Happy BTS Anniversary!
A guide to my BTS-dedicated podcast episodes and writing!
Happy bandiversary to the incomparable BTS! To celebrate, I released a new episode explaining my reasons for the picks on my “Ten Most Definitive BTS Songs of All Time” list! Also, here’s a handy guide to my previous BTS content:
BTS Podcast Episodes
(Remember: these episodes can be streamed on all major podcast platforms, not just at the links below!)
STORYBOARDS reveals a song that almost went to BTS!
Tushar Apte tells the story behind the making of “HOME”!
How BTS both fits into the history of boy bands and stands out on their own
Breaking down the famous artwork referenced in BTS’s music videos
Breaking down the mythology references in BTS’s work
A video game-related theory connecting several BTS eras
A guide to the short stories that have inspired BTS releases
All about “Butter” and its press conference
All about BE
All about MAP OF THE SOUL : 7
About “Don’t” by RM and eAeon
The best lyrics from RM’s debut mixtape, a breakdown of HYBE’s restructuring and new building, and more
The best of Bang Bang Con 2021
The Best K-Pop Music Videos of 2021
Best New Music: September 2021
Best New Music: July 2021
Best New Music: May 2021
Best New Music: April 2021
Best K-Pop of 2019
A BTS clip show compiled during the early days of 17 Carat K-Pop!
The “BTStudy Guides” Series
#7: Haruki Murakami: In Kafka on the Shore, a 15-year-old runs away from home and meets a cast of quirky characters, including Colonel Sanders, a man who talks to cats, and a woman who at one point reverts back into her younger self. In 1Q84, an assassin's life is forever linked to a ghostwriter's life, as they both run and hide from a common enemy. These stories might sound starkly different, but they have more themes in common than one would expect: a distortion of the concept of time and fears surrounding the breakdown of social norms, just to name a few. After comparing and contrasting the plots of and characters in these two stories, I compare and contrast their themes with those present in BTS's music video universe. Part book review and part philosophy lesson, this conclusion of the "BTStudy Guides" series of episodes explains what the works of both BTS and Haruki Murakami are ultimately trying to say.
#6: Louder Than Bombs: Louder Than Bombs is a film about grief, love, lies, and selective memory. The questions this movie provokes are also the ones provoked by the song “Louder Than Bombs” by BTS, as well as some BTS music videos. By understanding the many parallels in the ways this film and BTS’s work tell stories of life and loss, it becomes clear how BTS takes the heavy emotions communicated by movies and applies them to their own lives in powerful ways.
#5: The Owl Service: This episode summarizes both The Owl Service by Alan Garner and the Welsh myth on which it is based. By making sense of both versions of this story, the meaning of the “I Need U” chapter in BTS’s story becomes clearer.
#4: Magic Shop: This episode explores the themes throughout both Into the Magic Shop by James R. Doty and his research on the mind-body connection. The song “Magic Shop” by BTS is used to further explain Dr. Doty’s thoughts on the power of kindness to heal and the importance of de-stigmatizing mental health.
#3: Black Swan: This episode summarizes the characters and plot in the movie Black Swan, examines the film’s psychological and social commentary, and draws connections to the messages in BTS’s music and videos.
#2: Omelas: This episode compares and contrasts the messages told through BTS’s “Spring Day” music video with “The One Who Walks Away from Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin.
#1: Demian: I break down the many ways BTS alludes to the characters, symbols, and themes in Demian by Herman Hesse throughout the “Wings” era music videos.
The “RM’s Recs” Series
Ep. 1: The Classics: All about The Catcher in the Rye, 1984, and The Stranger.
Ep. 2: Utopias: All about Walden, Walden Two, and other writing on the possibility of a utopian society.
Ep. 3: Almond: In this episode about the best book I have read in a long time, I summarize Almond, break down the main characters’ many layers, share the most powerful quotes, and open up about the power of seeing a fellow neurodivergent character represented in literature in such a refreshingly nuanced way.
Ep. 4: The Noonday Demon: After a brief introduction to The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, I spend time covering the biological, social, psychological, and other dimensions of depression as reported on by Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.
Ep. 5: Both BTS’s music and member RM’s book recommendations tell stories of courage, compassion, and community. This episode draws parallels between the ways in which those themes are addressed in BTS’s work (especially throughout the MAP OF THE SOUL Era) and in three books: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, Please Look After Mom by Shin Kyung-sook, and The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm.
My Past Writing About BTS
100 Honorable Mentions for the Best Songs of 2021 (Paywalled)
A Guide to the Best K-Pop Music Videos of 2021 (Paywalled)
“Best Of” Write-Ups
BTS often comment on the purpose of their work as musicians: they view it not as a mere possibility, but an obligation, to use their music to help others. Whether that is through offering messages of solace or just giving fans a reason to smile, BTS ensure each song of theirs is a step towards their goal of making life better for their listeners. “Permission to Dance” is a perfect continuation of this mission. During this period of both relief and renewed fears surrounding the state of the pandemic, BTS want fans to know they do not need to wait for a certain “right moment” to start feeling happy again. BTS permit fans to have a moment of joy right here, right now, regardless of what is going on in the world. There is something truly groundbreaking about reminding people to stop and find pockets of joy amidst the chaos, and BTS are continuously producing more of those pockets of joy in fans’ days through their songs and videos. “Permission to Dance,” like BTS singles before it, is not so much a happy pill as it is a permission slip people have not realized they psychologically need. The positive ripple effect of BTS’s music is on full display, as people from all walks of life can now recreate the music video scenes of people in similarly diverse circumstances taking a moment to dance away their worries.
This might be considered an unofficial BTS music video, since it is an advertisement of sorts for BTS’s “TinyTAN” characters. However, this Pixar short film of a video deserves a nod regardless of how “technically” it counts as an official music video release! “00:00 (Zero O’Clock)” reminds listeners that if things don’t go well one day, there is always a chance to start anew when the clock “resets.” The TinyTAN team take the nervous main character on a magical journey, helping her ride a flying whale to a piano performance, which she nails. After the girl’s confidence is boosted and her mood is immensely improved, TinyTAN feel like their work is done. The clock turns to “00:00,” and the members retreat back into their miniature world behind the purple doors. This video is a very sweet way to stress how BTS view their role in fans’ lives as the chance to provide them comfort and strength, and the video’s premise can easily be seen as that of a full-length movie someday.
On BTS and Coldplay’s “My Universe”:
“Legends supporting legends” is an overused phrase nowadays, but if there is any time that phrase can still hold meaning, it is when discussing this collaboration! Coldplay and BTS teaming up is a win-win-win situation. Both bands get to work with a band they have genuine respect and admiration for, and the fans get a reminder that music is the universal language. This message is both clear in the song itself (the lyrics address a relationship that seeks to overcome any sort of physical or metaphorical barriers) and in its music video, which is Guardians of the Galaxy meets Footloose meets something brand new. In a dystopia, the bands refuse to comply with an intergalactic “No Performing” rule, risking everything in the process. There are only so many times collaborators can make a music video remotely and keep it interesting; a video chat-themed music video quickly grows old. The creative “My Universe” video avoids that, because the members are meant to be seen not physically beside one another. They take the form of holograms projected onto the environment and controlled by a DJ/master puppeteer. BTS and Coldplay combine their artistic sensibilities, creativity, and immense belief in music as a universal language to create the magic that is “My Universe.”
Although BTS is rightfully known for their incredibly layered, detailed storytelling, their light and fun tracks can be just as enjoyable. This is certainly the case for “Butter,” which arrives at the perfect time to be an early “Song of the Summer” contender. BTS’s pivot from deeper storytelling to a simpler song speaks to the band’s versatility and artistry. Part of being a successful artist is staying aware of the public mood and knowing when the timing is just right for a release, and “Butter” is the danceable, synth-pop earworm the world needs right now.
On “Film out”:
“Film out” is a beautiful ballad with a continuously ascending structure. It has an interesting, unexpected composition, with a chorus that lingers in unexpected spots and vocals that stay at the forefront even when instrumentals seem to retreat. The structure of this song allows for it to feel like it is constantly gaining momentum, in an auditory equivalent of an optical illusion. Whether a hardcore BTS fan who chooses to fixate on the music video’s Easter eggs or a more casual listener, the unique composition of this song allows it to be an enjoyable release for fans of all kinds.