“There are moths and there are butterflies. If you put them side to side, they’re the same insect and the same kind—same realm…” like moths, “Some of us, maybe, just need a little bit of light to really show our true beauty.”
Woosung’s newest EP Moth plays on the contrasting perceptions of butterflies versus moths. While butterflies are seen as beautiful and approachable, moths are often depicted as dirty, nocturnal, and even scary. However, Woosung recalls a story about a time in Korea sitting under a brightly lit sign in front of a convenience store with a bunch of moths flying around.
“When these moths landed on this bright light, and the light [was] shining through them, their print was actually more beautiful than the butterflies.” Here, Woosung compares flawed human beings to moths that require a bit of light to see their full beautiful potential. While everything is written and self-produced, Woosung also collaborated with Sweaterbeats for many of the tracks.
The track list follows this theme with the title track “Phase Me,” and B-sides “ComE dOWn,” “Side Effects,” and “Modern Life.” The title track “Phase Me” is a play on words that expresses a desire to not be fazed by a breakup as well as depict “phases” and transformations like a moth would experience. In addition to being nocturnal and dark in imagery, moths also go through a similar metamorphic process as butterflies. Just like their likeness, Woosung’s Moth “symbolizes the transformation, change, rebirth, and power of regeneration.”
On a more direct note, this album serves as a transformative representation of Woosung himself. Since his debut with The Rose in 2017, Woosung has trained under two companies, left one after filing a lawsuit due to mismanagement, and started his own label in the United States called Woolfpack. In recent months Woosung has also released two solo albums, toured with Epik High, seen all of his members return from their mandatory military service, and started planning for a comeback with The Rose, making Moth his last solo project for quite some time. With this in mind, Moth is a rebirth and the beginning of a new chapter for Woosung, one that celebrates the messy parts of life in which the butterflies and moths of the world can coexist.
This is clearly personified in “Phase Me.” A play on words between phase and faze, the breakup anthem begins with Woosung crouching beside a street lamp and a discarded chrysalis, presumably having just emerged from it himself. As he rises to his feet and the driving electric guitar powers through the introduction, Woosung can be seen sporting a leather jacket over his bare chest cut with images of dancers in skin-colored clothes grasping at his chest.
The styling of the video and clothing is ambitious and loud, contrary to the message in the song about being “unfazed’ by the supposed breakup that the song centers around. Rather, the sensuality and vulnerability of Woosung is on full display, urging the viewer to keep their eyes locked on the scene taking place.
In addition to the angsty styling choices, Woosung is also seen sprouting wings as the second verse begins. As the song reaches a fever pitch at the last chorus, shots of Woosung as a fully-fledged moth are interspersed with feverish dancing, skin to skin contact, and rapid cuts between scenes. The MV finally ends back where the video began, at the lit street lamp beside the chrysalis, but instead Woosung dons a punkish long blue coat, graphic eyeliner, and almost sickeningly white contact lenses. One could presume this is the final stage of his transformation, linking the imagery of Woosung’s transformation as an artist with that of the final stage in a moth’s life cycle.
Contrary to the in-your-face approach “Phase Me” takes, the two preceding tracks “ComE dOWn” and “Side Effects” are dreamier and RnB-inspired. Rather than driving electric guitar at the forefront, synthesizer patches and lilting guitar melodies can be heard accompanying Woosung’s vocals.
“ComE dOWn” is the first track written for Moth and sets the dreamy, floaty vibe of the rest of the album. While it might not be as overt as the title track, it contains subtle references to the flitting and floating of insects. This is further supported by the contrast between the sparse, reverb-y verses and pre-chorus against the busier chorus. With the line “I don’t wanna come down” the drum set part is brought to the front of the mix with low pedal bass chords and vocal chops added to Woosung’s falsetto. The song ends with a restatement of the chorus with the bridge superimposed overtop of it.
The following song “Side Effects” is a laid-back song featuring Satica about breaking free of the confines of the “same old cycle.” Here Woosung equates falling deliriously in love to a moth that is drawn to a bright light.
In contrast to “ComE dOWn,” “Side Effects” is much more sonically homogenous with the verse, pre-chorus, and chorus seamlessly melting into each other. The lyrics describe the feeling of being hopelessly high and “dreamin’ while… wide awake” and contain more references to butterflies and moths. Some memorable lyrics include “I know I’m not perfect but just stay the night, flyin’ like a moth, so drawn into the light” and “I could be a butterfly beneath the sky, all I’ve ever known is in the same old cycle, and it’s got a tight hold.”
The last song on the album “Modern Life” is inspired by a picture book of the same title and Woosung’s self-proclaimed favorite track on the album that unapologetically pinholes the falseness of internet personas and celebrates that it’s ok to have bad days.
“Modern Life” urges the listener not to fixate on the sugar-coated goings on of social media and to instead keep on pushing on and not lose oneself within all the noise. With lyrics like “Don’t let the lights go out, just let it shine bright… so fuck this modern life,” this song is an inspiring pop-punk anthem through and through. The lyrics, gang vocals, and singable chorus make this the perfect song to round out the album, leaving listeners with a full circle listening experience in just four tracks.
In the coming months, Woosung will embark on a solo showcase for Moth and begin work on an album with The Rose. They have since set up a Korean company in addition to Woolfpack called Windfall in collaboration with Transparent Arts. With Moth’s ambitious style and scope, it will be exciting to see what The Rose has in store in the coming months now that they are free from their company and building off the logistical and artistic foundation Woosung continues to foster.
(Vice, YouTube , Icy Sedwick “Moths in Folklore: Bringers of Death and Letters,” Twitch, Instagram , Woosung Official, Consequence, Envimedia, Windfall Official, Transparent Arts, Images via Woolfpack)