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Hannah’s K-Pop Corner: BTS Edition

Hi friends! I am back with more K-Pop!  Today I wanted to focus on a specific group: BTS.  BTS stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan, Bulletproof Boyscouts, Bangtan Boys, Boden Shonendan, and Beyond the Scene.  Bangtan Sonyeondan is their official Korean name, but everyone just calls them BTS. The name of their fandom is A.R.M.Y, which stands for Adorable Representative MCs for Youth.The seven members of BTS include RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V, Jungkook.  RM, SUGA, and j-hope are rappers and the others are vocalists. BTS debuted on June 13, 2013, with their first single, “No More Dream,” and they originally debuted with the concept of a hip-hop group, but they have slowly moved away from this idea. They won their first music show in 2015 with their single “I Need U.”  However, only in 2016 did BTS’ popularity takeoff with the release of “Blood Sweat and Tears.” The group is well known for the incredible stories they tell throughout their music videos. They also make videos specifically with the purpose of furthering a previous storyline and frequently write songs about self love, mental illness, happiness, consumerism, the Korean school system, and much more.

Recently, BTS spoke at the UN as ambassadors for Unicef.  Throughout the past year, BTS has been working with Unicef on the “Love Myself” campaign.  This foundation aims to end violence against children and teens so that everyone can follow their dreams.  A portion of the revenue from BTS’ past three albums, the Love Yourself series, BT21 merchandise, and the Love Yourself Tour went to the campaign.  Their speech at the UN was in honor of the launch of “Generation Unlimited,” a new program dedicated to increasing youth education and empowerment. RM, the leader and only fluent English-speaker, spoke for seven minutes.  In his speech, he talked about his own struggles and how music helped him to discover his place in the world. He expressed the importance of being your authentic self and the mistakes that are a welcomed part of that process.  But, most importantly, he emphasized the significance of loving oneself. “Love Yourself,” and “Love Myself” are two songs that are pieces of BTS’ larger message of learning to love yourself, which can be found in all of their work.  My two favorite quotes from his speech are: “Yesterday’s me is still me…today I am who I am with all my faults and mistakes” and “no matter who you are, where you’re from, your skin color, your gender identity, just speak yourself.” Once again, RM emphasized learning to not only love yourself, but to go one step further and show the world who you are: to speak yourself.

BTS has always focused on helping young people.   RM wrote his debut song, “No More Dream,” when he was a teenager in high school, unsure of what he wanted in life. A favorite lyric of mine is, “What is you that you dreamed of/ Who do you see in your mirror?”  From the beginning, BTS has used their lyrics to connect with their audience over the struggles of adolescence. Another one of their early songs “N.O.,” is about the intensity of the South Korean school system and how students are forced into fulfilling others’ dreams and expectations for them, rather than focusing on their own.  One lyric that stands out to me is, “Who is the one who made us into study machines?” BTS’ lyrics speak to the intense pressure to do well in school or depression that all young people experience. That’s why they are so famous and impactful. Not because they’re hot or because they’re great dancers, but because they have ideas and messages to put out into the world that everyone understands, whether they speak Korean or not.  

Another recurring theme in BTS’ music is mental health.  All of the members have been open when it comes to their own mental health.  SUGA has struggled with anxiety and depression, j-hope and RM with depression, and Jimin had an eating disorder.  Their song “Save Me” has this lyric, which I love, “I want to breathe, I hate this night/ I want to wake up, I hate this dream/ I’m trapped inside of myself and I’m dead.”  And, in the chorus of, “Tomorrow” (one of my all time favorite BTS songs) they sing, “Because the dawn right before the sun rises is the darkest.”  Every time I feel sad, stressed, or like I just can’t deal, I remember that lyric and I feel like, “OK, I can do this, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

My favorite song talking about mental health is actually not written by BTS.  It’s a song off of SUGA’s mixtape. “The Last” is the rawest, most emotional rap I have ever heard.  At one point in the song he says, “At times I’m scared of myself too/ Thanks to the depression that takes over me/ And all my self hatred/ Min Yoongi is dead already (I killed him)/ Comparing my dead passion with others/ It’s now a part of my daily life” and then later “The doctor asks me if I’ve (censored)/ I answered without any hesitation that I have.”  The censored piece is a flat line in the song implying that the doctor asked if he had attempted suicide. These songs what make BTS so popular. People feel like they have a connection to them, like they are no longer alone in the world. Another one of BTS’ songs is called, “You Never Walk Alone.” When you are depressed, it is easy to feel completely alone and like no one is on your side, but BTS is here to tell you that they will always be with you and that you will never be alone again.  I can’t even tell you the amount of times I will be looking through the comments on a lyric video for BTS on youtube, and the comments will be filled with people saying that BTS’ songs saved their life.

All of that being said, BTS has their fair share of silly songs as well, such as “Boyz with Fun” or “Converse High” where j-hope raps, “Alright, red orange yellow green blue violet indigo/ The rainbow on your feet is shot like Rambo/ It aims at me, bang bang, shout out wow wow,” or “Where Did You Come From” where SUGA raps, “Your look is fresh like a salad, so smooth,” like, I don’t even know where that came from.  

One final thing: BTS writes and produces the majority of their own songs.  This is something that really stood out to me when I first learned about them because it proved to me that they actually care about the messages in their songs.  Some K-Pop members become involved in the creation of their group’s music later on in their career, or only one person in the group speaks their truth. But BTS is different. Since before they debuted, all seven of them work together to create music that is reflective of who they are (even if it’s mostly rapping).

Ok, I know that was a lot of information about BTS, but we didn’t even get into their personalities!  I really hope you all go check out BTS now, and here’s a bonus mini playlist of some of my fav songs. Also, you should watch some of their videos, they dance like gods… that’s actually how I first got into them!  I saw their music video for “Dope” and I was like, “holy guacamole look at that footwork,” and then I checked more of their music and learned all of the other cool stuff that I’ve told you today.

None of these songs are title songs because I want to introduce you all to their lesser known songs . Enjoy!

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