Photo credit: Laura Renfroe
Opening to the desaturated interior of a car, a masked figure shifts into focus, his deep brown eyes scanning the road in front of him as he drives on mainly empty streets. The camera later pans out the window to show a wasteland that is Seoul’s Olympic Stadium, even its gleaming dome seeming to wither in the emptiness of its surroundings.
Just months before, this arena overflowed with blinding purple lightsticks, an ocean of thousands upon thousands of fans joining hands, tears flowing, as they watched the fireworks light up the starless sky with a multitude of colors. Seven figures watched from backstage, drenched in sweat, the euphoria and love from the fans completely washing over them. The impact could be felt in every corner and in every teary eye of every fan there: these seven boys had saved lives with their music.
Yet in a blink there is only silence, an expanse of empty seats and tickets collecting dust.
Concerts and performances were the life and passion of world sensation South Korean group BTS, and in their latest album, Be, the seven superstars put into words these sincere feelings of loss, restlessness, and deprivation.
The name BTS might ring a bell for some, but if you haven’t heard the name before, now is the time to know.
BTS’s name alone exudes the power they possess, an acronym for “Bangtan Sonyeondan,” which directly translates to “Bulletproof Boy Scouts.” In recent years, the group’s name has also been dubbed “Beyond the Scene,” showcasing the group’s genuine influence and outside-the-box music.
Whatever you want to call them, BTS undeniably contains unbridled talent across every spectrum. They have revolutionized the K-pop industry and are the most sensational music act in the world right now.
The group’s accomplishments would take up a whole article in itself, so here are only a few of the seven-piece global sensation’s most recent feats taking over the world.
Their first English-language single “Dynamite” accompanying music video quickly became the most viewed music video in the first 24 hours with over 101.1 million views on Youtube.
The song became the most streamed pop song on Apple Music U.S., debuted at #1 on global Spotify, and earned BTS’s first Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit, making the group the first South Korean act to top the chart. On November 24, BTS became the first South Korean group to receive a Grammy nomination. “Dynamite” was nominated for the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category alongside superstars such as Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.
In the following days after the nomination, “Life Goes On” earned a historic No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, making BTS the fastest act since The Beatles to earn their first three No. 1s. The group also achieved the fastest accumulation of three Hot 100 No. 1s in over 42 years since the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack in 1977 by the Bee Gees. “Life Goes On,” on top of all that, was the first track sung predominantly in Korean to make it to the No. 1 spot in all of the Hot 100’s 62-year history.
And that is only to name a few of the group’s accomplishments across the country and the globe. BTS has, to simply put it, dominated the world.
BTS returned with massive expectations November 20 following their No. 1 chart-shattering summer single “Dynamite” as well as their immensely popular February 2020 album, “Map of the Soul: 7.”
The boys once again exceeded expectations with the release of Be, an album filled to the brim with dynamism and genuinity. Be arrived at perfect timing, giving fans a chance of healing and rebirth that was much needed in such times of isolation.
The album was specially crafted by the members themselves — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, V, Jimin, and Jungkook — allowing a creative freedom to compose, direct, and collaborate in every intricate process of creating an album. The album was a work of heart and a sincere need: the need to provide an optimistic message to the world.
After “Dynamite” proved successful, the album’s process began, each member documenting on Youtube lives the individual steps taken in self-producing an album. Each member was assigned a role he would play in the production of Be.
The youngest of the group, Jeon Jungkook, was in charge of the video producer/director role, and as he noted in an October Youtube live, “This time for shooting the music video, I’ve taken on the role of PM (project manager), as I shot the music video. I had discussions with the director and stuff, and did all the process. It was really hard.”
The members all had varying roles from photo visual project manager to music project manager and so on. The members discussed the pressure they felt but also how excited they were to open up to ARMY and express their mixed feelings about living through a global pandemic, ranging from fear to loneliness to preservation.
The grogginess of 2020 can indeed be felt almost everywhere, from the never-ending Zoom calls to even the iconic Rockefeller Christmas Tree arriving stripped of branches and looking downright…well, 2020.
It’s been hard to think optimistically this year, which is why BTS seeked to challenge the world to look for the beauty in the simplest things in life. The South Korean group’s ultimate goal in the release of this album was always authentic healing and hope for the future.
Be consists of 8 tracks, the sounds described as the “most BTS-esque music yet.” The members paint hope and a universal positive energy one track at a time, allowing for this credible concoction of an album that includes both dark underlying dashes along with waves of comfort.
The concept for the album was designed with a certain state of mind: one that feels like home and all the simple comforts in life. The boys’ aspiration throughout the album’s many processes, whether it be photoshoots or lyric-writing, was nurtured, as can be depicted in the casually personal design of the physical album.
The tracklist is woven flawlessly, perfectly painting these deep, relevant thoughts pertaining to the melancholy and nostalgia the members felt during these times of seemingly dim skies and withering flowers.
The album opens to the title track “Life Goes On,” which expands on the idea that in time, things will get better. The boys assure fans that even in times of disconsolation where it seems that our world before COVID-19 has spiraled to nothing but a hazy gray memory, nothing between BTS and ARMY has changed.
“Life Goes On” seems to gently brush away this year’s dreadfulness and helplessness one verse at a time with lyrics like “Close your eyes for a moment / Hold my hand / To the future, let’s run away.”
“Life Goes On” is followed by the characteristically stylized track “Fly to My Room,” a song expressing the feelings of being confined to the sickening same four walls of one’s room during quarantine. The track is perhaps best recognized by the piano, bass lines, and clear vocals.
The album quickly whirls to the next track, “Blue & Grey,” featuring breathtakingly sensitive lyrics and harmonies.
“Blue & Grey” was mainly written and produced by group member V and features moving metaphors for sadness and depression. The melody of the track is infused with intimate lyrics such as “I just wanna be happier / To melt the cold me / My hands have reached out countless times / Colorless echo / Oh, this ground feels so heavier.”
The rest of the album is followed up by equally impressive tracks including the vocal-interlude “Skit,” 80’s synthesized-led “Telepathy,” eccentric funk-party “Dis-ease,” spirit-high EDM track “Stay,” and of course the disco-pop-queen track herself, “Dynamite.”
Truly a work of lyrical expertise, the album showcases in flying colors the group’s affection, vulnerability, and emotional openness in their lives. It is an album that will calm anxious hearts with a balanced message of recognizing our own sad feelings and allowing ourselves to heal.
“Some days you’re in a good state; sometimes you’re not. Many pretend to be okay, saying that they’re not ‘weak,’ as if that would make you a weak person,” group member Suga stated in an interview with Esquire. “I don’t think that’s right. People won’t say you’re a weak person if your physical condition is not that good. It should be the same for the mental condition as well. Society should be more understanding.”
The BTS members truly are undying self-love and inclusivity advocates and norm-defying record-breakers. Their fight against toxic masculinity and constant nod to equality makes ARMYs ever the more thankful to the boys for giving them a place where they can express themselves as who they are and love themselves in the process.
The connection between BTS and their fans is one that is a global cultural movement in itself, a powerhouse bond that transcends all languages.
In Be along with countless other inspirational albums from the group, the boys try to bring home the idea that not being okay is okay and at the end of the day, in the comfort of home and pajamas and soft sunsets, everything will pass.
Just as “Life Goes On” states, “Time goes by on its own / Without a single apology,” so we should live our life now and exist with hope that one day, the sun will rise again and our pain will be but a dusted cold memory. One day this long winter will pass, and our breaths will be warm again and our hearts will fill to the brim with elation.
But until that day comes, BTS is there to assure us that sometimes it is alright to simply exist, to just breathe and be.