Just when fans thought Ateez‘s Treasure series had come to a close, the rookie group came storming into 2020 with the victorious anthem “Answer.”
The title track off Treasure Epilogue: Action to Answer, “Answer” was secretly teased in “Beginning of the End,” the outro track from their last album. The final moment of the album is a haunting version of San‘s future opening line, “Let’s cheers, like a thunder, I’ll fill you up, Till you overflow.”
These lyrics open “Answer” while the MV shows San dancing alone on a banquet table, slowly watching invisible sand slip through his fingers. Though the romantic piano notes and echoing vocals hint at a melancholic past, the chanting vocals quickly change the atmosphere to one of triumph and camaraderie as the members all begin to dance together.
Through its lyrics and symbolism, “Answer” depicts the eight members’ journey over the past year, reconciling the youthful exuberance of songs like “Wave,” with the gritty determination of “Say My Name” and the darkness and self-doubt of “Hala Hala.”
Since “Pirate King,” Ateez’s lyrics and MV concepts have played with the imagery of sun, sand, and surf, as well as deserts and beaches. This vocabulary is also employed in “Answer,” with Mingi floating on a boat alone, Yeosang wandering through the desert, and Wooyoung swirling in the sands at the bottom of an hourglass.
The lyrics of “Answer” include references to Ateez’s previous title tracks, such as Mingi pointedly ending his rap with “Say my name.” But perhaps the most obvious and poetic moment is Yeosang’s line in the second verse, referencing the setting of their “Pirate King” MV and the group’s humble beginnings: “The desert with nothing, we started there.”
To signify the time before they were united as a group, the members are separated in the MV, isolated from each other by swaths of fabric, halls of mirrors, sands of time, and an amphitheater that looks like the face of a clock. Despite their internal demons, the pressure of time, and their struggles to define their artistry, the members are able to come together and overcome.
The choreography is themed around breaking out, which involves the members wiping off their faces and powerfully shaking off, kicking, and even Matrix-style dodging hardships. The cheeky hip thrust in the chorus might seem out of place, but it works as a playful, swaggering celebratory moment that contrasts the seriousness of the song.
The group’s growth is also displayed through a butterfly, a symbol of metamorphosis. After a blue butterfly lands on Wooyoung’s finger, he finds himself surrounded by seven butterflies, one for each other member in the group. After spending the Treasure series evolving and honing their sound, the group is ready to break free.
The boldest and most visually stunning moment of the video is when Ateez face off against their dark selves from the “Hala Hala” MV. The members have encountered their doppelgängers before in “Say My Name,” though their interaction then was more antagonistic.
In “Answer,” the dark and light sides of Ateez seem to have finally made peace with each other. After Hongjoon and Mingi rap, “lonely, painful, scared, afraid, those days are gone,” Ateez are joined at the banquet table by their black-clad counterparts. The doppelgängers are no longer hiding behind their masks. Both sides of the table raise their glasses in a toast to what they have been able to accomplish when they embrace each other and work in harmony.
In the final chorus, instead of Ateez singing “Call us right now,” they ask, “Can you see us? The burning eyes and our loud shoutings reaching across the world.” They do not need to be called, they are announcing that they have arrived.
On the cusp of heading out on their second world tour, Ateez’s “Answer” is a fitting culmination of the world-building and emotional journey of the Treasure series. The members acknowledge and embrace their insecurities while stepping triumphantly into their bright future.
However, after the track ends, the MV reveals that their newfound peace is short-lived. The outro scene of the MV flashes back to the opening shot of the table smashed by a chandelier and ashes swirling in the air. An all-black figure ominously passes by before a white-clad figure solemnly examines the wreckage.
Every end brings a new beginning, and every dream achieved unlocks a new goal. It is clear that even after their Epilogue, Ateez is not done fighting and still has more already waiting to show to fans.
(Youtube. Images via KQ Entertainment. Lyrics via KQ Entertainment and pop!gasa.)