The Best K-Pop Music Videos of 2023 So Far
A ranking and review of the top 50!
A few things to note:
This list started being compiled in late July, so August music videos were not considered. They will, of course, be eligible when it’s time to make the end-of-year list!
Some of these reviews are elaborations on reviews made earlier in “Best New Music of the Month” articles, hence the “...” and links to read more.
#50: 10CM, “My Ultimate First Love”
“My Ultimate First Love” has a self-explanatory premise but a surprising final twist. A little boy tries to woo a little girl, his first crush, by joining a band and serenading her at a school dance. The adorable romance doesn’t last, for a very unexpected reason: It turns out the kids have been actors on a TV or movie set the whole time! It is left up to the viewers to decide how much has been staged. Perhaps both young actors have faked their affection, perhaps the realness of the affection has been there for just one of them, or perhaps a love that started out as just an act for both of them has turned into something real. Whatever the case, the video is cute and mixes overdone concepts - a first crush and realizing something was entirely staged - to create something new.
#49: Cherry Bullet, “P.O.W! (Play On the World)”
This music video proves that Cherry Bullet can serve both sweetness and sass! They hold the audience’s attention with a confident model walk, colorful settings, and computer-game-esque imagery. The song is about taking gameplay into the “real world,” making the visual business have a purpose beyond aesthetics. Read more about the corresponding album here!
#48 and #47: NewJeans, “Cool With You” and “Get Up”
Through the “Cool With You” “side A” music video and the “‘Cool With You’ & ‘Get Up’” “side B” music video, NewJeans tell a very ambiguous and intriguing story. The two-part story, starring Hoyeon Jung, is difficult to succinctly summarize, but here are five aspects through which its meaning can be assessed.
#46: IVE, “I AM”
The “I AM” music video literally takes IVE’s fearless image to new heights: They dance on top of an airplane and turn an airplane runway into their fashion runway! Whether in the air or on the ground, they walk and perform with boundless boldness. They confidently strut around in chic outfits, both during that impromptu fashion show and in a fancy hotel. Read more about the corresponding album here!
#45: LEE CHAE YEON, “KNOCK”
The “KNOCK” music video is a colorful joyride, with bright settings, artsy transitions, and constant camera angle switch-ups. It stays visually stimulating when LEE CHAE YEON changes into her nighttime alter ego, a vampiress who performs in a bright red dress underneath a beautiful starry sky and full moon… LEE CHAE YEON takes her audience on a vivid adventure. Read more about the corresponding album here!
#44: TEMPEST, “Dangerous”
This boy band has carved out a unique niche for themselves in K-pop. Their brand can best be described as unconditional (and perhaps unwarranted!) optimism. After all, their debut track is “Bad News,” a very upbeat song with a super-colorful, smile-filled music video! Ironic humor is the name of the game again in “Dangerous,” in which the boys grin, dance, and play throughout a winter storm. Details like rhinestone face stickers and confetti make for unnecessary but welcome finishing touches!
#43: TRI.BE, “WE ARE YOUNG”
After releasing a performance video for “WITCH” in January, which showed an unexpected gothic turn, the group has resumed colorful and cute antics in the vivid and vivacious “WE ARE YOUNG” music video. Everything is rainbow-colored, from puffer coats to butterfly clips. Adorable antics ensue both inside and outside of a rainbow-themed house: they have a makeup party, dance around an arcade, jump up and down on a couch, sing into a hairbrush, and much more, all triggering nostalgia for the days of teenage slumber parties. After surprising viewers by showing off their underappreciated dancing skills and a more mature image, the group has gone back to the style fans know and expect from them.
#42: STAYC, “Teddy Bear”
Naturally, this video is filled with teddy bears and nonstop cuteness! Relatable moments, like gushing about scoring concert tickets with a friend, are part of the story, but so are incredibly bizarre ones, like turning a subway car into a disco dance party! The group gathers for a ritual that is the opposite of dark magic, involving a game of Telephone, hand hearts, and teddies. They know the ritual has succeeded after generating purple sparkles. As if all this wasn’t adorable enough, the video also features tutus, bear mascots, and animated finishing touches.
#41: SF9, “Puzzle”
The cryptic, mysterious “Puzzle” music video features many images flashing across the scene in the style of an action movie trailer. The energy rises further as the lights start to flash and the group launches into a high-intensity dance break. THE PIECE OF9 might be a personal best for SF9, with storytelling that has become more detailed and cinematic than ever. Read more about the album here!
#40: MARK, “Golden Hour”
Many images flit across the screen throughout this video, giving viewers no chance to fully react to any one of them… Viewers are left wondering what “real” even means… And if nothing that flashes across the screen is in “real life,” then what is? MARK wonders, “Everyone is being everyone but themselves, here but not around. Wait, but what does that mean?” Just like the surreal landscapes MARK inhabits, the audience can interpret “Golden Hour” as very deep or the opposite, a fun bit of nonsense! The mix of surreal formatting with mundane imagery helps MARK make his point: life ought to not be taken too seriously! Read more here!
#39: LEEWOO and YUJU, “Happiness index”
This is a must-watch for those who are suckers for a classic romance story! Viewers watch a love’s evolution from cute dates to marriage and a pregnancy reveal. The couple draws and rides bikes together. They also visit a toy store, where the neon smiley face sign magically winks at the camera! It is so sweet to watch the couple go from being relatively shy around each other to grinning from ear to ear in public, visiting a bakery with expressions of outsized joy. The fluttery feeling of being in love and the exaggerated emotions over all the little joys involved in it are palpable, and the couple’s wholesome outings are so endearing!
#38: CRAVITY, “Groovy”
In the likable “Groovy” music video, CRAVITY play both businessmen accepting pitches for a TV show and a band who is auditioning. It ends with one member, dressed as a janitor, passing by a screen in the office that is playing their colorful audition, an unmissable spot of fun amid a dull setting. He smiles and turns to wink at the camera, a cheeky indicator that CRAVITY’s attempt to win over the judges has been a success! Read more about the corresponding album here!
#37: NewJeans, “Super Shy”
Having released some ambiguous music videos with extensive detail, NewJeans have more than earned the right to release something less substantive to complement what is simply a fun, flirty song. They abandon complex storylines and focus on color and choreography, although the video is not entirely devoid of meaning. Under the bright blue sky, while rocking chic and sporty outfits, they join a group of synchronized dancers without missing a beat. Perfectly matching the song’s tone, which is quiet but insistent, the video shows both timidity and boldness. The members do dance in public, but they blend in as members of a large dance crew. They simultaneously put themselves out there and enjoy being alone in a crowd. “Super Shy” is more than just another dance-heavy K-pop video, thanks to both this layered disposition and the dancing group’s constant relocation. Read more about the corresponding album here!
#36: ATBO, “Next to Me”
This group stands out in the sea of other rookie acts thanks to the literal sea: They dance on a body of water in this video! Another unconventional choice was to release a pilot-themed mini-movie prior to the video. The pilot character gets his plane fixed with the help of the strangers on the island his plane crashes on, and the assistance triggers a switch from black-and-white scenes to ones in color. It’s a wholesome adventure, and it avoids being entirely predictable with a revelation: All the action has been unfolding on a patch of land floating in the sky! Combined with the meta premise of “Next to Me,” ATBO prove they can deliver dependable charm but in unanticipated ways!
#35: KIM WOO SEOK, “Dawn”
The “Dawn” music video literally takes KIM WOO SEOK’s story to new heights! He dips a toe in the world of acrobatics, and when on the ground, his backup dancers guide him through more intricate choreography than in videos prior. His wardrobe is also newly expansive, featuring an enormous red hat that pops with his all-black outfit and a range of colors and prints in other looks. The video’s eyebrow-raising ending guarantees that this always-improving performer still has many surprises on the horizon!
#34: ATEEZ, “BOUNCY (K-HOT CHILLI PEPPERS)”
The “BOUNCY (K-HOT CHILLI PEPPERS)” music video is controlled chaos; ATEEZ’s characters seem to be both winging it and acting like they were born ready for whatever the heck is happening! Any detail that is pre-planned masquerades as spontaneous, including the moves inside a boxing ring, the loose dance moves, the camera’s pivots, and the unapologetic use of vocal filters… ATEEZ epitomize not taking oneself too seriously, and they stick to uncompromisingly explosive energy throughout the album’s B-sides too. Read more about the corresponding album here!
#33: TWICE, “MOONLIGHT SUNRISE”
“MOONLIGHT SUNRISE” has many charming details, from glowing butterflies to adorable dance moves. Other cute and very on-brand elements: the way the lights in the windows of a city building form the shape of a heart, the flowers that suddenly bloom in a pastel-painted room, and the building that resembles a heart-shaped locket! The cute hairstyles deserve a moment of appreciation too, from SANA’s crimped hair to NAYEON’s braided, looped pigtails. Read about the corresponding album here!
#32: KINGDOM, “Dystopia”
There is no shortage of beautiful things to look at in the “Dystopia” music video, from cherry blossom trees to kimonos. The members fully stay in character, performing powerful choreography that incorporates scarves and swords. The dance scenes further stun in the moments when a full moon appears behind them and when they wear all-white outfits in the snow. The wardrobe, setting changes, and uses of light and color earn an A+ for aesthetics. The video also does justice to the song narratively, ending with an ominous scene in the desert that aligns with the lyrics about a paradise that has disappeared.
#31: MONSTA X, “Beautiful Liar”
First of all, the members look fantastic in “Beautiful Liar,” rocking thick eyeshadow and leather looks! Second of all, the video is jam-packed with details that seem insignificant to casual viewers but are anything but to hardcore fans. The music video lore continues, in ways ranging from the order of close-ups to the presence of key symbols. The video can still take on important meaning for those not looking for the Easter eggs, though, since it depicts the relatable feeling of being confined by a lover’s lies. Read more about the corresponding album here!
#30: THE BOYZ, “ROAR”
“ROAR” is like an action movie trailer, with topsy-turvy camerawork that compounds the sense of discombobulation provoked by the flashing lights, flames, flying debris, and large number of images that flash across the screen. A downpour, a fall into an underground lair, and surveillance do not deter them. “ROAR” leaves room for a sequel, and THE BOYZ prove to be capable of delivering a great one! Read more about the corresponding album here!
#29: Stray Kids, “S-Class”
While Stray Kids’ new songs are in conversation with other new songs, their new videos engage with videos from past eras. The members resume key roles and return to key symbols and themes in their music video universe… Several new plot twists enter the picture in the “S-Class” video, however, including a giant sea monster and teleportation! The twists are anything but random and seem to have been hinted at in hindsight; Stray Kids add onto pre-existing premises in fortunately bizarre ways! Read more about the corresponding album here!
#28: SEVENTEEN, “F*ck My Life”
SEVENTEEN pay homage to The Truman Show in ways that make viewers realize similar motifs have been evident since day one of the group’s music video storyline! The “show within a show” premise has been there and is obvious with the hindsight prompted by watching “F*ck My Life.” A lot of pieces click into place while watching this video, providing both clarity and a reconsideration of everything people thought they knew about SEVENTEEN’s years-long narrative! The Truman Show is meant to prompt viewers to consider what makes something “real,” and “F*ck My Life” has a similar “Woah…” factor! Read more about the corresponding album here!
#27: PARK JIHOON, “Blank Effect”
“Blank Effect” takes the appeal of the “GOTCHA” music video and raises it fivefold! “Blank Effect” is PARK JIHOON’s most climactic music video yet, filled with blood, fire, animated snakes, and strangers closing in on him. The most intriguing moments are when images abruptly turn 2D and then 4D again, like when his face becomes a 2D, flaming skull. Elsewhere, a glitch causes cartoon snakes to take his place. “Blank Effect,” fittingly, requires viewers to fill in the blanks about what is implied by the “blink and you’ll miss it” moments.
#26: NCT DOJAEJUNG, “Perfume”
The “Perfume” choreography is flirty and playful, with extra emphasis placed on the best lyrics through facial expressions - JAEHYUN’s grin while he says “Yeah, that’s me!” is particularly priceless! The video also maintains swoon-worthiness in other ways, as the members charm in both casual attire when playing the role of boys-next-door and formalwear when filling the role of confident, suave dates. Plus, there are subtle finishing touches that add substance to the dreamy visuals, including the members’ mugshot numbers being their birthdays and the flier they put up indirectly nodding to Marcel Proust, author of In Search of Lost Time. Read more about the corresponding album here!
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For more on the best of 2023 so far…
Read about the 100 best albums!
Check out this podcast episode about the best songs!
Check out this podcast episode about the best music videos!
Check out this podcast episode about the best albums!
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