Tag Archives: BTS

Top 5 KPOP Music Videos 2017

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).









Disclaimer: I haven’t heard every single song released in 2017 so these are the top songs that I have listened to. It is an opinion and you are welcome to disagree with me. There is a common thread to the songs that I choose. Music was very important to me when I was younger and going through my rock, emo, gothic and punk phases. The songs on this list speak to this generation’s anxieties and fears in a cathartic manner in a similar way to those I listened to when I was young did.  It always gets better ….

Please note: Some of the MV’s do not have subtitles, but these are easily found on YouTube or on Genius.

5.  ‘빈차 (HOME IS FAR AWAY)’ + ‘연애소설 (LOVE STORY)’ (Epik High)


3. ‘HANDS UP’ (B.A.P)

2. ‘무제(無題) (Untitled, 2014)’ (G-DRAGON)

1.’ 방탄소년단’ / ‘NOT TODAY’ (BTS)

Top 10 KPOP Albums 2017

Disclaimer: Any of my end of year lists are based upon what I have seen and/or watched. They might not be the ‘best’, if indeed there was a way to evaluate that objectively, but represent what I have most enjoyed listening to or watched.  Feel free to disagree with me. And by the way, I am tone deaf …

10. Taemin: MOVE — ing



Beautiful Taemin, what can I say? Just a gift to the world and KPOP. Thanks for the multiple MVs of Move.

9. EXO: The War


As with BTS, I prefer EXO’s 2016 album. However I am in the minority here. Having said this, EXO once again demonstrate why they are one of KPOP’s leading boy groups with their on-point vocals and raps.

8. VIXX: Shangri-La


VIXX are the master’s of the concept album and Shangri-La is no  exception. In the West, Shangri-La is known as a mystical place in the East – the name of which derives from James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon – where harmony and love provide an oasis from the real world. VIXX’s take on it, is darker and less harmonious than Hilton’s, but well worth visiting.

7. K.A.R.DYou & Me


K.A.R.D’s second mini-album of 2017 is considerably darker than Hola Hola and as such appeals to the Goth in me. While it didn’t do as well in the charts in Korea, it marks a more mature direction and style for what is the break-out KPOP act of 2017.

6. Seventeen: TEEN, AGE


The diversity of Seventeen’s subunits works well here, although there is a lack of thematic coherence as a result. However with this, there can be little doubt that Seventeen has cemented its place amongst KPOP’s leading boy groups.

7: GOT7: 7 for 7


The most cohesive work that GOT7 have produced to date which deserved more attention that it got when released. I hope that the group builds on this and receives the success that it undoubtedly deserves.

4: G-Dragon: Kwon Ji Yong


With this self-titled album, G-Dragon introspectively examines the unreal life of a KPOP idol in which life is lived out almost exclusively in front of the camera lens and in the glare of the media. Emotionally depressing Kwon Ji Yong might be, but it is perhaps the most authentic glimpse of the type of life that KPOP idols have to live and the unrealistic exceptions that surround them which are representative of larger societal problems in South Korea. Perhaps now is the time to reflect on this.


3: VIXX LR: Whisper


VIXX‘s LR – Leo and Ravi –  is perhaps one of the best KPOP’s subunits. Ravi’s distinctive rap melds well with Leo’s silky vocals on this, their second EP.



Certainly  2017 has marked a career defining point for BTS with LOVE YOURSELF 承 ‘Her’ smashing global records for a KPOP band. I personally prefer Wings and Blood, Sweat and Tears to Love Yourself and DNA, but then I am not the main demographic for the album.

1: Epik High: We’ve Done Something Wonderful


By far and away, my favourite album of the year. Powerful, haunting and emotional, We’ve Done Something Wonderful demonstrates that KPOP rappers do not need to culturally appropriate an’other’s experience and history to produce socially conscious music.


Masculinity, Popular Culture & fandom

Last week, I added Harvey Weinstein to my growing list of producers, actors, distributors, musicians and artists that I actively avoid. Already on this list are Johnny Depp, Woody Allen, Bill Crosby, R-Kelly, Chris Brown and Brian Singer for reasons that I won’t list but should be clear enough without me having to do so.  Weinstein’s alleged proclivities were brought to light by Ranon Farrow’s harrowing piece of investigative journalism for The New Yorker.

The report of Asia Argento’s encounter with Weinstein when she was 21 saddened me a great deal as I spent six years writing my thesis on the giallo films of her father, Dario Argento. Asia Argento played the central role in the later two of Argento’s ‘Diva Films’: Opera, Trauma and The Stendhal Syndrome. In The Stendhal Syndrome, Argento plays Detective Anna Manni, who is captured and violently raped by Alfredo Grossi (Thomas Kretschmann) before escaping from the serial killer’s lair: the encounter leaving Anna so traumatised that she begins to suffer from DPD (Dissociative Personality Disorder). The film was released in the same year that the alleged assault took place with film imitating life in the most depressing way possible. In the Italian Press, Asia Argento is being assaulted once again through reports which contend that no assault happened, as she willingly prostituted herself, and therefore consented to the encounter. such as the one in the Libero Newspaper.


In a series of posts that will deviate from my usual musings on East Asian gothic and horror cinemas, I intend to open up a space for thinking differently about masculinity outside of the dominant hegemonic and toxic forms: the consequences of which we are seeing at the moment across Western society. I am interested in how non-conforming and expressive transgressions of gender, race and sexuality (Phillips and Stuart, 2008, p. 380) can disrupt binaries of oppression and repression and provide a more productive space through which to contend with a culture of patriarchal privilege. Sadly, despite second and third wave feminism in the West, patriarchy doesn’t seem to have changed much in 30 years given the most recent events.

My approach is one of intersectional feminism. Intersectional feminism acknowledges that oppression is experienced differently depending on the intersection of race,  sexuality and class that forms one’s identity. My argument here is that it is not enough to teach girls how to negotiate a patriarchal culture that deems them as second class citizens, but doing this without tackling how we teach boys about being men, will never be enough by itself.

As a gothic scholar, I am fascinated by anomalous bodies that exist outside of the symbolic and have the potential to disrupt heteronormative identity constructions. Usually, my focus is on the monstrous body in horror cinema whose difference is clearly marked through a mutation of the flesh. However for the purpose of these series of posts, I am focussing in on East Asian Popular Culture and in particular K-POP with specific reference to BTS, fandom and the construction of a community of care. This is an extension of a conference paper that I gave at ‘Teenage Kicks: Global Teenage Cultures’ at Kingston University, 10th September 2017.



However in order to do so, and in order to highlight the contradictory nature of East Asian masculinities in which non-conformity to traditional gender, sex and sexuality binaries is simultaneously encouraged as performance and repressed as authentic identity as part of this journey, I will be going back in time. Specifically I will be discussing  Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing (12th September 1956 – 1st April 2003) – one of Hong Kong’s brightest stars – whose gender crossings and performativity are echoed in the soft masculinity of contemporary K-POP boy groups.

In ‘Indonesian Fan Girl’s Perception towards soft masculinity as represented by K-Pop Male Idol’, Ayunigtyas writes:

Sun Jung (Tunstall, 2014) has defined this as East Asian soft masculinity. She has said that soft masculinity is a hybrid product constructed through the amalgamation of South Korea’s traditional seonbi masculinity (which is influenced by Chinese Confucian wen masculinity), Japan’s bishonen (pretty boy) and global metrosexual masculinity. Masculinity in K-pop seems to be in contrast with Korean traditional masculinity that defined by patriarchal authoritarian masculinity, hard masculinity rooted in compulsory military service for men and true seonbi (Confucian, traditional masculinity referring to young noblemen) (Leung, 2012) (2017, p. 53).

The conflict between soft and hard masculinities in South Korea can be seen in the recent coverage of G-Dragon, one of the members of Big Bang, who is coming up to having to enrol for compulsory military service and who I will also be discussing.  He has recently completed a gruelling world tour, Act III, M.O.T.T.E. (Moment of Truth the End), during which he attended the Chanel Spring 2008 show wearing a woman’s sweater from the 2017 collection.

Source: Koreaboo

Elizabeth Peng in Vogue comments:

Often deemed androgynous or gender-bending in a society that maintains traditional, patriarchal values and a noted adherence to manufactured beauty ideals (and plastic surgery), G-Dragon has no qualms sitting atop a white throne in an effete burgundy velvet smoking tuxedo with a matching choker and drop earrings, or crooning a ballad one minute and spitting rhymes among a scantily clad, all-female ensemble the next.

It is clear that despite all this praise, G-Dragon is struggling to separate his Idol status from his authentic identity (if that it is at all possible) – Kwon Ji Yong  – and has recently admitted to feeling overwhelmed by his schedule and expectations. There are reports that G-Dragon, talking about his impending enlistment in his final concerns in Taiwan, said “I have to go somewhere so I can become a man“. What then does it mean to be a man seems to be the question? Is it to put aside those things that are not considered ‘manly’? Research shows that manliness is imprinted at a very early age with the need for comfort, food and protection from the parent being overcome by gendered expectations. In ‘Toxic Masculinity is Killing Men: The Roots of Men and Trauma’, Kali Holloway points out that:

The emotionally damaging “masculinization” of boys starts even before boyhood, in infancy. Psychologist Terry Real, in his 1998 book I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression, highlights numerous studies which find that parents often unconsciously begin projecting a kind of innate “manliness”—and thus, a diminished need for comfort, protection and affection—onto baby boys as young as newborns. This, despite the fact that gendered behaviors are absent in babies; male infants actually behave in ways our society defines as “feminine.” (2015)

As such, boys learn to be emotionally distant in order to ‘become’ men, which means that they need to put aside ‘feminine’ attributes. G-Dragon mentions not painting his nails any more in his reflections on his upcoming military service in order to adopt the appropriate hegemonic masculinity which is necessary to become a ‘man’ in South Korea. However at the same time, we need to be cognisant that as Connell and Messerschmidt point out that: “Masculinities are configurations of practice that are accomplished in social action and, therefore, can differ according to the gender relations in a particular social setting” (2005, p. 843). This is clear in the gendered aesthetics of K-POP:

Most commentaries on gender and sexuality in K-pop focus on male idols’ androgynous presentations.  Men with “soft” or “delicate” features, commonly referred to as a kkonminam (“flower man”), have been central to the visual branding of K-pop and to Korean hallyu more generally. The dissemination of new images of male bodies creates space for a vibrant aesthetic imaginary around male fashions, friendships, and intimacies, and the heightened visibility of the kkonminam in superstar groups like BigBang, BTS, Infinite, SHINee, and Super Junior also has particular resonances in a Korean context (Laurie, 2008, p. 221).

The fandom surrounding K-POP groups focusses in on close physical and emotional intimacies (which I want to clearly differentiate from sexual intimacies) between young men, and it is this intimacy which is key to the construction of a community of care that exists around any particular fandom. I have chosen to focus on BTS due to the interaction between the group and their fans as well as the group’s well documented desire to be a voice for the young. Their 2017 single ‘Not Today’ has a powerful anti-suicide message behind it, which given the high rate of youth suicides in South Korea (and Japan), gives their work an activist edge which is missing from some of the other K-POP groups.



Ayuningtyas, P (2017). Indonesian Fan Girl’s Perception towards soft masculinity as represented by K-Pop Male Idols, Lingua Cultura, 11(1), May 2017, 53-57

Laurie, T. (2016) Toward a Gendered Aesthetics of K-Pop In: Chapman, I. and Johnson, H. (eds). Global Glam and Popular Music: Style and Spectacle from the 1970s to the 2000s(Vol. 11). Routledge, pp: 214-231.

Phillips, L. and Stewart, M.R., (2008). “I Am Just So Glad You Are Alive”: New Perspectives on Non-Traditional, Non-Conforming, and Transgressive Expressions of Gender, Sexuality, and Race Among African Americans. Journal of African American Studies, 12(4): 378-400