Storytelling in K-Pop: The LOONAVERSE

Source: YouTube

By Pen Fang          

Storytelling through songs and music videos is nothing new; K-Pop is no stranger to music videos in which energetic choreography is interspersed with clips conveying a deeper storyline. 

LOONA is a 12-member K-Pop girl group. They had a unique debut project in which each member released a solo mini-album in a periodic monthly fashion, starting with Heejin’s “Vivid” and ending with Olivia Hye’s “Egoist.” This periodic release of solo albums also allowed them to create and promote in subunits, namely LOONA 1/3, Odd Eye Circle, and LOONA yyxy. (All of these have a hand in the lore, I promise.) Currently, LOONA’s most recent comeback is their 2022 summer mini-album “Flip That,” as well as their Japanese single, “LUMINOUS.”

LOONA’s lore is known collectively as the LOONAVERSE. It is told primarily through their music videos, though lyrics, choreographies, fan events, and even styling have played a part in theories. It is worth noting, that due to the nature of LOONA’s storytelling, much of the LOONAVERSE is based on fan interpretations rather than a set storyline. As such, it allows engagement with the media in a more personal, fan-driven way. 

The LOONAVERSE stands out even among K-Pop lore stories for the subtlety and detail in its storytelling. Brief flashes of certain visuals, color, symbolism, and other obscure references paint compelling stories that have fans scrambling for answers. In fact, hours and hours of analyses can be found on the internet, and there will surely only be more as LOONA and the LOONAVERSE continue to grow. 

The basis of the lore relies on things confirmed by LOONA’s company, and fan interpretations expand upon that. As a start, the LOONAVERSE is set on a mobius strip, or a strip in which one can run their hand along the entire length, finish where they began, and touch every surface of the strip. This factors into the lore, appearing not only in the physical settings, but also as symbols and in choreographies. More symbolism occurs through each girl’s representative color and animal; these appear throughout the music videos as a way to allude toward the members. This becomes extremely important as a storytelling device and drives the story forward. Furthermore, the LOONAVERSE split into three worlds: Earth, Eden, and the Cosmos — sort of everything in between Earth and Eden. 

LOONA 1/3 is LOONA’s first subunit (in terms of debut), and consists of the members Heejin, Hyunjin, Haseul, and Vivi, with the first three representing the “3” and the last representing the “1.” Though Yeojin is sometimes considered the “/” in 1/3, she is not present on any of the subunit’s tracks. Due to their location being Earth, their unique trait is their representative locations, where they reside. They represent the innocence and light in the LOONAVERSE. The second subunit is Odd Eye Circle, and consists of the members Kim Lip, Jinsoul, and Choerry. In coordination with the subunit’s name, their unique trait is their “odd eye,” which gives them a certain power. They reside in the Cosmos, being the balance between dark and light in the LOONAVERSE. The final subunit is LOONA yyxy, which stands for “youth youth by young.” It consists of members Yves, Chuu, Gowon, and Olivia Hye, with Gowon representing the x. Yyxy’s special characteristic is their forbidden fruits; similar to the biblical story of Adam and Even, yyxy can only leave Eden and join the LOONAVERSE if they have consumed their forbidden fruit. 

Each member’s solo album and music video tells the story of, essentially,  how they joined the LOONAVERSE. We can take a closer look at Heejin’s music video as an example: as the first girl to debut, her music video tells the creation story. Color and animals are used to allude to the creation of the other girls, as well as darkness in the creation of yyxy. Take this specific example: Heejin’s music video shows seven rabbits (her representative animal), as well as the fluctuation from black and white to colorful imagery, implying that she creates and joins the LOONAVERSE, as well as creating the LOONA members in LOONA 1/3 and Odd Eye Circle. The darkness that manifests throughout the music video is thought to be the formation of LOONA yyxy. In general, most of the solo music videos feature a sort of “enlightenment” that allows the girls to join the LOONAVERSE. For example, most of yyxy are shown attaining their forbidden fruits during their music videos.

It is inferred that the ultimate goal of the LOONAVERSE is for the girls to “break free” of the time loop they are trapped in (in the lore) and take charge of their own storyline. To do this, the girls must unite and create a new moon — a symbol of both LOONA and the LOONAVERSE — to break free. In a sense, they are creating a haven for themselves and their fans — all LOONAs around the world. This mirrors the group’s concepts and messages they promote.

In the description of their music video for the song “Butterfly,” LOONA wrote, “LOONA causes a Butterfly effect through music for the listeners to gain courage, find oneself, and raise one’s voice. Anyone under influence, is another LOONA.” 

“We’d like to describe LOONA’s music as ‘LOONA Pop’,” the group said. “We don’t limit ourselves to a certain music genre, always trying new stuff and creating our own style. We want to surprise listeners every time and sing various types of songs so that fans can choose what to listen to depending on their mood.”

LOONA continues to defy expectations and break boundaries as a group. Throughout their career, they have faced obstacle after obstacle (to list just a few, one of their finished albums was deleted by an ex-producer, they had a year-long hiatus with no status updates, and the unfortunate events and health issues that have marked their world tour this year), but have persisted nonetheless in the harsh K-Pop industry. Their predebut journey was something very unique in the industry, as well as the experimentation and wide variety of genres featured in their music. In fact, the LOONAVERSE can also be seen as another way they push themselves out of the norm, as no other group’s lore is quite on the same level as LOONA’s. Through the creation of the LOONAVERSE, they were able to attract a unique and dedicated fanbase, and continue to do so. And as aforementioned, LOONA’s story allows them to connect with fans and promote the messages of unity, not being afraid to be oneself, and breaking free and empowerment.