Monday Dec 26, 2022

BTS and Beyond

On Christmas Day, 2022, when I was in the city with some family of the elder of my two brothers, he kept shaking his head, saying, “I am surprised that you are so into BTS” and I’m not sure why. I mean, why he wonders and also, why I am. And I AM, in a big way. It was a slow-mo connect, because at first, I didn’t tune in closely when I saw the seven young South Korean guys neatly seated in two rows on a couple of late-night talk shows, introducing themselves in clipped English. I didn’t get who they were or what the big deal was about them.

Then I saw their live performance of their hit song “Butter,” on one of those shows and seeing them dance, I went ohhh, wow. Their choreography impressed me, their timing, teamwork, skill, ease, and I got it. Then I saw the Butter dance practice. And I kept finding more music videos and became familiar with the reference of “K-pop” and their main hits. I learned their names and nicknames, RM (the leader), Jin (the eldest), Jungkook (the youngest), J-Hope, V, Jimin, and Suga.

Some of them are rappers, some knew each other at school. V starred in a Korean drama. I started watching live performances and award shows. Then I found dance practice videos, sometimes with back up dancers, fun covers, and lyric videos that light up the photo of who’s singing to recognize their voices and read the lyrics in English and Korean. I also found video reviews about their history as a group and how they individually landed at BigHit Music (Music and Artist for Healing, established in 2005) the company that launched them as BTS in 2013. In March 2021, the company rebranded as Hybe Corporation.
Finally, after watching them dance for a while video by video, including theatrical “Black Swan” and “Permission to Dance” on location at the United Nations General Assembly after they spoke there, I’ve collected some of their CDs to easily dance along in my gorgeous apartment, while cooking, cleaning up, or in my car while I'm driving, crank the tunes, celebrating my energy and positivity alongside their expression, enamored by the group’s strength, focus, determination, dedication, the way they make complex choreography look easy and fun, their uplifting, heart-touching and spirit sparking lyrical messages engaging themselves in and with each other while infusing love and hope in and through me and millions of fans worldwide growing in number and enthusiasm for nine years since their debut in early days of humble hardworking beginnings, with that appreciation of their roots still permeating their team spirit with gratitude.

They have their own reaction videos! Some of them do “live” broadcasts together or solo speaking to their fans, and have interviews, appearances on other shows, and their own series of activities as a group. Through these epic moments, the special seven, their voices, tenderness, ferocity, “fighting” (which means staying strong and continuing on!), candor, humor, and immense presence, underscore my days and awareness. 

I keep adding to a list of my fave links to return to and watch again, live talks with some and all of them, compilations, and behind the scenes. There are many reaction channels reviewing new releases for the first time, for example, when the four main vocalists of BTS recently collaborated with two other musicians in Bad Decisions.
While I’ve been gradually following BTS and learning more about them since May 2021, one thing I kept wondering was what it’s like for them, being so much on camera, and working so hard rehearsing, performing, perfecting their music, singing, and learning choreography, plus all the hair and makeup sessions pre-performance, and clothing choices for everything. What kind of a life is that for them? It made me more aware of being witnessed all the time, imagining what that would be like. I reflected on how we ARE witnessed all the time by spirit, apart from cameras physically recording us, them more intensely. And I wondered what else they would want to be doing. Their individual roots were woven together into this BTS tree, a dancing machine, and while recognizing the power in that team, I was musing on how they would like to have the time, space, and energy to grow individually.

So I was not surprised in June 2022 while watching their annual BTS Festa celebration, for their 9th year since their debut, that with varying emotion they announced they would be making some changes and taking a break from being a group to explore solo projects and other collaborations. (The Festa video is long, so starting at 21:00 for ten minutes gives some info, and you can set up English subtitles. I also love listening to them speaking in Korean without English subtitles.) They had just released PROOF, a compilation of their highlights from the nine years, including the new track, Run BTS followed by performance and practice videos. 

Over the years as the BTS members navigated setbacks and push-backs, they continued to grow and collaborate with solo and group artists, striving for strong expression and performance, individually and as a group. Following their announcement to make a change, they reassured ARMY that “The Best is Yet to Come” and they were ready to free up their creativity in solo projects and other collaborations. That made sense to me, and I felt relieved for them. I believe they were living in the same big house for years and had recently begun to set up separate residences and learning more about their individual styles and preferences. 

When they started, some of them were still in their teens growing together into their twenties. Now as they grow individually, they continue to support one another and cheer each other on.

J-Hope was the first solo Korean act to be booked at a US show, Lollapalooza, where he coordinated with another group of dancers and commanded an outstanding show in the summer of 2022. He also released his first solo CD, Jack in the Box. And he collaborated with rapper Crush for a music video, “Rush Hour.”
Jungkook collaborated with Charlie Puth in “Left and Right” after their live performance collaboration a few years earlier with “We Don’t Talk Anymore.”
Suga is a talented musician and producer and with “That That" collaborated with PSY.
Jimin, V, Jin, and Jungkook collaborated with Benny Blanco and Snoop Dogg in “Bad Decisions.”
Jin wanted to create a meaningful love song (the official BigHit music video for “Astronaut”) to ARMY fans before going into mandatory Korean military service and he collaborated on “Astronaut” with Coldplay for a live performance in Brazil.

And RM, who was feeling the pressure of being the leader for interviews and speaking (and often writing lyrics) for the group, has recently released his first solo CD, Indigo, based on about four years of writing in and about his twenties, releasing it in the final year of that decade, with collaborations on almost all of the ten tracks, in numerous musical styles, with lyrics like pages of his diary. After BTS was packing larger and larger crowds in American, Asian, and Korean venues, RM chose to perform the new CD in a small club with 200 ARMY, featuring some of the collaborators from the tracks. Incredible. For one of the tracks, the movie video for "Still Life" has awesome visuals, vocal collaboration with Anderson .Paak, and an intriguing backstory (starting at 13:13) about the title.

Jimin, an exceptional dancer, has a solo project, FACE, that has come into view in 2023, including "Set Me Free Pt. 2" (dance practice video link) and the bonus track at 6:13 of the final one "The Letter." In 2019, Jimin wrote a song to motivate himself and inspire all: “Promise. In mid-January 2023, Jimin and Taeyang released their collaboration with "Vibe" and on January 19 they shared a studio version featuring the musicians.
I’m sure more is in the works. Well, yes, in July 2023, Jungkook teamed up with four dancers for BBC The One Show with an outdoor performance of "Seven." Also got together with the musicians for the BBC 1 Live Lounge version.
I also love the background (or loud!) piano-artistry rendering their abundance of music.
Big Hit (Hybe) continues to support and produce their individual work. The entire team’s dedication to high quality, integrity, meaningful expression in everything they share, including the seven’s honesty about their challenges while demonstrating willingness to explore their talents, inspires me to keep aiming high while stewarding my life and activities. I am so grateful to be aware of them. And because they are beyond my reach of correspondence, many people in my life benefit from my increased exuberant outreach, like the construction crew who work on the building where I live and others I meet on the path, celebrating each one beyond the roles we are in, creating personalized photocards (since the 1990s) and sharing The Heart Cards (since 2000).  

For reference, I do have appreciation for a wide range of music, joyously attending innumerable dances in country community halls and festivals on my way west and landing in British Columbia in the late 1970s, living and grooving through into 2004 when I began Living on Purpose as a “live” radio talk show on CHLY, featuring a plethora of musicians and recording conversation with many at music festivals behind the scenes.

This Holy Days season while gathered with my brother and some of his family, their playlist of ambient music (some with singers) was in the background. While I was hearing and enjoying all of it for the first time, they were more familiar with it. Occasionally I would drop BTS into the conversation for fun to prompt another incredulous response from my brother. Before I drove into the city that day, I had already started this review tracing my love for BTS, and I woke up the next morning with more ideas of how to keep filling it in. So here we are. Thank you for listening.

Hey, V, thanks for sharing your intoxicating voice with seasonal tidings. And for hot-of-the-press releases in August 2023, with "Rainy Days" and "Love Me Again."

This detailed account reads like an epic annual Christmas letter. Dear you ...

Comments (0)

To leave or reply to comments, please download free Podbean or

No Comments

Copyright 2023 All rights reserved.

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Version: 20230822