20. “When We Disco” – J.Y. Park feat. Sunmi
Founder and co-CEO of JYP Entertainment Park Jin Young (aka J.Y. Park) made his return as an artist in 2020 on “When We Disco,” a retro duet with Korean pop diva Sunmi. The music video shifts from the Seventies disco vibe to Eighties, reviving the Saturday Night Fever (1977) era with its multi-colored dance floor, hazy club setting, glimmering disco ball and glitzy wardrobe. Park and Sunmi play lovers who are parted in their youth but are fated to meet again 10 years later, fighting gangsters and all odds to be together and celebrate their love for each other and for disco. The video also features a fun reference to Park’s December 2019 single “Fever” in the form of a big, yellow sign above him and Sunmi while they dance on the street towards the end of the clip. It’s cheesy, endearing and a much needed dose of humor after all the challenges 2020 presented.
The video for “More & More” is a gorgeous psychedelic trip through paradise or a Garden of Eden of sorts. The members of Twice live in this vibrant landscape, surrounded by bright neon foliage and animals. There’s a bohemian vibe to it all, reminiscent of summer music festivals and island vacations, and the clip is largely choreography-focused with soaring shots of the group dancing on a gleaming platform on a lake. The absolute highlight is the sudden switch up to the dubstep-tinged dancebreak at the bridge, led confidently by Twice’s main dancer and vocalist Momo.
18. “Open Mind” – Wonho
In his solo debut single, Wonho is sexy, confident and powerful. He dons unique outfits that show off his muscular physique and oozes sex appeal and elegance as he assures fans that despite all the hardships he’s had to endure, he’s ready to begin a new era. There are various symbolic elements scattered throughout the video, the most prominent being a wildcat that flashes across the screen and over Wonho’s face, signifying he’s ready to unleash the beast within. “Open Mind” is choreography-heavy with Wonho and his backup dancers performing sleek moves on a dance floor lit up in elegant combinations of reds, purples and blues.
17. “Stay Tonight” – Chungha
Chungha takes the opportunity to hero her fantastic background dancers in the choreography-focused clip for “Stay Tonight.” The video showcases their skills in voguing, tutting, executing complex formations and of course their fantastic teamwork and confidence as they match the singer’s dynamic energy. Covered in haute couture and glitter, Chungha herself is the picture of glamor and pop diva finesse as she leads her team through the killing point choreography of the video during the deep house bridge.
16. “Monster” – Red Velvet Irene & Seulgi
Red Velvet’s artistry has always simmered with a twisted, candy-coated darkness and Irene & Seulgi’s “Monster” is no exception. There is plenty of glamor and glitter to be found, but all of it is accompanied by imagery that can only be defined as creepy–in one scene Irene caresses a doll while the sounds of a baby cooing play in the background; in another clip, Seulgi brandishes a gun at what seems to be a pagan altar. The entire video is filled with unflinching gazes at the camera, vivid hints at homoeroticism, voodoo and fascinating but strange choreography.
15. “How You Like That” – BLACKPINK
The video for “How You Like That” is an explosion of high production and high fashion, combining various elements of nature (fire, water, ice, earth etc) and exotic destinations to create stunning backdrops to match BLACKPINK’s individual energies. Slower, solo shots of each member performing their verse are intercut with fast-paced scenes showcasing the group performing the dynamic choreography for the track together. The wardrobe, hair and makeup elevated beyond anything the group have done before and match the video’s vibrant and badass scale. The final scene sees the group don cropped traditional Korean Hanbok tops with cyberpunk-esque outfits and hair as a unique example of a modern take on tradition.
14. “Revolution” – AleXa
In the visuals for “Revolution,” AleXa continues her arc as powerful cyborg gearing up to take over the world. Filled with thrilling fight sequences, the clip shows the singer battle her way to freedom from the evil ‘ZB Corp’ that created her. Initially trapped and suspended in a tank of liquid, AleXa finds the strength to break out and lead a literal revolution. Interspersing breathtaking visuals of AleXa roaming the post-apocalyptic, barren world with scenes of her performing fierce choreography, “Revolution” is a strong conclusion to the visual storyline that began with “Bomb” and continued in “Do Or Die.”
13. “Mmmh” – Kai
EXO’s Kai stuns in his solo debut music video, living up to his title of the group’s main dancer and visual. The singer references his band’s EXO-planet days, his powers of teleportation making an appearance as he flits from frame to frame between sharp and sleek segments of choreography. The video is a smorgasbord dimension-hopping, post-apocalyptic landscapes and Kai’s signature sensual body rolls. His wardrobe is absolutely impeccable and highlights the futuristic element of the video, incorporating unique pieces of clothing and accessories that bend the lines of perceived masculinity.
12. “God’s Menu” – Stray Kids
The excellence of the “God’s Menu” music video lies in its precise editing and Stray Kids’ outstanding choreography. Careful scene cuts between precisely matched choreo push the video into lightning pace to compliment the tempo of the track. Smooth camera angles born of robotic rigs follow the members of Stray Kids to create a variety of unique shots that all highlight how well the clip keeps up with the artists. The members draw from their lyrics as they dress as chefs in the video, promising viewers that all the artistry they serve up will be top notch. The video also features nods to more professionals and teams from various industries well as the group’s fandom, all of which act as ingredients that inspire the ‘menu’ that is the artistry of Stray Kids.
11. “Sacrifice” – Han Seungwoo
“Sacrifice” is a glorious introduction to Han Seungwoo as a solo artist–chic, sexy, powerful and complex. The Victon and (former) X1 member showcases his talent as an all-rounder, leaping through gritty but beautiful segments of choreography highlighted by slow motion frames and cool tones of lighting. The video is a raw and emotional descent into desperation and madness as the singer shifts through anger, frustration and possessiveness in his obsessive quest to chase after his lover. While Han is surrounded by a massive number of backup dancers for most of the choreography sequences in the video, one of the most striking clips in “Sacrifice” is a slow but strong solo dance performance he delivers shirtless in a shallow pool of water–a moment of vulnerability in the otherwise dark, aggressive video.
10. “Jungle” – CIX
“Jungle” is absolutely one of the most fascinating pieces of video production from K-pop in 2020. CIX make their way through the nine circles of Hell as described in Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s epic narrative poem The Divine Comedy. The imagery is unsettling as the quintet move through the process of judgement, attempting to break free from purgatory. Dancers surround the members to signify each different circle of Hell and could also be portraying corpses or damned souls, attempting to drag the protagonists further down through each circle of Hell and away from the path of redemption. The mythological river Styx and its ferryman Charon play prominent role in the visuals, serving as the symbol that cements itself as the centre of the video–the members dance upon a surface of water (the Styx) between the shots of them facing their various trials as they shift through the phases of judgment and the afterlife.
9. “Any Song” – Zico
In contradiction to the trendy, global dance challenge it kicked off, Zico’s “Any Song” is a sad but powerful tableau of introversion, misunderstandings and awkward social situations that can cause anxiety. The music video does a splendid job of conveying these themes as Zico struggles to make it through a house party he never wanted. His friends invite themselves over to his home to celebrate his birthday but instead of a small gathering that would have made him more comfortable, the party keeps growing with more people flooding in. It’s noisy, crowded and no one pays attention to Zico’s blank expressions, frustration and clear desire to disappear from the situation. He tries to smile and keep up but eventually wilts and is quiet as the party rages on around him, indifferent to his feelings. He only finds happiness while dancing alone once everyone at the party falls asleep and then once he escapes from the house, running in the sunshine through his neighborhood with a big smile on his face. It’s a celebration of the happiness found in solitude, loving yourself and understanding your own needs instead of bending to please others. The video can also be seen as a metaphor for depression and its invisible nature–people struggle internally while attempting to appear happy and normal on the outside while the world keeps moving on around them.
8. “Apple” – GFRIEND
Biblical imagery, Greek mythology and homoeroticism seem to be popular narratives among K-pop artists this year but we’re certainly not complaining. GFRIEND deliver their own twist on these themes in “Apple,” connecting them to magic and witchcraft, similarly taboo practices that women were punished for in the past. The members tempt each other away from paradise into a world of sin and magic, abandoning the innocence of childhood naivety for knowledge and power. As the color palette of the video shifts from light to dark and daytime to night, the transformation is complete and GFRIEND embrace their darker image and power as they seat themselves on thrones while dressed in black from head to toe. The layers of meanings hidden within this video are too many to list, but the core of it all is a celebration of the change from light to darkness instead of fearing or condemning it. This could allude to GFRIEND’s image itself as they abandon youthful, school girl concepts for elegant, complex storylines and move towards a brand new future of artistry marked by the album 回: Walpurgis Night.
7. “Hold” – Winner
In perhaps the most heartwarming and cheerful video of the year, the four members of WINNER play the role of overprotective brothers attempting to foil their little sister’s date. Vocalist Lee Suhyun, the group’s labelmate at YG Entertainment and one half of sibling duo AKMU, stars in the video as their (rightfully) annoyed sister. The clip for “Hold” begins with the five ‘siblings’ relaxing at home before the brothers notice Suhyun smiling over a few texts. Curious to find out who she is talking to, WINNER attempt several [failed] methods to obtain her phone, before finally sneaking up on her to grab it. They read her messages and proceed to make fun of her sibling-style, but things get serious when her date is due to arrive; the brothers first go through and reject various costumed suitors–played by WINNER themselves to hilarious results– increasingly horrified by the prospects (watch out for the not-so-subtle nod to 2019 Oscar-winning Korean film Parasite.) When a decent guy who seems to indeed be their sister’s boyfriend arrives, they reluctantly let him into the house but keep close eye on the young couple, finally barging into their sister’s room to burst the romantic bubble right as the two are about to kiss. The four brothers then break into a goofy dance number, embarrassing their sister and successfully scaring away her date. It’s sweet, relatable and downright hilarious.
6. “Love Me Harder” – Woodz
The video for Woodz’s “Love Me Harder” plays out more like a supernatural thriller than a music video. What seems to start out as a lover’s quarrel turns into a journey through life and death, crime and betrayal as well as a spiral into insanity. Woodz gets into a fight with his girlfriend in his car, causing her to get out and leave him. To his horror, he then is faced by a double of himself, a darker more dangerous version dressed in black, who seems to enjoy mocking him at every turn. What follows is a game of cat and mouse, as the singer struggles to chase flashes of his double who appears in his reflection in mirrors and between crowds of people, always out of reach. Woodz grows agitated and confused, unable to make connections with anyone around him and angry at his twin who continues to laugh at him and mock him before hurtling him through a loop of memories. Through this, Woodz comes to the chilling realization that he has been dead the entire time. A flashback shows us that the singer was a counterfeit cash crook, murdered by his own girlfriend who stole the money and left his body in the car they fought in, staging it as a suicide. It’s as much of a jarring reveal to the audience as it is to Woodz’s character in the video, and it immediately becomes apparent that Woodz’s double is Death taking on his form to help him come to terms with his own passing. Packing in so much suspense, action and story in just three and a half minutes is a truly magnificent feat.
5. “Idea” – Taemin
SHINee’s Taemin brings back his signature dark decadence on “Idea,” the third single off his record Never Gonna Dance Again. The track follows the singer-songwriter’s second single “Criminal” both in terms of lyrical and visual storytelling. While the music video for “Criminal” saw him explore rebellion from societal norms, killing or destroying versions of himself he did not connect with, the clip for “Idea” outlines his journey to find his new identity. “Idea” follows Greek philosopher Plato’s ‘Theory of Forms,’ where the ‘idea’ refers to the existence of two worlds: the physical and spiritual. He must transcend and understand the layers of himself that exist in each world before he can finally find his ideal self, his core identity. We see different versions of Taemin presented throughout the video–one is dark and surrounded by fire (possibly referencing Hell, Lucifer or Hades, concepts Taemin has featured in his work before) and the other dressed in pale blue and framed against a blue sky, surrounded by dancers who seem to be angels. It’s the reverse of a fall from grace, suggesting that knowledge of the self and the world is a tool to help one climb and not to fall. At the end he succeeds in manifesting his true artistic self through these various symbols of philosophy and religion.
4. “Oh My God” – (G)I-DLE
Dark and dangerous with a touch of homoeroticism, the music video for (G)I-DLE’s “Oh My God” is an absolute work of art. The clip plays with themes of forbidden love, religion, temptation and fear that surround a possible homosexual relationship–following the lyrics of the track very closely. The general idea at the centre of the video is a fall from grace, perhaps due to the members engaging in what is seen by society as a ‘forbidden’ or ‘taboo’ love. The video could also be a metaphor for feminism as a whole and a desire to break free from patriarchal expectations placed on women. The group are either seen falling from great heights, covered in mud or red/black paint to signify the sin of lust, or trapped in situations they cannot escape from. Biblical references are aplenty, especially scenes that allude to Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden, the story of Lilith, as well as Lucifer’s fall from grace, which bring in themes of deception and corruption. The members’ outfits shift from white at the beginning to black towards the end as they make the move into accepting the darkness and ‘sin’ within and choose to be free from society’s judgement. The choreography is hypnotic and alluring, filmed with glorious overhead shots while the group are draped in dark colors like red, black and purple. The lines between good and evil blur more and more as the video progresses and at the end you are left with a sense of dread and awe.
3. “Black Swan” – BTS
In a visual echo of the track’s lyrics, the video for “Black Swan” explores the idea of the artist death aka the moment an artist can no longer perform. It’s a devastating and inevitable transition in any artist’s life and BTS tackle this fear head-on. The clip features stunning shots of the group performing the track’s choreography in the ornate, gilded Los Angeles Theatre. Trained in contemporary dance and ballet, vocalist Jimin takes the lead as he leaps gracefully from one smooth dance move to another. At first the group are dressed in white but within moments are clad in black as they transform from sweet and demure white swans into the bold, confident and dangerous black swans–a direct nod to the 2010 Natalie Portman starrer of the same name. As the clip progresses, the parallels to the film Black Swan and Portman’s character Nina become more distinct; Jimin sprouts a gorgeous pair of black wings onstage and Jin has an encounter with his seemingly sentient reflection in the mirrors–both of which reference iconic scenes from the film. The video also plays with light and darkness to show the members ‘confronting’ their shadows (a reference to Carl Jung’s theories of the self) and eventually descending into darkness as they hone their craft. At times the shadows are complete entities of their own, sentient and no longer moving in tandem with their owners. It’s an eerie but beautiful video, conceptualised with the intent to both scare and enthral the audience.
2. “María” – Hwasa
Much like the track itself, the music video for “María” teeters between playful and seductive to dark and melancholic, using contrasting imagery to showcase the two sides of Ahn Hyejin: Hwasa and Maria. There are two Hwasas–one with red hair and the other with black. The Hwasa with red hair seems to reflect her bold, public persona while Maria is the more vulnerable human behind the dazzling pop star, a side of the singer the public aren’t privy to. The music video is a celebration of Hwasa’s vibrant, bold personality and artistry but also a glimpse of her insecurities and sadness. The video explores themes around celebrities’ battle with the press and netizens, the way women are portrayed in media and the search for confidence within oneself. Hwasa references various films in the music video for “María,” but the most clear shout-out is the one she gives the 2000 Italian drama Malèna; the film uses a similar switch up of hair colors (red and black) to show the various transitions and trials in the titular character’s life and also features a scene where Malèna (played by Monica Bellucci) sits with a cigarette and a blank gaze as many men scramble to hold up lighters and be of service–a scene which Hwasa recreates at the start of “Maria.”
1. “Favorite Boys” – A.C.E
In the video for “Favorite Boys,” A.C.E deliver outstanding displays of fashion, makeup and choreography, presenting androgynous, modern yet mystical interpretations of various characters from Asian history or mythology. There are references to death and the afterlife, destiny, soulmates, time travel and more with the members portraying goblins, gods, and legends from folklore with sets that comprise traditional Korean artwork and symbolism. The group’s record HJZM : The Butterfly Phantasy explores themes of existentialism which the music video does a brilliant job of making clear under just four minutes. The video also serves as a fantastic way to share Korean culture and tradition with the rest of the world as people dove into research, discussions and explanation videos to understand what A.C.E were trying to say with “Favorite Boys.” The five members defy gender stereotypes with unique makeup looks that incorporate glitter and bold blends of colorful eyeshadow, complementing their vibrant costumes that comprise crop tops, modern customized Hanboks, traditional costumes and military-esque jackets. We also recommend checking out director Jungkook Lim’s second cut of the video for a more detailed look at A.C.E’s incredible costumes.