2022’s MVs brought an eclectic range of charms, but MVs that showcased charisma, creative imagery, and a distinct sense of style especially stood out. Gina, Siena, and Xiao Qing discuss their favorite picks of the year.
Siena: In each of our lists, there’s a fun balance of soloists and groups, which I think is reflective of the different requirements and ideally strengths of group versus solo MVs. For example, Sunmi’s “Heart Burn” is an MV you could only make with a soloist, revolving around her strength of artistic personality. Sunmi has always made strong MVs, but what I love about “Heart Burn,” besides its dark wit and infinite stylishness, is how brilliantly it exemplifies her empowered ingenue image, a blend of childlike joy and adult confidence and agency, sweetness and not-to-be-underestimated spice. Sunmi’s playful femme fatale persona is so singular, and “Heart Burn” captures that magic right in a delightful MV bottle.
Xiao Qing, you also have “Heart Burn” at your third spot? What did you enjoy about it?
Xiao Qing: Sunmi has always stood out as a soloist, with each comeback being filled with loads of colour and personality that left me wanting more, and “Heart Burn” is no different. I absolutely loved the aesthetics of the MV, and how this ethereal perception of Sunmi slowly became darker the more you watched, and it left me guessing as to what was happening. The shift from “Oh no she’s a poor immortal being who keeps losing her lovers to illness” to “OH NO she’s killing them!” made the viewing experience enjoyable and fun, and it’s always a great time when you see artists enjoy what they are putting out.
In contrast, while Taeyeon’s “INVU” is not as vibrant as “Heart Burn”, Taeyeon does have this alluring charm that keeps the viewer hooked. “INVU” is a beautifully done MV that not only showcases Taeyeon as the ideal feminist girlboss, but also as a polished, seasoned idol who understands her strengths. Taeyeon has always been an artist I kept an eye out for, especially since she’s been able to deliver so many outstanding concepts, but “INVU” really shines. We see Taeyeon embrace a no-nonsense attitude while still balancing it out with these beautiful shots that highlight her femininity. She is a great performer, and her alluring charm that is prevalent across all her songs only serves to draw us in further.
Gina, you also have “INVU” in your list – what drew you to it?
Gina: I agree with what you stated regarding Taeyeon’s highlights of this MV. Indeed, the duality of her femininity and strength are well showcased, as is the high quality of the production itself. Most CG productions run the risk of being low quality, or not contributing to the main theme outside of subpar symbolism. However, the entirety of her concept relies on mythology, which is not a modern nor concrete aesthetic to show. Thus, not only was digital CG production needed, but it was welcome and allowed the space for creativity in recreating the world of Artemis. In response, Taeyeon pulls off her role perfectly, adapting to the conceptual world created for her through acting and performance. While already recognized as a multi-faceted artist who challenges new approaches, “INVU” did not fail in presenting an even newer, brighter lens to view Taeyeon through.
Similarly, Stray Kids’ “Case 143” is an MV that uses cute stuffed heart animations to drive its story – what about it made the top 5 for you two?
Siena: “Case 143” was one of several MVs that stood out for me this year because of their wit, among which it just barely beat out Taeyong ft. Wonstein’s “Love Theory” for my fifth spot. Ultimately though, “Case 143” brings together polish and humor in a memorable way, utilizing animations as you mentioned Gina, but also styling, clever editing, and inventive sets to bring the song’s many charms to life. Time passes quickly when you’re having fun, and “Case 143” flies by in a delightful blink of an eye.
Xiao Qing, what did you like about the MV?
Xiao Qing: A fun, whimsical MV always scores well in my book, simply because it reminds me of when K-pop used to have crazy visuals that would eventually hurt my eyes, but I couldn’t stop watching anyways. Stray Kids have never shied away from incorporating animation into their MVs, and almost every MV that they have put out – regardless of whether I enjoyed the song or not – has been visually appealing. “Case 143” is no different, with the members taking on various roles, and the silly acting and slightly meta element where they literally break the fourth wall is so entertaining and fun to watch.
NewJeans’s “Hype Boy” was also very well edited and made use of colourful visuals. What put it on your list, Gina?
Gina: I had a difficult time choosing among the distinct, individual plots of “Hype Boy” (which was an innovative listening experience), but ultimately the duo’s version won me over for implementing a genuine take on the storyline. Usually, the familiar trope would include two ladies finding out the truth about a guy towards the end – however, this one begins with Haerin and Danielle finding out, and joining together to relish friendship over romance. Rather than ending with the usual revenge plot, it highlights the theme of camaraderie between the girls.
This fresh take is enhanced by the youthful, Y2K concept that NewJeans succeed in pulling off. Visually and artistically, they’re a brand-new force providing what we didn’t know we missed until now. The perfect mesh of modern and nostalgic vibes, outfits, and colorful settings makes for an addictive production to enjoy.
What about “Attention” made it to #1 for you, Siena?
Siena: As I was putting together my list, “Attention” rose to the top for two main reasons: its balanced excellence and its unique impact in K-pop. For the first element, “Attention” wrangles many contrasts into balanced perfection, from finding the right ratio of performance sequences versus narrative beats, to creating a color palette that is both nostalgically washed-out and brilliantly vibrant, to building an emotional landscape that is sweet yet tinged with just a hint of menace and melancholy. In terms of the second aspect, “Attention” dropped in an unprecedented way for current K-pop, with no teasers or lead-up whatsoever. The impact it made was instantaneous, and while that’s a tribute to HYBE’s power and the wisdom of the publicity strategy, it also goes to show how strong an MV “Attention” is that within days it turned an unknowing public into NewJeans’ biggest fans.
Also from the fourth-generation, but quite different tone-wise, is (G)I-dle‘s “Tomboy.” Gina, what landed it on your list?
Gina: What stood out to me with “Tomboy” is similar to the impact “Attention” held – like you’d said, it was so unprecedented yet perfect in its execution and timing. For (G)I-dle, their career’s future was hanging by a tenuous thread following Soojin’s departure. Fans and the general public didn’t know what to expect once their number dropped from six to five. Yet, Soyeon took this chance to reinvent and upgrade them all, blowing us away with their newfound potential.
Everything was cohesive in its powerful impact – the strong red palette, the creative use of transitions (heart lollipop, cinema pamphlet), and matching Barbie dolls to boot. These little factors worked together to solidify their concept as tomboys who are confident in and of themselves, and are in no need of exterior validation. A common theme maybe, but popular enough to add their own twist. A distinct, strong, and aesthetically innovative comeback made the best use of a new start, cementing (G)I-dle’s presence in the industry.
Woodz’ “I hate you” is also a vibrant MV that makes a strong visual statement – what about it made it onto your list, Xiao Qing?
Xiao Qing: “I hate you” made it to the top of my list during Mid-Year Review, and it remains at the top this time round too! There’s something so timeless about the aesthetics in “I hate you” even though it uses various fashion styles and shooting techniques similar to early 2000s pop punk MVs. It is nostalgic, yet it also feels very modern, and I absolutely love the chaotic and wild energy that Woodz always brings into his music. “I hate you” continues to be a stand out for me, and its simplicity and emphasis on catharsis is what makes the viewing experience so special.
J-Hope’s “Arson” also has a very wild and impactful MV. How did it get onto your list, Siena?
Siena: Like you said Xiao Qing, sometimes simplicity is splendid. That’s what landed “Arson” on my list. It’s a good concept, well-executed, with a fantastically charismatic performance by J-Hope at its center. For me, the MV’s streamlined nature makes its memorable, fiery imagery pop even more. I especially love the long outro with J-Hope lying amidst flaming letters that spell the song’s title: again, simple, yet visually and thematically gripping. For me, “Arson” stands out amongst its more intricate peers for being just as satisfying as certain more complicated MVs, but with effortless ease.
“BIBI Vengeance” also features stunning charisma. What made it your #1 MV, Gina?
Gina: Your review of “Arson” turned me into a hooked viewer – it’s definitely charismatic and effortless! Regarding Bibi, I always appreciated her acting chops and powerful performances. “BIBI Vengeance” brought everything to the table, her bold, unafraid approach to conquering her vulnerabilities paired with an insanely addictive tune.
While Bibi has always been an unconventional artist, this MV ignored all sorts of taboos and solely focused on her achieving her cathartic vengeance. It combines a personal motive expressed into her own art form, with a fun listening experience to boot. She explained in her press conference interview that she wrote the track while experiencing a “horrible experience,” and this song is her way to conquer it. And conquer she does, blowing us all away without holding anything back.
Bibi challenges herself with new genres and succeeds with her own colors – something Ateez has pulled off again with “Guerilla”!
Siena: “Guerilla” is an MV that impressed me at first watch. It’s visually intricate and compelling, full of thoughtful details that reward repeat viewings, particularly in the use of different color palettes, camera angles, and footage styles. It also has a great balance between an interesting narrative and strong performance sequences, something I realize is a throughline among most of my picks.
The MV takes a lot of familiar elements, from the broadly familiar dystopian setting, to the gorgeous direct callout to the classic science-fiction film Metropolis, and combines them into something distinct and exciting. “Guerilla” succeeds because it matches and indeed amplifies the frenetic energy of the song itself, and it does so while providing single frames and sequences that are so striking and dripping with style that even if they were plucked from the MV as a whole and isolated, they would still merit admiration. It’s just an MV with a lot going for it, which is what made it grow on me even more with time, always staying near the top of my list of favorites even amidst this (once again!) packed year of K-pop.
In a very different stylistic realm, but no less stunning, is Wonpil’s “Voiceless.” Xiao Qing, what launched this MV to the top of your picks?
Xiao Qing: Out of all the MVs on my list, “Voiceless” is by far the most morbid and depressing of all, and I think that that’s what makes it so memorable. I’ve always been drawn to Day6’s bittersweet tone that is present across most of their MVs, and I was glad that Wonpil provided us with a similar vibe in solo debut, though “Voiceless” was definitely a lot more painful and melancholic in terms of theme. I strongly believe that what Wonpil did with “Voiceless” could never be recreated with Day6, and that’s what makes the MV even more special. It is filled with the essence of Wonpil, and this is the story that Wonpil wants to tell, and he will tell it in a way that he sees fit. “Voiceless” is absolutely stunning, and its bittersweet and melancholic atmosphere is what brings me back to it every single time.
Gina: To wrap it all up, I chose “Copycat” by Apink ChoBom for its innovative simplicity and creativity. Not only did Chorong and Bomi literally look like twins, but it was a quirky nod at the ongoing notion of their visual similarity in the first place. The stylists kept minor differences for us to barely distinguish between either member, but it was just enough to have them stand out together. The neon pop color palette, cute antics, and the subtle plot of finding freedom kept the MV aesthetic and fun – until ChoBom broke the fourth wall by warning the game player of what was to come. Perhaps it means he’ll be the next character of that never-ending chase for freedom, or it’s a different monster altogether. Either way, the storyline and concept were priceless and underrated for their quality.
Here’s to another great year of K-pop MVs, and more exciting releases to come in 2023! Readers, what were your top MVs of 2022? Let us know in the comments.