A young woman in white approaches a lush apple tree. Reaching up, she plucks a ruby red fruit from the tree’s boughs and, bringing it to her lips, takes a bite. Anyone who knows the story of Adam and Eve, Christianity’s first couple who forfeited paradise for a stolen bite of apple, will recognize that they are witnessing a transgression. But rather than feel ashamed at her wrongdoing, the woman smiles deviously, before collapsing.
So begins GFriend’s mesmerizing “Apple” MV. Drawing inspiration from fairy tales and biblical allegory alike, the video’s four-minute run is filled with sumptuous visuals, sultry choreography, and riveting moral ambiguity. It is a completely unexpected outing for GFriend, best known for their sweet concepts and technically challenging choreographic formations, and it is a triumph.
“Apple” is a song about temptation. GFriend start the MV in flowy white dresses, frolicking light-heartedly through castle corridors. Already though, something forbidden is drawing these seemingly innocent girls in:
Callin’ me Callin’ me Callin’ me
The world inside me crumbles
Nearer, nearer, nearer
Until my lips desire your red allure
Come & Dance with me
Soon enough, GFriend shed their naivete and are having a debauched banquet, as they crush flowers and fling wine to the floor. Their fall from grace only progresses from there, resulting in spells cast, trees set afire, and eventually, GFriend enthroned as dark witches.
Throughout the MV, “Apple” uses visual and lyrical references to fairy tales and biblical stories to reinforce its narrative. Besides hovering over the entirety of the opening sequence, the tale of Adam and Eve seems to have influenced the aesthetics of much of the MV’s choreography sequences. The setting is an idyllic garden, an unmistakable nod to Adam and Eve’s garden of Eden. Additionally, the members wear Greco-Roman-influenced, and thus vaguely ancient-looking, accessories.
Snow White is referenced in the use of fruit as an instrument of poison, but the most influential fairy tale in “Apple” is Sleeping Beauty. The opening line of the song, “On the briar-choked road”, alludes to the thorns which kept Sleeping Beauty hidden from the world during her century-long sleep. Yerin seems to play a Sleeping Beauty-type character, dozing in a colorful bed of flowers before awakening in a daze. Additionally, when GFriend embrace their new witchy identities, horns grow from their head, in a clear nod to Sleeping Beauty’s nemesis, Maleficent. In the final shot of the MV, thorns burst from the floor of the witches’ castle, bringing the reference full circle to the wall of thorns which enclosed Sleeping Beauty.
The general fairy tale concept of “true-love’s kiss” is the probable inspiration for several near-kissing sequences in the MV. Pairs of members lean intimately towards each other, with SinB and Eunha even sharing an indirect kiss, an apple between them. This can be seen as symbolic of the members being awakened by a kiss to a dangerous but undeniably exciting new world, one they enter at the expense of their innocence.
If “Apple” is all about temptation, then an obvious question is where is that temptation coming from? Who is the enticer? While the answer to this query does not immediately reveal itself, it becomes clear over the course of the MV that GFriend’s temptation is coming from within, not without.
“Let the festival I dared to imagine come alive”, Gfriend sings, before launching into the final chorus. They themselves are the source of the darkness that overtakes them; they are its inventors, its advocates, and its victims. It is a refreshing take on the temptation premise, centering GFriend and their journey of self-evolution, rather than falling into the pedantic and even patronizing waters of a romance-driven plot.
This choice in storytelling also aligns with one of the most prominent themes in “Apple”, the deceptive nature of appearances. GFriend may appear like sweet storybook maidens at the start of the MV, but the lyrics tell us that the choice to pursue temptation has already been made:
Why does that icy decision
Hurt me so, was it a mistake
Ooh no, this sweet scent
Bright ruby drops draw me in
This revelation is reinforced by the dance sequences which are prominent from the beginning of the MV. In these scenes which highlight a choreography that is less technically demanding but more expressive than GFriend’s usual offerings, the members are already full of a fascinatingly menacing sensuality. Thus, the seemingly guileless state of GFriend at the start of the story are revealed to be an illusion; they have already started down the forbidden path.
Another misleading recurring image is that of a blue butterfly. Butterflies are generally seen as symbols of beauty and hope. Hence, when the butterfly appears to different members, it seems safe to assume that it is there to provide an alternative to the temptation that pulls at them. However, in the final sequence, the blue butterfly is revealed to be an integral part of the witchcraft that GFriend have now embraced. If the butterfly was leading them anywhere, it was further into a sinister metamorphosis.
The titular fruit itself also plays into the idea of that which seems harmless proving otherwise. This whole concept fits perfectly with the overall moral ambiguity of “Apple”. In this MV’s world, everything has contrasting sides to it, even GFriend’s capitulation to wicked temptation. That it is wicked is undeniable: you don’t sing lines like “Let rise the shimmering light of destruction” unless you have gone all-in on darkness. However, their motivations for succumbing are shown to be a desire for meaning and purpose, something easy to sympathize with. “Infuse with color all my grey decisions”, they repeatedly implore the force that claims them.
Indeed, they seem to have gotten some version of their wish by the MV’s end, as they sit in sinful glory upon thrones. Yet, this scene too is more complicated than it first appears. The thick thorns that these witches conjure from the floor are mighty barriers to repel their enemies, but they also serve to trap GFriend, depriving them of their freedom. GFriend have embraced temptation, winning immeasurable power as their reward. But what value does power have without liberty? This lingering question makes for a masterfully enigmatic conclusion to an enthralling journey.
At a recent press conference, Sowon noted that when preparing for this comeback, GFriend consciously chose to go in an unexpected direction. “Although we’ve continued to grow and change till now, we didn’t want a small change this time, we wanted something that people would feel was ‘new’ from us.” GFriend have tried concept experimentation before, most notably in 2017’s “Fingertip”. That half-baked attempt at a girl-crush vibe fell flat as a pancake. This time though, GFriend have stepped outside of their box in truly marvelous fashion.
GFriend cleverly allude to their radical transformation in a repeated chorus lyric that goes “Translucent glass beads glowing red”. Glass orbs, which start off transparent and then are flooded with crimson, repeatedly bring the line to visual life in the MV. This is a call back to their debut track “Glass Bead“, a buoyantly sweet song that foreshadowed the tone of much of the group’s career so far. Now though, the glass bead has evolved, and so have GFriend, embarking on an exciting new chapter.
It is worth noting that “Apple” was created with the participation of the members. Both Eunha and Yuju helped compose the song, and Eunha also penned lyrics. Regardless of their contribution’s impact on the final product, it feels fitting that GFriend helped bring to life a song that showcases them in such a dazzlingly empowered way. In “Apple”, GFriend are both fairy tale princesses and fantastical witches, simultaneously the heroes and villains of their own story. They have never been more captivating, or more in control of their own destiny.
(Naver, YouTube. Lyrics via YouTube. Images via Big Hit Entertainment, Source Music)