As always, here is my list of the MVs I had on repeat this year.
1. “Rosario” by Epik High
The year started off strong with this collaboration, which is hands-down my most-watched video this year. Epik High is a phenomenal hiphop trio whose playlists helped get me through lockdown last year. CL is the former leader of my favorite Kpop group, 2NE1, and Zico is the main rapper from Block B who has consistently been putting out bops with his own label. So when they say they are legends, they are not exaggerating.
There are so many great little details in the MV: Mithra Jin’s The Shining reference, Tukutz’s bare feet, the different hotel rooms. I especially love Tablo shooting with the remote at the end, and the way the MV is shot vertically, like a TikTok; these both speak to the song’s themes about fame and longevity/obsolescence. There are a lot of great fan theories about the MV as well, like that they are all actually dead and the narrow rooms represent graves, or that there is a criminal conspiracy going on between the characters. So many possible levels of meaning!
2. “Love Peace” by Tiger JK
Another legend of K-hiphop here, Tiger JK created a real piece of art with this MV (and the song features his wife and collaborator Yoon Mirae as well). It’s beautifully shot and the aesthetics are amazing, plus the song is so culturally relevant with its positivity about Asian cultures during this time of increased hate crimes against people of Asian descent.
Plus, how cool is this??
3. “Lalisa” by Lisa
All of the solo debuts of the BLACKPINK members have been great, but Lisa’s MV really stood out this year. She can sing and rap, is one of the best dancers in Kpop, speaks fluent English, and has that natural swagger and stage presence that just can’t be taught. I love how the MV incorporates her Thai heritage at the end.
Long hair Taemin is back!! Taemin’s solo releases never disappoint and this one is no exception. Catchy song, intricate yet effortless choreography, amazing aesthetics: that’s SHINee’s multitalented maknae for you. And how does he look so good in that crop top?? He’s just unreal.
5. “Lilac” by IU
One of my favorite Kpop singer/songwriters, IU reflects on her career and the end of her 20s with this charming and slightly bittersweet song and MV. Her other releases this year “Celebrity” and “Coin” also had really excellent MVs, but I feel this one is destined to become a classic.
One of my biggest ways of de-stressing is listening to music, so I was so thankful for the consistent output of great songs and MVs from the K-pop industry this year. It was a bright spot for me in a rough year; here are a few of my favorites that I’d like to share with you as usual. Interestingly, these all feature female artists and groups! I guess I was just feeling the girl power this year.
1. “Not Shy” by ITZY
For the second year in a row, the group of five ITZY takes the top spot on the strength of their powerful, fast-paced, and clever choreography. Plus who can resist a Wild West outlaw theme? The ending has just the right touch of cuteness. They are definitely not rookies anymore!
2. “Nonstop” by Oh My Girl
After their breakout on the TV show Queendom last year, seven-member group OMG had two huge hits this year, including “Nonstop.” This fun video shows their versatility as a group, handling concepts from cute to funny to fashionable. This song in particular makes good use of their rapper Mimi. Add some nice choreography and (another) Wild West theme and you’ve got a hit.
3. “Stay Tonight” by Chung ha
Just when I think I can’t be any more impressed by Chung ha’s choreography and dancing, she takes it up another level. It’s amazing how such a small woman can ooze so much charisma and style. She’s like a group unto herself. As always, I love her fashion-forward styling, dramatic lighting, and the use of her dancers.
4. “What Do I Call You” by Taeyeon
This MV was just released a few weeks ago but I’ve already played it so much. As expected from the main vocalist of Girls Generation, the song is excellent and surprisingly catchy despite being about the aftermath of a breakup. I love the sci-fi concept of the MV, where people collect all the mementos of their exes (mugs, figurines, their sweater) and take them to a company to have their memories relating to these things erased.
5. “Queen” by 3YE
This group of three (their name is apparently pronounced “third eye”) debuted last year and have been going pretty strong with that girl crush concept that I love. I particularly loved this song because not only is it catchy with some great rap parts, but the video is visually awesome. In addition to a bit of choreography, there is a hint of a storyline where the three members are rival mafia bosses or something. I really want to read a story like this!
Honorable Mention: “Fadeaway”
So, this is actually just a Nike ad. But it is the best dang Nike ad I’ve ever seen! This is probably the video I played most this year. It has an incredible line-up of artists contributing, a fun little quasi-futuristic/scifi storyline about the Jordan shoes, and a horse (why not?).
I am so grateful that even during the pandemic we were still able to get amazing live performances from our favorite K-pop artists. I think the live performance is one aspect that really sets K-pop apart from its American counterpart, and I’m so glad the industry was able to continue that safely (though maybe not any longer, as cases in S Korea are spiking right now). Several groups were able to perform “remotely” for US late night shows, including this awesome comeback performance by CL. And here’s American-born singer/rapper Jessi, whose live vocals in this song are somehow even better than the recorded ones.
“NUNU NANA” by Jessi
I’ve also gotten into some Korean music-related reality shows that feature K-pop idols. I loved Sister’s Slam Dunk and Queendom, and this year I was hooked on Good Girl, which featured performances from some of my favorite idols and introduced me to some new artists that I love. My favorite performance was a fierce collaboration from five talented women, probably my most listened-to song this year.
“Witch” from Good Girl
Phew that was a lot of videos! There were soooo many other good videos this year, including new releases from Blackpink and BTS, and I wish I had room to share them all! What did you guys listen to this year? Has anyone ever come away from one of these posts with a newfound appreciation for K-pop? 🤣🤣
One of the fun parts of having kids is being able to share your interests with them, things like Star Wars and superheroes. I have been into K-pop for the better part of a decade, so naturally I am passing that on to my kid, too. Here are some songs that I sing to him (even though I don’t speak Korean haha).
This song came out while I was pregnant, so my kid heard it a lot starting even in utero. Though it’s a love song, the concept of a connection through DNA always seemed really fitting to me when talking about the relationship of a mother and a child. Some of the lines translate to things like “We’ll be together forever, DNA” and “The DNA in my blood is telling me/That it’s you who I’ve been looking for.” Since BTS is one of my favorite groups, I of course sing lots of other songs of theirs, but this one reminds me most of him.
by NCT 127
This one is pretty simple: my kid loves fire trucks. For a long time, he called them “wee ooh wee oohs” according to the sound their siren makes. The chorus in this song simply goes something like “Whoop whoop whoop whoop fire truck.” I really have no idea what the song is actually about, but my kid thinks this phrase is pretty hilarious.
This is the most recent release on my list; it came out last November, around the time my kid turned two. One day when I was trying to entertain him, I sang the chorus and did some of the choreography and got the sometimes-desirable/sometimes-dreaded “More!” in response. Now he asks me to sing the “Ba ba” song, and can even sing it a bit himself. The chorus goes:
Bababa bababa bababa
It looks like a lion
I’m a queen like a lion
Which is all just phonetic sounds and English words, including picture book staples “queen” and “lion,” so very easy for a toddler to pick up.
by BIGBANG and 2NE1
I sang a bit of this one to my kid one day, the part that goes “Lolli lolli lollipop,” and he thought it was funny, so I showed him the music video on YouTube and for some reason he absolutely loved it. He’s never been interested in any K-pop video before, but this one is…some kind of special.
It was 2NE1’s first video back in 2009, so they are very young and the fashion is…interesting. I love 2NE1, they are my favorite K-pop group of all time, but this video is not good. The best I can say about it is that it made me truly appreciate TOP’s charisma and visuals. But I guess I can’t be too harsh on it, because it was actually just a commercial for a cell phone. And it is colorful, repetitive, and dancy, plus it’s about candy, so I guess it would appeal to toddlers. We like to put this on and dance around the living room sometimes when we are getting a bit stir crazy.
by Lee Hi
Ah, this one is a bit more personal. I had just discovered Lee Hi around the time I was pregnant, and after my son was born I spent many, many hours in the dark of night singing to try to calm him. After quickly running out of lullabies, I moved onto Rufus Wainwright, The Decemberists, and K-pop songs, and I happened to know a lot of the lyrics to this one from listening to it so much. Again, it’s a love song, but it starts with the lyrics
넌 나의 STAR
넌 나의 SUN
넌 나의 MOON
Which translates to:
You’re my star
You’re my sun
You’re my moon
So I thought it was something sweet to sing to him. I sang it to him so much that it became part of our nightly bedtime ritual: read books, put on sleep sack, sing My Star, turn out light, get in bed and sleep. (When my husband has to put him to bed, he just hums it haha.) Nowadays, he cries when I sing it because he doesn’t want to go to bed! Hopefully it’s just a phase and I haven’t scarred him for life with this song.
With a new version of Emma hitting theaters, I thought it would be fun to talk about my favorite film and TV adaptations of Jane Austen’s works.
Northanger Abbey (2007)
Northanger Abbey is probably the least-known of Austen’s six main works, so it was such a pleasant surprise to see this competent movie adaptation; it was written by Andrew Davies (more below) and originally aired on PBS Masterpiece in the US. I particularly liked how they portrayed Catherine’s crazy Gothic fantasies. Henry Tilney is my favorite Austen hero, and I felt this production did him justice, with JJ Feild portraying him as properly genial, level-headed, and quietly charming. The cast also includes nice turns by Felicity Jones and Carey Mulligan.
Favorite scene: Catherine is investigating her room at the Abbey by candlelight during a stormy night and finds a mysterious document…which is revealed to be a laundry list in the morning light.
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Sense and Sensibility is one of Austen’s more popular works, and I have no doubt that it is due in part to this movie. It was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, and won for best adapted screenplay (which was written by its star, Emma Thompson); it helped make director Ang Lee into a household name here in the US. There’s just so much to love about it: the production quality, the acting, the humor, how it lets not only the love stories but also the Dashwood sisters’ relationship shine through.
Favorite scene: After her mother and two younger sisters have all retreated to their rooms in tears for various reasons, Eleanor sits down quietly on the stairs with a cup of tea. (Also, every scene with Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer.)
I also greatly enjoyed the 2008 BBC miniseries Sense & Sensibility written by Andrew Davies; I think it is one of the best of their newer round of adaptations.
Pride & Prejudice (2005)
Ever since I saw this movie in theaters I have been in awe of how well it condenses Pride and Prejudice into approximately two hours. (This also happens to be my husband’s favorite Austen adaptation, and he has been known to watch it even without me!) The characterization is marvelous, and there is not a weak spot in the entire cast. Lizzy’s parents come across as quirky but likeable, and Matthew Macfadyen’s introverted Darcy is just so good I have no words. I love how the costumes and scenery make the world seemed “lived in.” The score is also highly memorable, meriting an Oscar nomination (it garned four in total).
As an adaptation of the novel, my only complaint is the ending: while it is lovely and romantic, it is a bit too Romantic for Austen. I cannot see her characters ever wandering about the moors en deshabille.
Favorite scene: When Lizzy and Jane leave Bingley’s home of Netherfield after Jane’s illness, Darcy hands Lizzy into the carriage then turns his back and walks away, flexing his hand slightly.
Persuasion is my favorite Austen novel, partly because Anne Elliot is the heroine whom I am most like (let’s say…retiring). It was the last novel Austen wrote, and consequently seems a bit more mature in tone, dealing with second chances for Anne, the oldest Austen heroine. The movie adaptation perfectly captures this thoughtfulness while still delivering a romance that will have you gripping chair backs as much as Anne does. The use of the settings of Lyme and Bath is lovely, too.
Favorite scene: At tea with the Musgroves, her sister’s in-laws, Anne sits thoughtfully and silently as each member of the family takes a turn confiding their various interpersonal squabbles to her.
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
The year was 2003; I was doing a group project for my 11th grade British Lit class, based on Pride and Prejudice, which we read for class. One of the girls was quite artistic, so we made a giant movie poster-style banner with Lizzy and Darcy in front of Pemberley. And while we drew and painted in my parents’ basement, we decided to get inspiration by watching all six VHS tapes of the BBC miniseries, which I procured from the library.
I now own two or three different copies of it and have watched it probably a hundred times. You just can’t improve on perfection.
Written once again by the esteemed Andrew Davies, this adaptation follows so closely to the book, I really think it takes the majority of its dialogue straight from there. It takes six episodes, 5.5 hours in total, to develop the plot and characters perfectly, treating even side characters with warmth and humor to make up a rich tapestry that perfectly encapsulates Austen’s view of life in country society at the time. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth are an iconic Lizzy and Darcy.
Favorite scene: Anything featuring Lady Catherine de Bourgh.
Honorable mention: Mansfield Park (1999)
Okay, I don’t think many people would claim that this movie is an excellent, or even good, adaptation of Austen’s novel (which happens to be my least favorite of hers anyways). It is targeted to modern sensibilities, sexing up the story and making the heroine Fanny a bit too spunky when she’s really just quiet and judgy. But I will say that this movie made me engage with and appreciate the story more, which is really one of the goals of any adaptations.
Favorite scene: The ending, where the narrator (kind of a mix of Fanny and Jane Austen) recounts how all the characters end up, saying “It could have turned out differently, I suppose…” [All the characters pause and look thoughtful] “…but it didn’t.” [Characters go about their business being ridiculous]
You may notice I haven’t included any version of Emma on this list; while it is not one of my favorite Austen stories, I have seen three versions of it (Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsdale, Romola Garai) and enjoyed all of them. I am looking forward to seeing the new version once it comes to DVD.
And just like that, another year of great music has come and gone. I have no idea how many of you guys care about these posts but I love going back over all the K-pop music videos that came out every year to pick my favorites.
1. “ICY” by Itzy
2019 has been a great year for rookie groups, and Itzy is at the top of the list. This is actually their second big hit of the year; they may be rookies but they have become known for their catchy, self-confident songs, energetic choreography, and great live performances.
And as cool as this video is, it doesn’t even have the best bit of the song’s choreography (frankly, my favorite bit of choreo I’ve seen anywhere, all year). Feast your eyes on the “neck snap:”
2. “Breakthrough” by TWICE
TWICE had a landmark year, morphing from their original, cute image to a more mature concept. (It reminds me of when Girls’ Generation released “Run Devil Run.”) This is one of their Japanese releases, probably lesser-known, but the song is catchy, the video has great atmosphere, and TWICE is always good in Japanese (they have three Japanese members).
3. “+I Quit 180327+” by CL
The leader of the former group 2NE1 is finally back with solo songs, releasing an EP herself after leaving her company. The numbers in the titles are the dates the songs were written, showing that she’s been doing work all along, her company just wasn’t releasing them or promoting her. “I Quit” is one of the better songs on the album (though the rap section is sub-par), and the video takes it to another level with colorful sign language that almost morphs into interpretive dance. CL does not appear in the video at all, which is an interesting choice considering her natural charisma, but the video is art anyways.
4. “Lovedrunk” by Epik High ft. Crush
You wanted a wuxia movie to go with your K-pop? Okay, then! This beautiful cinematic MV features a fraught relationship between two martial artists, one played by K-pop idol IU. The black and white cinematography goes perfectly with the haunting song from one of my favorite hip hop groups.
5. “Kill this Love” by Blackpink
Blackpink is back in your area with another killer hit. There’s so much to love in this one; it just blows you away from the first trumpet notes. The production value is incredible, and I love Rosé and Jisoo’s acting, as well as Lisa and Jennie’s interaction in the rap part.
I also had a lot of fun watching dance practice videos this year! I love seeing the full choreography in a more informal setting. Here’s two that I thought were particularly good.
Plus, if you enjoyed the League of Legions promotional video “POP/STARS” by K/DA last year, I think you will also enjoy this gem featuring Soyeon of (G)I-dle.