Fresh off their first Japanese album, Gfriend have returned to Korea with their eighth EP, Labyrinth. The title track, “Crossroads”, is a solid example of the typical Gfriend sound, but has an MV that speaks to both the need for and fragility of female friendships.
There are few symbols as inherently powerful as a crossroads. It is the choice in its most grandiose, on the nose, no going back form. There are no compromises, no third paths you make yourself at a crossroads. There are only the paths ahead of you. Even now, in 2020, a crossroads can make a tingle run down the spine; the sheer weight of expectations and doubts are laid bare. I say this because that makes it all the more striking that there are no crossroads present in the MV. The roads have been picked, the paths taken. Instead, the MV is about missing the crossroads all together, and the regret therein.
The recurring symbols of the MV are — rather than a crossroad — butterflies, water, and glass. These things are all about choices. The MV opens with Eunha seeing a butterfly, and getting startled off a roof and onto a clock, one that sends her back to an earlier time in her life. The butterfly here is an embodiment of the butterfly effect; the idea that small changes have large consequences. Butterflies are seen throughout the MV, taunting Gfriend into following them, and acting as a portent for the larger issue.
It quickly becomes apparent that the reason Eunha has gone back to an earlier time in her life is because her friendships have died. We see juxtaposed shots of Gfriend in the place Eunha ends up and them alone. The past is full of fights, resentment, and frustration, but it is clear the ladies of Gfriend are friends. They might not have a great deal of material wealth, but they have a bond, and that helps buoy them through life.
The more modern shots, though, show the various members alone. The small choices they made cost them their friendship. Time, distance, responsibilities: these things eat away at the close bonds formed in youth, and by the time the realization hits that they require effort to maintain, they are usually too withered to revive alone. Indeed, when Eunha first awakens in the past, there are already three butterflies in a box. She is not the only one trying to fix the past.
The other major motifs of “Crossroads” are water and glass. The camera lingers on a mirror and a crystal ball, Yerin and Sowon are shot with their gazes locked on or hanging out a window, scenes are placed behind glass-paned doors. Glass, in its various forms, is often the means of seeing into another world. Crystal balls are a method of seeing what might be. Doors, windows, and mirrors can provide a glimpse of what might have been. Even without that, a mirror is a surefire way to make you think about where you are and how you got there. Nothing will ever judge so harshly as your own reflection, as given how miserable Gfriend are when they look at their own, that is something they are acutely aware of.
Water can be many things, but here, it is a purifying agent. Yerin soaks in a bathtub, trying to wash off her past. The gray pallor of the present-day shots makes it seem as if rain will start at any moment, ready to cleanse Gfriend and allow them to start anew. Most importantly, the scene that cements their ability to change the past, to ensure they maintain their bond rather than drift apart is in an aquarium: glass to show what they can have, water to rinse off the mistakes that led them here in the first place.
The lyrics are another take on the idea of a crossroads. Rather than struggling with two distinct choices, Gfriend know where they want to go, but are unsure of how to get there. They want to reach out and rebuild an old bond, but the way to do so is not clear. They hope that whichever path they lead will lead them back together, but there is no certain road to take.
Instead, they stand frozen: too afraid to move forwards, but, of course, unable to go back. The production enhances the desperation Gfriend feels with soaring strings, driving guitars, and some belting that hits square in the heart. They are flinging themselves onto the mercy of the universe, and “Crossroads” sounds exactly as scared, yet determined as you would have to be to do that.
“Crossroads” is a potent MV that highlights both the need for female friendships, and how easily they can slip away. It is all about the regrets that come with taking the people you love for granted until they are just not there anymore.
(Images via Big Hit Entertainment, YouTube)