BTS (Bulletproof Boy Scouts), also known as Bangtan Boys. Wow. Where do I begin?
For the past five years I have been slowly perusing the Korean Wave (The Korean Wave is a neologism referring to the increase in global popularity of South Korean culture since the 1990s), especially the phenomenon of K-Pop. I would not say I am a fan of K-Pop in general, but I would definitely say I am now a fan of a handful of groups that stand out to me because of their talent in singing, rapping, composition and lyric writing, depth (shock!) and overall vibe.
For an industry that can seem shallow, flashy, and money grabbing, (sounds like any music industry, right?) BTS really stands out with their down-to-earth vibe, superb talent in dance, rap, and singing, their use of symbolism, metaphors, and themes within their music, and with all seven members contributing to composing, lyric writing, and producing their own music, their passion shines though. BTS, a K-Hip Hop (If you don’t like K-pop, check out the Korean Rap scene – it’s phenomenal.) group that debuted in 2013, consists of Jin, J-Hope, Suga, Rap Monster, Jimin, V, and Jungkook (Rap Monster and Suga are outstanding artists on their own).
BTS has caught the eye of the world, with their album, The Most Beautiful Moment In Life, Part 2 charting at number one on the Billboard World Albums Chart for multiple weeks, making BTS the first K-Pop act to achieve that status.*1 The group’s outstanding performances won them the Best World Performer award in the 2015 Mnet Asian Music Awards.
What I love about BTS, and what really stood out to me as I listened to their music, was their honesty and ability to tackle serious, cultural issues within their country. Jeff Benjamin from Fuse labeled BTS as the "K-pop's Social Conscience" stating that BTS found "a way to speak honestly about topics they deem important, even in a conservative society."*2 Jeff goes on to write,
Sound familiar? ;) Another favorite song and live performance is Let Me Know, which Suga produced and composed with Rap Monster and J-Hope.
What blows my mind further, is just this week BTS started to release a series of short films titled WINGS, with #1 BEGIN, #2 LIE, #3 STIGMA, #4 FIRST LOVE, and just today, #5 REFLECTION, with more on the way. The BTS fandom (known as ARMY) has been going crazy, posting theory videos about what the short films mean and how they are all connected. Just from the first five films, fans are seeing a theme in their lyrics and music videos that seems to go all the way back to the beginning of BTS’s debute in 2013! Fans have discovered the theme comes from German novelist Hermann Karl Hesse’s*3 novel, Demian:The Story of Emil Sinclair’s Youth*4 (This makes sense).
Whew. What a fascinating and heavy concept for a K-Hip Hop group to produce musically and visually. I am looking forward to this theme evolving more and seeing all the little connections come in place musically and visually.
This is just the tip of the BTS iceberg, but I hope my little praise essay encourages you to check them out. Now I’ll leave the last word to Jeff Benjamin:
*1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_Hesse, *2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demian, *3 http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/k-town/6835246/bts-most-beautiful-moment-in-life-pt-2-returns-no-1-world-albums, *4 http://www.fuse.tv/2015/12/bts-kpops-social-conscience