Sometimes, in the world of televised K-pop music shows, a great song and killer dance moves aren’t enough. Mainly because just about everyone who appears on a K-pop music show has great songs and killer dance moves.
Oftentimes the only way to really make a lasting impression is to go gung-ho with your sets, props, and other onstage extravagances.
So join us now as we run through a list of 10 of the most dazzling K-pop sets ever to appear on a TV music show. Take a look through our selections and then drop by the comments section to tell us about some of your own favorite sets!
BIGBANG asked us to “Remember” the title of their second album. Well, even if you forgot everything else, one thing all K-pop fans will always remember is the BIGBANG yellow bus.
It made an few memorable appearances in the music video, and even popped up on the odd music show. Yes, a bus.
And why not throw in a few traffic signs while we’re at it?
Stage too small for an actual bus to fit? Not an issue — we can just go with a giant screen projecting endless images of that nice yellow bus driving back and forth.
Because BIGBANG, that’s why.
Before Dal Shabat transformed into the controversy-courting unofficial champions of the sexy concept they are today, the group was completely on a completely different trajectory.
As well as the occasional threat of legal action from groups of angry male activists.
Before everyone and their wife was getting offended by them, however, they were dancing about in their pajamas singing about disco in front of gigantic Rubik’s Cubes…
or Tetris blocks.
Can you work out what is going on here?
As for the “Pink Rocket” days, words fail me. Let’s just be thankful the pink rocket in question never made it along to any music shows.
Which is why I am personally glad they have moved on. Controversial it may be, but Dal Shabet’s music has just gone from strength to strength since they ditched the color blocks and got all edgy. Offend whomever you like if it sounds this good, girls.
Has any rookie boyband ever pulled out quite as many stops with a release as this? It seems that MONSTA X changes its concept for this song on a weekly basis.
There was the European soccer theme that saw the boys decked out in Real Madrid and Barcelona FC shirts with big-screen sports action going on in the background.
And the dance-about in front of a wire fence full of kitschy metal Americana signs.
Here is a fascinating selection of the above and more:
The group really stepped up its act with not one but two classic motorbikes, hauled all the way to the KBS studios in September this year for a “Music Bank” performance.
Extra points for the old-school driving goggles, boys.
But this “Inkigayo” appearance is surely the winner. All the barrels, packing crates…and not to mention a full-sized replica of what looks like a World War II-era Allied fighter plane with a moving propeller.
It seems like it was all done in the spirit of a certain Capcom game from a time gone by.
“Rush” was so extravagant the boys may need to call on the help of the likes of Christopher Nolan or James Cameron if they want to top it with their next comeback.
This recent Twitter picture had 2NE1 fans everywhere holding their breath for imminent surprise comeback news.
But even though the teaser turned out to be a promo for leader CL’s forthcoming new release, one place you certainly will find 2NE1 is on a list like this. Queens of extravagant sets, lavish stage props, and costumes that look as though they belong in a Guillermo del Toro movie, 2NE1 don’t do anything by half.
So when the YG foursome do a beach concept, they do a beach concept — palm trees, windsurf boards, hammocks, and all.
Not to mention all that sand. Somebody had fun bringing that in (and cleaning it all up afterwards).
And then, in the middle, we move to some sort of street scene with doors, staircases and a vintage bicycle.
Accuse YG of what you will — skimping on set designs is not something this agency does.
When you compare it to other extravagant K-pop sets, on paper this sounds fairly tame. OK, a bunch of thin red curtains. What is so special about that?
Well, consider that these curtains move about all over the place, presumably guided by unseen wires.
The boys and their backing dancers routinely vanish and then reappear behind them. They crumple to the floor and then spring back to life.
There is obviously some kind of master of puppets backstage working these props, but there is no room for error — not for the boys, nor the props operator, nor the backing dancers. All in all, this is one of the most complicated-looking K-pop sets of recent times.
Take a bow, boys. You deserve a round of applause for that.
Speaking of interacting with stage props, there was this.
The act (or their managers) had to lug these poles and their support mechanisms from music show to music show back in 2013. But although they were (I’m guessing) not light, that was not the amazing thing.
The amazing thing is that After School managed to master the art of dancing on these things while singing “First Love.”
And although most people would assume that a K-pop girl group doing a pole dance-themed concept would end up being a poorly executed carnival of smut, “First Love” was anything but.
The group trained for some six months in preparation for the release, with member Lizzy getting injured in a practice session and Nana even falling offstage during a “Show Champion” performance. The girls ended up staying (relatively) classy, looking cool, and generally just wowing us all with their dance skills.
Are you ready for Christmas, Soompiers? Because like it or not, as soon as November bites the dust, the sleigh bell-infused songs will be back.
A few unexpected artists will drop unexpected cover versions:
Some anarchic masterpiece will get released:
Agencies will be getting all their artists together for super-mega X-mas collaborations that involve lots of Santa hats and some decidedly *interesting* sweaters.
And for us beleaguered Rainbow/A-Jax fans, there is the faint holiday hope that our heroes and heroines will be released from the DSP Media dungeon for long enough to record a song and take a few photos.
But when it comes to yuletide fun, EXO don’t cut corners. From inflatable glowing snowmen to artificial snow, oversized floating snowflakes, a gigantic layered cake-stage and more Christmas trees than you can shake a stick at, EXO managed to fit it all onto one stage.
It was all action for the “Mind Your Own Business” music video. So much so that poor Ailee ended up with a busted ankle when a piece of the set fell on her during its making.
Undeterred, the solo star and her agency decided to go ahead with her comeback anyway, even if it meant Ailee had to sit on a stool and swivel about a lot during performances.
But this gigantic cage stole the show when Ailee performed on SBS’ “Inkigayo” early on in her promotions.
Part-WWE accessory, part oversized birdcage, you had to behold this behemoth in order to believe it. Who knows what kind of symbolism belied the thing – perhaps it had something to do with the whole women’s prison concept.
One thing is for sure, though — you certainly don’t see one of these things every week.
Was this a huge ventilation shaft? Or the interior of a safe?
Given the music video’s Batman-themed bank heist theme, it might have been intended to represent a bank vault.
Whatever it was, it most certainly was not cheap to assemble. And it provided Zico and the boys the opportunity to make a pretty dramatic entrance, literally bursting though the center of their set and onto the stage, kicks, clown masks, and all.
“Volume Up” saw 4Minute put the sexy into gothic, or the gothic into sexy, or something along these lines.
However, for one I was a little disappointed that these bars didn’t swing open. The girls just kind of just stepped around them. Total anti-climax.
I was hoping for a little cage-bursting action. “Unleash HyunA!” “Unleash Jiyoon!” and so on. Maybe I have been watching too much “Game of Thrones.”
But the combination of faux stained glass window details and the distinctly coffin-esque nature of whatever it was the group stepped out of in their “M!Countdown” performance was much more like it.
Add some very creative outfits, buckets and buckets of dry ice, a matching floor motif and some writhing backing dancers and you have what was probably the girl group’s most creative and imaginative concept to date.
Baroque on, 4Minute!
You’ve read our thoughts, now it’s over to you, Soompiers! Which K-pop artist’s TV show sets/props have caught your eye? Tell us what you think in the comments below!
timmydee is a music geek with a penchant for pop, an enthusiasm for electronica and a hankering for hip hop.
*The views expressed in this article solely reflect those of the author and do not represent Soompi as a whole.