Korean pop music is rigorously produced, stunningly choreographed and filled with beautiful people. Most K-Pop groups are manufactured through contests and production companies looking to capitalize on swoon-worthy heartthrobs. So when this effervescent music turns to dystopian and post-apocalyptic motifs, things get weird.
T-ara, “Day by Day”
One of the interesting things about K-pop groups is how they put out different videos and versions of a song. Most music videos will have a drama version and a dance version. The girl group T-ara tends to put out extremely long, dramatic features that will sometimes combine multiple songs into a single short film. “Day by Day” is an epic 15-minute video featuring leather-clad biker gangs fighting for the chosen one in a post-apocalyptic world. Definitely turn on the captioning to get the translation of the introduction. The set-up about arrogant mortals attempting to be gods is epic.
Big Bang, “Fantastic Baby”
Big Bang is one of those groups that has a flare for overly dramatic, expensive videos that are exciting to watch, but don’t make a bit of sense. This video has everything you could want in a kaleidoscope-fueled dystopia. There are riot police, gas-mask raves, chained-up monster men, cyborg-looking guys, and anime-inspired hair and costumes.
Exo is a group consisting of twelve guys but separated into two subgroups Exo-K and Exo-M. The two subgroups perform the same songs but the K group sings in Korean and the M group sings in Mandarin. The name itself comes from the word Exoplanet. Also a note about the song title: "Mama" means something like "Your Highness" in English.
This video has a minute and a half intro giving the epic set-up. It also doesn’t seem to explain anything, though, other than why each member has an evil doppelganger. Again, we got a crazy hodgepodge of imagery. The video starts with space monks and people dancing in a ruined landscape. Then we are treated to some crazy Looper imagery as the doubles visit themselves in various dystopian landscapes. Also, all the group members appear to be elemental benders for some reason.
Brown Eyed Girls, “Sixth Sense”
Do you know what is going to beat back a facist dystopian government? Sexy, sexy resistance fighters with a disco vibe.
B.A.P.’s bravado is deeply amusing. The group’s initials stand for Best Absolute Perfect. They are the prettiest and best-coiffed thugs ever to take over and crash a spaceship. The video alternates between the gritty interior of a spaceship, and what looks like a harsh and unforgiving alien landscape, except for the overpass in the background. Have they come to take over Earth, or are they returning after a rough deep space trip? The bloody megaphone is shiver inducing. Check out their video Warrior for more cognitive dissonance.
Beast’s video for “Breathe” is sedate and almost sweet in comparison to the over the top theatrics of other groups. The video switches between a demolished cityscape and the burnt out remains of a forest. They stand as an example of boy bands dancing in a snowy/ashy wasteland. There are quite a few of these videos like U-Kiss’s “Neverland” and Exo-K’s “History.”
Super Junior, “Sexy, Free and Single”
Apparently there are two types of future landscapes. Dirty and depressing space stations that demonstrate the future sucks — or sleek sterile space stations that demonstrate the future sucks. You can’t win either way. Super Junior manages to get their dance on in both locations. Fashion in the future seems to consist of well-tailored suits and insane leather-neck collars.
Big Bang, “Love Song”
When the apocalypse happens, there better be some well-dressed and attractive men singing in the immediate aftermath. This list could probably consist completely of Big Bang and T-ara songs. Both groups have a thing for epic videos and the occasional turn toward darker imagery. Here, the immaculately dressed group wanders through the wreckage of a burning town as husks of fiery cars rain down upon their moody emoting. The video is either deeply metaphorical, or makes no sense.
T-ara, “Sexy Love”
Depending on your opinion, a future filled with sexbots is either horrifying or desirable. It is probably a sign that society has gone off the rails in some fundamental way. Regardless, the electronic music and girls doing the robot is cute. It is also a rather clever commentary on their status as a commodity.
Wonder Girls Ft. Akon, “Like Money”
There is a trend of American rappers doing features with Kpop groups that are probably trying to break into the American market. The intro to “Like Money” explains that the girls in the group are robots, but unlike T-ara they are here to conquer with their perfection. It is unfortunate that cool concept is almost immediately dropped in favor of the girls just shaking it in tight clothes.
It is a toss-up if this video is dystopian, post-apcolyptic or medical fetish. There is a burnt out lab, a snowy apocalypse and people being tied up with rubber tubing.
4Minute, “What’s Your Name”
What starts off as kind of sexy but non-descript video takes a turn for the weird around the two minute mark. The silly street and club scenes are interrupted by a zombie invasion. Yes, even Korean pop culture is not safe from the zombie outbreak. T-ara’s dance video for “Lovey Dovey” fell victim to a zombie outbreak last year and the guys in Shinee do a “Thriller”-like zombie dance in the video “Why So Serious?” for no apparent reason.
VIXX, “On and On”
VIXX’s “On and On” is another WTF kitchen sink video. It starts with evil lady soldiers launching the imprisoned boys into space. So we’ve got elements of a repressive government. The group ends up dancing on an alien planet in a zombie style reminiscent of “Thriller”. The video also manages to cram in a snowy, ashy, desolate landscape and an overlaying robot head. This one video manages to sum up the science fiction trends of the past few years in Kpop.