InWhile South Korean pop mega-stars BTS announced that they would focus on a solo career, they did so with very careful words. “It’s not that we untie ourselves! We just live apart for a while, ”Suga explained in the half-emotional hour-long interview posted on YouTube on Tuesday. “Hope you can see it’s a healthy plan,” added J-Hope seriously. “It’s something we all need.”
No wonder BTS – also known as Bangtan Sonyeondan or Bulletproof Boy Scouts in Korean – were nervous to reveal the next steps. Since their announcement, it has been reported that the group’s agency shares have lost up to $ 1.7 billion (£ 1.4 billion) in market value. Moreover, they have to contend with the emotions of their deeply passionate global fans, BTS Army, as well as the weight of the nation’s expectations on their shoulders.
In the past two years, the idea of BTS has almost gotten larger than just seven members. Breaking so many records that yesterday Guinness World Records on Twitter, “BTS we’re miss you,” the group is the first Grammy-nominated K-pop group, the first to find a predominantly Korean-language single at number one in the US, and grossed $ 33.3 million from just four Los Angeles shows in last year. Their success in the west is just the tip of the iceberg: BTS also won all four main categories at the Mnet Asian Music Awards for three consecutive years.
In addition to the sparkling trophy hall (which is now open to the public at the Hybe Insight museum in Seoul), BTS have become South Korea’s figureheads on the world stage. They spoke at the UN assembly in 2021 after traveling there with diplomatic passports, and earlier this month visited the White House to discuss Asia’s inclusion and representation with President Biden, as well as the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. According to a 2018 report, seven men are worth over $ 3.4 billion to the South Korean economy.
But since their debut in 2013, BTS has done better. Despite the humble beginnings of their labels and the K-pop industry, then dominated by the music agencies of the “Big Three”, BTS stands out from their peers with wild performances, warm but rebellious spirit and deeply tangible love for music supported by the underground hip-hop references of several with their members. They won their first Grand Prize in 2015 for their bitterly romantic pop song I Need U, and began a steady climb towards industry dominance with introspective, philosophical lyrics and a talent for twisting their hip-hop origins into many of the world’s pop genres. On June 10, the group released an album of the Proof anthology, a three-CD epic that includes their blockbuster hits as well as a raw, engagingly youthful early demo.
Drive defined BTS and it is clear that this change of circumstances is a real decision. Watching RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook put it all down with sincere and sometimes tearful honesty at the table in their once shared apartment is understanding how hard they bear the burden of expectation. Even more striking is their willingness to subject this decision to inevitable public scrutiny.
RM, the leader of the group, bluntly judged an industry that does not easily allow this reflection: “I started music and became BTS because I had a message for the world. But at one point, I wasn’t sure what kind of group we were [any more] and for me it was a big deal that I didn’t know about. “
Clearly frustrated, he continued: “I always thought BTS was different from other groups, but the problem with K-pop is that they don’t give time to mature. You have to keep producing music to do something. After I get up in the morning and do my makeup, there is no more time to grow. At the moment we have lost our direction and I just want to take the time to think.
Fans also learned that this change has been coming for a long time. Jungkook revealed that their album Map of the Soul: 7, released in 2020, was to mark the end of the group’s “first chapter”. This album, with an often brutal appraisal of the group’s relationship to music and fame, along with seven solo songs that analyzed each member’s personal journey, should end with a long world tour and, as suggested, open the door to an artist focus. as a single individual. “That time should have come to us earlier, but I think we held back. We have to do it now, he said emphatically.
It is understandable, however, that they “abstained”. In the silence of this canceled tour, due to Covid-19, BTS decided to release a standalone single to lift the spirits of their fans – as well as their own. Dynamite, a sweet disco-pop song and their first fully English-language single, earned them their first number 1 in the United States and their first Grammy nomination. Fair enough that BTS and their agency felt the need to take advantage of this sudden rise to the upper tiers of pop, even though RM now describes it as the moment he started losing his orientation towards the group.
To reassure, Suga assures: “But when we look back over the past nine years, almost nothing has gone as planned. We should live doing what we want – we will all die eventually! ” But the rapper also admitted to his recent struggles while writing the lyrics, wondering, “Then [in the group’s earlier years] I had something to say but I just lacked the skill, now I don’t know what to say. “
At the table, each of the seven members begins to describe – first hesitantly and then with certainty – that they are all working on individual albums. J-Hope, a rapper and dancer with an amazing stage presence, will release his album in July, ahead of his first solo on Lollapalooza – another record breaking as he is the first Asian artist to headline this multi-year Chicago festival. Jin, the group’s oldest member and once-aspiring actor, beams as he describes his newly discovered free time playing games and promises to be working on new songs, but will likely be the last to release them. “Hope all goes well,” he teases as RM interjects, “You’ll be the grand finale!”
V, a singer with a dark baritone and a love of dusty jazz bars, speaks honestly when he describes his hopes for “a chance to show my music to the world, and not just music – I wanted to show what’s inside me for a long time” . Jungkook, the talented R&B singer and the youngest of the seven, likewise seriously promises: “I’ll do my best to become a better version of us, I firmly believe in that.”
Suga, an already in-demand producer, jokes that his stakes are prohibitively high since his top collaboration with K-pop royalty Psy, but he is quick to offer to help other members – specifically Jimin, a ballet dancer and a distinguished emotional vocalist who is clearly moved by the course. “We can’t say everything directly,” he says to the camera, “and that’s very sad and difficult at times. If you were to take our words as they are … it would be wonderful. ” The other members’ chorus “don’t cry!” when he gently wipes a tear.
RM, who spoke last, sums it up: “All seven of us have gone to a common goal with everything we have. I want BTS to last for a long time but [for that to happen] I think I have to keep who I am. I know for sure that we are BTS and we made it possible thanks to you. I always want to be RM BTS. ” All this, pointing to the weeping members, “is ahead of us for the future.”
As they toast, BTS Army around the world is moving to social media to reassure the group: BTS have run far enough and, as their latest single puts it, the best is yet to come.