While it’s not a new theme, more K-pop groups are producing storylines that tie into more than one of their releases. We normally see one theme or concept per single and/or album and at most times, the executed ideas are completely different from each other.
One of the earlier concepts is Big Bang‘s “Haru Haru” with a tie into to G-Dragon‘s “Only Look at Me pt. 2”. But now, we have seen BTS go from the The Most Beautiful Moment in Life series, to a complete storyline tie in going back all the way to their debut days with “No More Dream“, VIXX with Zelos, Hades, and Kratos, and Monsta X with The Clan series.
This week, we ask the writers: What are some of our favorite multi-series releases? Are they any ideas or concepts we’d like some groups to have that haven’t dived into this sort of storytelling?
(Note: This roundtable began prior to the release of VIXXs “The Closer.”)
Pat: I’d just like to start of by saying that I absolutely love it when groups do complex storylines that span multiple releases – it’s possibly the only reason I even watch a BTS music video or even know who Monsta X is. In fact, despite me not being a fan of BTS’ music, I would say that their The Most Beautiful Moment in Life series is one of my favorites. I don’t know what it is about that storyline but it got to me on a personal level that I never expected would happen. Actually, it’s probably my favorite because of how the message resonated with me – or at least how I interpreted it.
That being said, as of writing, I am totally pumped for the conclusion of VIXX’s Conception series because a) its a Greek mythology inspired story and I love anything mythology, b) actual character trailers that seem to be actually part of the MV, and c) I just cannot wait to see how this story ended up with the eye of providence being an integral part of the series and Leo and N‘s characters. Unlike the BTS series which could be interpreted in many different ways due to the almost deliberate vagueness of the music videos, VIXX’s soon to be concluded series is in more of a traditional, structural story form – we know that Ken is probably the mastermind, and that Leo and N were fighting for the female’s affection, with the other members serving as supporting characters. It’s two different types, and I love them both.
Gaya: I didn’t know that about Big Bang, I should check out “Only Look at Me pt. 2.”
I have to say that I do enjoy these serial K-pop releases. In a market that is so fast-paced that the music feels disposable, having a link between releases is a great way to extend the shelf life of creative goods, as well as increasing the opportunity to delve deeper into each concept over multiple releases.
I’m going to hop on the BTS bandwagon; where the Youth series excelled was in its consistency. Even though “I Need U,” “Run,” and “Fire” are distinctly different works, they all successfully incorporate the central theme of youth. And I think that commitment to staying on message is why it resonates with fans. I was hoping that Monsta X would similarly impress with their Clan series, but the misstep with the “Fighter” MV has thrown me off a bit (though the song is still good). And I am really glad Orange Caramel abandoned their Asian city series.
But coming back to what I liked: SHINee‘s Misconceptions duology is a sentimental favourite, and I admire G-Friend‘s school girl trilogy, which was fully realized with “Rough.” I would love to see Mamamoo try their hand at a multi-part narrative.They’re is a funny group, so I would love to see something like a wacky spy comedy that takes cues from Get Smart, or maybe a heist like in the Ocean‘s series.
Lorenza: The key for these multiple comeback storylines is keeping the quality consistent. I think that’s the biggest failing point for Monsta X’s The Clan series. The Clan has such a promising premise, but the actual execution is lackluster. The same goes for GOT7’s Flight Log series. I think this is where 24k has succeeded; both “Still 24K” and “BINGO” follow a storyline that make sense instead of being muddled and getting lost in trying to be metaphorical.
I don’t if this technically counts, but I kind of wish Exo went all in with their superpowers during their debut. It’s a cheesy concept for sure, but it could have been so much fun if executed properly. Their first few videos seemed to link together and if they just leaned in a little bit more, I think it would have been a fun concept.
I’d love to see some girl groups do extensive storylines over multiple comebacks. I think Red Velvet or Mamamoo could easily pull it off. I’d also really like WJSN to do a storyline. I’d love it if WJSN made a story out of their cosmic, Tumblr, vibe from their last comeback. A fantasy story about the girls could be super fun.
Madi: I totally forgot about Exo’s concept. Honestly, if they continued it without being so off and on, they would probably be a group with the longest running concept. Maybe SM felt it couldn’t recovering for a storyline from OT12 to OT9? I have a good storyline you can go with SM about those lost members, so hit me up?
I think the reason BTS’s Youth resonates with us so much because we are or have been there. At some point, we’re experienced the struggles they have either acted out or sang about, interpreted in our own way. And that’s, at least for me, makes it appealing, outside of a compelling storyline.
I’m all for G-Friend doing something more with that aspect if they can. All of it seems to come off as just having feelings for another person, but not acting on it and they’re caught up their own feelings/thoughts (seeing that there’s no male lead in any of the videos, just talk between friends so to speak). So maybe they can put those feelings into action and continue a series? I think it could work.
That’s a really good suggestion about G-Friend, though, Madi, and I hope Source Music goes in that direction. SM totally should call you about that EXO idea.
Mark: I’m personally not a fan of these trilogies, prequels, sequels, and broadly connected storylines because they’re just so vague and require way too much of an attention span to keep up with. If it’s going to take an elongated write-up to explain to me the meaning of every detail in one of these MVs, that’s too much. I understand that it may be great for those who are completely absorbed in the fandom — it likely generates a ton of views from all the re-watch value and fills up message boards with endless fan theories — but it’s mostly confusing and pretentious for the rest of us. BTS, VIXX, and Got7 are the worse offenders and if you find yourself lost in the details reading these write-ups then you’ll know exactly why.
I miss the days when K-pop storylines were linear, straightforward, and dramatic. If we’re talking about one-off storylines with the best payoff, the dramatic twists in Big Bang’s “Lies,” B.A.P‘s “One Shot,” and K.Will‘s “Please Don’t” are my cup of tea. For multi-MV storylines, let’s not forget the two-part mini-series done by pre-scandal T-ara, turning the MVs of “Cry Cry” and “Lovey Dovey” into a combined saga, then following up and doing the same for “Day by Day” and “Sexy Love.” They didn’t serve so much as MVs but more so as promotional mini-movies showcasing certain members’ acting chops while using the songs from the album as a soundtrack. And best of all, they made sense and served as actual stories that anyone can follow!
Madi: But if you have an MV without a compelling storyline or I can’t figure out the storyline within the third watch (if I get that far), then I’m done. Concepts that go beyond one release/single take more thought and process (from those involved on the production side and viewers), and it’s something different and breaks up the norm so to speak. That might be why it captures the attention a lot more. Agreeing side note: K.Will’s “Please Don’t” wins all the awards for best one shot MV with the best storyline/plot twist in my book.
I feel like EXO should either stick to the concept or leave it alone. They could have tied in the powers with “Monster” but didn’t failed to do so. So much lost potential. SM, have your people call my people…. or just me.
G-Friend is one of the few female groups I care about, so I really hope they do something more.
Gaya: Oh, I definitely feel Mark’s point about the exclusionism, especially when you review a MV and note that you note that a member is probably eating an orange because it relates to the songs lyrics about love being like citric acid, only for a fan to inform you that it’s actually/also reference to when that member ate an orange-flavoured tic tac in the car on their way to Music Bank during the third week of promotions two years ago that was captured in the background of another member’s instagram update.
That said, I feel like that kind of outcome would be true regardless of whether the release in question was a one-off or part of a series.
Qing: I loved the apocalyptic/ gaming aesthetic of those T-ara eras! And I’m putting in a third vote for “Please Don’t”. But much as I am blown away by twists in simple but effective one-off MV, I must say they don’t really pique my curiosity beyond a handful of watches, even if the impact of those watches stay years after.
On some level, I can see how long and convoluted stories only hold an appeal for dedicated fans of the groups, or for those genuinely interested by the subject matter. I like VIXX, but I wasn’t intrigued enough about the story to figure out how the Conception series fits together (which Pat has done a good job of piecing together).
But the process of figuring out the meaning of these complex series can also be very rewarding, and the mental effort pays off in the form of deeper emotional resonance. For The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, what I found meaningful wasn’t so much the act of trying to assemble the story fragments into a coherent narrative, but how those vignettes were framed cinematographically and edited together to evoke the bittersweetness of youth. It was the creative team’s use of the film medium that left a mark on me, because it drew out the immense potential of music videos as an art form.
That’s about it from us! What about you readers? How do you feel about concepts that are so storyline driven that they spread throughout multiple MVs? What are your favorites? Sound out in the comments below!
(Images via BigHit Entertainment, SM Entertainment, Jellyfish Entertainment, Source Music, Starship Entertainment)