WINGS: Symbolism In “Blood Sweat & Tears”
It is no coincidence that the title music video “Blood Sweat & Tears” explores the concept of youth’s fall into temptation and loss of innocence. As will be discussed in this month’s ARMY Magazine issue (Issue No. 6), the album is heavily influenced by Hermann Hesse’s novel Demian: The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth that dives into the theme of good and evil. However, “Blood, Sweat & Tears” carries much more than just symbols calling back to Demian. The music video is a bubbling cauldron of artistic, mythological and Biblical references.
“Blood, Sweat & Tears” opens with a stunning museum scene. Some of the art pieces are difficult to place, but detective ARMYs have figured most of them out. The famous Venus de Milo statue appears on the left first. Crouching Venus is also seen later on in the video. Both are depictions of the Greek goddess of love and beauty, as well as an embodiment of enticement and seduction. A fragment of Laocoön and His Sons from ancient Rome is present on the right, which is described as the prototypical representation of suffering and agony. On the far left of the room is a bronze sculpture, titled Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini, illustrating mythological hero Perseus’ victory over the mythical creature Medusa.
Perhaps the most important piece of art in the scene is the massive painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Fall of the Rebel Angels. It reinforces the running theme of vice, virtue, and submission to temptation.
The story of the painting is taken from a passage from the Biblical book of Revelations, where the center figure of the painting, Archangel Michael, and his companions are shown driving the rebel angels from Heaven. Lucifer and his fallen followers were tempted by pride, one of the seven deadly sins. The painting foreshadows the future events of the story in the music video and drives the conflict between good and evil further.
The narrative of temptation is emphasized with another two paintings: The Lament for Icarus by H.J. Draper and Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The story of Icarus is one of the most well-known legends of Greek mythology.
Icarus’ father Daedalus made two pairs of wax-held wings for himself and his son to escape the island of Crete. Before taking off, the father warned Icarus to fly neither too close to the Sun, nor too close to the water. Despite the warnings, Icarus gave in to the temptation, the excitement of flight, and soared into the sky. The wax on the wings started to melt and the feathers slipped away, soon causing Icarus to fall into the sea and drown. During the scene with Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, we see V doing the same – falling off the balcony, giving in to temptation.
A major Biblical reference appears halfway into “Blood, Sweat & Tears”, where the boys are seen sitting around a table. It is reminiscent of The Last Supper, one of the more notable works by Leonardo da Vinci. The art piece tells the story of when Jesus Christ announced to His Twelve Disciples that one of them will betray Him.
The members are also seen having a single apple on their plates. The apple is a famous symbol for sin in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve from Genesis chapter 3. It’s a classic tale describing the fall of humanity where Eve, tempted by a snake, eats a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The sculpture Pietà by Michelangelo also makes an appearance during one of J-Hope’s solo shots. The work portrays the mourning of the mother of Jesus over her son’s body. The statue directly connects to J-Hope character’s arc with Frau Eva’s motif from Demian. Just like Frau Eva, Virgin Mary embodies the image of a universal mother.
In the same scene, J-Hope is seen handling a bow and arrow. The sequence of him aiming and then releasing the bolt is reminiscent to Archangel Michael from the painting. The arrow hits V, which leads to believe that he embodies Lucifer, the fallen angel. This idea is later reinforced by the climax of “Blood, Sweat & Tears” narrative as V is shown with scars on his back where wings should be.
Instead, the wings are seen on a massive statue that appears in front of Jin at the museum. He approaches the winged sculpture and kisses it. He succumbs to the temptation himself, accepts both the good and the evil sides, and ends the conflict.
“Blood, Sweat & Tears” tell a visual story of the surrender to temptation and loss of innocence as the youth fight their way out of the world they know. The seven boys embrace the two realms of dark and light, moving into a new chapter. The music video remains one of the most visually stimulating and artistic masterpieces within BTS’ music video catalog.
Read ARMY Magazine ISSUE NO.6 - WINGS ERA here.