Before calendars and clocks were invented, humanity guided itself by the stars. Since immemorial times, the moon was used to count the passage of days, and its lunations originated what we now call a month. Its mutable condition has also inspired many art forms, as is the case with Got7’s newest release, “Not by the Moon”.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet, the comeback was preceded by elaborate teasers that incorporate Juliet’s speech in Act 2 Scene 2 of the play. There, she prays for Romeo to not swear his love by the moon, as the moon is constantly changing.

In the teasers, Got7 arrives at a tent in the middle of the desert, a stage for the play about to start. Entering their characters, they put on masks adorned with birds — an animal symbolic both to the band and to the play. Birds are representations of freedom and levity, but “Not By the Moon” demonstrates the enclosure of that spirit instead.

To start with the instrumental, dark synths offer a primer for the mournful melody and lyrics. Filled with angst, Got7 suffer the loss of love while hopelessly wanting it to return, and to be eternal:

The stain on my heart when I lost you

This scar I never want to see

Please dye it with you so I won’t ever see it again

Now I know the meaning

I’ve realized it already

In the world that dyed me

You’re the reason why I’m alive

The use of the homophone “dye” is an interesting choice, and offers a multilayered interpretation. Got7 struggle in letting go of this love story: instead of letting it die, they plead for it to “dye”, to stain their lives forever. Since their Juliet has left, all they can do is reminisce and desire.

The MV reflects Juliet’s absence thoroughly. While the opulent production with numinous, ornate sets is a sight to behold, it magnifies the fact that Got7 are alone. And in their venture as solitary Romeos, they resort to ancient alchemy. The video is permeated by references both to Shakespeare’s play and to mystical motifs, sacred secrets being shared on screen.

A white bird is one of the main symbols in this narrative. Representing Juliet and her fleeting love, it dashes in and out of frames, visits Jinyoung in his stark room, and is finally captured by Yugyeom in his stormy garden. The bird is also referenced in Romeo and Juliet, as Juliet says:

It’s almost morning

I want to make you go, but I’d only let you go

As far as a spoiled child lets his pet bird go

He lets the bird hop a little from his hand

And then yanks him back by a string

The concept of capturing a love that went away is further explored in Mark‘s scenes. In a cryptic corridor possessed with silhouettes, he stands carrying an empty vest on his arms, like he would to a lover. The garment serves as a physical memory of what isn’t there anymore. 

In Jackson’s set, the sovereignty of his crown might allude to certainty and power. However, the dancers behind him — fully dressed in black on one side, and semi-naked on the other — show that he struggles between dualities: light and dark, right and wrong, staying and going. It’s a reflection on whether the decision to chase this love is reasonable or not.

Youngjae lies poignantly over a tomb, in what seems to be a reference to the ending of Romeo and Juliet. He reenacts Juliet, who drank poison to fake her death and escape an unwanted marriage, but when she finally wakes up, Romeo has already taken his life by her side. In “Not By the Moon”, Youngjae wakes up alone, furthering the notion that Juliet has abandoned him for good.

Incapable of accepting this fate, JB portrays a desperate soul under striking chiaroscuro techniques. Over a round table engraved with the phases of the moon, he replaces a small flask with another, alluding to the poison that both lovers drink in Shakespeare’s play. 

Conversely, BamBam’s set is the most idiosyncratic in the video. The modern, neon blue lights and the lack of any other props contrast with the classical elements chosen for the other scenarios. Aside from the play between light and dark and the fact that he leaves the set in the end, his frames seem to focus on their appealing visual impact, rather than adding meaning to the narrative.

The apex of the video occurs during the bridge, when the members of Got7 meet with an army of cloaked figures in a sinister temple. A ritual is performed, as one of the figures pours the bottle JB was carrying into an empty coffin, and Yugyeom sets the white bird in his hands free. It’s presumed that the ritual has the intention to bring Juliet back, but that proves unfulfilled: the bird clashes against a giant moon behind them, and pillars and rocks in the scenario begin to shatter. Like Romeo and Juliet’s story, “Not By the Moon” has a sorrowful ending. 

The viewer is instantly transported back to reality, nevertheless. The final shot has the members of Got7 inside the carriage that brought them to the tent, ready for their next stop.

In contrast with its elaborate teasers, the MV for “Not by the Moon” is less story-focused, but its sumptuous symbolism still makes for an engaging experience. Another aspect worth mentioning is the gorgeous choreography that incorporates sequential movements, interactions between members, and poetic arms imitating the moon at one point. The styling of the members is also another highlight, as they look astonishing in embellished blouses, chains, silk shirts and other Shakespeare-inspired garments.

In summary, “Not by the Moon” showcases Got7’s maturity and complexity as they enter their sixth year since debut. Their growth is palpable, and this comeback is another solid step in their discography.

(YouTube. SparkNotes. Images and lyrics via JYP Entertainment.)