The butterfly is present throughout all societies, with most civilizations granting it a meaning. These associations have been passed on to the current time, with the creature being a favorite image to invoke in pop culture.
Like other popular symbols, the butterfly can mean different things. A white butterfly is the symbol of death in several societies, such as Japan. In several, such as China and several Native American tribes, butterflies generally mean joy. In some areas in the world, the butterfly was thought to contain the souls of dead children. The most common is the butterfly as a symbol of transformation and change. After all, that is the butterfly: a creature that was once a caterpillar undergoing metamorphosis to become the butterfly.
The first song in this edition of Music and Lyrics is Loona’s “Butterfly.” Released in February 2019, this is the girl group’s first comeback since their debut in 2018. Amidst the steady beat and the prolonged chorus, the song is simple in its lyrical message. It is about moving away from where they currently are, towards a dream. It uses the imagery of butterfly wings to indicate travel. Not only that, but they also take the Butterfly Effect and use it for their rap:
It starts with a small flap
Now, inside my heart, a hurricane
Been been there, never been been there
The world gets smaller
Take me there, way too far becomes new
This moment dreams, dreams may come true
You just fly like a butterfly
Taking me far away wings, wings
Just like this fly like a butterfly
Sounds of winds blowing around my ears, wing
The Butterfly Effect is part of the Chaos Theory. It means that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico may become a hurricane in China. A small act can lead to a larger event, even if it takes a long time and seems insignificant. This fits in with the message of Loona’s track, as it is about those small steps towards a larger change.
Of course, there is also BTS’ “Butterfly” from their 2015 album, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life Part 2. While Loona’s is a song that is ultimately about change, BTS uses the butterfly in a different manner. “Butterfly” is a song about longing, it takes the fragility of a butterfly’s wings as the main image it invokes. The butterfly is used to compare to an unknown figure, a love interest, that is on fragile ground.
You’re just like a Butterfly
From afar, I steal glances; if we touch hands, will I lose you?
You shine in this pitch darkness that is a butterfly effect
Your light touches, I forget the reality at once
Furthermore, there is also the verses that ask for promises of this love interest to stay, to not go away. A butterfly is not known for staying in one place for long, as they fly between flowers every several minutes or so. This flightiness is used in the song, with BTS asking for the love interest to stay even if they let go.
Will you stay by my side
Will you promise me
If I let go of your hand, you’ll fly away and break
I’m scared, scared, scared of that
Fragile and gently sung lyrics over a soft melody, befitting the nature of a butterfly.
There is also f(x)’s “Butterfly” from their 2013 album, Red Light. In BTS’ song, it is more of an overt love song. With Loona, it could be read in a literal way as a love song, without taking into account the symbolism of the butterfly. In BTS’ “Butterfly,” they use the fragility of a butterfly. For f(x), it is a mixture of both. The butterfly imagery is used for a sense of motion in a love song that compares the love to a puzzle that is to be solved, one that only two people know the language of.
Feeling like everything’s the first time like a child
I wanna hide it, I wanna hide it
I’ll spread my wings and fly around your embrace
Hey Yey Yeah Hey Yey Yeah white butterfly
Love blooms from inside of you
Hey Yey Yeah Hey Yey Yeah white butterfly
Additionally, while the white butterfly commonly symbolizes death, the white butterfly also means other things. Some take white butterflies to carry the dreams of people, it could mean spiritual change. F(x)’s track mostly uses the white butterfly as their central image.
In the larger context of the song, the butterfly is also used for a sense of motion. The fluttering about, the circling of a love interest, towards a relationship that is a “tunnel entangled in logic” that is to be explored further.
There are many other artists with songs that revolve around the butterfly. Examples include G-Dragon’s “Butterfly” from his solo album from 2009, Red Velvet from their most recent Korean comeback, Astro from their Dream Pt 2 mini-album, Yuri from her solo debut, BTOB from their Your Moment album, Oh My Girl from Secret Garden, and more.