Butterflies are powerful and deep symbols of transformation and change. The butterfly represents hope, life, endurance, and is even seen as a symbol of resurrection in some religions. Other than being a symbol of freedom through its ability to fly, the butterfly is also probably the most compelling example of metamorphosis. It teaches us an important lesson: change is essential for growth. We may feel more comfortable lying in our cocoons, but if we break out of the cocoon despite our challenges, we may come out as a better version of ourselves. That is how we give birth to new ideas and push our levels of creativity, or end up gaining qualities that we didn’t have before.
It’s no wonder that the butterfly is used as a motif or an inspiration for the lyrics of many K-pop songs. When lyricists rely on the butterfly to depict an idea, they’re pushing for the themes of hope, transformation, and newness in their songs.
One of the most obvious examples would be Jaejoong‘s “Butterfly“. What’s interesting is that Jaejoong writes about searching for a butterfly that will allow him to fly and gain freedom by stealing its ability, even if it costs the butterfly their power, resulting in it being trapped and unable to fly.
The butterfly’s blatant, frustrated horrible shriek,
beyond the pain, plunging into me.
I’ll spread my wings and fly up high.
I’ll go look for you.
Hello, hello, that’s right, it’s me.
Follow, follow, the heat’s cooling off.
It’s already too late for you to try and sneak away.
Even if you forgive me, you’re just a butterfly.
This song, while praising the qualities of a butterfly, also highlights the fragility of a butterfly. Despite being a symbol of hope and transformation, these creatures can be captured and controlled, as long as one has some perseverance and patience. Jaejoong’s lyrics bring out this aspect of a butterfly and another perspective to a well-known imagery. By introducing the concept of power, Jaejoong elevates the lyrics of “Butterfly” by providing a two-dimensional view to the concept of a butterfly.
Another song that extends the metaphor of a butterfly is f(x)‘s “Butterfly“. In “Butterfly”, the members of f(x) specifically refer to a white butterfly, which supposedly signifies a number of things: that angels are watching over you, or the soul of a departed loved one, or it could also be the omen of death (which, in many cultures, represents transformation and the beginning of a new cycle after the end of one).
I’ll be a butterfly circling you with my wings spread.
The amazing you, who shocks me at the blink of an eye,The mysterious you, who is so beautiful,
I’ll spread my wings and fly around your embrace.
Hey yeah yeah, hey yeah yeah white butterfly.
In this version of “Butterfly”, the members of f(x) compare themselves to angels, who fly around their crush/lover because “love blooms from inside of [them]” and they’re the source of light in the darkness. Though I can’t help but visualise this as moths being drawn to a flame instead, the ladies of f(x) probably meant to be the guardian angels of this precious source of love/light to them.
Another popular interpretation of butterflies would be BTS‘ “Butterfly”. Following Jaejoong’s version of “Butterfly”, BTS’ “Butterfly” emphasises the fragility of a butterfly by relating it to their relationship.
If I touch (you), you’ll fly away and break,
I’m scared scared scared of that.
[…] You’re just like a butterfly,
From afar, I steal glances; if we touch hands, will I lose you?
A recurring theme, the members of BTS also idealise the butterfly by calling it their source of light and hope: “you shine in this pitch darkness”. The butterfly is so ideal that it’s unattainable and dreamlike to them, as they continue on to mention, “you, who’s like a dream, is a butterfly to me”. However, they stress more on the frailty of a butterfly and how easily it can be destroyed, and call their relationship just as flawed; while the person of their affection is beautiful and ideal, they’re afraid to get too close or touch them in case they destroy them, implying either themselves as destructive beings, or their love interest as extremely delicate.
The final version of this metaphor is shown in Beast‘s (now known as Highlight) “Butterfly”. Unlike the other versions, Beast’s version highlights the necessity of freedom in a relationship, by likening their lover to a butterfly. The members of Beast sang about how cherished and important their lover is, and thus they can’t bring themselves to stop them from flying away, and can only hope that they make their way back. Through its’ lyrics, “Butterfly” reiterates the importance of personal freedom and trust in a relationship.
“Please come back, don’t leave me,” I couldn’t even say those easy words.
Because your wings that flew away from me were so beautiful.
I hope it doesn’t take too long,
So I can see you no matter how far away you are.
I’m okay with that so you can beautifully fly away.s
My butterfly my butterfly my butterfly,
I hope it doesn’t take too long.
Other than the idea of newness and beauty that the butterfly represents, some of the versions of “Butterfly” also emphasise on its fragility, as well as the concept of freedom that it stands for. Although the aforementioned tracks seem aplenty, there are several artists who have spun their own take on butterflies, namely Super Junior, Ladies’ Code, Weki Meki, San E, Loveholics, and G-Dragon, among others. Seeing the multi-dimensionality of these beautiful creatures, it’s unsurprising that such a wide array of artists have songs based off them.