You can read my first blog post about BTS back in 2016 here.
I had the honor and blessing of attending BTS’ Love Yourself World Tour held at the Chicago United Center, October 2, 2018. The concert, of course, was mind blowing, and the guys have grown so much since their last Wings World Tour I attended in 2017 (read about it here). I could gush in detail about the visuals, music, and my experience (The guys like to make eye contact with their fans, which I got to experience at soundcheck with V and Jungkook), but with the massive blowup of their popularity this past year, I felt it was more important to write a blog about the depth of BTS and why they have slowly risen from the ashes over the last five years. So…
WHY IS BTS SO POPULAR?
When you start investigating BTS and dig deeper into their music, lyrics, choreography, and album concepts, you come to realize that BTS is not just a “another” boy band manufactured for entertainment purposes, but that they are a group of seven talented young men (Jin, RM, Suga, J-Hope, V, Jimin, and Jungkook) who love music so much, they use it to communicate their reality, truth, and the social and cultural issues they and their generation are facing right now.
In the world of music, especially K-pop, you have a lot of superficial, shallow, fantasy entertainment. Don’t get me wrong, that music is fun, and sometimes needed, but pop music of any kind usually gets a bad rap because of this. But sometimes their comes an artist that breaks that stereotype and uses the popular sound of Hip-Hop, Pop, R&B, and Rock to communicate a deeper message that reflects our humanity and our everyday reality.
And right now that is BTS.
BTS PHILOSOPHY & MISSION
What makes BTS stand out from the rest of the K-pop idols? They actually have a mission.
Big Hit Entertainment’s logo has a slogan at the bottom: “Music & Artist for Healing.”
In BTS’ recent Grammy Museum Interview RM talks about this mission:
“We want to be, kind of like, a method of help for the world, and Mr. Bang really wanted to, like you said, intention, wanted to make his music and his artists like that. We thought it, too. We wanted to try. We wanted to use our abilities and skills and (our some) inside inspirations to help the world. And I think, it, you know, Mr. Bang and us, and it made us into BTS.” ~ RM (Kim Namjoon), Grammy Museum Interview September 19, 2018.
Since their debut back in 2013, BTS hit the ground running with socially conscious and socially critical music. Besides dealing with real, human highs and lows as one grows from a child to an adult and addressing the pressures of current youth, They deal with socially taboo issue such as depression, anxiety, and suicide, the constraining education system within their culture, work ethic in Korea, and even touch on tension between the older generation and youth generation (The song Bapsae is one of my favorite songs by them that does just that) A few examples are below:
Go (Go Go): “BTS’ parody on the hedonistic culture of today’s youth.”
N.O: “touches on how the education system, especially in Korea, has turned kids into ‘studying machines’ as a result of the importance of education being ingrained into students by society.”
Am I Wrong – addresses a few political issues in Korean society. “The metaphor ‘It’s the stork versus crow-tit, battling it out errday,’ refers to the class divide between the haves (the storks) and the have -nots (the crow-tits) while the line, ‘We’re all dogs and pigs/ we become dogs because we’re angry,’ is a reference to a Korean Ministry of Education official who described the average person as ‘dogs and pigs’ and should be treated as such.” (Source: Billboard)
Their music makes you want to dance, and at the same time, make you think.
They started off their debut, age range of 15-20 years, addressing their high school highs and lows, which eventually morphed into coming of age through WINGS, and as they have grown into men, their music continues to reflect their current life changes and challenges. It is amazing that in their 20s, they have learned the importance of loving oneself before loving others. And to make it the message of their current tour and last three albums is profound.
THEIR MUSIC IS SUPERB
Their music is stellar, top-notch, amazing, out of this world, and has already, in my opinion, joined the ranks of the classics.
BTS and the Big Hit Entertainment team are really, really talented writers and lyricists. Each song stands on its own. They are gifted in writing music and producing, they are gifted in knowing how to sample other people’s music (It’s a Hip Hop thing), and they are gifted in working with other musicians. BTS experiments with a variety of genres and styles of music and remixes it all to make it their own. BTS is beyond the K-pop sound. They are their own style of music. I’m really picky when it comes to music, and when you like about 98% of their catalog…ya, I love you. Want to get more in depth with their lyrics? Check out https://muish.wordpress.com blog.
Unlike many artists in other major Korean entertainment companies, BTS has FULL creative freedom to express themselves through their music and lyrics.
And because of this…
BTS EMBRACES AND EXPOSES THEIR HUMANITY
BTS connects with their fans on a personal level. When they are expressing themselves through music and lyrics they composed, this obviously makes them approachable. But since their debut, they have used social media to connect with fans and share their lives. They show their real, human, dorky selves, just like the rest of us. There are so many hidden jokes between BTS and their fans (ARMY). And Jin’s dad jokes are the best.
What really solidified my fan status were BTS’ concept albums. A narrative and theme is woven through not just a single album, but multiple albums. They present hidden story lines, which emerged during the album The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever to the WINGS album, and even to the Love Yourself series. The message or theme of their albums and songs are not just in their music and lyrics, but their videos and sometimes their choreography (Fake Love, I’m Fine). I have enjoyed reading fan theories and discovering their hidden messages.
BTS references literature that inspires their albums and songs. Such as, Demian by Herman Hess, which is a philosophical novel that is the foundation of their WINGS album; The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. LeGuin influencing The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2/Wings/ You Never Walk Alone; and the song The Truth Untold, which is based on the story, 'La Città di smeraldo.'
So, if you haven’t read in awhile, now would be a good time. You never know where inspiration may come from.
HATERS GONNA HATE
What a lot of people may not be aware of is that since BTS’ debut they have received some serious hate and slander from anti-fans and Korean society in general. It got so bad that Big Hit had gathered enough evidence to sue. They almost broke up but persevered through it all. Not Today, Mic Drop, IDOL…These songs are personal and not just full of hot air. When you’ve been through what they have been through, and made it this big, those songs are genuine and real.
They are talented, genuine, humble, and hardworking. They know when to be silly and know when to be serious. What you see is what you get. All seven of them are unique and stand out on their own, but together their unique chemistry as a group cannot be recreated. They have learned and grown from their mistakes humbly in the past five years and that has only made them better and stronger. I know they will continue to pursue their passion and continue to write great music. I am proud to be an ARMY.