BTS’s Book: 10 Main Topics
The most interesting anecdotes from Beyond The Story: 10-Year Record of BTS
Here are just a few of the many aspects of BTS’s life and legacy that their official book covers:
#1: Early-Day Rap Feuds
The book focuses on two examples of times rappers dissed BTS during their early, hip-hop-focused days. B-Free’s diss is characterized as out of pocket, an unprovoked and harsh critique. Bobby’s diss, on the other hand, is described as being par for the course, a fair and expected provocation in the rap scene.
Although Bobby’s diss was taken on the chin, it also stressed BTS out and came at an inopportune time: right before the group’s make-or-break MAMA awards show performance:
“If [BTS rapper] RM didn’t respond to Bobby at the MAMA, which would be his first performance after the diss, any later responses would lack all impact. But RM had less than a day to compose new lyrics… Meanwhile, Big Hit Entertainment staff exchanged constant communications… considering all the issues that might arise from RM’s response… It was only right for RM to respond to rap with rap. He had been dissed three times so far, and responding with silence was out of the question…”
Long story short, RM did end up responding to Bobby and even expressed gratitude for all the publicity their back-and-forth had generated!
#2: Explosive Growth
The book is filled with examples of how BTS’s fame went from minor to stratospheric. Early on, a BTS-penned blog post could take literal days before receiving its first comment, and the number of fans who came to watch the group’s performances filled just one row of seats. A few years later, the crowd at BTS’s Inkigayo taping grew to the point where attendees started getting turned away for safety reasons!
By 2019, there were enough fans trying to hear BTS’s album the second it came out to crash the Melon website:
“In 2019, 10.28 million Koreans used music streaming services, with Melon boasting 4.1 million active monthly users. For an entire platform of this magnitude to go down because of the demand for just one album was like a pebble being thrown into the ocean displacing all of its water into space.”
BTS’s skyrocketing superstardom unfolded both online and off.
#3: Grappling with Unprecedented Fame
When asked for their feelings on their fame, BTS members routinely used phrases along the lines of “The higher you climb, the farther you fall.” SUGA said:
“[I]t wasn’t our intention to rise so high, and we can come tumbling down without intending to, too. It was during this time that I was most worried and bewildered.”
The author notes that as SUGA’s fame grew, the number of people he felt like he could truly trust shrunk, and that as BTS’s fan base grew, so did the number of haters. SUGA commented on the irony of BTS’s high perch:
“Usually, the ideal is so high, and in most cases, you suffer because reality can’t keep up with it. But we were the opposite. It was like… the ideal was beating up my reality?”
RM also described feeling lonely at the top:
“[W]e’re on a bridge made of glass… And we can see how far it falls… So it’s also scary. Because just one crack means we’re going to fall.”
#4: Interactions with Other Artists
BTS’s next-level status makes it hard to know who wants to work with them for the clout and who is a genuine supporter, which is why RM was so pleasantly surprised at the lengths Chris Martin of Coldplay went to in order to make “My Universe” happen:
“We run into several kinds of artists overseas. There’s the kind who’re like, ‘Oh, you guys are famous these days, good job…’ and seem to look down on us a little, and those who’re all business and go, ‘I really want to do a song with you!’ And there’s a third category… positioned between those two. But Chris Martin was none of these three. He was an exception.
“It was the pandemic but [Chris Martin of Coldplay] insisted on coming… He said, ‘So you guys can’t come? Then I’ll go to you.’... We were so surprised. You had to go through quarantine when you entered Korea back then, and that would’ve been a significant time commitment for him, but he really came.”
RM indicated that times people like Coldplay treat BTS as equals make their peak feel less isolating.
#5: The Fans
j-hope described the energy and affection fans show artists as a two-way street:
“It’s pretty interesting, each side giving each other strength… I’m more reluctant to get tired and have a hard time. I thought that, ‘even if just for these people, I can’t give up now.’”
V went so far as to say:
“Put simply, we were ‘a team that [is] only still alive thanks to ARMY [aka BTS fans].’ A group that was only alive because the fans [are] listening.”
Jin implied a sense of obligation to be real with fans, saying that he interprets “Fake Love” as his apology for previously wearing a metaphorical mask in front of them:
“I felt really guilty… I had the thought, ‘Maybe my smile right now is fake?’”
The author emphasizes how, contrary to surface-level interpretations, the song “Fake Love” is about a love so real that one fears unveiling their most authentic self to a loved one; it is about a love that one fears is too good to stay true.
#6: Seeing Diversity as a Strength
BTS members had very different upbringings but were able to unite over shared interests and goals. In part, their ability to form a united front was thanks to them not judging books by their covers. j-hope recalled:
“I don’t think we had prejudice about one another’s hometowns. So the conversations were easygoing and we could just laugh together and enjoy hometown stories… we had respect for one another’s origins.”
Jung Kook looked back on a monumental BTS concert held in Saudi Arabia:
“Every country has their own culture, but I had hoped during our performances at least, our audiences would allow themselves to express everything in their hearts in that moment.”
The author argues not just that BTS’s music unites people, but that their diverse fandom speaks to what fandom life is all about:
“Western media’s image of boy-band fandom is women in their teens and twenties who stay up all night to catch a glimpse of the groups they like and chat about their favorite members for hours. There is some truth to this… But as much time as BTS’s fans spend on raving over their favorite band, they also each have lives they are living out as individuals. Which is why, perhaps, the question to ask ARMY and any K-pop fan… isn’t ‘Why are you a fan?’ but ‘What life, beyond being a fan, are you living now?’ Only then can we get a step closer to the young Saudi Arabian women in their traditional clothes, gathered around a stadium to catch the faintest utterance of their favorite artists practicing inside, shouting their names in recognition.”
In other words, the author finds BTS’s appeal very understandable after changing the question from “Why do you like them?” to “What has their music done for you? How has it changed your attitude and how you live your life?”
#7: Using their Platform
BTS explained why they spread awareness about global issues through activities like their “Love Yourself” UNICEF campaign and UN speeches. Jung Kook explained the intention behind their UN speech that reframed pandemic-affected youths as a “Welcome Generation” instead of a “Lost Generation,” a generation ready to embrace a changing world:
“We didn’t try anything fancy. Our wish was just that people would become more interested in these issues through us. That they were issues with high barriers of entry, and maybe we could help make it easier to talk about them.”
SUGA echoed this sentiment:
“So if people can get even a little more interested in these issues through us, [doesn’t] our fame make it our responsibility to take that on?”
RM named the “Gangnam Station Murder” as a pivotal moment for him, when he felt a new sense of urgency to speak up against injustice. After that horrific act of gender-based violence, RM said:
“I think there was no choice but to speak out even more. Someone I know said, if you call a situation of equality ‘0,’ and the world’s injustice is at as much as ‘+10,’ then those experiencing injustice have no choice but to emphasize not ‘0’ but ‘-10’ in order to achieve equality. Those words really hit home for me.”
In different ways, BTS members indicated a sense of obligation to not let their megaphones go unused.
#8: A True Brotherhood
BTS did not form a tight bond overnight. In fact, their early days were filled with bickering and tension, in part due to the rap trio feeling beyond ready to debut and the rest of the group feeling like they needed much more time. V talked about their disparate experience levels:
“I often cried because I felt guilty… I was worried that, because of me, cracks would form in the heavy and stable wall called BTS. I didn’t want to fall behind these perfect people.”
Prior to joining Big Hit Entertainment, V had only been in dance classes for six months.
The members gave examples of spats and pranks pulled early on, but they also gave many examples of times when they looked out for one another. Jimin recalled going to a bar to check on Jung Kook, who was there drinking alone, and giving Jung Kook space to vent. Jung Kook said:
“I don’t remember much of what we talked about. But I was pretty moved that Jimin had come. Because he’d come to comfort me.”
“I learned for the first time just how much he was struggling, and I cried a lot.”
j-hope compared the members’ current bond to family:
“We’re basically family… When they suffer, I want to be next to them, and when they rejoice, I want to laugh with them, and when they have worries, I want to listen to them…”
#9: Getting Out of a Dark Headspace
In 2018, Jimin vlogged about feeling distraught and exhausted. He explained where his mindset was back then as a hopeless one:
“I grew dark for no reason… there was a three-meter-square room, and I once went in there alone and didn’t come back out… I just suddenly became depressed… I was locking myself away in that room.”
Fortunately, Jimin said his bandmates helped coax him back out of the literal and figurative darkness.
#10: Looking Ahead
When debating contract renewals, Jin expressed an “all of us or none of us” mentality:
“[I]f anyone left, I would step away from the entertainment business and do something else for a living.”
But making the final decision was anything but easy, j-hope remembered:
“It was hell… this was really the first time there’d been such a serious atmosphere that we weren’t sure if we could keep going… we couldn’t concentrate… I really believed that time to be a crisis… We were in a stupor.”
Ultimately, all seven members renewed their contracts for seven more years. SUGA expressed a desire to pursue another interest of his down the line, but he also shared his desire for BTS’s career to stay ongoing:
“I have two dreams, and one is to be an old, white-haired man still standing on stage and playing his guitar and singing, and the other is to become a licensed psychological therapist.”
SUGA explained his view that a greater understanding of the human mind can lead to making better music. Given the innumerable impacts BTS’s music has had on the healing and growth of the ARMY, the desire to enhance that impact is no surprise!
For more book takeaways, check out the corresponding episodes of 17 Carat K-Pop!
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