Violence in Kpop: Boy Bands and Bullets

BTS shows they are bulletproof in latest MV.

Boys will be boys. But will boy bands be boys? We brought you the Violent Homage and the Revenge of the Girl Group. Now we bring you: Boy Bands and Bullets!

BTS - "We Are Bulletproof"

I have to admit. I f*cking love this song. The singing is frantic and badass and the beats hit just right (for me). It’s hard not to get pumped after seeing this video. But still, you can’t ignore the “Click Click, Bang Bang” of the chorus, the aggressive posturing, the mad swipes at their supposed enemies, the Jurassic stomping. Notable is the pistol firing during the “We are Bulletproof” of the song. Notable too are the basketball jerseys, bling bling, skateboards, shoulder pads, leather jackets, baritone voices, and sharp choreography that culminates in BTS shooting imaginary guns at the viewer.

This is textbook masculinity, so textbook that it almost seems alien. Like they are recreating the ideals of a long lost tribe (the tribe of Man, maybe). True, I believe simplistic views of masculinity to be long archaic, but I can’t help loving this song, even with BTS wholeheartedly embracing everything I despise in popular culture. Really, I think this is just a good song. But it’s also a little more complicated than that. Are they culpable in perpetuating a dangerous culture that equates violence and aggression with manhood? A culture that I highly doubt they even believe in? And if they’re culpable for their participation, am I culpable, in this case, for enjoying it? And you, after you’ve seen this video, and have read what I’ve written and still, even with all of that, you love this song, are you, dear reader, culpable too?

A-Jax - "One 4 U"

Fight! Fight! Fight! Never have warriors been so well groomed, friend. Here, A-Jax seems ripped directly out of Dragon Ball Z (they literally plunge into the lair of their enemies from the sky). The fact that the video begins with villains holding very European (white) characteristics makes my mind consider a deeply anti-western message, but that may be giving this boyish story too much credit, especially since A-Jax spends the rest of the video fighting hooded orcs, shattering them by mere touch, and even, once, by thunderous breath.

This is a ridiculous video made, I’m sure, to entice a rabid fanbase that wants to see their favorite boy group kick ass in tight pants and spikes. No shirts required, their heroism here is a direct continuation of their dramatic vocals and forceful choreography. A desperate reach for machismo in a world of manicures and eyeliner.

One thing is for sure, only through their combined strength can A-Jax save the day and rescue imprisoned women from the grips of...whoever they just killed. So, there’s a message here, one, at least: No one, not westerners, or aliens, or mages, stands a chance against the mighty, unstoppable fist of Kpop.

 B.A.P. - “Warrior”

In B.A.P.’s “Warrior,” one of the first things you will see is a frightening, human-sized rabbit, or Matoki, smashing the camera lens with a sledgehammer. This image is indicative of the rest of the music video for two reasons: one is the simple violence of the next four minutes, and the other is the aggressive invasion of the viewers’ space. The idea of space, or range, is, one of the main tenets of martial arts, and the majority of B.A.P.’s dance moves are aimed directly at the viewer. The choreography is reminiscent of capoeira, the Brazilian combination of martial arts and dance. But whereas capoeira is a give-and-take between two artists, B.A.P. dances at the camera, consistently punching and thrusting toward the immobile viewer who cannot take a step back. For a comparison, take a look at B3ast’s choreography in “Shock,” where they stay remarkably contained while dancing (there is very little viewer-directed motion). And B3ast is no flower-boy group. It is certainly possible for men to dance hard without aggressively closing the distance between themselves and the viewer. This was a choice B.A.P. made. And these are not just violent motions in terms of space, but capable of causing physical harm. Their iconic move in “Warrior” is an elbow strike, a move that is disallowed in most modern combat sports.

But maybe we’re making too much out of nothing. This is a song called “Warrior,” sung by 16-22 year-old males, after all. It’s going to be violent. We should expect them to pretend to fight one another, to continually aim punches at the camera. We should expect there to be sound effects of a gun cocking and being fired, and for B.A.P. to mime shooting one another in the head. We should expect them to artificially deepen their voices to sound more masculine. Okay, yes, Bang Young Guk has a deep voice. But listen to the rest of them. Do you hear their voices in the refrain when they all sing “Warrior?” Because I certainly don’t. It looks like B.A.P. released their first music video with something to prove. What they proved is their insecurities.

B.A.P. - “One Shot”

With the release of “One Shot,” B.A.P. were a year older and, hopefully, a year wiser. For one thing, they stopped faking baritones. But the real difference between “Warrior” and “One Shot” is the elevation from common violence to cinematic violence. By playing the role of gangsters, they manage to turn violence up to 11. Forget the false start to the music video that shows them all happy and victorious on a boat. We don’t know why that’s there. Because it doesn’t take long for one of the B.A.P. gang members to be tortured and held for ransom. While attempting to save their mate, the music video devolves into a Hollywood-style gunfight in which all present are slain in a hellfire of bullets. Frustratingly, just when everyone has died in the music video, B.A.P. pushes the Rewind button (literally). In version number two, the police arrive just in time and arrest everyone. No one dies! All that violence could have been avoided, if…well, if B.A.P. felt like avoiding it.

What’s interesting is that where most kpop music videos shy away from showing blood during simulated violence (see Dal Shabet’s use of neon pink blood in “HitU”), B.A.P. spends effort stylizing their gore. The focus this time around is less on dancing hard or singing hard, and more on creating a cinematic experience. Unfortunately, B.A.P. forgets about some of the more vital aspects of storytelling. The realization that none of the killing was necessary ends up feeling like a waste of our time, and reminds the viewer of B.A.P.’s continued obsession with all things violent. Boys will be boys it seems, no matter the medium.

And now, your Tank of the Week comes from GD & TOP's "Knock Out." Double bubble, baby.


  1. I have heard the video song. I must say this was awesome one. I am gonna be lover of this music. Thanks for share.

  2. B.A.P has definitely seemed to of made a name for themselves recently. I'm not to sure if i am one of those people that enjoy their music, but it is fascinating to see their popularity grow.

  3. Listening for loud and soft, up and down, fast and slow encourages auditory development in the brain. Which helps develop our listening skills.


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