To kick off the new year, Victon returns with their first full studio album, Voice: The Future is Now. Though the comeback was actually delayed from December because of a COVID-19 scare, it seems fitting that the group starts 2021 with the strong-willed “What I Said”. The MV for “What I Said” is chock full of symbolism and is a striking reflection of the group’s determination to walk their own path.

The message of the song itself is not especially unique as it describes Victon declaring how they will pave their own way and achieve their dreams. However, the MV is full of both big and small details and symbols, one of the main ones being chess. “What I Said” does not follow a distinct storyline, instead choosing to highlight two messages. First, it makes use of chess to refer to the restrictive nature and consequences of living life by following the expectations of others. The second message featured in the MV highlights Victon’s relentless determination to achieve their goals.

Though video game concepts are not rare in K-pop, Victon incorporates a board game, chess, into the MV to compare life to a game. In a game, the objectives and the rules are very clearly laid out. In chess, you win if you can checkmate the opponent’s king. Though the MV is vague and does not explain the exact objectives expected of Victon, it hints at a predetermined reality where Victon is expected to go a certain path in which they have no input.

Hanse’s first rap scene is a great example. He is quite literally trapped in a small white room where there are bars on the windows. The floor is a chessboard and he is surrounded by chess pieces. The camera angle also looks down at him, making him seem small and insignificant to suggest that he is also a mere chess piece instead of an active player. The perspective is warped and distorted during his rap as well, heightening the feeling of disconnection.

“What I Said” reflects the resulting loss of individual inhibition from living like game pieces controlled by others. Byungchan walks through a room as the other Victon members type away on typewriters. He looks confused but the others have blank faces as they type away without stopping. His teammates are representative of the lack of individual thought and capability, and Byungchan is the only one capable of thinking and acting on his own.

Hanse’s second rap verse, too, is another scene illustrating the loss of freedom. He is in yet another small room, this time dimly lit with a mechanical arm-like device that seems to monitor him. We see him from the viewpoint of this device, as the word “reality” is projected onto his face. It is a clear nod to the surveillance of a game-like reality where all of his actions are watched carefully by others.

Everybody who lives according to the expectations of others lives under an illusion of reality. Byungchan is later depicted with wings, a symbol of freedom, but as they are only painted on the ground next to him, he is actually not free at all. He cannot actually move according to his desire, though the MV suggests that he may not even have desires and thoughts of his own in the first place.

This dark reality, however, is one that Victon is breaking away from. “What I Said” is a refusal to conform, and many of the scenes reflect this very message. The very beginning of the MV sets the tone, as the flicker of a blue butterfly with Seungwoo hints at their transformation. A blue rose, which can be a symbol of achieving the unattainable, is crushed in Soobin’s hands.

In contrast to the tight spaces that are used to represent the suffocation of expectations, the use of wide, open spaces expresses the sense of freedom that the members of Victon feel in their escape. Seungsik sprints outside, where the sky is tinged red and orange, as if dawn is beginning to break. Though it could be sunrise or sunset, sunrise feels appropriate as they are declaring their glory that is on the rise. 

The chess symbolism is also prominent in the scenes depicting their freedom. Chess pieces are shattered into pieces in the presence of Seungwoo, signalling their break from conforming and being controlled. Seungsik is also seen on top of a gigantic knight piece as Victon have now taken control of their own lives if previously they were without individual mobility.

“What I Said” is a pretty yet staunch declaration of Victon’s determination to pave their own path to success. Full of symbolism and spirit, here’s to hoping 2021 is filled only with good things for Victon (and for everybody else as well).

(YouTube, Wikipedia, Naver, images via Play M Entertainment)