“Do not accept the fate of the moon.” This cryptic phrase begins the MV for Loona‘s “So What,” the 12-member girl group‘s first comeback in almost a year.

In their three previous full-group releases, Loona have shown their sultry side in “Favorite,” their cute charms in “Hi High,” and their emotional and inspirational side with “Butterfly.” “So What” marks Loona’s dive into girl crush territory with a fast-paced dance track loaded with thumping bass, blaring horns, house beats and chanting vocals. Unfortunately, this comeback is missing Haseul who is sitting out for health reasons.

The MV begins with the narration: “Do not accept the fate of the moon. Get off the track. Reveal to the world the hidden side. Burn yourself.”

This introduction hinges on the metaphor of the moon. The moon does not shine on its own, it reflects the light of the sun. It is confined to its own path of orbit. It has one side illuminated while the other side sits in darkness. Rather than being boxed in and reflecting someone or something else, in this case the burning sun, Loona strives to break free and burn with their own passion, strength and drive from within themselves — and inspire fans to do the same.

During the narration, the MV shows women’s faces slowly turning toward the camera. But the street dancer, ballerina and school girl all reveal themselves to not be Loona members. Loona previously featured other women in their video for “Butterfly.” Continuing to use other faces besides those of Loona’s members helps convey the group’s concept of empowering women and fans around the world.

Once the song begins, “I’m so bad” flashes across the screen during the members’ simple opening formation. The members then find themselves among the same settings as the extras in the intro. Yves coolly reclines in all black in a ballet academy, and Yeojin rebelliously throws her backpack on a school playground. As for the other members, Kim Lip swaggers around a “Cathedral of Learning” university building, Choerry and Hyunjin are encircled by a ring of Thai tuk tuks and dance around a train station, Vivi spray paints graffiti, Gowon and Chuu run around in pretty dresses, and Heejin and Kim Lip saunter around a rooftop.

These settings and outfits are how the MV communicates the theme of breaking the mold. Some are more obvious, such as Kim Lip and Yeojin both pushing back against the expectations of school systems, Yves breaking into a freestyle in a strict ballet class, or Vivi making illegal street art. Others are more understated. Gowon are Chuu are wearing sweet, girlish outfits but behaving in an “unladylike” manner, climbing on rooftops, rapping, and staring confrontationally into the camera.

The members also jam at an all-women street dance party and strut through a train car, confidently taking up and taking over spaces that women typically do not. Though we live in a world where women can feel unsafe moving through urban areas or using public transportation, Loona have made the city their playground.

Loona have broken free from society’s expectations, but they are not content to be outcast rebels. They ultimately band together to destroy oppressive systems at their core so that everyone else can be free from them as well. During the bridge of the song, the group comes together and literally sets the world on fire. They dance together on a rooftop as fiery meteors rain down from the sky, and the earth is shown fully consumed by flames.

The moon that is referenced in the introductory narration never appears literally in the MV, but the devastating events that take place make sense if Loona are continuing to compare themselves to the moon. The moon is a satellite locked in its orbit by the gravitational pull of the earth. One extreme way to unchain the moon from its course? Destroy earth, the thing that is holding it back.

Rather than focusing on the image of the moon, the two main visual symbols in the MV are butterflies and feathers. In the bridge, 11 butterflies flutter past Gowon, one for each member. This is a reference to the group’s past release, “Butterfly,” as well as a symbol of new life and new possibilities.

After the song ends, the flames that consumed the world flicker out. Two white feathers remain untouched on the ground. This seems to signify the group is like a phoenix rising from the ashes. White is also the color of a blank canvas, of a fresh start. Like a butterfly or a bird, Loona are about to take flight in their purest, most unhindered form, remaking the world and themselves the way that they want to be.

Despite “So What” being a high-energy dance track, the bulk of this MV focuses on aesthetics. While each member is able to have their own moments and show off their facials, shots of them as a group and shots of the choreography are underrepresented in the MV’s runtime. 

For a group known for their dancing and synchronization, there is only a one-second shot of Loona dancing during the entire first chorus. While the members do plenty of walking and posing, the only real dancing in the first half of the MV is done by backup dancers. In the second chorus, the MV shows less than 10 seconds of the group dancing, with half that time being dedicated to just the duo of Choerry and Hyunjin in the train station.

It is fair to not show the bulk of the choreography, but the MV is missing any exciting or signature moves with power or punch. And during the big rooftop dance breakdown in the final chorus, the frenetic editing and shot selection obscure the choreography, diminishing what should be a visually exciting moment of Loona moving in harmony as one force of change.

There are so many images of each member intercut with the phrase “I’m so bad” that the impactful moment of the word “free” flashing across the screen triumphantly is almost lost in the shuffle. Thankfully, the MV has an epilogue that slows the pace and gives viewers a breath to soak that word in. 

While this MV’s shot selection and editing fails to highlight Loona’s powerful dance synchronization, something the group has been known for in the past that could have potentially enhanced their message, it does so in favor of focusing on bold aesthetics and close-up facial shots instead to communicate the song’s theme.

Ultimately, this comeback shows a new side to Loona, highlights each member’s visuals and performance abilities, and conveys the group’s most bold and profound message yet in some unexpected ways.

(YouTube. Images via Blockberry Creative.)