Much of Korean pop music (K-pop) makes more sense as a performance than a music genre. It seems necessary to watch the music video and live performances to grasp the whole experience in its entirety.
The satisfying synchronization of the members, amazing choreography, well thought-out backdrops, cool outfits and collective stage presence are crucial elements that add to a song’s success.
To me, K-pop is not just a term used for Korean singers who create pop music; it’s a way of interpreting and producing music. That’s what makes it so unique.
While I love to watch Blackpink music videos all day, I never really had a keen interest in one of today’s biggest K-pop sensations: BTS.
And while I’ve seen many of my friends turn into ARMY fan members (I have enjoyed listening to a few of their collaborations with, for example, Desiigner and Halsey), I could not understand why BTS had recently become an international sensation. What was it about them that captured audiences worldwide?
Korean boy bands have been producing similar music since 1992, when the first boy group, literally named Seo Taiji and Boys, rose to fame.
I decided to check out the band for myself. I started with listening to their most recent album, Map of the Soul: 7, which was released on Friday, Feb. 21.
The project included songs from their previous album Persona, as well as new songs never released before. With a total of 20 songs on the album, you could definitely tell the amount of work that went into it.
In an interview with Billboard, BTS described their new project as a love song to their career.
“When we love something or somebody, it’s like admitting, recognizing all the history that someone or something’s got. It could be shades and shadows, maybe some dark sides. So yeah, it’s basically a love song for our career,” RM, one of the group’s rappers and representative spokesperson, said.
I first listened to the lead single, “On,” which had already hit 75 million views on Youtube when I last checked. While the band collaborated with famous singer and songwriter Sia, they offered two versions of the song in the album, one with her and one without her.
I don’t know how I feel about the song itself, but the music video was something else. The start of the video presented a big cement field, on which dancers wearing all black stood in rows.
They broke out into powerful, synchronized movements that followed the beat of the drums. The members entered one at a time, and my emerging inner fangirl squealed when one of the members, V, looked me straight in the eye while singing and dancing very intensely.
The members danced to a choreography that surely demanded the use of every single muscle of the human body. It was simply amazing.
I found myself moving along to the lively beat, completely immersed in what felt like a flash mob on steroids.
I also really liked that all of the dancers and members wore black and white (also most likely in coordination with Sia’s iconic black and white wig), producing a sense of unity rather than making the members significantly stand out.
I also listened to a song with calmer vibes, “We are Bulletproof: The Eternal,” which might be my favorite song in the album.
The lyrics portray a deeper appreciation of the seven artists’ bond, as both fellow bandmates and friends as well as a reflection of how far the boy band itself has come in the seven years since they first debuted. The song also seems like a letter to their fans, thanking them for having supported them throughout the years.
I could feel the sincerity in their voices when they sang, “We are, we are together, bulletproof.” The music video also did a good job of complementing the message of the song.
Not much to the world’s surprise anymore, BTS has a very impressive track record, and their peak seems rise each subsequent year.
A few of their biggest accomplishments include becoming the first group in Billboard history to spend five weeks at number on the Billboard Artist 100 chart and becoming the first K-pop band to provide a formal address at the United Nations session in 2018.
They also set two Guinness World Records, one for having the most Twitter engagements and another for scoring the most-viewed online video in 24 hours by a K-pop group.
I don’t think I’ll ever become an ARMY myself, but as a Korean, I can’t help but be proud of BTS for representing Korea to the world.