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[MV Breakdown] LYN ft. Leo – ‘Blossom Tears’: A modern day Bluebeard

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Blossom Tears” by LYN featuring Leo of VIXX is a gentle, yet sad ode to love and denial, full of heartache that both artists breathe life into with their soulful performances. Their combined vocals making for a heart-wrenching ballad that is deserving of awards and accolades on the strength of its vocals alone.

However, the greatest strength of “Blossom Tears” – unlike many romantic ballads –  is its music video, which takes the song’s themes to the extreme in a story of love, fear, denial, obsession, and the darker corners of the human psyche. It is a story strangely reminiscent of the 17th century french folk-tale, Bluebeard – echoing many of the elements of the twisted story of a murderous nobleman –  bringing to life a modern-day interpretation of the story and a re-imagined version of its title character.

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THE SONG

“Blossom Tears” is a collaborative piece by veteran singer LYN and Leo (VIXX) and is the most recent installment in Jellyfish Entertainment’s on-going Y.BIRD from Jellyfish Island project – a series a special collaborative releases intended to showcase the talents of artists signed with Jellyfish Entertainment.

On the surface “Blossom Tears” – written by LYN herself may sound like a stock-standard romantic ballad; a crooning lament of love found and lost. It may even initially ‘look’ like every other depressing romantic ballad to have ever been penned, but things couldn’t be further from the truth.

Underneath the gentle piano chords and the soft lighting, between the scenes of smiles and loving gestures, dwells a monster that is only hinted at in tight expressions, dangerous gazes and flashes of something darker than what is on the surface. Our reading of the small things that we, as the audience almost miss, is twisted by the picture of a couple in love that we are expected to buy into until the lie is pulled back and the monster is exposed in the final act of the music video. And what a brilliant reveal it is.

It is a rare thing for any music video to turn so dramatically, veering away from what we expect and leaving us at a loss. It is even rarer for a romantic ballad. As a result, we as an audience are left reeling as we gasp and scream “WTF?!”, “Oh my GOD!!” at our computer screens, while we try to wrap our heads around what it is we have just witnessed. (I’m pretty sure that by this point I have watched almost every single reaction video there is and this seems to be the majority of reactions to this music video.)

But there is more to this music video than a beautifully executed ‘shocking reveal’ that pulls the rug out from under the audience, leaving us all clambering for some explanation of what we have just seen (something which will only come after watching the video multiple times, emphasis on the ‘multiple’). “Blossom Tears” also offers us a re-telling, or rather a re-imagining of the classic 17th century french horror, Bluebeard.

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The Tormented Artist: A modern-day Bluebeard

cat-03185_Lyn_LeoIn the “Blossom Tears” re-telling of the Bluebeard story we are presented with Leo’s character – an apparent freelance fashion designer – who will serve as our ‘Bluebeard’, but unlike the original folk-tale – which had one of Bluebeard’s wives as the central character – greater focus is put on our new ‘Bluebeard’ and most of the story we experience through him.

SparkleIt is his story we are being shown, his memories and his private moments that we are privy to. This all leads us to connect with him, sympathize with him and read into his character what we have come to expect from all the signals we are given thanks to film tropes and movie magic.

When we are introduced to the world of Leo and his girlfriend –  a beautiful couple in love – we see Leo as the classic romantic hero – kind, loving, and sweet – sadly destined to somehow lose what he has, because as we all know if a story starts with a happy couple then that couple is almost inevitably going to fall victim to some of the most prevalent romance tropes in existence: either they are going to break up, fight then get back together or one of them will die.

But why?

lyn-x-leo-of-vixx-blossom-tears-official-music-video-mp4_000013555This is because of drama tropes – particularly widely used tropes such as those found in romance. Tropes are familiar and can be a useful story telling shorthand for mediums, like music videos, that are short on time. So with most music videos clocking in around the 3-5 minute mark you can forgive a music video that is attempting to tell a story, rather than show off the artist, for relying on tropes.

So thanks to the usual visual cues and tropes we know where the story is going, but do we really? It’s pretty safe to say that most of us thought we did when we first started watching the music video. Boy and girl are in love. Boy has issues (drug related, maybe?). Boy and girl go through some problems related to boy’s issues. Boy and girl either solve problems and kiss and make-up or go their separate ways. Right?

Wrong! For a lot of us we were all so happy to jump on the evidence of the ‘problem’ (pills = drugs = drug abuse) that the music video presented us with and pat ourselves on the back for figuring it out that we actually missed the ‘real problem’. The one that had been just beneath the surface whole time, hiding in a look, a gesture, a lighting change and even the character’s clothing. We let our expectations make us blind to the monster in the room until it was too late, while the music video was throwing neon sign-sized bread crumbs at us the whole way.

So what did we miss? How could this music video have blind sided us, while doing everything short of taking out a full page ad in the paper to advertise what was right in front of us?

Simple. The music video was counting on us to look at the whole rather than it’s parts. The impact of the reveal relied on us not noticing the images slipped in between shots, or the changes in lighting or costume – things that if we had noticed would have tipped us off long before Leo opened the bathroom door.

Let’s be honest how many of us caught that first flash of images right before Leo knocked his girlfriend back? I know I didn’t. I actually didn’t notice because my attention was on the girlfriend being knocked to the floor, rather than a split second flash the didn’t even look like a series of images. I was more focused on ‘chasing the white rabbit’ (that sudden moment of violence and why Leo didn’t comfort his girlfriend after) than looking down the rabbit hole and seeing this sequence of images hidden in that flash.

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If a picture speaks a thousand words, then five pictures hidden in a split second flash speak volumes. But this ominous foreshadowing is not the only sign of something wrong. Sure we all realized that there was something ‘off’ or ‘wrong’ with Leo pretty early on with the way he acted after knocking his girlfriend down, but did we realize just how wrong?

leo-lyn-800x427For someone apparently in love, Leo seems pretty withdrawn when it comes to physical intimacy with his girlfriend. In fact he seems reluctant or down right incapable of initiating physical contact and the only times he does touch his girlfriend in the first two acts of the music video is after she initiates contact, or at the end of the music video (which we will talk about later).

The most obvious example of this is the bed scene, when Leo attempts to place his hand on his girlfriend’s cheek while she sleeps, but he can’t bring him self to do it. This is someone that is meant to be ‘in love’ with this girl, and yet, he can’t bring himself to touch her.

Seriously, tumblr_n9titedXD01tsrzymo1_500red lights should be flashing and alarms should be going off somewhere by this point. And when she draws him into physical contact by placing his hand on her cheek, he bolts without a word, then proceeds to panic over something that he can’t seem to find. Danger, danger, Will Robinson. All is not well with this boy, that much is clear.

Leo’s reluctance to initiate physical contact is further reinforced – like we needed it spelled out for us again – as we see the girlfriend initiating physical contact as she tries to calm him down, to which he responds with nothing more than a touch to her arm, while looking pretty uncomfortable. Everyone’s ‘shit-ain’t-right-o-meter’ should be clicking over to DEFCON 2 by now.

By this point in the story it’s pretty clear that Leo has problems, a lot of them.

It’s the drugs, of course! Or at least that’s what the MV wants us to believe – the drugs that the girlfriend discovered in the previous scene are clearly the cause of Leo’s problems. It’s obvious, maybe a little too obvious – since we find out in the final act that the drug’s aren’t the problem – as the music video wants us to believe, but rather a symptom of something darker.

~~~

The cupboard and the box: Bluebeard’s Room

She vows to her husband that she will never enter the room, but soon she is overcome with the desire to see what the forbidden room holds

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One of the central elements of the Bluebeard story is the locked room in which Bluebeard keeps his darkest secrets. In the original tale Bluebeard gives his new wife the keys to their chateau so that she may enjoy her new home as she wishes, but he forbid’s her from entering one of the rooms and has her promise to not enter it (Beauty and the Beast parallels, anyone). Of course curiosity gets the better of the young woman and she enters the room only to discover Bluebeard’s secret: the corpses of Bluebeard’s previous wives.

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In ‘Blossoms Tears’ Leo’s (our new Bluebeard) ‘forbidden room’ is replaced with a simple dress box and a cupboard (which is revealed at the end of the third act). Just like the room in the original story, both the box and cupboard hold Leo’s secrets – the box contains his emotional secrets (a dress made for a previous girlfriend, who left him), while the cupboard contains his physical/psychological ones (the hearts and possibly other internal organs of his victims, yes, victims plural).

Leo_Blossom_Tears7Unlike the original story, in which the wife does discovers Bluebeard’s horrifying secrets, exposing the monster she has married, Leo’s girlfriend doesn’t discover his secrets – though she does come dangerously close with the box. As a result we are given a slow build to the climax – rather than a sudden terrifying reveal (that’s going to come later) –  as her close encounter with the box, triggers something in Leo: pain and memories that fester away until they manifest in the story’s climax…

SPOILER WARNING!!

(though seriously if you are reading this chances are you’ve already seen the MV)

… the murder of the girlfriend.

Five dresses: Bluebeard’s wives

The floor is awash with blood and the murdered bodies of her husband’s former wives hang from hooks on the walls.

Now in the previous section I made mention of Leo’s victims rather than victim, why? Simple, because of this gorgeous shot.

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This shot is the beautifully, terrifying cherry on top of an already horrifying cake. Our Bluebeard, Leo stands in front of the open cupboard, his secrets exposed for all to see, flanked by five dresses, each one representing a woman he has killed. The metaphorical ‘corpses’ of his previous ‘wives’ hanging from the walls. The dress he made for his dead girlfriend, his latest victim, in the foreground. This shot screams at us that Leo isn’t just a murderer, he is a serial killer and the girlfriend we meet in the music video is not his first victim, but rather his fifth.

But wait a minute, you may say, Leo is a dress maker/designer of course he would have a lot dresses in his apartment, that doesn’t make him a serial killer. True, so why would I say he is, and that these dresses are proof of it. Well…

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It all has to do with symbolism and how throughout the music video dresses have been closely associated with and eventually come to represent the women in Leo’s life. Right from the get go this MV sets out to visually and symbolically tie Leo’s girlfriend to the white dress. She is frequently show interacting with the dress, and the dress even appears in the background of many shots of her; including this blatantly obvious shot taken over Leo’s shoulder, representing his point of view and how he associates the dress with his girlfriend.

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This moment is then followed up by the bed scene, where Leo has flashbacks of this scene as he backs out of touching his sleeping girlfriend. Once again reinforcing the association Leo has made in his mind. On top of that what is the first thing Leo does after leaving his girlfriend high and dry? Touch, or rather caress, the dress, which is becoming a surrogate for his feelings for her. He can’t bring himself to touch the real thing, but can caress, and later embrace, the dress he is making for her.

Really driving home the ‘dress equals girlfriend’ idea there aren’t we, Mr. Director.

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Then we have the ‘first woman’ the ex-girlfriend – the apparent root cause of all of Leo’s problems –  shown in flashback, who is associated with the burgundy dress in the ‘forbidden’ box – which later becomes a metaphor for the emotional secrets that he tries to hide from his girlfriend. Interestingly, we can safely assume that this girlfriend survived her relationship with Leo, since not only was she the catalyst for his decent into madness, but her dress does not appear in the key shot of Leo’s and his victims. Instead it is packed away in the box as the girl that got away.

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So with the only two women to appear in the music video being associated with dresses it is safe to assume that the rest of the dresses also represent women and the fact that they are on display like the current girlfriend’s dress rather than packed away like the ex-girlfriend’s dress, is a pretty clear indication that they are also dead. They are surrogates of the women Leo has killed and, like the organs he keeps, are a way for him to hold onto them after he has killed them.

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Add to that unsettling idea, the fact that these dresses have been there the whole time. Seriously, right there in the background from the very beginning. All four of them in a row displayed on white mannequins, next to ‘the box’ on the left – which represents his beginning, or past –  and a curiously naked fifth mannequin – which represents his current relationship, or the present. It pretty much goes with out saying at this point that white is a colour often associated with death and the dead, particularly in Asian cultures, and that while the girlfriend is alive her dress is on a black mannequin, but is moved to the white mannequin after she dies.

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Hell of a piece of foreshadowing going on there, Mr. Director. Almost as subtle as a sledge hammer to the temple if you think about it.

Of course the thing is most of us didn’t think about it, because we were too focused on the foreground to notice the neon signs flashing in the background. That only came with multiple viewings of the music video. The whole climax of this video relied on us not noticing all the small details. You could argue that if the music video didn’t want you to see them then why bother putting them in, but of course if the director did that then we wouldn’t have such a beautifully rich music video with endless replay-ability – as each viewing of it gives us another piece of the puzzle.

Instead we would have had a bland ballad music video that attempted to shock us without earning it; without at least giving us a chance to figure it out and see all of the amazing parallels between this amazingly dark and tormented story and the original Bluebeard tale.


reiyezerwyre

About the Author: Reiyezerwyre is full time language teacher, and part-time otaku, based in Japan, who loves to write about their love of film, music, language and fandom in their spare time.

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