BEAST is back, and while the departure of lead singer Jang Hyunseung will take some getting used to especially for longtime fans of the legendary Korean-pop (K-pop) group, the five remaining members are obviously dedicated to continuing to produce their enigmatic but powerful brand of music and visuals as shown by their latest music video, “Ribbon” (youtu.be/QQXsknBbcG0), lead track of their newest full album, “Highlight.”
Beast rapper Yong Junhyung, who composed the song with his Good Life collaborator Kim Tae-joo, said in recent interviews that he found inspiration in writing the song after his hotel robe came undone. Much like in relationships, he explained, all it takes is one tug for the knot—or in this case, ribbon— to unravel.
Therefore, “Ribbon” is about relationships unraveling. Nothing surprising about that since Beast specializes in heartbreak and emotional waste (“Rainy Days,” “Fiction,” “Missing You,” “Shadow,” “No More,” “Will You Be Alright?”; “Good Luck” and “12:30”).
The difference is that it can’t be helped for admirers of Beast to read into “Ribbon” the attempt of the remaining five members to come to terms with Hyunseung’s departure.
In the stark music video of “Ribbon” everything seems familiar, what with the signature soaring, beautiful vocals of main singer Yang Yoseob and the rest of Beast executing the fancy choreography they have become known for. But suddenly one gasps at finding out that only five figures of the old sextet are dancing and someone’s terribly missing.
There are also moments in “Ribbon” when the spacing between the members during the dance sequence seems reserved for their former group mate. Sadly nobody fills it up.
Whether intentional or not, perhaps “Ribbon” is a poignant way of saying that Beast is moving forward with a heavy heart, but the boys do recognize Hyunseung’s contribution to the preeminent Beast sound and style.
Beyond that, however, “Ribbon” harks back to “12:30,” ironically the celebrated ballad Beast released to mark its fifth anniversary in 2014, and some fans have posted on social media and forums how this one seems an even bleaker sequel to that very bleak track.
Most obvious is the image of the clock, a stark presence in “12:30,” and how Junhyung, who provides the rap verses in the song, tries his best to fix it. In contrast to the piano and the percussive evocation of “12:30,” “Ribbon” employs violins to give off a much more somber vibe.
Meanwhile, Beast leader Yoon Doojoon finds himself marooned on an eery skyscraper, literally on top of the world but forlorn and lost (referencing the hung-over figure who awakes after a night of drunken revelry in last year’s “Yey”?); handsome maknae Son Dongwoon alone in an empty craggy landscape save for his car, on which he is strapped by ribbons (alluding perhaps to the fast car he’s driving while crying due to heartbreak in 2010’s “I Knew It”?); Lee Kikwang wandering in an empty subway station and opening a locker where a hand creepily emerges; and baby-faced and eternal child Yoseob stranded in an abandoned theme park and riding the merry-go-round alone, bereft of any parent or companion.
“Ribbon” had been preceded by the release of “Butterfly” (youtu.be/GLshspTLgvw), which, while set in a garden of summer splendor, evokes the same specter of loss, hurt and dissolution, with the members holding the fragile butterfly in their chest. Once more, Beast fans can’t help but take the butterfly as a metaphor for the delicacy of human relationships and the decline and even death of friendships.
Imbued with depth of poetry and feeling, “Ribbon” and “Butterfly” show Beast at the top of its form, consolidating its reputation as a sublime class act in K-pop.