Reviewed by Nikita Kaushik, BA B, Batch of 2024, Kirit P. Mehta School of Law
You can’t help but root for BTS and their sincerity and compassion towards the world. The global domination of BTS has shown remarkable consistency; even in the year ofchaos, BTS is a spark of pure joy amidst the mess. BE, their new album, devotes an entire three-minute skit to celebrate the rise of their first all-English single, Dynamite, to the top of the Billboard charts. By the time the album was released, its first single had already reached the top of the US charts, making BTS the first Korean group to do so.
Such level of fame did not come without pitfalls. As a band that prizes authenticity, BTS didn’t shy away from addressing the tolls of mega-stardom and personal growth. They’ve used their platform to address philosophical ideas such as the Jungian concept of the soul, (Map of Soul: Persona) a Herman Hesse bildungsroman (Wings). In ‘BE’, BTS fixates on life in quarantine. In a year where the tasks of just getting through the day have taken on a new intensity, BTS take the opportunity to comfort their listeners.
“The entire year was stolen,” Jimin says melancholically in ‘Fly to My Room’ before the group writes about lying in bed with bloated stomachs, takeout containers, and the constant blare of TV. Frustration, melancholy, and grief are evident in these songs but it’s their accuracy and simplicity that make them enthralling. Suga wonders in ‘Blue & Gray’ if “the hazy shadow that swallows me up” alludes to depression and anxiety. “I just want to be happier,” they cry as their voices reduce to desperate rasps over fragile strings.
The album’s title track, ‘Life Goes On’, is a prayer to push past 2020. BTS focuses on trivialities from the blur of days in quarantine: “On my pillow, on my table,” they sing, yeah, life goes on”. In the past, BTS did use their songs to convey feel-good messages; here, they build hope in real-time.
I kept this song on repeat while churning through my daily routine of powering through deadlines, checking emails, and grooming my dogs.
I wasn’t surprised to, yet again, find comfort in their music during these difficult times, although I got teary-eyed on the third or fourth play.
That intricate balance of confessions and solace dissipates later in the album. RM, the group’s leader, shared his concerns about ‘Life Goes On’ sounding “bland” and other parts of the song compensating for it. The next track, ‘Dis-ease’, shuffles over an easy-going hip-hop beat; breezy and infectious, but lacks the aggression seen in harder-edged juggernauts of past songs like ‘UGH!’ and ‘Cypher Pt. 3’. This was followed by a 80s’ groovy vibe of ‘Telepathy’. Jin, a BTS member, mentioned that ‘Telepathy’ is a song about “ARMY” (fandom name) during a global press conference. The original Korean title for this song is “점시” which means ‘for a moment’. BTS shares the same desire as ARMY and imagines, just for a moment, that they are with us again.
With siren-like blare and twitchy drumsticks, the neon-drenched ‘Stay’ meanders into middling EDM. This track is all about making a connection with someone that goes deeper than seeing them every single day. It concludes with a reverb that glides into the throbby beats of ‘Dynamite,’ a song that achieves smooth proficiency on its own; a jumble of funk, handclaps and incredibly palatable one-liners. It goes without saying that ‘Dynamite’ serves as a remembrance of BTS’ world domination, but the group sees it as a gift for us. “We call this our own recharge project, and we hope that it will be able to recharge your own batteries, even if only for a moment. That’s arguably the best part of BTS— the impression that they genuinely want to root for you as well,” RM said.
That’s arguably the best part of BTS, you get the sense that they earnestly want to root for you, too.