What Lies Beneath - BTS' Singularity Analysis

Written by Ajane J.K. Celestin


Disclaimers: I don't normally make my analyses public, but it's something I've done for many years for fun. I decided to share for this one because some people asked me about it. I didn't have a lot of time to review the video and lyrics and had to squeeze it in between work, so it could be wrong, but this is what felt right to *me* based on what I know. With analyses, it's easy to get it all wrong if there's information you're lacking or if you're too biased, so there's always room for that error. I wish I'd had more time to dedicate to it, but hopefully it's coherent enough! 

Okay, let's quickly jump in.

MV Overview

The video begins with Tae and empty clothes hanging up. He puts his hand through the clothes and acts as if it is a different person. It's important to note these clothes are women's clothing, and the way he interacts with his hand can be construed as romantic or intimate. The backup dancers around him lie on the ground and almost get up several times every time he breaks apart from the "other person".

As a side note, I believe the reason they are clothes is less due to symbolism and more because if they had used an actual woman...well...Need I say more? Although I don’t doubt there is some symbolism in the fact that they are not even people, but empty racks of clothing they must pretend are women.

Moving on, there's a scene where Tae reaches out and touches ice that almost cracks as he leaves the room. The dance moves themselves seems to have a lot of meaning, as Tae alternates between stiff, jerky movements, and more flowing ones. The stiff movements reminded me of someone being pulled on strings like a marionette, and the flowing ones seemed like someone losing control. And of course, these scenes are interspersed with the ice cracking. The backup dancers continue to emulate the first scene with Tae and the "woman" as Tae himself walks around a room.

In the next scene, 8 masks appear and Tae controls them at will. This is the strongest symbolism present for my theory. The fact that masks are well known to hide your true emotions beneath.

The following scenes bring a room with flowers that have overgrown a room covered in newspaper clippings. Tae sits in a corner, wearing a large earring that says LOVED. The newspaper clippings to me, represent media and we later see an old fashioned TV that is on and no longer works in the room.

After a scene not unlike a desert setting, Tae has a flower in hand. He seems to offer the flower to the masks, but the masks avoid them. At one point he finally takes a mask as if he is about to put it on while scenes of water and flowers are interspersed. At the end he covers his face with his hand, as if in a mask. At the very end, while wearing the LOVED earring, the mask Tae wears has black paint flow down it.

I'm sure there's plenty more I'm missing, but this is what I saw.

Lyrics Symbolism
Let’s attend to some of the lyrics, which can be found here: https://genius.com/Bts-intro-singularity-lyrics

The lyrics tie directly into the MV. I believe the "sound of something breaking" is the ice that’s mentioned in the song breaking. And I think the ice may represent the barrier between desires/emotions and the world outside. One could say the ice is a mask, so he is hearing the mask crack and trying to ignore it. But spring is coming...when that happens, the emotions/desires would be forced to flow out. I do not think spring is viewed as a positive thing in this context, but rather neutral to negative.

My Singularity Theory

Singularity is about wearing masks to be loved and ultimately ending up alone. Changing yourself to be what others want you to be isn’t the way towards loving yourself, and you can’t maintain it forever. When change comes, Tae ends up all alone.

Although it's likely the concept is supposed to encompasses not just BTS' personal feelings, but the human condition as a whole, it was while thinking only about BTS that I came up with this theory, so those are the terms in which I will explain it.

While they are not the only ones, as many in the entertainment industry must do the same, BTS has to wear many masks to please fans and the world around them. Every move of theirs is scrutinized and analyzed. Whatever emotions and desires they have must generally be pushed down in order to continue to be successful.

MV & Lyrics Breakdown

In the video, the theory I'm going with here is that the backup dancers represent his desires/emotions. As Tae becomes “intimate” with the "woman". they begin to rise. He tears himself away, they fall. But the "woman" keeps pulling him back in.

Tae constantly suppresses own his "desire" (remember, the backup dancers represent the desires/emotions) for the "woman" but it continues to exist through the backup dancers persisting in all scenes in the video - EXCEPT the ones where he is wearing the mask or signs of spring are there. After he suppresses his desire, that’s when the ice is shown to be cracking. I felt this was symbolic of the sacrifices they've probably had to give up, such as romantic love. But by showing the backup dancers continuing to caress the "woman" throughout the video, it shows they still feel the same desires, even if it's pushed down or hidden. The ice cracking shows the toll it takes on their psyches and that they won’t be able to keep it up forever.

This kind of dissonance, or being tugged between two forces is also present in the choreography itself. Half of the backup dancers stand still while the others keep moving. Tae grabs at his throat, and his head. There's a lot of feeling to me in the dance scenes of someone who is struggling between two inner forces. The backup dancers are constantly doing different things in the background while Tae is doing another. It seems like Tae and his "emotions" are struggling with himself. I felt that it was the suppression of emotion in order to appear the way they want to their fans.

In the lyrics, they talk about not having a voice. I thought this was symbolic of how much they can't say or express to the world. The voice is another symbol for their emotions/desires/needs.  Take "I buried my voice for you." For me, "you" represents fans in the song. In the lyric "Have I lost myself or have I gained you?" If they are wearing a mask, one might say they've lost themselves. But they did gain the fans. So which is it? I believe in this song it’s implied that he loses himself and ends up alone, so it’s questioning if he really gained anyone by wearing the mask.

With the lyrics: "I suddenly run to the lake, there's my face in it, please don't say anything, reach my hand out to cover the mouth. But in the end, spring will come someday."

If the lake represents emotions in the song, then the lake also represents them themselves. Their desires. But if their desires, emotions and thoughts speak, then everything will end. So he covers his mouth, his face instead. He has no voice. But even if he fights against it, in the end someday the mask will crack, the ice will melt...Spring will come someday.

Going back to the video, flowers visually represent spring. When Tae pushes the flowers towards the masks, they seem to avoid it. The flower represents a sign of spring...the masks i.e. the frozen ice would crack when spring comes, so of course they would avoid it. When Tae is in the room with old newspaper clippings and the old TV, signs of spring are all over the place. The frozen lake is now water. Flowers overgrow the room.

My analysis of this - equating it with BTS - is that I believe the old and outdated forms of media in the room represent the world moving on even without them, once their masks crack. Leaving them completely alone. However, Tae has the LOVED earring on only in this scene. Considering how he's alone (AKA “singular”) in a corner in all black, I took it as irony. The earring itself is also gold, which brings to mind the adage “all that glitters is not gold.” The glamourous earring stating that Tae is “LOVED” remains glittering amongst the empty room, ruined room, mocking his loneliness.

In the lyrics, it says "Tell me if my voice isn't real, if I shouldn't have thrown myself away, tell me if even this pain isn't real, what I was supposed to do back then."

I interpret this as having to do with the suppression of the voice (representing desire/emotions). There must be times where they tell themselves they don't have these feelings, or that others tell them they don't feel the way they do. Sometimes, you can convince yourself that you aren't wanting the things you want, or feeling the pain you feel.

The lyrics end with uncertainty. They more or less ask "If none of what I'm feeling is real, what was I supposed to do back then?" I took this as “what other choice do they have but to continue the way they are?” Tae cements this in the video by willingly taking the mask and putting it on. At the very end, Tae is shown wearing the mask with the LOVED earring again. A hint of the true emotions shine through when a black "tear" rolls down his face. He is "Loved" while wearing the mask, but at what cost?  

Similar Themes in Elsewhere in BTS' Lives

BTS has talked about these kind of fears many times. The fear that things will end, and the feeling that they aren't being "real" with people. Some examples of this are Young Forever, Skit: Fear and Hesitation, Sea. Someone on Twitter also pointed out to me that the lyrics of Outro: Her deal heavily in wearing masks to be loved. And I think that any attentive fan can recall at least one time when they have asked their fans not to leave them. I imagine that right now, when everything is going perfectly, incredibly well must be the time someone in their position would feel the most fear. Will they mess up? Can they keep going like this forever like they wish? I believe the writer of this song must believe that the end of things is inevitable. One day, spring will come.

The Frozen Lake and Spring

What's interesting to me here is that spring isn't usually construed as a bad thing in symbolism. Why use the metaphors of spring and a frozen lake? Water has been long used symbolically to represent life and metamorphosis, as it can go through all three states. It’s solid state is being frozen. Frozen water is symbolic of time being stopped, particularly a frozen lake where life becomes frozen inside and the land surrounding becomes empty.

Spring is beautiful with all of its flowers, but time is no longer stopped. There's new life, and new growth. Spring is a time of infinite change that brings life back. It sounds wonderful, but with the way the scenes in the room were filmed, with Tae in all black, it seems more like the songwriter believes spring is a time in which they will be finally free to express their emotions and desires (remember, the backup dancers AKA their emotions aren't in those scenes), but they also seem to imply that they will be left alone if they do. 

To sum it up, the reason why a frozen lake was used is because a lake contains life and water, fluid and ever changing. Ice holds everything still within it. Spring is the season of change and life. It's a possibility that the songwriter is also saying that BTS feels frozen in time behind the masks as well.

The Meaning of Singularity

Going back to the title of Singularity, it sounds like a cool sci fi word, but in this context, there's three ways it could go:

  • Definition # 1: A point or region of infinite mass density at which space and time are infinitely distorted by gravitational forces and which is held to be the final state of matter falling into a black hole.

  • Definition #2: Unusual or distinctive manner or behavior : peculiarity

  • Definition #3: The act of being singular.

I think it's most likely a word that encompasses all or most of these meanings as a play on words, especially if Namjoon had anything to do with the song.

If we use the general definitions it’s either about being “single” as in “alone”. I think this is a given that this is one of the meanings of the title. Dealing with the loneliness that’s left behind when things “change”. In the second definition, it’s about something that singles you out, makes you weird or strange. I thought this definition could be referring to the mask covering those things.

In the scientific definition, we have a point at which space and time are infinitely distorted by gravitational forces...It made me think of the point being BTS and the gravitational forces being the demands of their life distorting their personalities and selves so much as to not be recognizable. Of course, since this only happens when you fall into a black hole, singularity isn’t a word with particularly positive connotations.

Conclusion

I definitely missed some things, but this is what I believe. Take it as you will.

The intro song is supposed to set the theme and mood for the entire album, so I feel this would fit in with the theme of "Tear". Dealing with the negative things people to in order to be loved and love themselves...I believe it also fits into the concept of Love Yourself.

If you're wearing a mask, it makes it nearly impossible to love yourself, as it makes you feel like people can't accept the true you. Other people accepting and loving who you are can be one of the greatest helps on the path to loving yourself. I believe that BTS is saying they're aware this isn't the right path and it will only lead to loneliness, and are both expressing their emotions and trying to show their listeners that this isn't the way to gain any kind of love - that of others, or yourself. 

The biggest personal question I'm left with from this theory, is what will cause spring to come and will BTS see it as only a negative thing? 

In any case, I feel like this is a sad song with a lot of personal pain in it, and Taehyung, with his acting skills and melancholic voice was the perfect choice to express it. If you've played our BTS inspired novel To the Edge of the Sky, then you'll know that I already had a concept with Taehyung's inspired character, Five, being someone who is represented by masks and shifting into other people, so I was thrilled, but surprised to see that it seems like I've been on the same page up to this point. I'm more interested in this album concept than I have been in any for quite some time, so I'm definitely looking forward to the other songs on the album and learning more about how they see the world.