It has always been interesting to me that unlike in the West, where artists drop a music video weeks or months after the song is released, K-pop music videos drop the moment the song does. Everyone watches the video to hear the song for the first time, allowing labels to control the public’s perception of the music itself by presenting it alongside a visual portrayal. There’s no doubt that visuals are integral to the K-pop industry as a whole, and music videos play an essential role in this, deciding whether a comeback might be viewed as cute, edgy, sweet, unique, or any number of other things. These are my favorite music videos of 2017 that I thought did the best job of presenting the comeback’s concept.
Honorable Mentions: Girls Generation—Holiday; EXO—Power; 1NB—Where U At; Super Junior—Black Suits; IU—Palette (feat. G-Dragon); KARD—You in Me; G-Dragon—Untitled 2014.
10. gugudan, Chococo: The concept of this music video is inspired by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so you can imagine that it is no-holds-barred wild. The unrestrained absurdity of the whole thing is certainly a delight, but even more interesting are the slightly sinister undertones of the giant doll and the apocalyptic chocolate explosions, which add new dimension to the strangeness of the concept.
9. NCT 127, Limitless (Rough Ver.): There’s purposefully nothing aesthetically pleasing about this MV. It’s shot like a home video, and mostly consists of the boys dancing, staring dead into the camera while lip syncing the song, or hanging around and supposedly having fun. The crazy thing is that their expressions are completely blank the entire time. There’s something existential, almost metaphysical, about this concept that’s fascinating.
8. NU’EST W, Where You At: I spent far longer than I probably should have trying to grasp the concept of this music video, but still could never quite figure it out. There’s a heavily aesthetic storyline in “Where You At,” in which each member has his own setting where he (literally) watches himself chasing after a mysterious unknown. The crazy camera zooms induce an overlying sense of barely-subdued panic, and the elaborate sets add to the atmospheric suspense of the video.
7. BTS, Intro: Serendipity: This music video is the ultimate soft aesthetic, with gorgeous color blocking, glowing lighting, and such broad symbols as galaxies, eclipses, and the sea. There’s a sense of contrast appearing consistently throughout the video—big and small, yellow and blue, dark and light, danger and calm—that beautifully fleshes out the song’s romance concept.
6. Sunmi, Gashina: The concept of “Gashina” is of a woman who’s gone off the deep end after a heartbreak, and Sunmi embodies this character completely. Everything about the video gives off an aura of the unhinged, from Sunmi’s facial expressions to the often erratic camera cuts. It’s simultaneously super creepy and totally captivating.
5. ZICO, ANTI (feat. G.Soul): We all know Zico is wild, but this must be the most bizarre thing he’s ever done. The horror concept of this video is absolutely all over the place. Ultimately “ANTI” is a comment on the negatives of being a celebrity in the public eye, with burning television sets and cultish hero-worship scenes that Zico, partly playing the role of the anti or hater, looks upon with distaste. Eventually we end up at the beginning, where Zico watches himself in the start of the music video as it begins to play on a TV screen. The journey through the circles leading up to this point is as psychologically suspenseful as it is physically unsettling.
4. Red Velvet, Peek-A-Boo: The “Peek-A-Boo” music video practically reinvented storyline music videos. In it, Red Velvet, the protagonists, are literally a murderous cult who have abducted and killed dozens of men, and the video follows the girls as they reel in their latest victim. As dark as it sounds—and is—the video is ultimately as alluring as it is alarming.
3. SEVENTEEN, Clap: Perhaps the most fun and visually pleasing music video SEVENTEEN has ever put out, “Clap” is based on the idea that they’re putting it all together themselves. At the beginning they file into a tiny shack labeled “Specialized Videotape Technology Inc.,” and inside it, leader S. Coups appears in a director’s chair. From there out, the members are seen painting and arranging sets, handling cameras, sketching plans, editing video clips, and reading a book titled “How to Make It Video.” The concept reinforces SEVENTEEN’s identity, which is deeply rooted in the self-production of the group’s music and choreography. Not only that, but the visuals are awesome too, somehow pulling off the crazy trick of being at once crisp and chaotic, with popping color and perfectly synchronized choreography.
2. Taeyeon, Make Me Love You: Taeyeon truly delivered one of the most aesthetic videos of the year with the spring-inspired, flower-filled “Make Me Love You.” As she serenades the viewer in various rooms of a house, Taeyeon seems distracted, gazing off into the light from the windows as if she’s looking or waiting for something. Finally, at the end of the video, she sees herself through a hole in the ceiling, and the light through the windows becomes blinding. The concept of renewal is simply but gorgeously conveyed.
1. BTS, Spring Day: This is the single most beautiful music video I’ve ever seen in my life. Nearly every camera shot that passes is a breathtaking assemblage of angles, symmetry and coloring which make the real world that’s being filmed look like an impossible work of art. The theme of missing a friend is expressed with profound, yet delicate, layers of symbolism—for example, the scene where V lays his head on train tracks to listen for an approaching train; where Jin makes a square with his fingers as if to capture the sight of the other members having fun, instead of joining them; or where Jungkook stands completely still among busily moving people and barely seems to see them. This music video is the crown jewel of BTS’s already stunning film repertoire.
View these videos in a playlist on YouTube here.
Take a look at rankings for other categories of KAYBOP’s 2017 Best of K-pop here.
Did we miss any great music videos that you would put in your top 10 list? Let us know in the comments!