While I don’t incorporate a song’s video into the reviews on this blog, I’m definitely not immune to a striking visual. Music videos are a vital part of the industry, and it’s time to celebrate my favorites of 2021.
ONEWE – Rain To Be
U-Know – Thank U
Kingdom – Excalibur
Mirae – Killa
AKMU – Hey Kid, Close Your Eyes
10. JOY – HELLO
Sometimes simple concepts stand out most. So many 2021 music videos obsessed over painting their idols as badass warriors, but this whistle-stop tour of Jeju Island offered a shot of positivity. It’s the perfect match of video and song.
The frenetic Take Over deserved an equally bonkers music video. Compared to most comebacks, this is decidedly low-budget. But, that’s part of its charm. It has the appeal of the underground, produced with K-pop’s polished standards in mind.
Sunmi’s kind of a constant on this list. No other artist uses visuals quite as successfully as her. You Can’t Sit With Us is another winner, delivering a campy zombie pastiche with a retro setting. It’s wonderfully weird and insistently captivating.
K-pop Christmas videos are often throwaway stopgaps between “real” comebacks, but Stray Kids turn those expectations on their head with the clever Christmas EveL. This is one of the year’s funniest videos, leaning heavily into the ridiculousness of the track itself.
ONF welcome you to their colorful future world in an ambitious video that compliments the bright energy of the song. I love sci-fi in K-pop — especially when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The dancing robots are the cherry on top.
After We Ride‘s video is all about mood and lighting. I’m a sucker for this particular color palette, making every frame of Ride a piece of art. There’s so many great images here, but my favorite is just before the bridge when we move from dancing alone with the mannequins to joining the band.
4. TXT – 0X1=LOVESONG / LO$ER=LO♡ER / FROST
I’m cheating a little bit and placing three of TXT’s videos in one spot. 0X1=LOVESONG and LO$ER=LO♡ER are emotional bookends, perfectly capturing the energy of each song in visual form. Meanwhile, Frost is more inscrutable and fantasy-like but elevates the song with its dynamic imagery.
When writing about libidO (the song), I highlighted its sense of danger. That carries into the music video, which feels stark and threatening. The cinematography emphasizes focus on small, striking moments that create a sense of tension echoed by the chugging instrumental and evocative performance.
Key wins the 2021 award for most cohesive concept. From album artwork to visuals to sounds, Bad Love knows exactly what it wants to be. The video further enhances its campy retro side without ever going full-on cheese. All the while, it puts the spotlight right where it should be: on Key himself.
I’ll always appreciate ambition, and Burn It‘s seven-minute zombie apocalypse certainly fulfills that desire. Some may balk at its open-ended storyline or the occasional pausing of the song, but the video itself is incredibly memorable. Not only is it thrilling in the way a decent end-of-world film should be, but its extended coda is surprisingly resonant. It’s the only 2021 K-pop video I can remember that made me genuinely emotional. Maybe I’m reaching, but those last two minutes feel like they’re getting at something more complex and heavy than simple horror fantasy.