As Seoulbeats celebrates our 14th anniversary this July, we are running a fundraiser. Our team works hard to share critical perspectives of K-pop daily, all on a voluntary basis. Donate via Ko-fi (ko-fi.com/seoulbeats) to keep us going!
An MV is most commonly seen as an extension of a song, and the MVs released in the first half of 2022 have done just that, and more. With a wide range of strong MVs to choose from, it was difficult for Aaron, Sara, and Xiao Qing to narrow down their favourites, but they managed to do it in the end!
Xiao Qing: It’s always crazy to realise that we’re already halfway through the year because I feel like I’ve barely done anything. Yet, there were so many great MVs in the first half that it took me awhile to figure out which ones would make the list in the first place!
I noticed we all have Seventeen’s most recent comeback, “Hot”, on our lists, and rightfully so – Seventeen has always been a group that I loosely followed, but was never disappointed with each MV and album that they put out. “Hot” was so filled with life and charisma that I just had to include it in my list for MYR. The stunning and bright visuals absolutely blew me away, and the overall performance was immaculate: it took at least ten re-watches before I could stop myself from hitting the replay button once again.
How did “Hot” make it onto your lists?
Aaron: An MV cannot exist without its song. Therefore, I found myself being drawn to MVs with already gorgeous tracks. When narrowing down my top five, I had to love the song for me to be invested in the MV. There have been so many impressive MV concepts this year attached to dull songs. Having said that, here comes the exception to that rule; introducing Seventeen’s “Hot”.
Listening to “Hot” doesn’t work for me without having its MV accompany it. The MV takes everything that visually worked in their filmography and tied it to the concept of the sun. In particular, the editing style of using a frame within a frame that is taped up in “Rock with you” becomes the pop-art transitions of “Hot”. The sun’s most known characteristic is that it is almost as “hot” as Seventeen. This makes the “Mad Max” references natural and the “Icarus” imagery tasteful. Everything is in its visual place with “Hot” making it the absolute standout MV of the year so far for me. It had to be on my list even if I found the song a little dull.
Sara: I have to agree that “Hot” isn’t Seventeen’s best song nor title track! But, as soon as I watched the MV, I knew it would claim my #1 spot. The main reason is because of “Hot’s” connection to the 2019 track, “Fear.” “Hot” is the group’s response to “Fear”—and proof that the 13 of them had grown as artists and people since. Qing brilliantly dissected “Fear” three years ago, where she pointed out Seventeen’s primary fear: time running out. By the end of this MV, they took the first necessary step and “look[ed] their fears in the eye.”
In “Hot,” Seventeen have rediscovered their footing and renewed themselves (quite literally, as the 13 recently renewed their contracts). This time, they are overflowing with confidence, nearing bravado, and the heat of their own energy. As Qing pointed out in her review, “Fear” opens with Wonwoo surrounded by a man-made metal structure reminiscent of the sun. “Hot” exchanges this shadow for a more natural sun, leaning into the opposite extreme of exaggerated CGI. The other moment that captured my attention was when DK removed the block from his eyes. In “Fear,” the members were the ones who hid their faces from the world—with their own two hands, in fact—but this time, they have the power to overcome their external and internal fears. I could go on and on, but this is a piece of why “Hot” clinched the top spot on my list!
That’s where the similarity across all of our lists end, but Aaron and Xiao Qing, you both placed Woosung’s “Phase Me” on yours! What stood out to you about this MV?
Xiao Qing: Although Woosung’s career as a soloist has been shaky for me (personally I think his style of music doesn’t really suit my taste), I am a sucker for an artistically and emotionally charged MV that really hooks the viewer in. In “Phase Me”, we see a lot of bodies on set, and each body has a purpose and adds new dynamics to the various tableaux present in the MV. Combine that with the beautiful lighting design, we have a stunning yet haunting atmosphere that is reminiscent of the show Sense8’s infamous sex scene that highlighted the emotional and physical connection that linked all the characters together.
Aaron: What makes WooSung’s “Phase Me” MV rank so high on my list is its ability to tie together the entire visual concept of his Moth EP into one MV. “Phase Me” is also a gorgeous song to me. It subverts K-Pop conventions with its anti chorus while emphasizing its levity with a whistling refrain within its chorus. WooSung is not fazed at all turning a pop-rock single into a R&B title track.
The “Phase Me” MV does take the literal meaning of the word phase and applies it to its MV concept resulting in a motif based on the phases of a moth’s lifecycle. The same way heartbreak cocoons you in your bed for months until you re-emerge as a beautiful moth or butterfly ready to spread your wings. You are now single and the MV shows the great sensuality of that idea. It is an MV maximal in its drama within small set pieces mimicking the track’s construction.
Moving on let’s talk about Stray Kid‘s “Venom” both of you have it on your list! What made it stand out for you two?
Sara: I truly wish the story and quality of the “Venom” MV was what we got for “Maniac!” Stray Kids’ latest title track is good and the MV has its moments, but “Venom” takes it one step further. The flashy transitions, twisting camera angles, and unsettling plucking hook all establish the story Stray Kids want to tell. They liken themselves to be victims caught in a sticky spider web, trapped by a mysterious someone (whether it is a lover or not is unclear). And then, of course, there’s the bit where the eight might be out to murder each other, adding a different flavor we haven’t seen before.
“Venom” was such a creative and elaborate production for one of three b-sides that received MVs this time around—it’s hard not to get caught in Stray Kids’ web.
Xiao Qing: I agree! Much like what Aaron pointed out earlier, an MV is an extension of a song, and it should further enhance the point it is trying to make. “Venom” stood out to me the most when I was listening to the album, so I was pleased when we got an MV to accompany it!
“Venom” creates a lot of underlying tension as we watch the members actively try to hurt each other, and even though I enjoy MVs that are memorable, I really love MVs that make me think. “Venom” allows for replayability and leads to a lot of discussion after that. Although it may not be as deep or as lore-heavy as their I AM series, an MV that allows for discussion upon watching it is always fun.
Kwon Eun Bi also showed us a new side of her and her versatility as an artist in “Glitch”. What put her on your list, Aaron?
Aaron: “Glitch” is my favorite K-pop single this year, especially with its four-on-the-floor drum beat that lives in its chorus. MV wise the glitching texture that invades this smooth single becomes the most interesting motif of its visual package. Whenever the track itself glitches the MV follows suit with gor_ge_ous replications.
This transitions what would have been a traditional K-pop bop into something so much more. Her voguing dance moments are especially slay-worthy and the nightcore audience have already started latching onto the track! I was blown away sonically but stayed for its MV, I had a similar feeling when I saw Solar‘s “Honey” and its switching color palettes. What made “Honey” stand out for you Sara?
Sara: I was debating over which MV to choose to fill out my list, and “Honey” was the perfect candidate. “Honey” conveys playfulness and sophistication so well, and I believe it does so through a number of reasons. First off, as you mentioned, Aaron, the MV establishes its style and its use of color from the get-go, starting out with Solar’s face hidden behind a white mask. Although the MV isn’t “action” heavy, as it mostly rotates between choreography and solo shots, the way it is cut emphasizes the downbeats of the earworm track. The constant bursts of color (and the layered textures generated through the styling, lighting, and movement in the frame) keep “Honey” intriguing until the very end.
Meanwhile, Wonpil’s “Voiceless” has a focused narrative. What about this MV stood out to you, Xiao Qing?
Xiao Qing: Wonpil’s storytelling through song has always stood out to me, and “Voiceless” was everything I had hoped it would be – soulful, emotional, and excruciatingly painful in the best way possible. The MV focuses on the theme of loss, and even when he is able to be with the mermaid, the viewers know that this love would not last no matter how much we wanted it to. In some ways, it is pretty morbid as well, and I think that’s what really drew me in even further. There is a scene where Wonpil is standing on a chair and looks up at the ceiling, which made me wonder, “Oh God, is he about to-?” and then he jumps, and submerges himself in water. This underlying morbidness was so shocking and yet there was something so intriguing and beautiful about it that I could not get it “Out of my mind” (haha, Day6 song reference right there, did y’all catch that?).
Onewe also had a pretty emotional MV with “Universe_”. What put them on your list, Sara?
Sara: Onewe’s MVs tend to be on the simpler side, but “Universe_” was an emotional surprise, as they opted for a more narrative-driven MV this time. The soft rock track is all about someone being their “universe,” which may evoke images of our vast universe. Yet, in the MV, Onewe decides to capture this metaphor through the small moments they spend with those they love.
The night time universe image collides with the emotional peak of the song. Following Kanghyun’s stirring guitar solo, the camera brings viewers right next to the members running with their loved ones. The speed within each scene almost increases with instrumental’s and Yonghoon’s own build toward the highest note. When I first watched the “Universe_” MV, I definitely teared up at this moment. It was a perfect storm of all the emotional elements meeting to become one.
Aaron, your last pick is “Uniform” by Woo ft. pH-1! What about it captured your No. 1 spot?
Aaron: “Uniform” is a track about wearing all black so how could I not love it? The MV is at its best when split screening its hooded figures hiding woo and ph-1 within its crowd. It’s got the same mood as Kanye performing “All day” at the BRITs with a clan of black hooded figures as its core motif. Simple yet so powerful, like wearing black all day every day! The camera shots are also architectural in their panning of this collective human structure. The highest praise I can give it is that it seems caught in a singular vignette instead of a series of vignettes as seen on Kendrick Lamar’s “Element” or Baby Keem’s “Family Ties”. The “Uniform” MV has captured the hip-hop spirit in such a simplistic way which makes it stand out to me in this year’s batch of MVs.
“I Hate You” by Woodz is our final chart-topper! What made it stand out from the rest for you Xiao Qing?
Xiao Qing: I’m always a sucker for something fun and something nostalgic, and Woodz’s “I Hate You” brought back so many memories for my “emo-punk” days (I say that in quotes because I don’t think I ever was an official emo, and neither was I super into punk). The overall aesthetic of the video suited what you would see on MTV back in the early 2000s, and while it’s definitely more modernised in terms of fashion, it is still reminiscent of what most pop-punk artists wore during that period of time.
I think what I love most about this MV is the fact that it combines this bittersweet feeling in the best way possible. The song is also the same, where the melody is upbeat, but the lyrics are absolutely heart wrenching, with the persona wanting his lover back but disguising his lingering love for them as pure hatred. This duality that is very much prevalent throughout the MV and the song is what pushed me to watch it every single day after its release, and it was ultimately what pushed it to the very top of my list.
Bambam and Seulgi’s “Who Are You?” was strong, conceptual, and so fun to watch. How did it end up on your list, Aaron?
Aaron: “Who Are You?” is my favorite track off of BamBam’s new B EP. The MV has a lot to do with that! Knowing Bambam and Seulgi would be together always meant a nuanced dance performance was coming. I expected said performance to be the key aspect of the MV instead it is the tone of music which informs the MV. There is no montage of a couple fighting and falling in love or the mimicry of Zico’s “I am you, you are me”. What we get is BamBam and Seulgi dancing along with the idea of duality finding one another in their mirrored silhouettes.
I also love the trend of having a singular dance choreography right at the beginning of the MV. In this case, it’s the head tilting to reveal another head, so gorgeous! “Honey” has it too with the facemask while “Hot” has the X-wing arm movement. Long may that trend last.
Speaking of fun to watch, some of the Astro boys came through with “Just Breath” . It is a conveyor belt of fun! How did it earn your number 2 spot though Sara?
Sara: “Just Breath” seriously is a shot of serotonin! Rocky and Jinjin of Astro create a realistic yet humorous scene of pandemic life. Although they let loose somewhat in their rooms, especially Rocky, their energy and pure adrenaline comes to life during the main choreography scenes. While both made me smile, Rocky, for sure, caught my attention more than once. “Just Breath” truly is a ~breath~ of fresh air in this time that oftens feels constricting. I think we all needed the humor and the serotonin that Rocky and Jinjin provide through this track and MV.
2022 is off to an eventful start, and we’re looking forward to see what the rest of the year brings us. What has been some of your favourite MVs so far?
Youtube           ; Images via HYBE Entertainment, Woolfpack, JYP Entertainment, Woollim Entertainment, RBW, AOMG Entertainment, Yuehua Entertainment, Abyss Company, Fantagio