After giving in to sin in “Oh My God” and partying their minds out in “Dumdi Dumdi,” (G)I-dle are back. This time, with less of the intensity that dominated their recent singles. Instead of pomp, they embody vulnerability in “Hwaa,” a lush and subdued MV that is meaningful in its simplicity, stillness, and references. Here, they let emotion and imagery (a pleasant mix of nature and history) do most of the talking, and for the usually loud group, it surprisingly works.

The track is a follow-up of sorts to 2018’s “Hann,” (leader and co-writer Soyeon suggests listening to the two songs back-to-back) but where “Hann” sees the girls dwell in bitterness and resentment after being abandoned by a lover, “Hwaa” has them admit to the wreckage of loss and change for the better, even though time feels frozen at the wake of this split. Through seasonal changes and some cultural references, “Hwaa” tells the story of how they put up with the coldness of heartache (winter), bloomed in the radiance of growth (spring), and eventually blazed in the light of renewal (summer).

The MV begins by presenting (G)I-dle against the icy backdrop of an endless tundra — another reference to “Hann” which, aside from “alone”, can also mean “coldness” or “grudge”. Soyeon’s impossibly long and braided hair wraps itself around a lone tree, suggesting that an age-old pain keeps her trapped and unable to move on. Backed by a steady bass and bare, haunting melody, she sings of a deepening darkness made worse by the “cruel, winter wind.”

As the song progresses, the hann slowly transitions into hwaa, which can mean “anger” or “flower” in Korean. Playing with this double meaning, they alternate between “bloom” and “burn” in the chorus while flailing their arms and twisting their torsos to form what could either be a flower standing its ground amidst a cold, harsh wind, or a wild flame, burning madly on its own. The ambiguity seems intentional, but whatever it is, it has successfully melted the frost and made way for the flora to grow.

By the second half of the MV, the mood shifts into something warmer and braver. “I shall make a fire, a bigger fire to win back spring that I’ve lost,” Yuqi sings, and shortly after Miyeon appears in a shock of color — still cold judging by her pallor, but vibrant and regal in a floral print dress. Fittingly, she’s also sporting a Hime cut, a traditional Japanese hairstyle reserved for the most powerful of women at the time. When the other girls join her in the second chorus, armed with florals and zest of their own, they seem invigorated, bouncing with renewed fervor.

It looks like the sun is starting to shine on (G)I-dle, and sure enough, as the bridge rolls in, the icy-blue scene is replaced by an orange-red glow, as hot and fiery as Minnie’s new locks. In the outro, the girls are decked in royal red-and-gold outfits—celebratory colors in many parts of Asia—and they are nothing short of blinding in their current, flourishing state. It’s a fantastic scene to behold, except maybe for their lover who has presumably burned to ashes by now.

The story is admirably clean and straightforward, a refreshing move for the group, though if something feels a bit off, it may be fire’s odd placement in the final leg of their evolution. Typically, someone would have to burn through their rage before blossoming into a new person — sort out the anger before finding peace — but (G)I-dle are anything but typical, so instead of ending things on a peaceful, pretty note, they resort to a bang and suggest an upcoming reckoning.

Given their implacable urge to “light up a fire” and the MV’s abrupt end, it wouldn’t come as a shock if they came out with a third song to bookend this seeming trilogy, with “Hwaa” serving as the midpoint between anguish and chaos—the proverbial calm before the storm.

After all, it’s this understated and controlled elegance that is the secret to “Hwaa’s” success, due in large part to the clear seasonal narrative, sure, but also helped by the rich East Asian-inspired references sprinkled throughout the MV.

For one, the faint sounds of traditional Korean instruments such as danso and kayagum can be heard in the background, texturizing the EDM track and transforming it into a modern-day hymn. Costumes like the Chinese oil-paper umbrella and Han-era veil add poise and character to the already visually pleasing MV. At a crucial moment, we even see Miyeon surrounded by sea of a Seigaiha waves, a symbol of power and resilience in ancient Japan.

After boldly (and rather dangerously) experimenting with different cultures, the girls are finally in their element here. Not only does the entire look feel authentic and true, it also perfectly captures the restive power and gentle ferocity of a broken heart. In less capable hands, the two visual concepts at play here—nature and history—could clash and confuse, but paired with beautiful lyrics and a delicate melody, they achieve harmonious and vivid grace.

With its acute stillness and sentiment, “Hwaa” may not deliver the unique girl crush flavor fans have come to love about (G)I-dle, but as the layers of theme and references have shown, the group’s indelible spark and ingenuity are still here, subdued but potent. Only time will tell whether it will remain to be an artistic anomaly or if it will, indeed, be a stepping stone to something grander. In the meantime, it sits and stirs in deep emotion.

(YouTube [1][2]. Japan Info. Pen. Images and Lyrics via Cube Entertainment)