I've seen the future and it is perfectly choreographed. With great hair. And cheekbones you'd have to pray or pay for. It's not only the sound that's advanced in the production of South Korea's pop but the visuals often dabble in mini-cinematic adventures of the futuristic kind. Yet in the same way the music plucks frenetically at a myriad of influences so do their video directors, gleefully mashing up traditional mythology, futurism and science fiction into their magnum opus.
2NE1 are queens of futuristic. One merely has to look at the trailer for their forthcoming All Or Nothing tour to see a comet sperm infiltrating Earth, and band members Dara as Jean Grey, Minzy as Luke Skywalker and Bom stuck in Von Trier's Melancholia. But it began with their 2011 single "I Am the Best" which literally was the future. It changed the K-pop game, opening up doors for girls who didn't fit the narrow mold of cute schoolgirl or sexy vixen. It hasn't dated an inch in a genre that considers last week's hair colour as "over" – and when you can out-future the future you know you've got it made.
In honour of 2NE1's return with the wryly titled "Come Back Home", we're running through ten eye-popping music videos (MVs) with a penchant for super genetics, robots, dystopia, aliens and new world revolution. We want CGI you could injure yourself with, lighting powerful enough to spark three reasonably sized towns and enough fake snow and dust in front of a wind machine to choke a jet engine. It's go big, go hard or teleport the hell out of here.
2NE1 – "Come Back Home"
With sun-drenched reggae pulled through the pop tunnel of broken hearts into sneering electronica, 2NE1 soundtrack a broken Blade Runner world rife with the mental deception of The Matrix. The neon otherworld the band swirl through is arresting but you can't argue with the narrative. Your boyfriend wants to live in a sterile virtual paradise, trapped in a white outfit with octopus and grapes on tap? Not according to Dara. And not when there's molotov cocktails, baseball bats and spraypaint on hand to bring it crashing down. Defiant and emotive, this powerful return smoke-bombs the uneasy online murmurings that 2NE1 were about to be unseated from their girl-group throne.
EXO-K – "Mama"
Even Voiceover Man is tangibly panicked by the EXO legend. With 12 powers, two worlds and a Tree of Life to explain in 90 seconds in this 2012 track, odds are he died of confusion afterwards. "Mama" the song relates to "Mama" the video as a 10 on the scale of “nope”, but then lyrics about possessing the power of fire, time or facepaint are tricky to write. From secret lair to modern world, silver pants to bondage collars, EXO look ready to crush humanity with their superior abilities. There's been a lack of sandstorms and foot induced earthquakes since but EXO have conquered schoolgirls everywhere. Mission complete.
B.A.P – "Power"
Smashing a giant spaceship into the background retained B.A.P's original Planet Mato concept of warrior aliens coming to Earth, but with 2012's "Power" they swerve into injustice and revolution with a good dose of HR Giger-style set design, burning post-Skynet apocalyptic landscaping and dust. Lots of dust. And aerosol cans. It's dark and confrontational with subliminal violence from start to end but, importantly, it's fast, relentless and grubbily dystopic.
Big Bang – "Fantastic Baby"
This, Big Bang's global ticket to pop's hierarchy, couldn't be ignored when it set the bar so high their competition took run-ups just to try and brush at it. It's simple yet extravagant, everything so considered and immaculate that it seems alien even in its own faux-reality. From the furs to the hair extensions, the studded astro-helmets to the gothic thrones upon which their pert pop king butts rested, it was as if Big Bang beamed in from outer space and ushered our imperfect selves into a new era.
LEDApple – "Someone Met By Chance"
You think futuristic should be more Star Trek than Stargate? More Tron than Transformers? Boyband LEDApple pay homage to Sam Flynn and cybernetics in this lavishly designed piece, which teeters between being a rather beautiful short film about love and fervently wishing that one day we'll all be living in white, floating apartments and communicating telepathically while letting glow-in-the-dark pop-rock bands do concerts on the bridge of the Enterprise.
Wonder Girls – "Like Money" (feat Akon)
“Bionic women given the title of Wonder Girls”. And there you have it. Everything you ever wanted in a futuristic woman is here – short skirts, skintight catsuits, silver hotpants, detachable limbs. Sadly Akon comes along for an attempted foray into the English speaking pop market, and it ends up looking gloriously expensive and sounding like an album filler from The Saturdays. "Love me like money, love me like cars" they warble through voice distorters and the future seems suddenly rather bleak.
EvoL – "We Are a Bit Different"
Girlgroup EvoL have been very quiet of late but their debut did exactly what it said on the tin. No cute dresses and gently blushing cheeks for EvoL, who fall into a ravaged, deserted city (zombies? disease? rabid fangirls?) and bring along a flamethrower and rave lasers for good measure. A female future revolution was here, shrinkwrapped in black PVC and brandishing megaphones, spraypaint and Cruella DeVille hair.
Junsu (XIA) – "Tarantallegra"
Junsu, of TVXQ/JYP fame, here takes things to a whole new level of Final Fantasy futurism. Besides sounding like a gladiatorial event on an off-world industrial colony, it serves as a reminder that K-pop loves several things in their sci-fi/futurist MVs. 1) Fire – everything but the artist should be alight. 2) Hips don't lie – whether you're an alien king or android, your lower half must incite weeping and/or frustrated whining. And 3) utopia is for wimps – no one likes a benevolent future-verse; it needs to look like hell in a teacup, and nothing but your army of dancing acolytes is gonna save you.
BTS – "N.O"
School in the future is tough. When not you're sucking down happy pills or being beaten up by riot police, you're taught by a man who has trouble applying his eye makeup. We may jest, but in "N.O" BTS sublimely execute a difficult concept with the combination of present day, futuristic expectation and stripped back traditionalism. The French décor against the desk tech, the dresses and violins cutting away to brutish masks that resemble Stormtroopers and, in the middle of it all, a few thousand bucks worth of modern streetwear. It's a triple-era attack and one of the smartest MVs on this list.
T-Ara – "Day By Day"
T-Ara didn't do this 2012 comeback by halves; "Day By Day" has a sequel drama MV in "Sexy Love", making the whole episode an eye-watering 30 minutes long. Following in the immortal steps of Mad Max, the world is bombed out, two sisters (one blind and telekinetic) are pursued by a power hungry gang leader with fabulous hair. The girls are trussed up in leather and chains and brandish swords and ride motorbikes; there's death, revenge and mysterious men. Far more interesting than your life, right?
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