie his loneliness, Seungri’s grasping at paper with the words “this is your god” shows the singer’s attempt at being happy via money, T.O.P just wants to play all day and return to the innocence of childhood, Daesung struggles with having too many things to do and just wanting to play his music for the sake of music, and Taeyang struggles trying to find a way out of the world he’s trapped in. The video ends with the individuals coming together to enjoy a good time running through a field, highlighting the fact that BIGBANG’s members are individuals at their best when they’re all together. With a meaning that relates to the personal struggles of BIGBANG but also reflects the difficulties of life that everyone faces, “Sober” is a fun-filled, philosophical, soul-searching video. BIGBANG had a lot of good music videos this year, but the deeper meaning, the creative scenery and videography, and the hilarity of the situations and actions of BIGBANG just gives “Sober” that extra nuanced details something that makes it our number one music video of the year.