It’s once again time to spread the joy of K-pop to all my readers! Here are my favorite K-pop music videos from 2022 in no particular order.
Familiar faces and old favorites
1. “Tomboy” by (G)I-dle
This girl group (pronounced “Idle”) had two big hits this year, both written by leader Soyeon, both with very different musical styles. When I’m not listening to K-pop, my preferred genre is alternative rock, so “Tomboy” in particular really appealed to me. I love the punk rock feel! Both “Tomboy” and “Nxde” talk about breaking free from restrictive gender norms, which feels so empowering. (G)I-dle is such a talented group and I feel like they have a lot to say. I’ve been a fan of them since their debut and I’m so happy they had such a great year, especially after losing a member to a scandal last year. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
2. “Waka Boom” by Hyolyn
Hyolyn, former member of SISTAR and one of the best vocals in K-pop, continues to show the younger idols how it’s done with this single for the music competition show Queendom 2. Hyolyn’s fierce look and dancing combined with the inspiring lyrics make a big impact. Plus, some rapping by the amazing Lee Young Ji, who is one of my favorite female rappers and just a fabulous person. Check out her cover of Lizzo’s “Juice!”
3. “Blah Blah Blah” by Itzy
After killing it in Korea, Itzy moved on to Japan this year with two awesome Japanese singles, “Blah Blah Blah” and “Voltage.” I love the energetic vibe; it really suits them. Jpop is actually my first love, so I always really appreciate when groups put out great original Japanese songs (as in, not just translations of their Korean hits). I picked this one especially because I love the esthetic of Ryujin in that orange dress!
4. “That That” by PSY
It’s a collab between K-pop royalty! Suga from BTS joins PSY of “Gangnam Style” fame for this super catchy hit, staging a Wild West showdown. As always, PSY is just so much fun to watch. Even my kids liked this one!
4th Generation Queens
This year also had an amazing crop of female rookie groups! I couldn’t pick just one, so here are two videos that really stood out to me.
5.1 “Antifragile” by Le Sserafim
Despite having a bit of a tough start, what with losing a member to scandal right after their debut, Le Sserafim had an amazing comeback with “Antifragile.” I particularly loved this performance version, which really showcases their stage presence as well as former ballerina Kazuha’s awesome leg lifting choreo. Just try to get ANTI TI TI TI FRAGILE FRAGILE out of your head!
5.2 “Attention” by NewJeans
It is so refreshing to see a rookie group that actually looks like contemporary teenagers! NewJeans feels like a breath of fresh air. No dyed hair or matchy outfits, just friendly interactions and natural athleticism.
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.
You guys have probably seen that I post about K-pop from time to time; to briefly recount my love affair with this genre, I started listening around 2012, even though I don’t speak Korean, partly because it was way more accessible than J-pop on streaming platforms, and many K-pop groups release Japanese music anyways. I was immediately drawn to 2NE1 (pronounced more like “21”), a charismatic group of four girls from a label known for hip hop and rappers. Their music and fashion have huge Western influence; their style is neither too cute nor too sexy, but instead a powerful, confident vibe known as “girl crush.”
You can check out some of their music videos in my previous posts about them from my K-pop 101 series:
Unfortunately, the group disbanded in 2016, and while the members are pursuing solo careers, the loss of 2NE1 has left a hole in the K-pop industry as well as in the hearts of all their fans, called Blackjacks. In the years since, many new groups have stepped forward, and while no one will ever replace 2NE1, there are three groups in particular I think are doing a great job picking up and carrying their mantle.
This group is the most obvious, direct successor to 2NE1. They were put together by the same label, YG Entertainment, to debut in the same year that 2NE1 disbanded. The two groups even share a producer, Teddy Park. Blackpink also has a girl crush vibe, with a similar Western influence in their music (both groups have fluent English speakers). However, they are not quite as avant garde in their fashion and visuals, or as experimental in their music, sticking with more of a straight pop feel.
On stage, both groups have a similar lively energy, but Blackpink focuses more on choreography over live vocals, typically using head mics to allow for more intricate dancing. They are very polished, consistent performers.
When I started listening to Blackpink, I quickly realized that YG copied the successful group composition formula of 2NE1 by bringing together four girls each with a different specialty. The vocal/rapper/dancer/visual combo works very well for both groups, allowing each member to shine in her own way.
On paper, Mamamoo and 2NE1 don’t have much in common, except each being composed of 4 women. Mamamoo consists of three powerhouse vocals and an unconventional rapper, and their most famous songs have a jazzy feel. However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see why so many Blackjacks are also “Moomoos:” it’s all in the attitude.
Like 2NE1 before them, Mamamoo is renowned for their stage presence and live performances. They recently won the girl group reality competition show Queendom (where Park Bom of 2NE1 was also participating). Their live vocals are the some of the best in K-pop, and like 2NE1 they typically use hand mics. They frequently change little bits of their choreography or lyrics, doing some ad libs or shout outs to fans that make each performance different and compelling.
Although they don’t come from a hip hop background like 2NE1, Mamamoo can successfully pull off a number of styles, both lyrical ballads and energetic numbers. Recently they have been switching it up even more, with some straight rap and pop dance songs.
Perhaps most importantly, the girls follow in 2NE1’s footsteps by challenging cultural ideals of beauty and feminine behavior, especially Moonbyul with her androgenous style and Hwasa who has been criticized for her looks and fashion. From a country like South Korea where idol culture and plastic surgery are ubiquitous, the body positivity in their songs and presentation is very refreshing and affirming.
It also helps that the members of Mamamoo are themselves fans of 2NE1. Lead vocalist Wheein was very excited to collaborate with Park Bom on her single “4:44,” and you can see some moments of Mamamoo fangirling on Queendom as well.
This is the youngest group on my list: they were rookies last year but have already taken the K-pop world by storm, and this year really cemented their status as a spiritual successor to 2NE1.
Pronounced “Idle” (the G is silent), this group contains six young women, including members from China and Thailand, which probably enhances their international appeal. They are from Cube Entertainment, the label that launched Hyuna and her girl crush group 4Minute, though their main singer Miyeon trained at YG with the girls from Blackpink.
I fell in love right away with (G)-Idle’s version of the girl crush concept, and this year they’ve expanded to include Latin influences and American hip hop in their music. They also participated in Queendom, putting their own spin on 2NE1’s debut song by covering “Fire.” While their style is not avant garde, they are definitely trendy in the same way as Blackpink and use fashion purposefully.
(G)-Idle is led by rapper Soyeon, whose incredible stage presence brings to mind 2NE1’s leader CL, a legendary performer. Soyeon has the same huge charisma, plus she’s the best female idol rapper of her generation (not to mention she produces the group’s songs). She’s already been featured in two League of Legends promotional songs with Western artists (once with Miyeon), and I can really see her going far in the industry and even having appeal in the US. One more cute touch: she uses a bright yellow hand mic in performances, bringing to mind the colored mics still used by 2NE1’s members.