When Winner first announced they would make a comeback in fall, it was already a surprise, considering their previous track record of house-vibe summer bops. However, to the pleasant surprise of Inner Circles, this was their first step in returning to the direction they started with debut track “Empty” and subsequent release “Fool.” Winding back to their initial artistry and depth, they added a touch of the musical maturity developed throughout the years to deliver “SOSO.” Not to say their signature summer tracks are not also part of Winner’s unique color — simply put, their choice in genre and creativity signals a newer step that is very welcome.

This artistic choice sheds light into their creative process post-YG’s departure. Some fans have speculated that in response to freer control, Winner was able to take more matters into their own hands. Everything from the depth behind their music video to the raw, dark emotions behind their song is more familiar with Winner’s distinct color that they began themselves. After all, Winner stated in their recent press conference that with less leadership around them, they have had to carry the greater weight behind their artistic decisions. While this is definitely plausible, perhaps this change in direction was due to timing, following a stream of bright, fun comebacks. One thing is for sure, however, is their dedication to expressing as much raw emotion as possible through their amazing title track and MV.

Before tackling the masterpiece that is their music video, let us first dwell on the song itself. “SOSO” touches on the times where one would like to be left alone, unsure yet how to define the developing heaviness in their hearts. Either one is reluctant to admit the darkness, or they are too worn out to acknowledge the deep well of feelings inside. So despite the growing mount of emotions, it all eventually fizzles out to make one simply feel “so-so” (as reflected by the build-up to the chorus that leads to an anti-climactic drop).

Some have been quick to point out that another song incorporated the hit-or-miss anti-climactic drop technique, though it seems to work for this track in particular. If anything, the instrumentals for this song fully follows through with the lyrics and what they are meant to portray emotionally. The unique combination of dance, pop, and slight hip hop genres makes for an interesting listen that sticks in the ear as Winner croons “SOSO” between emotive verses. Even without watching the MV, the listener can envision for themselves the heart behind the song.

Some prominent lyrics include: “It’s just one of those days; it’s just one of those moods,” “Do I have to laugh to be okay? Do I have to cry to be sad? I’m just okay, so what?,” and lastly, “Picky eater and I was just a snack, but why are you swearing about her, I should be the one.” Concise yet to the point, these lyrics remain relevant for many despite the song’s original context of the after effects of a breakup. There is also frequent questioning in the lyrics — questioning behind people’s intentions, their so-called advice, or even their own feelings of isolation. At the end of Hoony’s part for verse two, he states “I’m used to being alone,” and yet the chorus persistently demands “I’m not that weak, it’s just a breakup, like drizzling rain / I’m not super emotional or emotionless, just so-so.”

Though of course, watching the MV helps in fully experiencing Winner’s message. Not only is it the perfect picture for the song, it went beyond everyone’s expectations as coming from an idol group. If anything, it certified even more Winner’s growth into mature and expressive artists. Though it is difficult to pinpoint a place to start with the video, this analysis will be broken down following each member.

To start off, Yoon effortlessly pulls off the difficulty of being tied up and hung for his solo shots. By hanging from the air versus being tied up on ground-level, he portrayed the irony that comes from assuming personal leverage. He appears nonchalant at first, but Yoon continues to convey struggle with releasing his turmoil and being free. What is exactly holding him down, however, is up for consideration per viewer – whether there is a distinction between various feelings, truths, or even lies from those beyond his encasement. In stark comparison to this scene is a shot of Yoon sleeping while covering the eyes of his horse. An all-white attire further suggests the concept of innocence and purity, barely held onto in the ongoing silence.

Next, Jinu emulates the feelings of loss and denial as he witnesses the state of his heart within the burning car. This is evident when Jinu wipes off the dust from the windshield, only to discover the crack of the glass reflected on his face. Surrounding him are flames and dirtied cloths, their prominent color being blue. Another shot further reveals him holding a recording camera, with a typewriter also by his side. This can come to mean that there are various ways to depict and express his endless thoughts, as shown by his free-falling state while asleep.

Following Jinu, Mino wows with not only a powerful rap verse but the expression of such strong, relatable emotions, especially when being stepped on. He blatantly tells off all those who speak with good intentions or faulty words to simply leave him alone, which I am sure many can relate to. He appears calm at first, but later breaks down, both outdoors and indoors in the public bathroom. In the latter, Mino fights through all kinds of people in a crowded area, feeling so lost and defeated in the chaos. Ironically, the setting is also a bath where one usually goes to cleanse themselves. For Mino’s solo shots, the contrast in lighting is also a symbolic comparison of his level of composure in day versus night. After all, everything seems to be exposed during the daytime, while all kinds of thoughts and feelings can emerge during the dark.

Lastly, Hoony! He is clearly the star of the show with his courageous and artistic choice seen in the second chorus of the song. As explained in the press conference, his choice to do this came from wanting to express vulnerability without clothes defining his appearance. It can further represent the exhaustion that comes from being so involved with these modern times. Moments and thoughts slow down as Hoony is laid bare in front of six frames, all pointing elsewhere. Beyond this scene, however, he still steals the spotlight by having gone all out with his solo shots. From his painful gaze to kicking the chandelier or dancing so emotively, Hoony truly highlights the inner anguish that drives the song’s message.

All this to say, Winner certainly asserts that there will be times where we feel (or think we only feel) so-so, not quite willing to admit that we are only catching the scent behind an aching fire. There are also times where one may live in a façade, not knowing what exactly they are feeling or thinking until it builds up. During this sensitive time, the last thing one would want (or the one thing to avoid) is probably what is the most needed – interaction with others. Once we are alone, our thoughts eventually catch up to us to enshrine us into their chaos. Yet, the following morning, our hearts are still feeling so-so. It is not a storm that washes off the next day, as so much residue is still unaccounted for.

For all those feeling rather “so-so,” feel free to put this song on repeat and get lost in an artistic representation of feelings otherwise unnamed. Despite wanting to be alone, you will most likely at least feel understood, with enough breathing space to someday acknowledge the dark pit of feelings dwelling deep beneath. Alternatively, you might watch quietly and have the music video and song speak on your behalf, relieved for one night. After all, according to Hoony, “time is the best cure.”

(Newsen, Sports Chosun, YouTube. Images via YG Entertainment)