K-pop groups RIIZE and Seventeen used AI art in latest music videos

Two K-pop Groups Used AI In Their Videos, So Why Is The Internet Only Mad At One Of Them?

3 min read

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Last week, two K-pop idol groups released a music video ahead of their scheduled comebacks. Both videos used AI art, but only one group ended up copping intense backlash from fans.

The first group, RIIZE, dropped a “visualiser” video on YouTube for its new single Impossible. This was to showcase the group’s aesthetic and build anticipation from fans. The entire visualiser was AI-generated.

The second group, Seventeen, released a trailer for its new single Maestro. Similar to a visualiser, the trailer was to drum up excitement from fans ahead of the actual music video. Unlike RIIZE’s video, only certain scenes from the trailer were AI-generated.

The RIIZE video ended up becoming the centre of negative attention. On social media, the group’s fans slammed RIIZE’s record label, SM Entertainment (SM) for putting out what they perceived as “lazy”, “low and cheap.

K-pop and AI

AI’s presence in the K-pop industry is nothing new. For years, K-pop record labels have launched – and even found success – with idol groups powered by artificial intelligence. “Virtual idols” such as MAVE, whose vocals, likeness and public appearances are entirely generated by AI, have garnered millions of views across social media.

So, if K-pop fans are fairly open to futuristic technology, why was RIIZE’s AI-generated video so unpopular? Dr. Sarah Keith, Senior Lecturer in South Korean Media and Music at Macquarie University, tells The Chainsaw that in this controversy intention and purpose are key.

“There’s no depiction of RIIZE’s members, or thematic relation to the song or the group,” she says. “Visually, the video demonstrates the current limitations of generative AI, with distorted human figures and blurry details. It’s not surprising that fans were not satisfied with this video.”

Seventeen’s video, on the other hand, is meant to be a commentary on the relationship between AI and art. The video opens with a disclosure: “In our current reality, where anything can be created with AI, who is the real maestro?” Thus, it carries a clear message and AI is included to drive the video’s storytelling forward.

“AI-generated videos of orchestra musicians are interspersed with actual videos of the group,” Dr. Keith says. “The teaser also suggests a more critical view of AI, with some ominous musical notes accompanying the AI generated content. It’s much clearer why Seventeen are using AI here, as a creative decision that relates to their song.”

K-pop has space for future tech

Although Seventeen’s video is receiving largely favourable feedback, some fans remain sceptical about the intention of Seventeen’s record label Pledis.

Some feel that the use of AI-generated footage for the trailer is a gimmick by Pledis, and just another way for the company to cash in on the AI hype.

“I get the intention, it is ‘creative’ but it’s also very hypocritical of [Pledis]. The use of AI itself already [brought] down the cost of their MV [music video],” noted a fan on X.

“K-pop is a genre that capitalises on the latest fashion and trends, including the latest technologies and consumer goods; it makes business sense to capitalise on AI as a trend,” says Dr. Keith.

“We seem to be in an experimentation phase for a lot of new technologies in K-pop, whether it’s virtual idols, AI, or metaverse products. Groups that engage with these technologies seem to have had some success, but none have been breakout hits. It will be interesting to see what the longevity of these trends is, and whether groups will still be using them in five years’ time.”

Images: HYBE Labels and SM Entertainment via YouTube