It’s safe to say, 2017 was ripe with comebacks and much-talked-about MVs. Twice a year at Seoulbeats, our writers undertake the painstaking task of selecting their top five MVs for the year. In 2017, some MVs stood out for their narrative and wit, while others took top billings for sheer production quality and aesthetics. Here, writers Chelsea, Caterina, and Hannah discuss their favorite MVs out of all that 2017 had to offer. After reading through our top picks, don’t forget to leave your choices in the comments below — and don’t forget to check out all our other End-of-Year Review panels!
“Dream in a Dream”
|3||Suran ft. Dean
|4||The Black Skirts
“Who Do You Love?”
“Ko Ko Bop”
Chelsea: It seems like, save a few overlaps, there’s a lot of diversity to our lists this year. What were some of the criteria you had while making your list, and what made your top pick stand out?
Caterina: I based my picks fundamentally on the aesthetic. Rather than coherence in the plot I tend to prefer vibrant colors and a certain “weird” and modern vibe. “Gashina” and “Peek-a-Boo” fall perfectly into this ‘odd yet aesthetically pleasant’ category.
First of all, let’s talk about “Gashina”: there is a huge gap between how weird Sunmi acts and the girly and pretty aesthetic of the video. There are roses everywhere since the word gashina evokes the image of thorns in Korean (가시 gashi). I found the way roses were implemented in basically every scene — in the background, on the furniture, in her hair ornaments and so on — very clever. A lot of pinks and reds are used, creating a lovely color scheme that again evokes flowery images. This video was made for me to fall in love with it.
What I said about Sunmi also goes for Red Velvet. I really enjoyed the paradox of five angelic looking ladies who are actually ruthless murderers doing absurd things — such as crawling in front of a house made of pizza. “Peek-a-Boo” is also very tongue in cheek with tons of references to their past works. Their wardrobe choices are a little more conventional — there’s lot of Gucci — but it’s not like just anyone can pull off little dresses made of rainbow sequins.
Hannah: I had a similar approach to Caterina, preferring videos that made use of aesthetic devices to represent concepts in new ways. “Spring Day” by BTS topped my list because the imagery, plot and lyrics all tied together to create a visual and emotional journey for the viewer. In stark contrast to Winner’s sunny “Island”, the MV begins with neat tie-in to the song’s title, as V waits to board a train in midwinter to reach a fresh start the coming spring.
The visual references build up in layers; we see the members huddling around a dying match in Omelas, Suga in a pile of dirty laundry that’s like memories he cannot forget, Jimin placing the shoes in the tree to honour the loss of his youth, and J-Hope letting a paper plane fly free. These moments come together in an iconic visual to represent the end of both The Most Beautiful Moment in Life trilogy and BTS’ own youth, as they move onwards and upwards in their career.
Chelsea: “Spring Day” was definitely on my list of honorable mentions. As I said in my review, I love that BTS and Big Hit have delivered artistry with emotional content and narrative throughout the Most Beautiful Moment in Life series. There were so many possible ways to interpret “Spring Day” that it struck a chord for many people, and I think that’s a great achievement.
Caterina: “Peekaboo” did manage your list though, Chelsea. What motivated your picks?
Chelsea: My choices this year fall into two categories: cheeky and confident females, and aesthetically pleasing emotional plots. The playful MVs from Red Velvet, IU, and Suran top my list because this was a great year for female artists, and for showcasing narratives that we don’t often see from them.
Speaking of MVs that go well with the lyrics, Winner’s “Island” was shot in Hawaii and the result is beautiful as expected. There are a lot of aerial shots that make the shores look majestic. The saturation was edited so that the sky and the sea are almost turquoise and the beaches are white; it looks like paradise on earth. The members of Winner are playing around and having fun with a group of local girls, which can be considered a step forward from MVs in which all members of a boy group try to flirt with the same girl.
Chelsea: I put The Black Skirts “Who Do You Love?” on my list for similar reasons. Not only is the MV beautifully shot, but it captures the emotional core of the song in a surprising way. Yes, it’s a little dramatic, and the Bonnie and Clyde elements of it might be a little cliche, but the lyrics in conjunction with the story unfolding on the screen really tug on your heart. The way the director played with lighting and space is part of what makes it such a pleasurable and captivating watch.
The scenes in the singing room with the LED lights and the almost claustrophobic way the camera films them really enhance the melancholy undertones of an otherwise sweet song. There are so many contrasts, too: the way the couple acts so openly on the streets in daylight, and then have to hide their feelings inside the dingy rooms; or the foggy intimacy of the shower, compared to the openness of the desert once they’ve finally pulled off their heist and escape. It’s not a happy MV, even if it’s a love story, and I find that somewhat refreshing that there are real emotional consequences in the wake of the crime they commit.
In contrast, the use of lighting effects in G-Dragon’s “Untitled, 2014”, initially seem to be the only point of interest in the understated MV that accompanies a stripped-down performance. Yet the simplicity of these techniques highlights the poignancy of the song while never taking away from the centrepiece of G-Dragon’s vocals. The colours blush and fade as the melody rises then falls, a perfect accompaniment to embody the conflicting moods of the track. It may be untitled, but the listener needs no further embellishments to tap in to the raw emotions of this piece.
In comparison to the eclectic, even brazen, visuals G-Dragon usually employs to convey the themes of his MVs, this one stands out for its beautiful minimalism. To me this is the MV interpretation of a stage with a single spotlight – in the colourful, chaotic world of K-pop it’s easy to forget that sometimes the performer is all you need to catch the viewer’s attention.
Chelsea: There are a few picks we haven’t covered yet. Hannah, what would you like to say for Ten’s “Dream in a Dream”?
Chelsea: The only remaining video on my list is Ha:tfelt‘s “Read Me,” which Lo wrote an excellent analysis of following its October release. If I could group both “Read Me” and “I Wander” together, I would, as the MV’s tell a remarkably story of loss and longing. Post Wonder Girls — and following “Get It?” — this really wasn’t the comeback I was expecting from Ha:tfelt. Yet, the emotional core of the two MVs struck me in a way that was totally unanticipated. The quality of the narrative, along with the quality of the production and the emotional impact of the tracks themselves, really surprised me. They also gave me a lot of anticipation for Ha:tfelt’s future releases as a soloist.
Overall, it seems like 2017 was a pretty great year for female artists, and an even better year for production quality. Hopefully, 2018 gifts us even more aesthetically pleasing MVs to gush over.
Readers, what were your favorite MVs of 2017?