Is K-pop the future? JYJ’s XIA Junsu certainly thinks that he is the future. At least, that’s how it appears upon first watch of the singer’s music video for his latest song, Flower.
Flower is XIA’s first solo comeback song since 2013’s Incredible, and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. With a rap from Epik High’s Tablo and lyrics about love, truth, and lies, Flower is already complex enough before the music video begins. But the music video takes the cake.
Post-Apocalyptic Haven? Or Horrific Wasteland?
The music video opens with XIA Junsu appearing as a despot in pristine white ruins among the rest of a dark, black world. XIA sits in a chair, wearing bright colors and having his hair and nails painted unnatural colors, while surrounded by lackeys. He is godlike, and the symbolism, golden eagles, stone lions, and thrones are all associated with tyrants.
But not all is well. The building is crumbling and even while he has people surrounding him who are obviously obedient, there are people wearing pristine white and black outfits standing silently as watchers. People wearing masks, who throw a gold robotic face at his feet, which laughs at him, accost XIA who breaks into a dance routine before it is clear what his reaction to them truly is.
A little girl in white appears, perhaps representing innocence, and perhaps representing naivety. Before XIA reacts to her or the robot head, the screen transitions to black and the process of melting the golden head into a drink for the despot begins.
It’s unclear if the prehistory-esque dance break shows XIA before or after his rise to power, but whatever it is, it clearly shows the world crumbling apart, with power lines and structures crumbling, with fires spouting from the ground. The only animals shown in the video are a mutated fish and horrifying horse. After XIA eats the former, he vomits nuclear blue waste, and the little girl laughs at him before the despot burns.
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The video ends with XIA riding the mutated horse, wearing a night’s outfit, as if ready to go into battle. He is wearing none of his makeup, and a mask covers his face.
Is there really a meaning here, or just XIA’s vision of the end of time, after humans have ruined the world, polluting it, destroying it, and leaving nuclear waste behind?
There is so much imagery in the music video for Flower that it’s really hard to focus on one thing but breaking it down is easier. [There are a few interesting interpretations on the YouTube page, so make sure to check those out, a few that question if it is a commentary about JYJ’s relationship with former agency, SM Entertainment.]
XIA’s Flower is definitely an anti-nuclear, even slightly anti-human music video, that depicts a warning of what could happen if people don’t take care of the world.
The Despot, Or He Who Ignores Those Around Himself
Ignorance is bliss, isn’t that what they say? Rome collapsed after a variety of corrupt emperors, because some of them were so deranged and deluded that they simply couldn’t handle the needs of the Roman Empire. Tyrants last a few years, even longer if they provide people with warm food and water. But they’re also delusional and self-centered; they’re the most powerful person in the room, until the end of time.
South Korea has had its share of dictatorships and one of the last Communist dictatorships is still centered in North Korea, where the wealthy members of the Communist Party live extravagantly while everyone else suffers. No despot thinks that he or she is a bad ruler, as the people near him (XIA’s lackeys) fawn over him or her. But things cannot last in pristine conditions forever; the crumbling walls of XIA’s palace/temple show that. The guns on XIA’s throne, pointing in towards him rather than outside towards others, also signifies this self-destructive nature of gods.
The world’s downtrodden conditions outside are impossible to ignore, even while politicians would like to do so, and XIA has to literally open his eyes to see the mutated fish before he realizes that his world is not the way the world should be. The final scene, where XIA is covering his face and he is ready to take battle, it’s as if the singer-despot is taking on the fight for the future of what little of Earth is left.
The Little Girl and The Tribe, or Lies and Truth
The girl in white is one of the only people in white who has any facial expressions, and she always seems to be smiling at XIA as he is doing something foolish-dancing when people are threatening him, vomiting from nuclear waste.
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White is clean and appears to be untainted, but is actually the amalgamation of all colors, a deception. When XIA and the people wear black as prehistoric-like tribe members, that is when the world appears as it truly does-everything about to end, the absence of life on Earth.
The little girl is a trickster, as if someone is saying, “look, here is the future, isn’t it sweet and beautiful,” while knowing that what they promise can only lead to destruction, much like buying expensive clothes and cars may look nice, but can lead someone down a path of debt and bankruptcy. Or, in line with the music video’s plot, how nuclear weapons and energy looks so enticing, but can easily lead to millions of people dead and the world destroyed.
The Robot, or Humanity’s Hubris
Man makes technology. Man perfects technology. Technology tries to destroy man. The plot is popular in movies and books, and now K-pop takes it on. The robotic head looks human, and even has hair, perhaps signifying a last attempt by humanity to repopulate the world, or at least rework it.
But the head laughs, cackling, at the despot who lives high above the world, ignoring the problems and instead making robots out of gold. Drinking the molten gold from the robot’s head is sensual and decadent, and man trying to control that which he has both created and destroyed.
So, It’s Really Just The End of The World?
There are tens, if not hundreds, of ways to interpret Flower. The music video is so dense with imagery and symbolism that there could easily be a book written about it. These are some ideas, and definitely not all.