June 7, 2016
Okay, we can’t ignore one of the hallmarks of the k-craze: Korean Pop (or, as it’s more popularly known, K-Pop). It’s no secret that the visuals are as crucial as the music in the K-Pop world, but – like the best of us – entertainment companies can get lazy when it comes to making music videos. You’ve probably caught a glimpse of the ‘standard’ K-Pop music video: the band dances in various box sets, occasionally in costumes that make you think, “only in K-Pop”. From time to time they might even include backup dancers, several weird props, or even animals just to “change things up”, but it’s difficult to standout if you limit yourself to a standard checklist. Here, we bring you 5 K-Pop music videos that have managed to break out of the box set and give their songs new layers of meaning.
BTS (방탄소년단) – Run
It’s hard to talk about K-Pop without mentioning 방탄소년단 a.k.a. BTS these days. The seven-member, multi-talented boy band have been taking the world by storm ever since their 화양연화 (The Most Beautiful Moment In Life) album series dropped in 2015. Run is taken from 화양연화 Part 2, the second EP from the series, and the music video is meant to be a continuation of one of their previous music videos, I Need U.
So, here’s where things get interesting. While the lyrics of Run tell the story of a painful, one-sided love, the music video juxtaposes scenes of the members partying and causing general chaos with scenes of them fighting and/or being completely isolated. Alongside the video for I Need U, there have been numerous fan theories about the framing of the shots as well as the blocking of the members. Essentially, it’s assumed that, when pieced together accurately, I Need U and Run should show the slow and messy breakdown of a group of seven friends. While BTS haven’t exactly confirmed these theories, the video for Run definitely gets you thinking, especially if you’ve assumed the song is your standard boy-chases-girl story.
BrownEyedGirls – Cleansing Cream
While you’ve probably heard about BrownEyedGirls because of their smash-hit song (and music video) Abracadabra, Cleansing Cream is definitely their most powerful and provocative video to date. It’s rare for music videos – particularly K-Pop ones – to showcase long-drawn scenes of violence and/or disability in a dignified manner, so this one is definitely a diamond in the rough. The ingenious thing about this music video is that it’s able to be interpreted in a multitude of ways, with each interpretation having its own valid meaning. Is this a statement about domestic violence? Jealousy? Is the girl more of a symbol than an actual being? The lyrics of Cleansing Cream follow a girl’s breakup and her subsequent mourning over the boy she’s lost, but the music video allows it to be unclear who’s story the song is for, allowing the viewer to try and decipher the relationship between the girl and the woman right up till the end. It’s definitely not a video for the faint-hearted, but it’s heartbreakingly beautiful nevertheless.
Akdong Musician – 얼음들 (Melted)
After winning the second season of the K-POP STAR competition series, Akdong Musician – sometimes referred to as ‘AKMU’ – have been diligently continuing to prove to the world that they’re not to be underestimated despite their young age. The brother-sister duo of Lee Chanhyuk and Lee Suhyun have effortlessly beautiful vocals and a definite gift for music – Chanhyuk even wrote all the songs on their debut album, Play, which has seen monumental success. But while their cheerful, youthful tracks are definitely fun to jam too, Melted is definitely a track which displays the duo’s musical and lyrical sensibilities. The term “얼음들” (pronounced: o-reum-deul) sounds similar to the term for “adults” in Korean, and the song deals with the pain that can result of the disillusionment one feels when growing up. Similarly, the music video for Melted follows one stumbling child’s journey and his various encounters with several adults. While AKMU don’t appear in the video, every element of the video – from the locations, to the desaturated shots, to the brilliant acting – is guaranteed to draw you in from the minute you hit ‘play’.
Primary (ft. Beenzino & Suran) – Mannequin
It’s no secret that much of contemporary Korean culture seems to evolve around one’s appearance, particularly that of women. But the “criteria” for beauty tends to get pretty ridiculous: too little maintenance and you’re a slob, too much and you’re “plastic”. Renowned producer Primary teams up with rapper Beenzino and indie-singer Suran for a track that lays this critique out plain and simple, and the music video is both entertaining and intriguing. We never get a glimpse of Suran‘s face, assuming the girl in the video is her, anyway. Instead, she either appears silhouetted against the brightly-lit boutique window, or her face is completely covered by a strange mask of exaggerated, doll-like features. In contrast, the beautiful “mannequins” of the video are expressionless and stiff, constantly separated from Suran by a shop window. The brilliance of the video therefore lies in its subtlety; how far can the obsession with appearance go before one becomes more of a mannequin and less of a human?
K. Will – 이러지마 제발 (Please Don’t..).
We won’t spoil this one too much, but there’s actually a compilation of people reacting to this music video somewhere on YouTube. The concept seems pretty simple: the friendship of two boys begins falling apart as one of them gets married. The girl seems to have a history with the other boy…or does she? In a society that remains rather closed off and conservative, the video is definitely a breath of fresh air and a step forward in a new direction. While this is a little more of a ballad than the other musicians on this list, we couldn’t rule it out for the rollercoaster journey the music video takes us on. Hint: expect the unexpected, or assume nothing at all.
Featured Image: BTS (방탄소년단) – Run MV