Since late November, Up10tion had been releasing mysterious puzzle-like teasers. The images were blurry and featured alchemy symbols later revealed to be part of a tracing code. Translating those symbols offered hints to their upcoming comeback, with messages like “December,” “pursuer,” “run away,” and some went even deeper and mentioned writer Goethe and William Wilson, Edgar Allan Poe‘s short story about doppelgängers.
As photos of the group, film teasers, and packaging details for the album Laberinto were unveiled, it became clear that this comeback was based on a duality: “crime” and “clue.” Laberinto “Crime” version is blue and its photoshoot features the members in colorful, edgy clothes, while the “Clue” version is red and has the group in formal suits inspired by classic detective movies. The album also comes with a special Agent Card that looks like an ID, where each member is dressed up in a blue uniform. All this information is later shown to be important for the MV storyline, which, of course, revolves around the name of the single—“Blue Rose”.
This intricate game kept the fandom engaged and guessing for almost three weeks until the comeback was finally released. The MV for “Blue Rose,” after all, presents the group as doppelgängers: “Crime” Up10tion stole the flower, and “Clue” Up10tion is chasing them.
Blue roses are a symbol of the mysterious and unattainable since they don’t really exist in nature. This fact is strengthened by the shots of what seems to be an artificial garden nurtured by “Clue” Up10tion. The members are also dressed in the same uniforms featured in the special Agent Card that comes with the album. The white scenarios, mostly used to disclose choreography shots, also features blue roses inside glass cubes, protected from the outside world. Both of these scenes offer a surreal atmosphere, suggesting some kind of limbo or dream state for the characters.
The lyrics talk about an intoxicating love, something poisonous yet addictive. This adds another layer of meaning to the blue rose, alluding to sadness and being unable to let go of suffering. Sadly, none of this is played out in the MV as the only thing we learn is that the blue rose is valuable. It could arguably be because of its rarity, but the existence of a rose garden makes it hard to believe that they are irreplaceable, and much less that a whole detective team is necessary to solve its robbery.
As the MV goes on, the narrative seems to go nowhere. Beautiful shots are insufficient to sustain the exciting story built up by the teasers, considering how there is little development to the whys and hows of the crime. The MV also makes it difficult to establish a connection with any of the characters since their motives are not disclosed. At least an easy, decent climax could be expected, but “Blue Rose” offers none: the final scene presents “Clue” Wei pointing a gun at “Crime” Xiao, and that’s it. A non-ending that leaves spectators wondering what could happen next. It would be a smart way to hint at a repackage, but Up10tion’s past makes it highly unlikely—the group is known to explore diverse concepts, but never to stick with a characteristic one.
The song itself mirrors the MV: starting off enticing and mysterious, but dimming down to a slow-paced chorus that could have way more impact. The excessive autotune might be to blame, even though it does make an interesting blend with the eerie instrumental. The song shines the most during Sunyoul‘s high-pitched verses, parts which could have added a vital uniqueness to the song if only they were explored further.
However, one aspect that remains outstanding in all of Up10tion’s releases is their choreography. Once again, the group presents beautiful formations and incredibly coordinated steps, conveying perfectly the temptation of a maddening love. The gradual progression in the bridge is another highlight, making great use of their number of members to create a visually stunning effect.
Overall, “Blue Rose” presented a lavish attempt in building a universe of its own through teasers and engaging puzzles, but the final product fails to meet the expectation garnered. Many interesting themes were approached but failed to be explored, denying a reward to the efforts of the audience in discovering them. Despite a gorgeously shot MV and an above-average song, the lack of closure and overall substance leaves the viewers in an unpleasant cliffhanger—and not the kind that makes you eagerly wait for season 2.
(Youtube. Images via TOP Media)