Only a few months in and 2016 already has some fantastic music videos. Here are a few of our editors’ favorites in Kpop, Hip-Hop and Punk.
Song: “I Am You, You Are Me”
Music Video Concept: We see Zico walk into a mini mart called “Level.” As he looks amongst the shelves, a female employee puts away items and notices that she wears the exact same outfit as Zico. Zico continues to come to the mini mart, each time wearing the same outfit as the female employee. The concept coincides with the song’s lyrics, “I am you, you are me, if our hearts are the same, both will become one.” At one point, as the female employee wraps a bandage around her finger from behind the counter, Zico approaches her with a cut finger as well. Essentially, they are becoming the same person.
Music Video Concept: Winner is having a rough day. The camera looms above in a bird’s eye view and pans from room to room establishing Winner’s isolation. Taehyun lays frustrated on the floor of his bland room and then navigates to a rundown, cramped elevator. Jinwoo lays in an empty bathtub with a bowl of cereal next to his head. Seungyoon lays sprawled out on a blue piano in a living room with a teddy bear in his lap. Minho sits back in his chair as a record spins next to him in a white-walled-room-turned-cheap-studio. Seunghoon lays on a maroon carpet with books scattered around him as he strokes his cat. Seunghoon even says, “I’m lonely, I’m precarious, who will hug me?” For heaven’s sake, someone hug him!
Song: “Press Your Number”
Music Video Concept: “Press Your Number” presents itself as a gripping, hallucinogenic short film. The video itself is striking, incorporating a beautiful color palette of warm shades of purples, reds, and blues. We initially encounter Taemin leaving a car filled with his crew to rob a convenience store. After the convenience store robbing, Taemin’s crew bask in their earnings while Taemin’s mind lingers elsewhere. He repeatedly calls a number but no one answers. The bound convenience store worker rolls back and forth under a grand piano. But then Taemin becomes the convenience store worker. Taemin crashes his car into a tree but finds himself bound in the trunk amongst a pile of blue roses. Taemin robs himself in the convenience store. Meanwhile, the video cuts to Taemin performing intricate choreography in a Victorian-era setting, on top of a rooftop, and in the desert. The nonlinear plot forces viewers to piece this insane puzzle together.
Song: “The New Cupid”
Artist: BJ the Chicago Kid ft. Kendrick Lamar
Music Video Concept: “After Centuries of Spreading Love… Cupid Has Finally Called It Quits!” Hannibal Buress is Cupid with a mullet in an ugly checkered suit jacket. He pulls up, brown-bagged bottle in hand, into BJ the Chicago Kid’s neighborhood and wreaks havoc on innocent lovers. BJ’s voice is the only thing that can keep love in town in the video for this smooth, funky hit.
Song: “God is a Gangster”
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Concept: This video is actually a combination of the To Pimp a Butterfly tracks “u” and “For Sale? (Interlude).” Kendrick starts out in what looks like the hazy back room of a bar, drunkenly singing, crying and spitting “u” while taking swigs from a fancy glass bottle. His acting here is just as heart wrenching and powerful as his groundbreaking SNL and Grammys performances, but the video adds a twist of surrealism to Kendrick’s power. In this world, drunken confusion becomes reality. “u” is the complete opposite of his self-loving TPAB lead single, “i,” and in it Kendrick delves into his suicidal thoughts, alcoholism, depression, conflicting feelings, and struggles with faith and fame. In the end, he’s zapped out of the room and transported to an upside-down world full of girls to sing “For Sale? (Interlude).” Flashes of scenes from him being either drowned or baptized and phrases like “life is like a box of chicken” and “Instagram 2016 = Dussy Unlimited” are scattered throughout.
Artist: Tyler the Creator ft. Kali Uchis + Austin Feinstein
Concept: While this video is short, simple and sweet, with only one shot and 2:39 total, it functions as a work of art. Kali Uchis and Tyler the Creator split the screen between pink and blue, while butterflies flutter and land on them. Uchis is backed by singing sunflowers while Austin Feinstein of indie band The Slow Hollows joins Tyler with his guitar and surprisingly deep voice for the outro.
Song: “Night Channels”
Album: Dealer (Out now)
Music Video Concept: The death of the music video channel as a tool for musical discovery has engendered a debate over the usefulness of the medium over the past few years. While the exile of the large majority of music videos to the YouTube realm has been rough for plenty of bands, record labels and filmmakers, it has opened up the medium to more versatile projects. The 10-minute short film that accompanies “Night Channels,” a highlight from Foxing’s 2015 album Dealer, makes use of this lack of restrictions by creating something more substantial to match the harrowing and heavy track. The film gives power to performance– the extended clip portrays the performances of a dancer in an empty theater and a singer in a bar. Both find themselves out of place, but are shown to be working through internal and external pressures of love and identity through their distinct performances. It all makes for one of the most memorable and moving music videos of the past few years.
Song: “Piano Player”
Artist: The Hotelier
Album: Goodness (Out May 27)
Music Video Concept: A combination of old-school camcorder direction, tour documentation and Internet junk, The Hotelier’s video for “Piano Player” is as strangely heartfelt as the song that plays above it. The video cuts together several video artefacts of The Hotelier’s busy few years on tour– band members and friends jump of serene cliffs into crystal water, sit transfixed in vans that blow through flat plains and deserts. These moments are accented by the use of a technique called “datamoshing,” which creates a kind of glitch effect where a portion of one clip appears in the next. It makes these quant memories feel like they’re all squelching together into a strange and beautiful chapter. This translates into a video that makes the viewer want to venture out into the world and just live, bringing the wide-open and natural feel of the tune (one of the best of the year so far, I might add) to life perfectly in this way.
Artist: Pussy Riot
Music Video Concept: “CHAIKA” is performed entirely in Russian, but subtitles are barely necessary to be sure that Pussy Riot is pissed off at the state of their political institutions. Here, the socially conscious and controversial group calls out General Prosecutor Chaika by name, claiming corruption, bigotry and misuse of power. The video sees Nadezhda Tolokonnikova dressed up in official prosecutor attire– a choice that suits the satirical and biting criticism of Chaika and also, according to TIME, was necessary for the artists to sneak into a real Soviet banquet hall and use it as their set. The video shows Tolokonnikova and company revelling in corrupt activities, stuffing themselves with food and torturing prisoners, all while the track muses “I love Russia/ I’m a patriot.” The juxtaposition is overwhelming in its sarcasm, but the message left behind is haunting and important.
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