Cityscapes, real and virtual, across Dubai, Hong Kong, India and Japan… mountains in Korea… a warehouse and a Cantonese restaurant in London… animations in outer space and more... Mixmag Asia’s mind-blowing music videos from 2022 are incredibly diverse not only in their settings but in their music, storylines and aesthetics.
Across Asia and the Asian diaspora, musicians’ collaborations with talented directors, cinematographers, stylists and the like have produced some truly compelling audiovisual experiences this year. Some look to the past with nostalgic references and techniques, some meditate on the present, while others imagine alternate realities where people can literally fly, for example, off of concert hall stages or into the cosmos.
They're a trip, as 2022 has been, so press play and get journeying!
1 Mondo Grosso ‘In This World’ (feat. Ryuichi Sakamoto & Hikari Mitsushima)
Premiered on January 11, Mondo Grosso’s ‘In This World’ lulled us into the new year with an ethereal, whimsical and emotional music video.
The concept for the video is simple: a grand piano (played by Sakamoto’s invisible hand) and vocalist Hikari Mitsushima alone in a concert hall. It’s a setting that works perfectly for the reverb-heavy production.
Those familiar with the equally unforgettable music video for Mondo Grosso’s 2017 hit ‘Labyrinth’ (shot in Hong Kong) will remember the singer’s elegant-yet-quirky dance style and physicality.
In ‘In This World’, Mitsushima’s charisma literally takes flight as she steps off the stage and floats up to dance and fly through the air, bathed in red and white light. Despite the scale of the theatre setting, the video – like the song – feels intimate and light as air…
2 PAV4N x MAZZI x Koothu ஒலி ‘FCUK GENE SIMMONS’
One of 2022’s best musical gifts has been LDNYCDXB, the global collaboration between PAV4N (Foreign Beggars) and MAZZI (S.O.U.L. Purpose). As the name of the EP indicates, the two MCs’ project incorporates influences from the US, UK and the Middle East – and the beats are all fire.
Released on PAV4N’s 4NC¥ imprint in April, the pair have filmed music videos for three of the EP’s five tracks. The video for ‘FCUK GENE SIMMONS’ (produced by Koothu ஒலி) sees the duo gallivanting through Satwa, Dubai, taking the viewer through the district’s colourful eateries, shops and urban vernacular.
Starting at the twilight hour and progressing into night, the photography fuses old-school hip hop-style framing with 360 cam and drone shots made possible by 2022-era gadgetry. With great editing and pacing, it’s a visual feast that perfectly complements the EP standout. You can tell PAV4N and MAZZI had a blast making this – and the feeling is infectious.
3 MUTO ‘Mountain’
South Korean collective MUTO released their debut EP, ‘Vast Plains’ on June 8 of this year. The esoteric project is the brainchild of producer Bumho Sin, graphic and media artists Hunkyu Park and Chanhyuk Hong and geomungo player Woojae Park (the geomungo is a traditional Korean string instrument).
With ‘Mountain’, MUTO weaves in a meditative and hauntingly beautiful visual component to the project. Less like a music video and more like a moment in time, the ‘Visualiser’ (as they call it) for ‘Mountain’ is elemental in its simplicity.
The entire video comprises a single long aerial shot that moves slowly towards and then goes through a striking mountain range. Filmed in black and white with an incredible sense of depth, the video forces contemplation of the geomungo’s almost vocal-like lament in a way that enhances the mystery of the natural formation.
4 Jianbo ‘Mongkok Madness’ (feat. Henry Wu)
This year, London-based Jianbo has been making the Asian diaspora proud. The MC, who is half Chinese and half Vietnamese, has seen his star rise this year thanks to his ‘Yellow Peril’ EP, dropped in March (with this title, Jianbo reclaimed the historically racist ‘yellow peril’ trope that resurfaced during the Covid-19 pandemic).
Track three of the EP, ‘Mongkok Madness’, blends trip hop, hip hop and jazzy grime – and its MV is just as smooth. A love letter to Hong Kong cinema, the video is bathed in saturated hues à la Christopher Doyle (Wong Kar War’s cinematographer) and depicts the MC and his entourage holding court at a Cantonese restaurant – which is itself a stock scene in Hong Kong gangster films (the restaurant is South London’s famed ‘Hong Kong City’).
Though the track has enjoyed well-deserved BBC Radio play, the respectable 27k views its video has garnered still feels lacking given how great it is. The coming months, however, are sure to see those stats rise exponentially…
5 Peggy Gou ‘I Go’
No 2022 music video list would be complete without Peggy Gou’s ‘I Go’, right? Although it was a close call between ‘I Go’ and the video for Gou’s remix to Kylie Minogue’s ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’ (both were animated by Inji Seo), the galactic-nautical fantasy of ‘I Go’ ended up coming out on top.
Recalling Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’ from what seems like aeons ago, in ‘I Go’, Gou luxuriates in a psychedelic world filled with Gou clones, golden giraffes and a delightfully gaudy pink and green ship sailing first on the sea before going into outer space.
Embellished with karaoke-style animations for the Korean lyrics to the song, this was the animation we didn’t know we needed.
6 EZ Riser ‘Jigsaw Bump’
September of this year saw Indian bass purveyors Krunk Kulture drop the music video for EZ Riser’s ‘Jigsaw Bump’. The jungle/drum‘n’bass-inflected track, which featured on EZ Riser’s debut EP ‘The Slacktivist’, switches between halftime and regular time – a playfulness that is also captured in the MV.
Featuring dancer Srilakshmi, the video follows the late night antics of the producer and talented b-girl. Armed with a skateboard each, the pair is trailed by a handheld cam as they grab snacks, board, dance, and meander through older areas of Ahmedabad.
It’s an audiovisual pairing that works really well: the kinetic energy of the nightscape meets its match in the track’s slightly off-kilter breakbeat-driven beats.
7 DJ Droopy ‘So Freaky VIP’
Earlier this year, we described the video for ‘So Freaky VIP’ as “Part-virtual reality fever dream, part-GTA psychedelia”. Powered by Unreal Engine, the video collaboration between ARS Series and Yeti Out turns the city of Hong Kong into a surreal 3D animated playground.
DJ Droopy’s ghetto tech production is a real cruiser of a track and this is visually represented, as well, in the form of a Porsche Carrera snaking through the cityscape.
For Yeti Out co-founder Arthur Bray, the Porsche’s joyride spoke to the pandemic times in which the MV idea was hatched and executed. Add to that the virtual substitution of real physical spaces, rewatching ‘So Freaky VIP’ at the end of 2022 is weirdly nostalgic for those socially-distanced days.
8 Nala & Nikki Nair ‘The World is Always Ending’
Get ready to see a magic trick. In the video for ‘The World is Always Ending’, singer Nala levitates past trucks, sidewalks and above a of pile of rocks. It’s not an eerie cult ritual, however, but a whimsical throwback to early 90s aesthetics, made possible by stop motion.
Set to fiery breakbeat courtesy of producer Nikki Nair and paired with Nala’s cool vocal nonchalance, the MV for ‘The World is Always Ending’ plays with long exposures, multiple exposure, spinning shots, unhinged angles and pans that add to the visual vertigo.
Towards the end, Nala looks at us with a magnifying glass – yet the whole time we’ve been watching her through a circle frame that persists throughout most of the clip. It begs the question: just who’s been watching who?
9 LVRA ‘LOOK’
London-based Eastern Margins recently unleashed Scottish Chinese LVRA on their fans – an artist the label describes as a ‘gothic r’n’b star’. It’s a label that fits well, especially once you’ve seen the music video for ‘LOOK’, which was dropped October 25.
In the MV, which draws from a primal colour palette of black, red and white, LVRA transforms from a vulnerable entity (for lack of a better word!) writhing on the floor and wrapped in bandages, into a strong, leather-clad femme fatale.
The metamorphosis is compelling to watch as it unfolds amid punchy industrial club beats. Our favourite shot? LVRA emitting a smoke-filled scream.
10 ONJUICY ‘E.HONDA #CammyRiddim’ (Prod. Blay Vision)
One of global grime’s preeminent MCs, Japan’s ONJUICY graced us with a single-plus-MV drop for ‘E.HONDA #CammyRiddim’ in September of this year.
Directed by Masatoshi Kiyokawa, the video pairs classic urban scenes (carparks, parks, housing estates…) with quickly paced, zoomed-in and decontextualised shots of an old school Street Fighter cabinet screen – playing the game, of course.
Add slow cityscape pans, throwback picture-in-picture edits and glitched-out frames to that; it’s a Nippon neon gamer-meets-hip hop vibe. We say, “press play”.
Mengzy is Mixmag Asia’s Music Culture Columnist, follow her on Instagram.