The 50 Best K-Pop Music Videos of 2022, Part 2
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!
#25: SUHO, “Hurdle”
SUHO’s celebratory mood faces challenge after challenge: his boss pops his balloon, his colleagues all look glum, and he nearly falls down a hole in the ground multiple times. Despite all of these “hurdles,” love remains the only hurdle about which SUHO is willing to spend time worrying. Nothing preoccupies him more than love, as he vents about it to a captive audience in an impromptu, disco-ball-filled office party. SUHO then encounters numerous oddities and runs through an inexplicably CGI scene that makes him appear to be on a treadmill, a never-ending road ahead of him towards which he fails to make any progress. As the treadmill-like scene nears, SUHO’s obsession with time infiltrates his mind more and more. Even after entering a euphoric state, concerns regarding how much time one has for love and fun ironically rob oneself of time for either... Read more about this release here!
#24: TXT, “Good Boy Gone Bad”
Beomgyu visualizes the feeling of being discarded with the trash by making that situation literal, Yeonjun shows a level of anguish that matches the album’s emotional tenor, and TXT’s lyrics about wanting to put a relationship to death are stressed as they dance in a graveyard. “Good Boy Gone Bad” accentuates the themes the album it comes from covers, and it further satisfies hardcore fans by keeping narrative continuity through more subtle decisions too… Read more about this release here!
#23: Billlie, “RING ma bell (what a wonderful world)”
In this high-stakes continuation of Billlie’s one-of-a-kind world-building, the group reveals Easter eggs and new eye-catching details in equal measures. Inspiration from action, horror, and drama films ensures there is never a dull second. In between suspenseful chase scenes, combat missions, and magical powers gone awry, the members rock new-to-them, rockstar-ready glam. Billlie entice viewers to join them in chanting “BILLLIE!,” in rocking out and jumping around to the song, and in literally taking flight! As dangerous as Billlie’s games appear, they later convince viewers those games were worth it to finally join them flying in the sky. “RING ma bell” is even more jam-packed and peculiar than a typical Billlie music video. The changing moods and degrees of immersion throughout the story make it a great way to captivate new fans!
#22: (G)I-DLE, “TOMBOY”
As (G)I-DLE sing about not feeling the need to define their actions as feminine or masculine, right or wrong, moral or immoral, they do things that disrupt those binary frameworks. For example, after an image of (G)I-DLE staring down into a car trunk seems to imply the presence of a dead body there, all that comes out of it are pink and red, heart-shaped balloons! Similarly, MIYEON starts a fire just by dropping a heart-shaped lollipop on the ground. Then there are the most memorable scenes, when Barbie dolls take out their aggression on Ken! (G)I-DLE deliver sharp-edged comments with a misleadingly sweet veneer, making viewers uncertain if they should find them likable or not! (G)I-DLE use exaggerated visuals to emphasize their refusal to accept black-or-white labeling, and they force the audience to do the same. (G)I-DLE are not seen as total saints or criminals, and their constant changes to how audiences perceive them keep the narrative direction under their own control. Read more about this release here!
#21: Zior Park, “FALLING FROM THE SKY”
Zior Park plays the role of a wooden man, a human-sized but Pinocchio-type character, who wins a chess match against a pretentious, overconfident man. The interviews they give immediately after their match juxtapose intense resentment with total amazement and joy, the man showing the former and the wooden character showing the latter. After all, he is presumably trying out human hobbies for the first time and has won his very first chess match! Zior Park’s character witnesses events through the eyes of a curious child, and his lack of cynicism likely contributes to his opponent being thrown for a loop. This video also deserves a spot on this list for being just plain creative! It is the perfect video for those seeking “something new” to watch, and given the fact the wooden boy’s head is severed from his body to be packed up by delivery men, it could not possibly have a more “to be continued” ending!
#20: Zior Park, “BEING HUMAN”
This fascinating sequel to chapter one of the “Where Does Sasquatch Live?” series picks up where “FALLING FROM THE SKY” leaves off. Zior Park’s character’s head is severed from his body and put into a wooden box, which is then stacked on top of other boxes that form a giant wall. His head literally rolls out when the boxes fall, and it eventually rejoins his body. The delivery men chase after him as he enters the woods, but he seems to have lost them once he’s there. Better yet, he sees someone else there: his family! A group of wood fairies of sorts are there, as if they’ve been waiting for him. The touching beginning and ending of this two-part story help Zior Park’s character grow on audiences, and the character’s likeability makes it easy to forgive lingering questions about what on Earth happens in the interim! “BEING HUMAN” adds both strangeness and depth to the plot that starts in “FALLING FROM THE SKY;” while some of the character’s behavior remains confounding, the conclusion manages to be satisfying. While this might be the end of “Sasquatch’s” adventures, Zior Park’s unique vision remains one to watch!
#19: woo!ah!, “Catch the Stars”
There are three main locations in the “Catch the Stars” music video: the field outside of a school (where the girls wear cute and preppy outfits while dancing and running around together), outer space, and a room stacked with VHS tapes (where one member makes an adorable mess of them!). No matter what they are up to, they maintain a wholesome spirit of friendship and enthusiasm. “Catch the Stars” welcomes viewers to tap into one’s inner child and join woo!ah! on all kinds of adventures, solidifying this group’s status as “Hi-teen” icons. The ET reference - a cat in the place of an alien in a bike basket - is a particularly nice touch!
#18: ONEW, “DICE”
With masked figures everywhere he looks and a magical die that allows him to teleport, ONEW sets off on some surprising misadventures! He appears to be testing out this magical die while inside a magical hotel, and the stakes seem low until he finds a purpose for his power: save his crush. However, in a refreshing twist, by the time he surmounts all obstacles and reaches her, this anti-Cinderella no longer needs saving and has vanquished her captors by using her high heel as a weapon! The vivid color palette and other aesthetic touches reminiscent of SHINee’s Odd Eye days give “DICE” the perfect finishing touches!
#17: JUN, “LIMBO”
Departing from the warm and fresh-faced look he has in the video for “Silent Boarding Gate,” JUN now wears thick eyeliner and a leather outfit, while dancing and posing amid symbolic objects… In addition to taking inspiration from the Greek myth of Narcissus and previous SEVENTEEN releases, JUN speaks volumes through his choreography. A main dance move in his routine mimics the “Limbo” children’s game, and he pushed for the inclusion of laser points in the video to add another childlike aspect to it. By adding playful details, JUN finds clever ways to merge the mature and immature… His music video is dark but subtly infused with lighthearted energy, his storytelling is new but also makes nods to SEVENTEEN’s previous chapters, and his lyrics are both bold and sprinkled with self-doubt. Nothing is what it seems on its surface, and perhaps that is the defining trait of the state of “LIMBO” about which he sings. Read more about this release here!
#16: YENA, “SMARTPHONE”
This adorable superhero is back for more quirky antics in a world with the aesthetics of a children’s TV show. This time, she redirects her focus to her tech skills and combats various mascots to reach her destination. She also makes time for multiple dance breaks on a playground, making funny faces and posing in a sparkly outfit and bubble pigtails. “SMARTPHONE” is a separate story from “SMILEY,” but the former is just as colorful and cute as the latter!
#15: Dreamcatcher, “MAISON”
In previous Dreamcatcher music videos, a purple portal has been the sole route to and from an alternate reality. In the “MAISON” video, there are purple, pink, and blue portals, continuing their story while literally adding more dimensions to it. “MAISON” shows Dreamcatcher encountering new villains and utilizing new superpowers. In addition to expanding their setting and narrative, this video expands Dreamcatcher’s wardrobes in fantastic ways! They look ethereal in white dresses, sparkly hairstyles, and rhinestone makeup. Read more about this release here!
#14: Bernard Park, “All day”
This animated video is a tear-jerker that stars a variety of creatures of an unknown species who live in a remote area together. They receive an unexpected visitor: a pilot who has to make an emergency landing. The residents quickly step up and offer aid to this weary traveler, giving him shelter and even making him a jacket. A montage of sweet adventures together ensues, with the pilot reciprocating signs of appreciation. For example, when he sees one person looking troubled about a seemingly inadequate choir performance, he makes this person a flute to play instead of singing.
Although everyone seems to genuinely enjoy their time together, the townspeople come to realize that nothing can fully erase the pilot’s homesickness. The pilot’s new friends know what they have to do: they assemble, repair his plane, and give him a warm send-off. As he flies away, the flute-player from earlier in the video is seen sitting on a ledge, playing that precious flute. This wholesome video and its bittersweet ending deserve the full movie treatment! Read more about this release here!
#13: Moon Byul, “C.I.T.T (Cheese in the Trap)”
A teaser trailer for the music video shows “Dr. Moon Byul” delivering a tutorial on how to “steal the cheese,” using a mannequin for demonstrations. This professor’s advice is fine on paper but takes a turn for the absurd in practice. When she advises teaching a crush a sweet phrase, she demonstrates via yelling into a megaphone in the mannequin’s face, and when she advises doing something instead of just saying something, she whips out a chainsaw! In the full-length music video, Moon Byul’s nerdy character tries to learn from Dr. Moon Byul, both by watching the instructional video and allowing Dr. Moon Byul to pull the levers in her brain! “C.I.T.T” and its corresponding videos use bizarre, comical extremes to demonstrate the things people will do for love and the ways the advice lovestruck people give themselves tends to not work out as neatly as they envision it will!
#12: SEVENTEEN, “HOT”
The “HOT” music video epitomizes SEVENTEEN’s entrance into a new chapter of their career. They appear more confident than ever before and pack a lot of action into just a few minutes. Motorcycles, fire, a desert setting, and experimental hair and makeup make “HOT” as visually busy and entertaining as the song is catchy. The music video is chock-full of nods to previous releases, and some recurring symbols appear in the highlight medley video as well… One detail in the “HOT” music video worth a separate moment of appreciation is how the members transition between scenes. After a coin toss, a member in a different location catches the coin, allowing the action to continue. Reaching out towards the camera to grab the coin gives “HOT” an interactive feel, and this approach to storytelling is nothing new for them… The ways in which SEVENTEEN allude to directing the movements of their stories add to the novelty of their work. Read more about this release here!
#11: SEVENTEEN, “_WORLD”
The contrast in representing day and night together - a sun in the night sky - complements the contrast in the “_WORLD” video, which pivots between nighttime and daytime… As written about in a previous essay, SEVENTEEN add an extra layer of immersion to the viewing experience of their music videos by seemingly controlling the videos’ motions. The camera pans as if on command, in accordance with the gestures the members make. From the camera moving to where the members are pointing to the lighting changing in response to a wave of a member’s hands, they make their videos feel as if they are being filmed in real time. This effect is back in “_WORLD,” where both DINO and THE 8 appear to cause a fire hydrant to burst by simply pointing at it from a distance. Read more about this release here!
#10: BLACKPINK, “Pink Venom”
There are so many details to pick up on that re-watches of the “Pink Venom” music video are required to catch them all. First of all, references to BLACKPINK’s group identity appear, including a black apple with a bite taken out of it that reveals a pink inside. Secondly, the special effects are massive, including smoke, water, and fire. Third of all, the looks are top-tier, with inspiration for days when it comes to braided hairstyles, detailed eye makeup, fancy dresses, and more. Lastly, pairings of members vary. This time, LISA and JENNIE trade raps on the second verse, and JISOO and ROSÉ team up for the pre-chorus and bridge. Why are BLACKPINK so popular? “Pink Venom” confirms the answer: it boils down to never knowing what to expect from them, but knowing that whatever it is will be a feast for the eyes and ears. Their aesthetic is the indescribable mixture that is inevitable when four distinct artists team up and merge old and new themes in their work. The smorgasbord of buzz-worthy details in their songs and videos keep people coming back for more.
#9: Stray Kids, “CASE 143”
Stray Kids introduce adorable, fuzzy, heart-shaped creatures into their music video world and go to extreme lengths to catch these uncontainable, physical manifestations of their lovestruck feelings! A comeback concept as cliche as crushing on someone is taken in unexpected and quirky directions, thanks to Stray Kids’ dependable originality. “CASE 143” also stands out for its funny transitions and moments of size distortion, like when the members have to work together to unplug something from an outlet much larger than them. Read more about this release here!
#8: YENA ft. BIBI, “SMILEY”
“SMILEY” is one of the most adorable music videos released in quite some time! YENA plays the role of a superhero who zaps to any location where cheering up needs to happen. This time, that location is a diner full of bored and sad customers and staff. She lights up the room with an energetic, impromptu karaoke session and dance party. BIBI, who also travels via lightning strike, takes over the diner and replaces YENA’s bright aura with a sinister one. Further dampening the mood: YENA’s song abruptly stops as she passes out in a snowstorm. An adorable rescue mission reunites YENA with her golden microphone and gives her the ability to return to the restaurant with even more cheer than before to share. YENA’s magic even allows her to transport herself into a colorful, two-dimensional world part of the time. The video for “SMILEY” will have viewers rooting for YENA and wishing for a full TV show or movie inspired by this happy hero.
#7: Solar, “HONEY”
Solar spreads the core message of 容 : FACE in three different ways through the “HONEY” music video. First of all, she channels a different persona in each setting. Each setting is focused on a different color and matching outfit. For example, her bright yellow ensemble brings out a different persona than the one she has in the red room while wearing a red outfit. Given the song’s message about beauty coming in all shapes and sizes, it makes sense for Solar to proudly show off her many “colors” with equal amounts of confidence. Second of all, Solar refuses to let others dictate which of her “faces” are deemed presentable. By smashing white statues to expose the colorful paint inside them, Solar symbolizes a refusal to let unrealistic and rigid beauty standards determine how much of herself she makes the public see. However, she both starts and ends the music video by covering her face with a mask. This gesture can be interpreted as an acknowledgement of her lingering insecurities and the fact loving her appearance is always easier said than done. Solar bookends her visual representation of an “everyone is beautiful, and all sides of myself are beautiful too” belief with a symbol of the negative self-talk that remains. “HONEY” represents how broadly “true beauty” ought to be defined, but the mask reminds viewers there are still internalized roadblocks toward embracing an expanded definition. “HONEY” expertly uses color to tell an authentic story and uses props to embody lingering self-imposed limitations on one’s public-facing self. Read more about this release here!
#6: Red Velvet, “Feel My Rhythm”
In a cross between a garden party, an art exhibit, and a ballet recital, Red Velvet’s signature style is taken to the next level. “Feel My Rhythm” has a princess-ballerina aesthetic and the energy level of a live theater production. Over-the-top antics ensue in on-brand ways; Red Velvet solidify their unique image by leaning further into the quirky, visual extravagance for which they have become known… With storybook aesthetics and theatrical flourishes (not to mention the Easter eggs tying the “Feel My Rhythm” music video to the larger SM Entertainment Cinematic Universe), Red Velvet make this comeback one to remember. Read more about this release here!
#5: LOONA, “Flip That”
“Flip That” is remarkable on both narrative and aesthetic levels. Narratively, it is jam-packed with Easter eggs and hints at the future of the “LOONAverse.” Aesthetically, it is one treat after another, with lovely pastel hues, gorgeous dresses, and lots of flowers. Many moments combine the narrative and aesthetic strengths of the video, such as when the symbolic butterflies glow and move through bright green environments. In another cute moment, a heart-shaped lollipop that falls on the ground lands with a puff of sparkly dust. After an idyllic train ride, the girls explore an equally-picturesque forest. The finishing touch is a message on the screen at the end, which hints at the next chapter in LOONA’s music video world. Overall, “Flip That” has a lot of appealing details to take in visually and contextually.
#4: SEVENTEEN, “Darl+ing”
“Darl+ing” is absolutely adorable! Teddy bears and flowers fill the rows of a church, a fitting location due to SEVENTEEN’s angelic voices! The members have fresh faces, warm smiles, and cozy outfits while dancing in a field to this song about a crush. If this all sounds like too much cuteness, worry not! The introduction adds a mysterious element to the story, set in a dusty landscape that is a recurring setting. “Darl+ing” indicates something is amiss in their paradise, but oddities take a backseat to their present joy, keeping this video both interesting and just plain sweet. Read more about this release here!
#3: Xdinary Heroes, “Test Me”
“If you rig a rigged system, are you a hero or a villain?” This message opens the “Test Me” music video and leads into Xdinary Heroes exploring that question through example! When they are illegitimately excluded from a “Battle of the Bands” competition, they work their way onto the lineup anyway. Although they remain off of the March-Madness-style brackets, they do not act like it, and they sneak into the venue, determined to face off against Roboctopuss, their ultimate foe. The flier that zooms at the screen at the end says “Heroes or villains?,” reminding viewers of the question that started this series of events. Should Xdinary Heroes be celebrated for refusing to comply with an unjust disqualification? Or are they just sore losers who should not be praised for rule-breaking? The public seems inclined to argue the latter; they appear annoyed while listening to the band’s muffled rehearsal from the neighboring subway car! The “Test Me” video hides a morally complex topic under humorous circumstances. Better yet, it appeals to multiple senses of humor, from slapstick hijinks to breaking the fourth wall. Read more about this release here!
#2: (G)I-DLE, “Nxde”
The “Nxde” music video draws inspiration from Banksy, an artist with a long history of making compelling work full of social commentary. Specifically, “Nxde” pays homage to Love is in the Bin, which, to shock and awe, was partially shredded at the end of the bidding war by a secret shredder in its picture frame. The piece, which was originally valued at $1.4 million, was sold for $25.4 million after the stunt that shredded half of it. This situation says something about both the concept of art itself and the art customers. The fact that auction participants consider a piece from a famous artist to be much more valuable after being partially destroyed raises questions about how much name recognition ensures financial success no matter what, as well as how much owners of famous art truly value the work itself and not just the love and attention it brings them. Similarly, the partial-shredding of a cartoon image of a nude woman in the “Nxde” music video makes a statement about destroying sexualized assumptions about how female performers “should” be and, simultaneously, a statement about what it means for art to maintain attention regardless of what happens to it. Damaged or not, Banksy’s work has stayed in high demand, and if anything, straying from the public’s expectations has only increased the perceived value of his work. Likewise, (G)I-DLE’s public spectacles in “Nxde” might not match the public’s expectations - they might just surpass them! In an interesting paradox, by chastising shallow viewers as much as the viewers chastise (G)I-DLE, (G)I-DLE still have the upper hand; whether bitter or grateful, the audience still shows up, and all eyes stay on the group. If anything, the desire to attend a (G)I-DLE show increases as a result of them generating buzz by breaking stereotypical assumptions about what their shows have to offer.
Both the “Nxde” song and music video are thought-provoking for the ways they speak to the concept of ownership. Audiences ultimately want a sense of ownership over what they see and get. Whether it’s a picture or a live performance, people revel in feeling like they have obtained something personalized, a memory and/or a tangible item that is theirs to interpret and remember. It doesn’t matter if what is “theirs” is partially destroyed; that only makes it more unique and therefore more desirable to them. It also doesn’t matter if it strays from what they anticipated getting, because although they might protest what they see, they likely will still go see it again. (G)I-DLE are able to keep such a “sorry-not-sorry” attitude throughout I love because they understand this. They know they have power over the crowds and win regardless of whether or not the buzz their shows generate is positive or negative. (G)I-DLE choose to define “nude shows” as being shows where they are their most metaphorically stripped selves, and their refusal to cater to the literal interpretation irritates those who think that is what they are owed. (G)I-DLE insist they don’t owe the audience anything, except entertainment, and they encourage viewers to “think outside the box” and broaden what they define as entertainment to not be “so rude.” Read more about this release here!
#1: TAEYEON, “Can’t Control Myself”
As fun as it is to hear TAEYEON’s music go in a new, punk-pop direction, what is most exciting about this release are the story threads it starts. “Can’t Control Myself” leaves much to interpretation, with TAEYEON playing two characters and alternating between scenes in “normal life” and scenes on a stage, with a packed audience watching her. The black-wig-wearing TAEYEON acts out a musical love story for the audience, and although her mind is clearly elsewhere while doing so, the crowd goes wild. The blonde, disheveled, and more overtly distressed TAEYEON is swarmed by paparazzi as she watches her love walk by slowly. Several moments can be interpreted as the one when TAEYEON ultimately breaks down, but here is one theory: TAEYEON’s breaking point in this relationship is reached during that moment when her love glimpses in her direction but then keeps walking, as she is left to fend off the cameras alone. The next scene features TAEYEON going from that street straight onto the stage, still blonde and disheveled. She has clearly broken character here, having not switched into her black wig and not taken on a rosier demeanor, but no matter how much she yells and literally pushes this man away from her, the audience keeps on cheering and assuming it is part of the act. The toxic relationship about which TAEYEON sings feels inescapable; she cannot separate the wounded person she has become from who she used to be, even though she tries with all her might. The mark this love has left on her is one both painful and seemingly permanent, and TAEYEON realizes this as the walls between her onstage and offstage selves collapse. From the role the audience plays in perpetuating TAEYEON’s distress, to how permanent her wounds truly are, to how close she has dodged a bullet (considering she seems to allude to an engagement with a lyric about her bad days spinning “like a loose ring”), there are so many facets of this video and song that are open to interpretation. “Can’t Control Myself” can be seen in a new light with every rewatch.
Read part 1 below!
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