10 Best K-pop Music Videos of 2018 (Part 1)
Slick, opulent and highly cinematic, these clips are guaranteed to exceed all expectations
LOONA/Olivia Hye (feat. JinSoul), “Egoist”
“Egoist” introduces LOONA’s 12th member vocalist Olivia Hye and is the final solo music video in the group’s nearly two year-long series. Possibly the darkest video of all, “Egoist” sees several intriguing screen cuts featuring other members; rapper JinSoul and vocalists Yves, Chuu and GoWon. The video uses heavy symbolism to convey anger, aggression and a sense of foreboding. On the immediate surface the track is about learning to love oneself and in the video Hye makes things literal by meeting and embracing her double. Each member of LOONA has a spirit animal and Hye’s is a black wolf, possibly alluding to a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ situation. At the end of the video Hye meets Heejin, the first LOONA member, and completes the LOONAVERSE cycle.
Though not strictly K-pop, we had to include R&B artist DEAN’s “Instagram” on this list. The video is simple but stunning, using a primarily single shot with clips of significant moments and figures in history projected around the singer-songwriter to critique the modern despair of social media. The video starts with a shot of his face and zooms out to maintain a single wide frame throughout before ending with a zoom-in back to his face; essentially creating a single moment of angst that the viewer experiences with DEAN. The most striking and philosophical moment in the video is when the screen cuts to black and he says, “Sometimes I feel alone… Even when I’m with a lot of people. I feel like I’m Robinson Crusoe.” DEAN has explained he intends for the viewer to see themselves reflected in the screen of the device they are viewing the video on during the blackout moment.
Conceptualized by Sunmi herself, “Heroine” is the prequel to the events in her 2017 hit single “Gashina.” Both videos follow the former Wonder Girls member as she gets dumped by her boyfriend and sets off on a (slightly psychotic) journey to find herself. Her comical bursts of choreography and exaggerated facial expressions that oscillate between indifferent, angry and cheerful make the video balance both power and vulnerability. The biggest difference between the two videos is the presence of a man in “Heroine,” who Sunmi proceeds to dance with before rejecting. It finally ends with her facing a giant billboard with her own face on it and singing, “The show must go on/You must go on.”
NCT U, “Baby Don’t Stop”Featuring NCT U leader Taeyong and main dancer Ten, “Baby Don’t Stop” is a captivating choreography-heavy music video that highlights the track’s danceability. The video features clips of the duo executing impossibly smooth moves in opulent but haunting locations in Ukraine. With a wardrobe of white undershirts and suits with no shirts, “Baby Don’t Stop” marks the first time any members of NCT are showing some skin and uses Ten and Taeyong’s sex appeal to shift the group into young adulthood.
iKON, “Love Scenario”
iKON’s video for “Love Scenario” is just as bittersweet as the track. With the central theme of filmmaking (the video begins with rapper Bobby entering an edit room) “Love Scenario” makes fascinating use of rotating shots to mimic the idea of a film reel; multiple versions of the members appear and reappear as the camera seems to shift in a circular motion. The story portrays the septet sticking by each other as they experience breakups and loneliness. The choreography is laid back, a little goofy and easier for fans to emulate. An overhead shot of the band moving in a circle around one member to create the effect of a clock is the absolute highlight.
Red Velvet, “Bad Boy”
Red Velvet continue their goal of eradicating the male species from Earth in their video for “Bad Boy.” The quintet step away from the cute-but-creepy aesthetic of their last music video “Peek-A-Boo” and instead utilize a winning combination of mystery, high-fashion and guns to hunt down their offender. While we’re not sure what the exact storyline is, “Bad Boy” hints at empowering same-sex romances between the members, the deadly/deceptive nature of femininity and a raging thirst for revenge against a particular ‘bad boy.’ The entire video is sexy, drenched in red lighting and cryptic, highlighting the ‘velvet’ in Red Velvet’s dual concept.
K-pop’s ‘concept kings’ keep the signature mystery and darkness in their artistry alive with the music video for “Scentist.” The visuals are immediately striking with the band appearing in sharp navy suits against a white set with splashes of red. The video was inspired by the 2006 German psychological thriller Perfume: Story of a Murderer, and VIXX do not skimp on the impending murder vibe; The six-member group sing about being addicted to the scent of the one they love as they obsessively formulate various perfumes in a laboratory. The video is equal parts sensual and sinister as it switches between flashes of a young boy with a gun and the members brandishing the same weapon.
Mamamoo, “Starry Night”
Filmed in the sweeping, almost otherworldly landscapes of New Zealand, “Starry Night” is a celebration of brilliant cinematography. Exaggerated but smooth zoom-in shots switch frames rapidly between the four members of Mamamoo to showcase as many stunning locations as possible. The colors in each scene are highly saturated while the director and cinematographer do their best to frame the elements of nature to complement each member, complete with sillouttes against the constellation-filled night sky. Almost every frame can work as a desktop wallpaper.
EXO-CBX, “Blooming Day”
Quirky, fun and slightly outlandish, EXO-CBX’s video is a feast of visual aesthetic courtesy crisply-composed shots and bright, clean colors. Florals for spring may not exactly be groundbreaking, but EXO’s subunit CBX flip it into contemporary art; the trio are surrounded by flowers in almost every scene but sit poker-faced as they make direct eye-contact with the camera and ask to be the viewer’s boyfriend–even through segments of perfectly synchronized choreography. It’s a little Wes Anderson-esque in its execution courtesy the heavy use of pastels and retro clothing but carries the lingering vibe of a lovely daydream. There is also the possibility that the seemingly random imagery and members’ indifferent expressions are poking fun at the concept of the ‘perfect’ boyfriend.
Featuring BTS’ V, “Singularity” perpetuates the ominousness around the vocalist’s role in the group’s fictional universe. As we’ve examined before, the video is packed with references and symbolism surrounding Greek mythology, Shakespearean tragedy and more via its lyrical and visual composition; there are parallels to the story of Narcissus through V’s various portrayals of self-obsession, the character Ophelia from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is referenced courtesy the presence of imagery from British artist Sir John Everette Malaise’s painting Ophelia and allusions to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray are made, all of which add to the character’s narrative of murder, sin, regret and madness.
This story was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Rolling Stone India