The 50 Best K-Pop Music Videos of 2022, Part 1
A ranking and review of the best music videos released this year by Korean artists!
Learn more about these picks with the corresponding episode of 17 Carat K-Pop, out now wherever you get your podcasts and here!
#50: ADORA, “Magical Symphony”
Fortunately, ADORA returns to the musical theater concept of her “Trouble? TRAVEL!” era. She puts on another show in “Magical Symphony,” this one more ambitious than the last. She skips through a colorful town and charms the townspeople into becoming fellow actors in her production. The result is a large group number in the streets, participants transformed from reluctant to eager characters. ADORA’s latest adventure in a picturesque town is a treat for the eyes and ears, and it leaves room for many follow-up adventures too! Read more about this release here!
#49: Rocking doll, “Heart Rider”
Picking up exactly where their “Rocking Doll” music video leaves off, the girls continue cross-planetary adventures. Their beyond-cute escapades involve making sense of their crushes on earthlings (since they are all alien fairies) and making the most of their visit to Earth (since they all originate from separate planets). Rocking doll are engaging in under-the-radar, intriguing world-building that makes “Heart Rider” not just cute but one-of-a-kind.
#48: TAEYEON, “INVU”
TAEYEON takes on the role of an ethereal, timid-yet-mighty warrior, who literally shoots for the moon. Her hair, makeup, and outfits compound her role as a character straight out of a fantasy movie. She stuns in silky dresses, gold glitter makeup, platinum silver hair adorned with pearls and mini braids, and tall boots. Read more about this release here!
#47: BTS, “Yet To Come (The Most Beautiful Moment)”
The “Yet To Come (The Most Beautiful Moment)” music video includes symbols that pay homage to BTS’s past eras without introducing new material. While this release might feel lacking, it is actually the opposite; it is as complete in its purpose as BTS have ever been. The choice to leave future plans vague, only to say with certainty that the best is still “Yet To Come,” is classic BTS. If they had clarified where their story goes from here, it would not be truthful, and BTS ensure their stories are anything but manufactured. As sad and serious as fans might feel while watching a music video that could not possibly be more symbolic of the end of an era, and as much as fans desire a clear answer as to when BTS’s break will end, “Yet To Come” perfectly matches BTS’s current message. They are just as nervous and uncertain about the future as everyone else, and they try to see the hope and possibilities in that uncertainty. They close a chapter of their lives with the same nostalgia and conflicted feelings as the audience who has grown up with them. Read more about this release here!
#46: BLACKPINK, “Shut Down”
Each BLACKPINK member revisits symbols and scenes from previous music videos. Particularly memorable is JISOO’s scene with paparazzi: in “DDU-DU DDU-DU,” she wears a pink wig and faces a wall of flashing lights. Now, she stands tall and proud in front of the cameras, wig done away with, and takes the picture herself. The cherry on top: she does so in front of the image of the wig-wearing JISOO from “DDU-DU DDU-DU”! LISA reunites with her sword, JENNIE reunites with her tank, and ROSÉ is literally on top of the world again! All these details are nods back to previous eras. Although BLACKPINK’s confidence has always been a trademark, it is taken to a new and even less apologetic level in “Shut Down.” Read more about this release here!
#45: PSY ft. SUGA, “That That”
PSY’s trademarks, like fully dressing the part and dancing like there’s no tomorrow, are back: dressed for a rodeo, PSY leads a crowd in a goofy yet impressively in-sync dance routine. SUGA joins him, also fully in costume and in character, after jumping off of a roof! The silliness is particularly entertaining when contrasted with faux-seriousness, like when PSY and SUGA act out a scene pretending to fight each other and when SUGA carries a PSY feigning feeling weak. “That That” is set in a town in the Wild West where the party never stops!
#44: TAEYONG & Wonstein, “Love Theory”
The first half of a 17 Carat K-Pop episode is dedicated to “Love Theory” for good reason! The song and music video are as delightful as they are refreshing. The aesthetics somewhat fall under the category of “Quirky K-Pop,” but they also somewhat do not. The song lyrics seem to fall under a “Light and Sweet Songs” category but are more in-depth than they first sound. This release is an unconventional, label-defying treat. TAEYONG airs his frustrations over love’s complexities while spending time in a cute, hot pink room and analogizing love and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Just as that theory seems contradictory and confusing in some ways, so too does a crush. To clarify what his feelings mean and how he should proceed, TAEYONG seeks Wonstein’s advice, which he cheekily delivers at times (“What you lack, son, is jashingam / In English, ‘Confidence’") and refrains from sharing at others (“Gotta pay me something for a consulting”). “Love Theory” simultaneously encapsulates childlike joy and wonder at experiencing an intense emotion and the nerdy rabbit hole one could go down pondering the experience from the perspective of a scientific metaphor. It also highlights the ways others (like Wonstein) perceive a lovesick person’s behavior. “Love Theory” embodies both a child’s and an adult’s views on love, and it does so in a cute and unique way.
#43: P1Harmony, “Doom Du Doom”
In a series of Olympic games unlike any other, P1Harmony ensure each member gets their own trophy, in line with the group’s ethos that everyone has their own superpower! The hijinks, which range from “electric guitar baseball” to the “traffic sign throw,” are topped off with video-game-esque details, such as coins appearing out of thin air. The game does not really go off the rails, because it never really goes on them in the first place! Peculiar interruptions persist, including a man in heavy makeup breaking the fourth wall, a fiery explosion, and a Nike-spoofing commercial. What will happen in the next scene remains anyone’s guess, but the members are eagerly along for the ride! They reinforce this “go wherever this weird life takes you” message by casting aside their prizes and turning their focus to the chaos all around them. Read more about this release here!
#42: NAYEON, “POP!”
Rocking over a dozen outfits and dancing through nearly a dozen settings, NAYEON maintains a radiant smile, infectious energy, and the message that the world is hers for the taking. “POP!” is an astoundingly delightful, catchy, and captivating music video with as much brightness as any TWICE music video, if not more. Read more about this release here!
#41: YOUNHA, “Event Horizon”
“Event Horizon” is a visually stunning, fantastical romance movie in miniature. The camerawork and pacing are expertly done, giving each stunning image of the galactic phenomena and starry sky time to sink in before switching scenes. Audiences are swept up into a romance that is stirring on both emotional and aesthetic levels. Furthermore, this music video impresses with its ambiguous ending. Whether YOUNHA’s fall through a portal is intentional or not is left up to interpretation; YOUNHA’s fall into another dimension appears purposeful but could easily have been accidental. Either way, YOUNHA’s mind is preoccupied with her lover, a relatable emotion that takes on a literally out-of-this-world element.
#40: Billlie, “GingaMingaYo (the strange world)”
Billlie continue their one-of-a-kind storytelling, in both format and substance. The music video for “GingaMingaYo (the strange world)” begins with a Carl Jung quote on the screen: “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Billlie seemingly activate this concept by taking all sorts of fantastical thoughts and turning them into their reality. There is a typewriter that turns into a one-eyed, enormous rabbit, a baseball that turns villainous, and a bunch of floating, giant gumballs, just to name a few of the many oddities present! Supernatural forces make things extra quirky: one member is pulled by an unseen force up a slide, one seems to glitch into and out of locations, and another emerges from a suitcase as if it is bottomless. “GingaMingaYo (the strange world)” is a silly story full of magical mayhem, with a catchy soundtrack to accompany it!
#39: KIM WOO SEOK, “Switch”
Through a mix of animated and live-action shots, KIM WOO SEOK blurs the lines between dreams and reality. He plays the roles of both a “dream of a boy” and a “boy in a dream.” The dream world appears just a door away from his reality; there remains a close opportunity to jump from one into the other, leaving viewers in suspense. KIM WOO SEOK is extra cute with his collection of chunky sweaters and other eye-catching outfits, his interactions with a magical butterfly and hourglass, and his eccentric bedroom design. Read more about this release here!
#38: CHUNG HA, “Sparkling”
It is hard to know where to look first when CHUNG HA takes a trip under the sea - well, into the world inside a fish bowl! The sparkly makeup, rainbow nails, shimmery backdrops, giant bubbles, and elaborate sets are positively gorgeous! Her one-of-a-kind aquatic adventures are as colorful and mood-boosting as can be, and the vibrant, sparkly environment perfectly matches the song’s theme. As CHUNG HA sings about how a crush makes her feel like she’s positively glowing, her environment becomes infused with a carefree and happy energy. Read more about this release here!
#37: JO YURI, “Loveable”
“Loveable” is hard not to smile while watching, as JO YURI covertly brightens up the lives of the townspeople. All of her pranks are ones with pure intentions, including secretly helping a little boy pop balloons to win a prize and filling the town’s fountain with bubble soap. The music video channels the album’s overall theme of self-love; she shows one does not need special gadgets or superpowers to brighten the days of those around them. All that is needed to make a positive difference is showing up as one’s authentic, caring self. Read more about this release here!
#36: BIGBANG, “Still Life”
As each member represents one of the four seasons, they sing about a sense of incompleteness without one another. A year is incomplete with less than four seasons, and each season has its own attributes elemental to its existence. BIGBANG show they require the presence of four seasons to complete their metaphorical year. Each member gets to tell a personal story during a dramatic walk in a different location. There is some straightforward messaging, like G-DRAGON’s appearance in front of a “Wrong Way” sign, but there are also messages that are easier to miss, like when he carries an umbrella that is black on the outside and keeps its rainbow stripes on the inside. Even their lines of sight speak volumes, such as when T.O.P stands on the moon while getting a clear shot of the Earth, from which he feels literally and figuratively distant. From accessories to settings, “Still Life” is much more than what meets the eye at first, and the song itself is more worth appreciating than it first sounds.
#35: Dreamcatcher, “VISION”
“VISION” and its music video convey the same warning as “MAISON,” about the dire state of the planet, but their message now comes across as less of a desperate plea and more of a determined declaration to change course. They take the task of saving the world into their own hands, confidently delivering a televised PSA and using magical powers to the Earth’s benefit (or at least to delay its doom). Their warning succeeds at holding viewers’ attention, since their dance formations, superhuman characteristics, and mix of pastel and punk looks keep the music video visually stunning. Read more about this release here!
#34: STAYC, “RUN2U”
STAYC’s now-signature, sugary-sweet aesthetics form the foundation of the “RUN2U” music video. From the heart-shaped holes in the walls to the pink subway car, “RUN2U'' is a visual representation of Valentine’s Day. Other cute locations include a room with a ceiling lined with rows of pastel flowers, a life-sized snow globe of sorts, and a room lined with rows of silver baubles. The sets are an Instagram photo op waiting to happen, and the cherry on top is the ending, when they run up to hug the camera! Read more about this release here!
#33: KWON EUN BI, “ESPER”
KWON EUN BI plays a detective who is tasked with carrying out a hit on someone while trying to avoid a hooded woman who roams the woods. It turns out this woman she is told to fear is herself, and the hood-wearing KWON EUN BI takes the detective KWON EUN BI to safety. While interpretations can vary, one lens through which to see this story is one of self-discovery. “Once the full moon rises, I can be anything,” she asserts, after realizing all the tools she needs to tackle fearful situations are within her already. She strengthens her resolve and learns to question the voice within her that perpetuates self-doubt. The sinister premise of the music video compels the audience to stay put as KWON EUN BI takes the story in a lighter, more metaphorical direction. The storytelling through “ESPER” is compounded by the use of color. The pop of red on the “evil” KWON EUN BI (the hood), on the detective KWON EUN BI (the lipstick), and in the detective KWON EUN BI’s hands (the envelope with her enclosed mission) simultaneously draw a throughline between the KWON EUN BIs and show how miniscule the differences between them really are, along with how easy it can be to ignore those differences (in this case, represented by ignoring the envelope’s directions to do something immoral in order to prove oneself worthy).
#32: KEY, “Gasoline”
KEY brings together elements of fantasy, mythology, and camp for his own origin story, transforming into a new god in real time. He re-creates himself, flaunting shiny, androgynous outfits and maintaining control of the elements. The leather, glitter-coated, and shiny silver outfits are as dazzling as KEY’s fierce poses and dance moves. Literally and figuratively, KEY generates and then basks in an aura all his own. Read more about this release here!
#31: IVE, “After LIKE”
IVE’s music video particularly stands out as classically IVE with its color scheme. Each member is associated with a different color: deep blue, light blue, hot pink, red, forest green, and sunflower yellow. They each wear an outfit that matches their respective color, while posing in a room focused on that same color (with the exception of the light blue scene being an outdoor platform instead of an indoor room). The rainbow of personalities that make up IVE come together symbolically later on, when a silhouette appears in front of multicolored backdrop. With “After LIKE,” IVE deliver a vivid comeback in more ways than one and host a show-shopping celebration!
#30: NCT DREAM, “Glitch Mode”
The “Glitch Mode” music video premise is NCT Music Video Universe theorist fodder that is also fun for audience members who are not in the loop. The members play two roles: game store employees and Cupid-like characters. After the machines in their matchmaking headquarters (aka the “Dream Lab”) “buffer” to the point of a full breakdown, an inexplicable, indoor snowstorm causes the video game store to freeze. Their “Cupid” characters are unprepared for the intensity of the crushes they have to respond to, causing a communication breakdown in an unimaginably bizarre way! “Glitch Mode” is NCT DREAM at their most likable and whimsical. Read more about this release here!
#29: LE SSERAFIM, “FEARLESS”
The mesmerizing choreography starts at the very beginning of the “FEARLESS” music video, when each member does a perfect hair flip, one after the other, going down the line. Their synchronization and formations never miss. The dance routine also allows for an interesting contrast with the song’s delivery: as the members sing in hushed tones, they take on eye-catching, powerful dance moves. Their presence is literally quiet while being metaphorically loud, and this combination is what distinguishes LE SSERAFIM. Additional contrasts in “FEARLESS” reinforce their uncompromising self-presentation, such as one member wearing her boxing gloves with her prom dress. Read more about this release here!
#28: TWICE, “Talk that Talk”
TWICE tap into the current wave of nineties and Y2K nostalgia while putting a personal spin on the trend. They rock classically TWICE outfits and perform choreography with many classically TWICE details, like the formation of “L,” “O,” “V,” and “E” with their arms in quick succession. TWICE take on a new role as stylish, code-cracking spies, and when they finally find the QR code they were seeking, viewers who scan that code are redirected to the Instagram post from when TWICE first announced their official fandom name (ONCE). It’s a sweet reminder that TWICE might be getting older, but their love for and gratitude towards ONCE remain as strong as ever.
#27: Red Velvet, “Birthday”
Like on “Feel My Rhythm,” Red Velvet thrive with a very distinct aesthetic… Each new Red Velvet track is both sweet and sassy, making their dual roles in the “Birthday” music video fitting. Their welcoming and celebratory mood betrays their plotting, sinister inner villains. Similar to the tone of the “Peek-A-Boo” video, in which their game of tag leads to unexpectedly dark implications, Red Velvet engage in dark magic with tokens of childhood. From a stuffed-animal-themed seance to battling gingerbread men and leaving one in tears, Red Velvet thrive playing haunting and endearing roles at the same time! Read more about this release here!
#26: PURPLE KISS, “Nerdy”
“Nerdy” is the “Halloween in summer” concept done flawlessly! Keeping up the spooky hijinks regardless of the season is appreciated; PURPLE KISS’s storytelling stays specific and massively entertaining. The camerawork is what makes this video cross over from “ordinary” into “extraordinary” territory: one scene after another is panned to so quickly that viewers might have to rewind to pick up on the details they miss the first time. There is no time to question “What just happened?” before, for instance, someone on a talk show reveals she has many eyeballs covering her face and the story moves on! Both this lack of follow-ups and the times when the cameras are visible in the shot on purpose compound viewers’ sense of confusion about what is real and what is not. PURPLE KISS’s role as the “nerdy” and in-the-know characters is reinforced as a result. Viewers are stuck out of the driver’s seat, just along for a frenetic but enjoyable ride! Read more about this release here!
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