5 Favorite K-pop MVs of 2021

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??

Love Peace GIF

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.

Also check out her performance video for her single “Money.”

4. “Advice” by Taemin

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.

Honorable Mentions:

5 Favorite K-pop MVs of 2020

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? 🤣🤣