Poker and Games in K-Pop Music Videos

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Poker and Games

The past five years have seen the breakthrough of South Korean popular culture into the global scene, transforming the country into Hollywood’s biggest competitor. From churning out Oscar-winners like 2019’s Parasite to 2021’s biggest show Squid Game, Hallyu — or the Korean Wave — is setting the global trends. This, of course, includes music. K-pop is the fastest-growing music market on the planet, moving from niche-interest in the US to dominant, multibillion-dollar global industry.

In 1999, South Korea passed a law dedicating a percentage of the nation’s budget to producing entertainment. This $148.5 million investment managed to bring money back to the country by exporting culture. Fans of boy group BTS, for instance, have spent an average of $1422 on the group. Indeed, it’s not hard to understand the appeal, as K-pop pays close attention to hyper-stylized music and immaculate performances. The genre also boasts unique concepts which guide their music videos and albums, twisting the mundane into something extraordinary. Games, in particular, has found a solid place among K-pop concepts, presenting an interesting use of arcades, video games, toys, and so much more. Let’s take a look at three K-pop music videos which spin poker and games in a new light:

“Coin” by IU


“Coin” is one of the two title tracks in female soloist IU’s fifth studio album “Lilac,” which draws listeners in with a groovy retro sound. The lyrics compare the adrenaline of high-stakes betting to that of IU’s aggressive approach towards her career. Loaded with poker imagery, the music video shows IU as she works her way up from unknown player to poker star, beating successful opponents in turn. At the end, however, veteran actor Kim Yoon-Seok makes a cameo and reprises his iconic role as gambling villain Agui from the film Tazza: The High Rollers, which was a critical and commercial success. IU soon learns a next-level poker tip by playing with this expert opponent: you won’t make money by playing against top pros; to keep winning, you need to target weaker players instead.

”Everybody” by SHINee


Chess saw an increased interest with Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, but contemporary idol group SHINee has been experimenting with the game’s symbolism since 2013. In their fifth mini album “Everybody,” which featured a title track of the same name, the group takes on the role of toy soldiers on a chess board. The set of the music video is a checkered floor with five, giant chess pieces representing each member. The toy soldiers don’t really have much control over how they move, until they break free and start smashing the chess pieces. Member Taemin repeats this concept in his 2021 solo release “Advice,” which echoes the idea that SHINee will continue to play the idol game, but they won’t be sent in set, predetermined directions.

“Umpah Umpah” by Red Velvet


“Umpah Umpah” is the second title track in girl group Red Velvet’s ReVe Festival Trilogy, and it features a magical board game. Instead of a fun weekend at the beach, the Red Velvet members are trapped indoors by the sudden arrival of the storm. With a leaking roof and a spotty TV antenna, the group ends up playing a board game with miniature versions of the Red Velvet members themselves — taunting them of the fun they could have had on the beach. Hailed as one of PopCrush’s best music videos of 2019, “Umpah Umpah” continues Red Velvet’s legacy of cute, weird, and magical takes on everyday life.

To watch Korean shows and other Asian fare, check out our article on six drama websites today.

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