Note: I am a bit late with this but it has not been an auspicious start to 2018. As with my other lists, my choice of MV’s is based upon my own personal preference. As primarily a film theorist, I tend to gravitate towards painterly texts (this is both a reference to painting but also to Barthes’ concept of the painterly text in which the reader is required to actively decipher its meaning). Further I have been quite open – like a South Korean awards show – to what I have considered in this list. I have Music Videos, Performance Videos and Comeback Trailers on this list. As always feel free to disagree with me.
5. SEVENTEEN(세븐틴) SVT JUN & THE8 ‘MY I’ KOR ver. (Album: AI1 – EP)
Sometimes simplicity is best as demonstrated here by Jun and The8 from Seventeen and the MV for ‘My I’, the lyrics of which are purportedly inspired by last year’s Japanese smash hit anime My Name. The minimalist set emphasises the mirroring of Jun and The8: the divided self as signified metaphorically by the references to the ‘silhouette’ and the ‘shadow’, split between the present and future self, longing for reunification. The white ribbon that binds them together, is used to mimic the separation and duality of the self as well as the persistence of self over time.
4. K.A.R.D _ You In Me
‘You in Me’ is my favourite K.A.R.D MV to date. It takes the creepier aspects of kdrama (obsession, stalking) and pushes them to the limit while subverting the damsel-in-distress/white knight binary by making Somin and Jiwoo the aggressors and J.steph and BM the victims of their obsessive love. The saturated colour palate of red, blues and yellows forms a gothic horror aesthetic against which frames the narrative of obsessive love that plays out. The silhouetted dance breaks function to heighten the overall menacing feeling of the MV, while the suitably gothic conclusion is refreshing.
3. TAEMIN 태민 ‘Thirsty (OFF-SICK Concert Ver.)’ Performance Video (Album: MOV..ing)
Taemin keeps on giving by following his multiple MV and PV of ‘Move’ with this Performance Video of ‘Thirsty’. The constant cross cutting between the spaces – a confined room and an open underground space – and between fisheye lens POV shots and wide angled shots emphasizes Taemin’s androgyny. Here the feminine is connoted through the circular fluidity of the first type of shot (almost womblike at times especially with the billowing yellow parachute in the background) while the masculine is straight with sharp angles in the second. The red on red shots – Taemin wearing a red suit against a red background – are so densely saturated that Taemin almost seems to disappear in the background. This play on perspective is emphasized throughout the Performance Video disorientating the viewer with Taemin caught in desiring lens of the camera, leaving the viewer thirsty for more.
2. 빅스 (VIXX) – 도원경(桃源境) (Shangri-La) Official M/V (Album: Shangri-La EP)
It seems strange that VIXX’s ‘Shangri-La’ – which was released in July 2017 – has only got the deserved attention now after their mesmerising staging and performance on 2017 MBC Gayo Daejejun (31st December 2017). In terms of concept, choreography and execution, ‘Shangri-La’ is by and away one of the best MVs of 2017. VIXX’s visualisation of the lost paradise located in a Tibetan valley (as most fully realised in the West with James Hilton’s Lost Horizon which was published in 1933) draws on Orientalist imagery (fans, costume, setting) without confirming the East’s supposed inferiority (as in Edward Said’s seminal text, Orientalism – see this link to The Guardian’s discussion of this as No. 8 on their ‘The 100 best nonfiction books’). VIXX’s choreography has a fluidity which is both feminine and masculine and deconstructs fixed gender binaries just as the movement of water in the video articulates the process of becoming rather than accentuating the notion of being. The use of costume here, as elsewhere in Kpop, echoes and accentuates that gender fluidity. ‘Shangri-La’ is an exquisite music video with entrancing performances, and I am so pleased to see both VIXX and the MV receiving the attention now that they ought to have received on its release.
1. BTS (방탄소년단) LOVE YOURSELF 承 Her ‘Serendipity’ Comeback Trailer (Album: Love Yourself 承 ‘Her’ EP)
Serendipity is very different to BTS’s usual comeback trailers which have to date featured members of the rap line: RM, Suga and J-Hope. Featuring Jimin, whose tone matches the imagery and lyrics, the meaning of Serendipity is obtuse, although fan theories abound (but I am not going there), the mise-en-scène beautifully composed in which outside and inside space converge communicating the fragility of the self and its boundaries. Through the use of direct address, the words are intended not just to express a personal romantic relationship but rather, if not mainly, to convey the close bond between BTS and their fandom, or ARMY. Serendipity can be interpreted in many ways but it seems to me perhaps most directly a love letter to the fans that have supported BTS since their debut and the difficult years that followed. While the MV for DNA, the first single of the mini-album, is also beautifully composed, it is not as rich a text to interpret. I used a gif of Jimin letting go of the yellow balloon for my New Year message: the balloon as letting go of the past and moving forwards leaving the pain and trauma as 2017 behind (it was not a good year politically or personally).