The evolution of K-pop choreography videos and Blackpink’s 500 million mark

Posted on : 2021-01-20 17:04 KST Modified on : 2021-01-20 17:04 KST
Once considered a fan treat, choreography videos are now a must for K-pop groups
The choreography video for Blackpink’s “How You Like That.” (YouTube screenshot)
The choreography video for Blackpink’s “How You Like That.” (YouTube screenshot)

The gripping intro begins, and the Blackpink members, all wearing black outfits, launch into their group dance. The background is entirely pink.

“I crumbled before your eyes / Hit rock bottom and sunk deeper,” they sing. The camera zooms in and out, but otherwise moves only as much as necessary to keep all the group members in the frame.

The choreography video of “How You Like That” is much simpler than the music video or televised performances. Gone are the flashy stage decorations and the multicolored lights. The only thing filling the screen is the members’ dance moves.

But the response to the video has been overwhelming. At 7:05 am on Jan. 6, the YouTube view count surpassed 500 million, just six months after the video was posted on July 6, 2020.

That’s a record that many full-on K-pop music videos are unlikely to reach, and Blackpink managed to do it with a simple dance performance. In fact, Blackpink is the first Korean act to amass more than 500 million views for a video of the kind.

The choreography video for Blackpink’s “How You Like That.” (YouTube screenshot)
The choreography video for Blackpink’s “How You Like That.” (YouTube screenshot)
Entertainment companies investing more in choreography videos

K-pop choreography videos are evolving. The time has passed when groups would post videos shot on a smartphone or a fixed camera in a studio as a favor for fans. Choreography videos have become a global promotion tool, attracting hundreds of millions of views, and entertainment companies are now putting more effort into producing them.

The choreography video for Blackpink’s “How You Like That” is dynamic. The camera moves around to display dance moves from various angles. The background isn’t a practice room at corporate HQ, but a pink-colored studio, a nod to the group’s name.

The video is also shot in high definition, displaying the expressions of the group members with greater clarity than choreography videos made by other idol groups.

Some groups are releasing choreography videos that borrow elements from music videos. Best-known is BTS, the Korean group that has become a global phenomenon.

Around the time the group released “On” last year, it also posted a “kinetic manifesto film” for the song. The film aims to communicate the “manifesto” of the song purely through the “kinetic” language of the body. This approach departs from official music videos and dance performance videos shot in practice rooms by shooting on a bigger scale while staying focused on the choreography.

In BTS’ eye-popping choreography video for “On,” the members join 30 dancers and a 12-person marching band in a grand performance in front of the Sepulveda Dam, in Los Angeles.

It’s becoming more common for groups to release several different dance performance videos. In the case of “Dynamite,” the BTS song that reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart last year, the group released not only a basic choreography video, but also a dance break version with added choreography.

The group Twice also released two choreography videos for its new hit “Cry for Me,” released last month. On Jan. 12, Aespa, the girl group behind “Black Mamba, posted a second dance practice video for the song. In the latest video, group members are wearing “tech wear,” multifunction attire inspired by military outfits.

BTS’ choreography video for “On.” (YouTube screenshot)
BTS’ choreography video for “On.” (YouTube screenshot)
Broadcasters producing more choreography videos

As choreography videos get more and more attention, broadcasters are also starting to produce them. South Korean cable channel Mnet runs a YouTube channel called “Studio Choom” (“choom” being Korean for “dance”) to showcase choreography videos that it produces for idol groups. The videos in this series use lighting and a range of camera angles to highlight dance performances on bare stages with no backgrounds or props.

Exo and BTS are considered the groups that reinvented choreography videos, which were originally released as a bonus for fans upon the release of a new track.

“Nowadays, a lot of idol groups are producing choreography videos with moving cameras, but that’s something that Exo did to great acclaim way back in 2013 with their song ‘Growl,’” said Park Hui-a, a pop music critic.

“Another big turning point was the ‘Gayo Daejejeon Intro Performance Trailer’ that BTS released in 2015. The trailer was edited from footage of a dance performance at an end-of-the-year music awards show that they’d shot from various camera angles. That’s where we can find the origin of the kinetic manifesto film version of ‘On,’” Park said.

The choreography video for Twice’s “Cry for Me.” (YouTube screenshot)
The choreography video for Twice’s “Cry for Me.” (YouTube screenshot)
Popularity of cover dances and group choreography

So why are fans going gaga over these choreography videos? Experts point to the fact that these videos make it easier to focus on the stage performance itself.

“The genre of K-pop is about more than just the music; it also includes the performance and other visual elements. Television broadcasts have stage sets and repeated closeups, while music videos tell a story — both of which get in the way of enjoying the carefully synchronized dance moves in all their glory,” Park said.

“The popularity of ‘cover dances’ both in Korea and other countries is another reason that choreography videos have become an important K-pop product.”

Entertainment companies also appear to have changed their tune on choreography videos. “Recently, entertainment companies seem to be devoting even more attention to choreography videos. They’ve realized that a well-produced choreography video can promote a group even more effectively than a music video, which would be much more expensive,” said a source at a major entertainment company.

By Kim Kyung-wook, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

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