Winter Bear: Taehyung’s Literary Devices, Images and Nuances in Lyrics, Music & Visuals

In Winter Bear, Taehyung is a traveler not only in matters of space but also of time. We look into the lyrics, music and cinematography of Winter Bear to dissect Taehyung’s meanings.

Forewarning: this is filled with spoilers from About Time (2013) so if you haven’t watched it yet and want a wholesome experience of the film, do skip this long preamble especially the text which you will encounter soon! I added these spoilers for those who haven’t watched it but wish to understand how the movie was contextualised in Winter Bear. I think it’s best if people watch it first though.

background & concept

Taehyung mentioned that he watched About Time (2013) and got addicted to it when he was in London, 2018. He compared the movie to a bear. Taehyung has also watched About Time way before he came to London, and he was already fond of it and of the actress Rachel McAdams.

When I re-watch films that I really like after a certain time, I do it either for the purpose of seeking familiarity and relief or when I want to rediscover the film in a new light. It’s possible Taehyung was re-watching too for either purpose though we won’t really know.

But the one thing that I’m sure of is Taehyung reconnected with the film. He’s also specified a scene from the movie which inspired him to make Winter Bear:

So, how does About Time fit into Taehyung’s project? (I call it a project because it is obviously also an effort for MV directing and cinematography).

Here’s what goes on to in the film: the protagonist is from a family where the men have the ability to travel through time. The said protagonist named Tim stumbles on a potential romantic interest, Mary, who is also interested in him — but fate and timing weren’t on his side for the first try. So he goes through several time-traveling efforts to woo his love interest. Of course, he eventually succeeds…

And this is the important bit about the scene that inspired Taehyung (spoilers, lots):

For anyone who’s watched the film, or has read the above, keep the details in mind — because it’s obvious that Taehyung re-contextualised and repurposed elements from the film to write his own narrative.

Taehyung is credited as the lyricist & composer for the song, and actor & director for the MV.

lyrics: birds, blue parrot and a good day

I believe that the first half of the verse, sung in warm, low-breath chest voice, is when Taehyung recalls moments of hellos and goodbyes. As a whole, which we will later get on with, he seems to juxtapose “good day” and “good night” to convey this meeting and parting.

She looks like a blue parrot
Would you come fly to me?
I want some good day, good day, good day
Good day, good day

When Winter Bear was first released, many assumed that the “blue parrot” alludes to the extinct species of the Spix macaw, and has related it to Taehyung’s loved ones that departed this plane of existence.

This seems likely — as we see and hear birds chirping at the very beginning of the MV, and then the frame switches to Taehyung as if he was taking images of the birds in the sky. The birds foreshadow of their importance to this entire project:

When Taehyung starts to rewind back in time later in the MV, we see more avian species present in his reality, but the “blue parrot” is nowhere seen and said creature realistically cannot be seen in the flesh anymore.

It’s also interesting to note that the color blue may also be a reference to the film protagonist’s love interest — who wore a blue dress for the first time they see each other in the flesh. After all, her dress becomes a point of conversation in the same scene:

And she also wears blue during the time he does get to ask her out on a date — the right photo above. But for here, Mary & Tim do not get to spend the evening for a date instead they promise each other to meet as Mary leaves. Before they part, Mary greets him “good night”.

lyrics: winter bear, sleeping and a good night

Looks like a winter bear
You sleep so happily
I wish you good night, good night, good night
Good night, good night

It’s interesting that Taehyung specified a sleeping bear during the winter season, which should be taken in figuratively.

While “sleeping in the winter” in relation to animals is often associated to hibernation, “sleep” isn’t just what occurs during hibernation. They go through physical changes as well — their bodies experience reduced heart rate and blood flow, lowered their body temperature, a slow down on metabolism, and significant amount of weight loss.

As grisly as how science may speak of this, it almost seems like being near the state of dying. The winter season is also always associated with death and endings; the spring season symbolizing the opposite.

And yet Taehyung sings to her, “you sleep so happily”, implying that he himself notices she is happy, content, and softly and breathily wishes her a “good night, good night”. He sounds calm and accepting, or so we might think.

lyrics: tying the images together

We now see this is an unwanted goodbye after a brief exchange of hello’s. Let’s now take a look at the entire verse:

She looks like a blue parrot
Would you come fly to me?
I want some good day, good day, good day
Good day, good day
Looks like a winter bear
You sleep so happily
I wish you good night, good night, good night
Good night, good night

I wonder if Taehyung was projecting his feelings onto Tim as to console the character’s impatience and desire to spend time with Mary as he sings “I want some good day, good day”. Like Tim, Taehyung seems just as eager to meet and be with the person he sings for.

If we also go back to the film, the scene where the line “looks like a winter bear, you sleep so happily, I wish you good night, good night” seems to have been inspired from is a sheer display of acceptance — one of the rare moments in the film where the protagonist allows life and fate itself to set things on their own course.

Now with the images of the blue parrot and the winter bear expounded as well, I’d like to interpret this entire verse as to how Taehyung sees the person he’s talking to in Winter Bear: that this person in Taehyung’s life is rare and is one of a kind. She is his beloved. She is most likely gone, away — and yet he immensely desires for more time with her.

And if we go by this interpretation, as much as Taehyung acknowledges his beloved person may be happy and content with how things are, Taehyung isn’t, and we hear that in the chorus.

Imagine your face
Say hello to me
Then all the bad days
They’re nothing to me
With you
Winter bear

It is also striking that Taehyung uses the word imagine, a very specific word that means to “picture or form a mental image of”, and to be even more specific:

“to form a mental image of something that is not present or that is not the case”.

music: emotional tones and timbres

For the first verse, Taehyung fronts a calm, relaxed character with his chest voice. It has an airy quality to his tone, making this resonance weigh lighter than it should. Instead of hinting power, Taehyung delivers subtlety, with a bit of melancholy roped in his vocals.

The chorus, meanwhile, is the emotional apex. Taehyung delivers this message to her in his sweet falsetto, the tone quality almost similar to the lower ranges of a wind instrument. Falsettos are often used to emphasize strong feelings of love, longing, and pain.

These feelings seem to be all heightened in the way Taehyung uses his falsetto, and how he contoured the melody; legato for a longtime’s worth of yearning. The acoustic guitar’s timbre since the first verse plays continuously and its melancholy is emphasized as more strings — the violin and cello — come into the picture. These instruments’ timbres are known for depicting sadness.

Ooh, ooh, ooh
Sleep like a winter bear
Ooh, ooh, ooh
Sleep like a winter bear

We don’t get a second verse, but the drums also enter the soundscape to power up these emotions. The feelings just continue to flow along with Taehyung’s consistent, free falsettos of “Oohs.

One of his last lines is him greeting said beloved person to “sleep like a winter bear”. And what sounds like a synthesized whistle takes over in place of Taehyung’s voice to fill us in for the rest. As you’ve noticed, he loves to make use of tasteful cadences in his songs.

Later on, the electric guitar also starts to distort and complicate the feelings that are already present — longing, sadness, pain, love. There is also the Mellotron joining in— the tone is bright, thick, and quick, allowing us to feel a spark of hope.

film: “travelling” with the camera, flock of birds

He uses the concept of traveling not only in the sense of moving from one space to another but also with time. In the MV we see clips of Taehyung in his travels and takes pictures of them. The camera is his time-traveling device in the sense that it allows him to revisit these moments.

The use of light leaks scattered across the MV could imply Taehyung’s trying to get back to several points of time all along. These captured moments are imperfect in the aesthetic sense but they are important — important enough for him to burn the images on his film camera.

At this point, the music video starts to rewind time — Taehyung walking backward and we get a shot of him doing so in the darkness. It’s interesting to point out that in About Time, one of the requirements to time travel back in time is to do it in the dark.

It does feel like he was trying to go back in time in the MV. We also start to see shots of different kinds of birds through Taehyung’s lens, as if searching for the blue parrot all this time, but we know that such bird will not appear before anyone else’s eyes, not Taehyung’s.

Eventually, Taehyung turns around and walks straight ahead into the night — the effects of light leaks fade and we are brought to somewhere else — the green park where we see him earlier.

Did Taehyung from Winter Bear MV successfully travel to his desired moment in time?

Or him turning around could also mean as Taehyung finally facing the present and head for his future? There’s no decoration, no music to romanticize the moment. The present looks less colorful but he walks forward.

The truth is no one but Taehyung will ever have an answer to that and it’s what makes this entire thing beautiful and meaningful. His art knows how to speak in diff. frequencies & levels of understanding, we get to relate to him through the art. That’s what we call sublime. We have already acquainted ourselves with Taehyung’s musical sensibilities years ago. Scenery immediately proves his consistency, competence, and finesse as a man of musical arts. He understands the language of instruments and this includes his voice.

Altogether he is comfortable playing with these around to eloquently send thoughts and emotions to the listener through music, and it’s explored throughout the thread.

His songwriting took up a notch with Winter Bear. Lyrically, Winter Bear honestly reads more like a poem than as a song. Taehyung is still learning the ropes of the English language and he’s already dared himself to cross the wonderful yet daunting world of literary devices.

Winter Bear in its entirety makes use of allusions, imagery, metaphors, similes, juxtaposition, and foreshadowing both in its lyrics and with the film. He’s developing fast and quick in uncharted territory.

The music and MV also explore these devices plentifully with its own nods to traveling and the passage of time. Taehyung shows that he is able to live and immerse himself in the nowness of life — to smile, laugh, play, eat — but at the same time his heart desires and yearns for the past, of a time where possibly someone was still there. The lyrics imply a lost beloved, and Taehyung travels and searches for her everywhere.

I think it’s amazing when artists suddenly get their own burst of inspiration from other people’s works and make something out of it for their own.

There are many aspects to see why About Time appeals so much to Taehyung: it echoes to his romantic, old soul self and this film is saturated with vintage and nostalgic themes and things. From the concept of time traveling, the Amelíe-esque color grading and cinematography (that obviously attracts the film photographer in him), the classic pieces of the English gentleman fashion found among some characters, to the small details like props, the towers of books, jazz and film posters, printed photographs in the background.

It’s vivid for me how passionate he must have felt when he watched this the first time, how it gives him solace and inspiration.

And though his schedule is always packed, Taehyung still accomplished this passion project through his own resources. A lot of hard work and love has been poured out in Winter Bear, and I hope that others will also see the sublime beauty in his individual endeavors.

Listen to V’s Winter Bear on SoundCloud:

professional nerd; BTS & V; a fan not a critic

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