Sharp choreography, stunning outfits, and unreal visuals certainly help in making K-pop music videos rack up the views. But there are music videos that go the next level by adding a compelling story. Here, we list down several K-pop music videos with storylines that could be the next cinematic blockbuster.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, check out these 10 music videos that have elaborate, dramatic storylines that could possibly give Netflix productions a run for their money:
Thank U – TVXQ Yunho
U-Know Yunho, one half of the legendary duo TVXQ!, serves up an almost eight-minute cinematic masterpiece in his music video for Thank U. The song is off his second mini-album Noir, and the music video, as the album title suggests, is heavily influenced by noir films. It’s much more graphic and violent than your average K-pop music video; it’s actually tagged as age-restricted on YouTube.
The music video tells the story of a gang leader—Yunho—who was betrayed by the mob boss and was attacked and left for dead by the boss’ henchmen. Only, he survived, and has now planned on taking down the mob. He recovers, trains, and faces off with his nemeses. In his final face-off with the mob boss, Yunho engages in a game of Russian roulette and comes out victorious.
This music video really felt like a movie rather than a music video. The opening seconds already gave off a sense of foreboding. Then Yunho was repeatedly stabbed—which was a great shock, since no effort was made to blur out or tone down the color of blood. Plus, the use of enclosed spaces for several of the scenes helps the viewer zoom in on the action. There are dance breaks in between scenes, but instead of those scenes being a distraction, the choreography served as transitions that helped the story move along.
It’s eight minutes of action, suspense, and revenge.
One More Day – Sistar
Topics such as homosexuality and domestic violence are considered taboo in most countries, including South Korea. Not a lot of K-pop artists take on such issues in such a straightforward manner for fear of getting criticized by the general public. So when a K-pop music video that boldly tackles these topics is released, it is bound to draw attention.
Sistar’s 2016 single, One More Day, went against the grain and released a video that features these taboo topics. This dark, yet compelling story opens with two women dragging a huge suitcase through a dark alley. The video then flashes back to times when the two women’s friendship grows into something more. However, one of the women is also in what seemed to be an abusive relationship with a boyfriend. When the two women run into the boyfriend after a night out together, the boyfriend gets angry and all three get into a scuffle. The boyfriend drags his girlfriend back home, where things escalate further and the women end up killing the boyfriend.
The next scene then goes back to the two women dragging the suitcase—presumably containing the dead boyfriend—loading it in a car, and then setting the car on fire as they walk away.
Lies and Haru Haru – Bigbang
Bigbang’s breakthrough hit Lies, released in 2007, took the dramatic love story to the next level. The drama-inspired music video was popular around that time, and this music video straight-up served all the emotions in four minutes.
In the opening scene, G-Dragon is seen running away from his pursuers, trying to call a woman using a pay phone, and eventually getting caught by police. As the music video progresses, the woman goes about her routine, but she clearly looks distressed. Meanwhile, the Bigbang members sing, skate, and walk around her as if invisible. It looks a bit strange, having five guys on roller blades skate around a woman walking to her car, but perhaps the members represent her troubled thoughts?
Later on, it turns out that she accidentally killed her abusive boyfriend and GD (a former lover? A friend who carries a torch for her?) took the fall for her.
Bigbang once again turned up the dramatics in 2008 with their music video for Haru Haru. This time, the music video featured a love triangle involving GD and T.O.P.
In the opening scene, GD sees T.O.P seemingly trying to get with his girlfriend, and they get into an argument—and a fistfight. In the next scene, T.O.P flaunts the relationship, and GD, clearly heartbroken, goes into depression.
Then—plot twist—the girlfriend turns out to have a terminal illness. She breaks up with GD, and only pretends to be with T.O.P to spare the former’s feelings. In the end, though, Taeyang calls GD to come to the hospital to see the girlfriend, but by the time GD gets there, it was already too late.
The acting in the music video was a bit cheesy and over-the-top, but it further amplified all the feels that helped the song become one of the biggest songs of the year in South Korea. It also cemented Bigbang’s status as a top idol group.
I Need U – BTS
Since BTS debuted in 2013, the boys have never shied away from tackling social issues in their music. From directly addressing mental illness to expressing their thoughts on the overwhelming pressures and expectations on the youth, the group has always shared powerful messages in their songs.
This extends to their music video concepts. In 2015’s I Need U, the group portrayed the realities that trouble today’s youth, such as depression, abuse, loneliness, and suicide. There isn’t a single storyline in the video; rather, each of the members tell a specific story through their characters.
In the video, the members were trying to hold on to the happiness of their lost youth, as they each face a major tragedy in their lives. Lyrically, though, the song is about a breakup; the members sing about trying to hold on to a relationship that has ended. Either way, one can’t help but feel heartbroken to see and hear the boys go through so much hardship in the music video.
Watch the video below:
Error – VIXX
VIXX’s music video for Error tells of a tragic love story between two human-turned-cyborgs. The main character is the group’s visual, Hongbin, a scientist distraught by the death of his girlfriend, portrayed by Youngji of KARA. To forget about his heartbreak, he turns himself into a cyborg, though it seemed that the painful memories still couldn’t be erased.
Hongbin then works to turn Youngji into a cyborg as well. In his lab, surrounded by the rest of the half-completed VIXX robots, he brings his girlfriend back to life by turning her into a cyborg, and transfers his memories to her. They start to live happily once more, until uniformed men track them down and deem the girlfriend as an illegal humanoid. Rather than lose his love again, Hongbin fights off the men and decides to deconstruct both himself and Youngji.
VIXX has always impressed audiences with their creative, well-planned concepts. This music video is another example of the boys breaking out of the “idol” mold to fully immerse themselves in their characters.
Watch the doomed android love story below:
Mamacita – Super Junior
Super Junior turned to western inspiration in the music video for 2014’s Mamacita. In the music video, Siwon stars as the town sheriff whose reputation is on the line because the thief, Leeteuk, escaped from prison. The thief then sees a bejeweled crown, and then proceeds to steal it from under Sungmin’s nose.
What follows next is a series of crazy antics from the rest of the members. While escaping with the loot, the thief bumps into and destroys Kangin, the fruit seller’s precious watermelon. Clueless bounty hunter Donghae asks Eunhyuk and—incredibly—Leeteuk if they’ve seen the thief.
Leeteuk and blacksmith Shindong, together with gambler Kyuhyun, admire the stolen crown. As they make their way back into town, they come across the bounty hunter, and a fight ensues, and barber Ryeowook almost gets caught in the crossfire. The sheriff continues his search, and eventually, he and the thief cross paths. The thief shoots the sheriff, and the sheriff falls—but is literally saved by his badge from the bullet. Meanwhile, the thief sells the crown to Heechul, the bartender.
The plan was a success—turns out that Leeteuk was in cahoots with Shindong and Heechul. But their scheme was foiled in the end by Kyuhyun, who was actually a double agent. The perps are jailed, the sheriff keeps his reputation intact, the crown is returned to its rightful owner, and the town is peaceful once more.
Super Junior has got the funny, meme-able music video down to an exact science. Watch the fun and chaotic “drama” version of the music video below:
One Shot – B.A.P.
The music video begins with all seven members partying it up on a yacht. Then it is revealed that the B.A.P members are part of a gang, who were suddenly attacked at their hangout spot. One of the thugs threw a USB stick, which contained a ransom video. The thugs have Youngjae, and they demand $10million in exchange for his safe return.
In between some really cool choreography clips, we see the remaining six members plan to get the money by robbing an armored truck so they can rescue their kidnapped bro. Then the boys head to a subway station to meet the kidnappers and hand them the money; however, the thugs kill Youngjae anyway. The B.A.P gang is broken, and in their grief and rage, they start shooting the enemy gang. The gunfight escalates, and everyone dies.
But! The video suddenly rewinds and instead of a shootout, a SWAT team comes in and surrounds both gangs. It turns out that Youngjae was actually an undercover officer, and betrayed the B.A.P gang. The SWAT team subdues the gangs, and Youngjae walks away.
At almost seven minutes long, it’s one of the more hardcore story-based K-pop music videos in this list. Watch the music video below:
Come Back Home – 2NE1
The legendary second-gen girl group 2NE1 tread the line between fantasy and reality in their music video for Come Back Home. The video is set in a dystopian society in the far future, where humans have the option to live in a virtual utopia.
In the music video, Dara is miserable in her relationship, as the man she loves is completely enamored with the virtual paradise, preferring to live in fantasy rather than stay trapped in a lifeless and colorless world.
Dara, along with CL, Bom, and Minzy, then infiltrate the virtual paradise to wreak havoc in it. The music video ends with the ladies leading a group of warriors, who destroy the machine-powered fantasy world.
Check out the music video below:
Love Story – Kyuhyun
Super Junior’s Kyuhyun is no stranger to emotive ballad tracks, and in Love Story, he amps up the sentimentality. The single is the final track of the singer’s Project: Season series, and marks the end of a string of song releases that focused on each of the four seasons.
The music video tells the story of two people who were once in love and have now drifted apart. In the opening seconds of the video, a woman is in the middle of packing her things. Then, it cuts to a montage of memories—from when the woman and the man first met, to their happy memories together, and their eventual breakup.
Near the end of the video, the woman is sifting through photos of happier moments with her ex-lover. It is a poignant depiction of the pain and feeling of nostalgia that comes at the end of a relationship.
Get bombarded with the feels by watching the music video below:
We’ve also written about K-pop music videos with dark and creepy storylines—which are also worthy additions to this list! What other K-pop music videos do you think have compelling plotlines?