Each year, it feels like K-pop places more and more emphasis on its music videos. And while I’ll always be a fan of the songs first and foremost, there’s no denying the power of a potent visual. Here are my ten favorites of 2020.
2020 YEAR-END MASTERPOST
AKMU – Happening
CRAXY – Aria
Kai – Mmmh
Boyhood – Retro Love
Stray Kids – God’s Menu
10. LEE SUHYUN – ALIEN
Ripped right from a comic book, Alien‘s combination of bright colors, amusing captions and animated effects give it a character all its own. The editing in this is particularly good, merging the various styles in inventive ways.
9. NCT 127 – KICK IT
Few big-budget pop videos utilize the color yellow so strongly, and its omnipresent saturation gives Kick It a unique calling card. The video does a great job showcasing the choreography, while using light and shadow to give the visuals some warmth.
8. AGUST D – DAECHWITA
With a set familiar to any fan of historical Korean dramas, Daechwita blends the old and new seamlessly. The video utilizes relatively long cuts to give your eyes plenty of time to feast on the surroundings, but the camera never strays from Suga and his firecracker charisma.
7. SUNMI – PPORAPPIPPAM
Sunmi is no stranger to this list, and she moves into the top ten yet again with Pporappippam. Besides being an incredibly compelling performer to watch, the video delivers a stylish retro atmosphere, full of memorable costuming and lighting that really bring the song to life.
6. A.C.E – STAND BY YOU
I’m a sucker for sappy, nostalgic videos like this. The intro is a bit overwrought and disconnected from the lightness of what follows, but if this were turned into a full K-drama, I’d certainly watch. There’s something so engaging about its slow pace and simplicity.
5. EVERGLOW – LA DI DA
There were plenty of 80’s-themed music videos this year, but few captured the excess as well as Everglow. Moving through a Blade Runner-meets-Sin City set, the use of black and white, punctuated by dramatic punches of color, makes the visuals instantly memorable. This is a sci-fi aesthetic I’ve always loved.
4. GOLDEN CHILD – ONE (LUCID DREAM)
Everybody and their mother filmed a music video at this same rock quarry in 2020 (it’s becoming the new “rooftop helipad,” if you know what I mean…), but Golden Child gave it a dystopian twist. In between the expected choreography shots, we get some brilliantly dynamic imagery, perfectly realizing the dreamlike quality of the track. That shot from 2:50-2:56 is a real stunner, and one of my favorite K-pop images of the year.
3. GFRIEND – MAGO
Back to the retro theme, and another wonderful interpretation of it in the form of MAGO. Down to the 4:3 aspect ratio of the video and the hazy filter, GFriend look as if they stepped right out of the disco era. I love the colors used in this. They’re both vibrant and muted, giving the video plenty of atmosphere that’s further accentuated by some interesting camera angles.
2. LOONA – SO WHAT
So What is a music video in constant motion. After a mysterious opening, the camera pushes us around, weaving in and out of scenes with a fluid motion. This gives the visuals a sense of energy that compliments the brashness of the song. The choice of sets is also inspired, bringing a ton of color and texture that’s enhanced further by the costuming. It all ends with the world seeming to burn down. And really, what’s more 2020 than that?
1. J.Y. PARK x SUNMI – WHEN WE DISCO
This is how to tell a story in a music video! No complicated lore or naval-gazing symbolism. When We Disco keeps its narrative simple and focused. It’s comprehensible, funny and actually fits the song it’s meant to promote. It’s also a brilliant choreography showcase, using its classic movie musical motif to bring out the song’s retro appeal. Park Jinyoung and Sunmi make for a delightful pair, bringing an awkward chemistry that matches the silliness of the story. This is far and away my favorite music video of the year.