A new Korean pop music video shot entirely on location in Metro Vancouver is racking up millions of views on YouTube since its debut Monday — and could herald a new era of Vancouver-based videos for the popular music industry.
The music video "Likey" is from Twice, a nine-member girl group formed in 2015. The group is one of the highest selling acts in K-pop or Korean pop, a music genre with a global fan base originating from South Korea.
The music video showcases the singers against the backdrop of many classic Vancouver locations, including Stanley Park and Gastown, as well as some forays into suburbia, including a picturesque Steveston gas station, the White Rock pier and a trip on the SkyTrain.
'Visuals are key'
University of British Columbia professor CedarBough Saeji who teaches a course on the popular music genre says a K-pop video's visuals — including location, choreography, fashion — have become almost more important than the actual music.
"The visuals are key," she said. "A lot of the lyrics mean almost nothing. In a song like this [for example], it's basically an appeal for you to like the artist [on social media]."
It's also why K-pop and YouTube form a perfect bond.
One of the most widely watched YouTube videos of all time is the 2012 K-pop single "Gangnam Style" by South Korean musician Psy. It became the first YouTube video in the world to reach one billion and then two billion views.
Twice's other YouTube videos have garnered hundreds of millions of views.
Vancouver a significant choice
Saeji says that emphasis on the visual also makes the choice of Vancouver significant.
Although Toronto has featured in a couple of Korean hip-hop videos, she says, it's still relatively unusual to shoot in Canada. The foreign locations favoured by K-pop videos are usually Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York or Las Vegas, she says.
"[This video] is recognizably Vancouver," she said. "Locals or people who have visited Vancouver before will be able to clue into that right away."
And that's an overture to their Canadian fans.
While K-pop has a mainstream following in Asian countries outside of South Korea like Japan and China, it is still fairly niche in Canada.
"[The fans] are primarily East Asian immigrant kids who may see a chance to see somebody who looks like them being a star," she said.
"That can be really important when you're a 15-year-old girl and you feel like mainstream media [ignores you]."
This video tells K-pop fans in the city they're being seen and heard.
"[They're thinking] we have a very large audience in Canada. We're able to sell out concerts in Canada and we're able to sell out concerts in Vancouver, let's appeal to this audience," she said.
And given the combination of Vancouver's well-established film industry and its devoted K-pop fans, Saeji says it's likely "Likey" won't be the last music video to be filmed here.