It’s a bit difficult to believe that it has only been four years and a month since BIG BANG’s last release, Flower Road. For VIPs, it has felt like forever since they last heard GDragon, Taeyang, TOP, and Daesung singing anything new, as I’m sure they’ve overused the loop feature of their preferred streaming platforms in repeating the entire MADE albums, or Fantastic Baby, or Last Farewell, for a trip, rather treat, down memory lane. But alas the years of anticipation and waiting have finally come to an end on April 5, 2022, as the (erstwhile) Kings of K-pop have returned with the single Still Life (봄여름가을겨울, which literally translates to Spring Summer Fall Winter).

The release is bittersweet, though, in a number of ways. First, this is BIG BANG’s first release as a quartet. In the four years that they have been out of circulation, so much has happened. Everyone has finished their mandatory military service, Taeyang has gotten married to Min Hyorin and just last year become a father, TOP was prosecuted for marijuana use while in the military and overdosed on anti-anxiety medication, and Seungri was discovered to be a part of the Burning Sun prostitution and embezzlement scandal.

So, what’s a group that has been so embattled despite their absence from the public scene going to do for a comeback? We need to remember that before their hiatus that started in 2017, BIG BANG was at the peak of their popularity. So, when all the unfortunate events unfolded one after another, it was actually Seungri who was still active in the entertainment scene, having just released his solo album in 2018. So, now that the group is back, we’ve been only too eager to forgive TOP, and Seungri had officially quit the entertainment industry in 2020, will they be successful in reclaiming the level of success they had prior to their 2017 break?

Yes, most definitely. The degree of affinity the Korean public had for BIG BANG remains to be very high that it would take so much to happen before that will be lost. And with everything that has happened to the group for the past four years, adding to that TOP’s recent announcement in February that he has left YG Entertainment, the song has acquired added layers and meanings that, for VIPs and even for those who have followed the group’s career, may sound like the group is already bidding their farewells. From Taeyang’s almost-nasal but consistently sweet (even in his high notes) vocals, Daesung’s warm and reliably emotion-drenched tones, GDragon’s smooth transitions from singing to rapping, and TOP’s tempo-defying raps rendered in his trademark baritone, listeners are treated to these familiar voices and wonder how they’ve survived more than four years without them. At the same time, the feeling present in their interpretation of Still Life has not been heard that often in their discography, only in songs like Last Farewell, If You, and 2016’s Last Dance.

But it’s not just the delivery that gives listeners the feeling that the song is the group’s equivalent to 2NE1’s 2017 release Goodbye, which from the title alone was pretty much on-the-nose as to what it is about. The lyrics sound very personal and as sentimental as Big Bang can get.

It only took two verses before the theme of changes and letting go are revealed. Daesung sings, “Goodbye now to my beloved young days / Our beautiful spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

When it came to GDragon’s turn, he raps his struggles to grow as he forged into adulthood, “A seven-colored rainbow slanted like a sneer / Passed the seasons without maturing / I can’t mature (Still).

Finally, TOP takes the cake with the most personal lyrics as he raps, “I’m leaving inspiration’s Amazon / Burying all the trauma from past nights. A round-trip ship running, risking its life to start anew / I’m going to change more than before.

The music video definitely adds to this bittersweet feeling, as viewers surely waited for the four to reunite in a verse to no avail. Instead, all we see are four chairs lined up. Taeyang seems to represent spring as he sings in a ship filled with yellow flowers, obviously respecting the yellow VIPs, Taeyang may also be the aptest member to represent spring, as he has since started a family and with his baby born last year, he has brought forth new life.

Daesung is the only member to receive a black and white edit, as he is captured with his long locks covering his eyes which are then turned into more unruly and shaggier curls as color hits him. The warm colors of summer and fall in oranges, pinks, and blues are combined in GDragon as he dances on what is later revealed as a stage, carrying an umbrella with those colors. When he later looks out to the audience, he sees yellow light sticks of the VIP crowd seemingly cheering him on. Unfortunately, towards the end of the video, he walks off the stage, leaving a director’s chair with his real name on it.

Alas, we see TOP wearing a rabbit mask, walking in the cold and lonely snowy background. It may at first look like he is in a snowy desert, but in the later scenes, he is seen watching planet Earth in front of him. Apparently, TOP is on the moon as a rabbit.

In East Asian folklore, a rabbit seen on the moon’s surface is a symbol of selfless sacrifice and growth, as a Buddhist tale reveals that a rabbit threw himself into a fire when an old man was in need of food. Touched by the rabbit’s selflessness, the old man who turned out to be Sakra, the ruler of heaven, drew an image of the rabbit on the moon to serve as a reminder of its virtues. In his years out of the limelight, TOP may have to experience some more growth and maturity on the moon before he goes back to earth in a boat named life, which we also see in the video. So, yes, moon = growth and maturity, life in the public eye = earth. This is TOP telling us he is taking time off again to grow and mature before facing us again.

Until then, we may have to wait a bit more.

Is this indeed the end of the BIG BANG’s flower road? With the way things are in Korean pop music nowadays, we can’t really conclude for sure. The song may have a million indications that hint at the members pursuing different paths in the near future, but towards the end, Daesung and GD also sing,

언젠가 다시 올 그날 그때를 위하여
(그대를 위하여)
아름다울 우리의 봄 여름 가을 겨울

For the day, the moment that will come again someday
(for you)
Our beautiful spring summer fall winter.

We VIPs can surely take a rain check (weather/season pun intended), yes?

Watch BIG BANG’s Still Life music video here:

Featured image: After their 2017 hiatus, BIG BANG returns with the sentimental track Still Life. Photo: BIGBANG GLOBAL VIP/Twitter.