The Bangtan Boys, commonly called BTS, debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment. Since then, the boy band has been conquering the world with their ARMY (BTS fandom) right behind them. The members are (from oldest to youngest): Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook. Whether you hate them or love them, their names are on every mouth, every k-pop website, even written down in the comments section when they are NOT the topic. I’ve seen it many times on several websites, and come on, you know it’s true 😉.
Anyway…I was listening to Adult Child (어른아이) the other day, and RM caught my attention when he said: “Wow…Look at my lyrics, I’ve matured” (English translation of: “이야…내 가사 봐봐 철들었어”). This is basically how the idea for this post came out. I said to myself, “why not look at their lyrics and see what has changed (or hasn’t)?” So let’s go!
아무것도 없던 열다섯의 나 [When I was 15, I had nothing]
세상은 참 컸어 너무 작은 나 [The world was so big, and I was too small]
Begin – Jungkook (verse 1)
24 누구보다 더 빨리 어른이 된 것만 같아
[24, feels like I became a grown man faster than everyone else]
My Time (시차 ) – Jungkook (verse 1)
Jungkook joined the group in 2011 and was only 15 when they debuted two years later. Being that close to your dream is a lot of pressure for everyone, especially when you’re a teenager because you’re not only carrying your own fears and hopes on your shoulders, but also those of your loved ones and agency. I guess this responsibility made him grow up too fast, and when we know about all the training and sleepless nights he went through, we can wonder where his childhood went.
It reminds me of a speech by Michael Jackson in 1993 when he received the Grammy Legend: “I wasn’t aware that the world thought I was so weird and bizarre, but when you grow up, as I did, in front of 100 million people since the age of 5, you’re automatically different.” Being an idol isn’t just about fame, it’s mostly about sacrifice. They’ve never said (to my knowledge) that they regretted their choice, but in many songs, it feels like sometimes the price is really high. Fortunately, they can count on each other.
7. Hard Work
밤새 일했지 every day [I worked all night every day]
니가 클럽에서 놀 때 yeah [while you were playing in the club, yeah]
DOPE (쩔어 ) – Jimin (verse 1)
아직 매일 같이 한시바삐 하지 날 위한 일
늘 나를 채찍해 당근은 트로피에
Chicken Noodle Soup – J-Hope (verse 1)
Still busy every day, working for me
Always whipping myself, the carrots are on the trophies
Jimin joined the group formation in 2012 when he was 16. With a little less than a year spent as a trainee, he had the shortest trainee period. However, it doesn’t mean he didn’t work on his music or felt superior to the other members. On the contrary, he said last May during an interview with Rolling Stone: “When I debuted, I had the shortest period of training. And I feel that I wasn’t fully ready and confident when we debuted.” Jimin is appreciated for his incredible vocals that can reach high notes and his dancing skills. He has sacrificed his nights and leisure time to become the idol we see today, and he keeps working to improve himself.
As for J-Hope, he is considered the best BTS dancer alongside Jimin. Before fame, he was a street dancer and member of the hip-hop crew Neuron. I think we can all agree that he has a lot of technique and body control. You need to work, work, work, and work even more to reach that level of dancing. But if his dance moves don’t blow you away, you should know that, unlike RM and Suga, J-Hope wasn’t a rapper before joining the band. He had to take rap lessons to be able to equal his peers. So yes, J-Hope is the definition of hard work.
얼마 못벌어요 [We don’t make any money]
Skit: Expectation – Suga
Got money, woo
좋은 집, woo [Nice house, woo]
누군가의 dream life, woo [Someone’s dream life, woo]
땡 (Ddaeng) – J-Hope (verse 1)
Ok, Skit: Expectation is not a song, but can I get a pass? Their skits are so funny! I had to put at least one on this list, and this one with Jungkook and the file for tax deductions is priceless.
Some people argue about whether the members of BTS were poor or middle class before they became famous. Poor or not, one thing’s for sure, they weren’t “crazy rich Asians”. At the very beginning, the seven members didn’t earn much. Some detractors accused them of buying their own album to increase sales, but then again, they didn’t have enough money to do that. But that was before. In 2020, Forbes estimated their earnings as a group at $50 million, the 47th highest celebrity net worth of 2020. So now they can buy their own albums, but what for? Their albums are selling like hotcakes! 🥞🥞🥞
With around $25 million, J-Hope is (unofficially) the richest BTS member. His mixtape Hope World released in 2018 peaks at No. 38 on the Billboard 200, making him the highest-ranked Korean solo artist at the time of its release and the second solo artist to reach the Artist 100 (the first being Psy). The “Nice house” he mentioned in Ddaeng refers to his luxury apartment located in the Seoul Forest Trimage and purchased in 2016, a year after Suga said the group didn’t make any money. What outstanding growth!
All the underdogs in the world
A day may come when we lose
But it is not today
Today we fight!
Not Today – RM (intro)
또 겨울이 와도 누가 날 막아도 걸어가
We are, we are forever, bulletproof
We Are Bulletproof: The Eternal – Jin, Jungkook & V (chorus)
Even if winter comes again
No matter who blocks me, I will still work
We are, we are forever bulletproof
I didn’t know people could criticize an idol just because he came from a small agency, but apparently, it’s a thing.
BTS’s company (Big Hit Entertainment) isn’t a part of the K-pop Big 3, namely SM (EXO, Red Velvet), JYP (TWICE, GOT7), and YG (Blackpink, iKON), and haters often denigrate them for that reason. That’s why RM identifies himself as an “underdog”. However, the band keeps fighting no matter what and shattering music records. The latest? Permission to dance which dethroned Butter to become their fifth No.1 single. They want us to realize that anything is possible. We have the strength within us. And when we face adversities and feel overwhelmed, there will always be a “magic shop” in the corner.
Originally, BTS was supposed to be a hip-hop group, but the direction changed and RM is the only one left from the initial lineup. Imagine the number of trainees he saw being eliminated and the fear he felt for himself that he would suffer the same fate. Despite all this, he fought like a lion, and now he is the leader of BTS.
J-Hope failed an audition at JYP before going to Big Hit. What would have happened if he had given up because of this failure? And when he wanted to leave the group because he felt his presence was unnecessary, RM convinced him to stay, trying really hard (cf. Metro.co.uk article).
여전히 대구 촌놈 랩퍼와 다를게 없었지 but
아마추어란 단어 위에 프로란 단어를 덧 썼지
Born Singer – Suga (verse 1)
Still I’m nothing different from the rural Daegu rapper but
I wrote the word “pro” on top of “amateur”
야 야 셀럽놀이는 너네가 더 잘해
우린 여전히 그때와 똑같어, woo
Airplane pt.2 – Suga (verse 4)
Hey, hey, you’re better at playin’ celebrities
We’re still the same as back then, woo
Some people think that Suga is cold, but he’s just an introvert. Obviously, he didn’t get a big head. The same goes for the rest of the band. They seem so chill, so humble, and it doesn’t sound forced. See yourself, a video is better than words.
3. Being Understanding
얌마 니 꿈은 뭐니? (뭐니)
얌마 니 꿈은 뭐니? (뭐니)
얌마 니 꿈은 뭐니? (뭐니)
니 꿈은 겨우 (겨우 )그 (그) 거니 (거니)
No More Dream – RM & all (refrain)
Hey, what’s your dream? (What?)
Hey, what’s your dream? (What?)
Hey, what’s your dream? (What?)
Is that (just) all your (that) dream is? (Is?)
꿈이 없어도 괜찮아
네가 내뱉는 모든 호흡은 이미 낙원에
낙원 (Paradise) – Jimin (chorus)
It’s ok if you don’t have any dreams
All the breaths you breathe are already in paradise
This part was supposed to be called “Tolerance” because unlike Paradise I never listened to No More Dream in its entirety. I remember back then I just listened to the chorus and skipped the song. I admit that I made a hasty judgment. I judged the band based on the chorus alone. I thought the song was toxic in the sense that it put a huge pressure on us to aspire to a great life, and when you don’t have those big dreams you start feeling like a freak. Fortunately, I had to listen to the full song to write this post, and that’s when I realized my mistake.
In No more Dream, the band denounces the pressure that society puts on young people when it tells us that we must have big goals, be perfect, and that this is the only way to prove our worth in life. The repetition of the question about our dream and the fact that the chorus doesn’t let us answer create a sense of suffocation. And that’s precisely how we may feel when this happens. So the Bangtan were always very understanding. It was true when they debuted, and it’s still true now that they’re worth millions.
근데 말야 가끔 나는
내가 너무너무 미워
사실 꽤나 자주 나는
내가 너무 미워
Reflection – RM (verse 1)
But sometimes, I…
I really really hate myself
To be honest, quite often
I hate myself so much
숨을 참고서 나의 바다로 들어간다 간다
아름답고도 슬피 우는 나를 마주한다
저 어둠 속의 날
Abyss – Jin (verse 1)
I hold my breath and enter my sea
I face beautiful yet sadly crying me
Myself in the darkness
Despite the money and fame, they still feel “blue & grey” sometimes because idols are human. It sounds like a basic truth, but many people forget it. The fact that they can talk about their vulnerability so freely creates a closeness with fans and makes us feel less alone and more “normal”. We live in a world where we have to be happy and beautiful. That’s why so many people make up a fake life on social media or wake up every morning with a voice telling them, “While you’re pretending, don’t forget to smile!” But that’s the thing when everyone fakes happiness, no one knows they’re not alone in the dark.
It reminds me of the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. Two swindlers pretended to be famous dressmakers to the emperor and presented him with a piece of luxurious fabric that had special properties: only fools and incompetents are unable to see the fabric. When the clothes were “ready”, no one dared to say that he could not see it, at the risk of being considered an idiot. Everyone pretended they did until a child said it out loud. Then everyone began to admit that the emperor had nothing on him.
So BTS (and every artist who opens up about the darkness within them) are like that liberating voice. They tear away the veil of pretense. It’s very brave.
I love myself (I love myself), I love my fans
Love my dance and my what
IDOL – Jungkook (verse 4)
비록 지금은 멀어졌어도
우리 마음만은 똑같잖아
내 곁에 네가 없어도 yeah
네 곁에 내가 없어도 yeah
우린 함께인 걸 다 알잖아
잠시 (Telepathy) – V & Jin (pre-chorus)
Even though we’re far away now
We feel the same
Even if you’re not by my side, yeah
Even if I’m not by your side, yeah
You know we’re together
In IDOL, the parallelism (“I love myself, I love my fans”) creates a balance, a harmony as if his fans were the other half of himself.
Telepathy (잠시) is about missing being with ARMY because of the health measures for Covid-19.
I’m not gonna lie, I think there are some idols who secretly behave like the character Yumemi Yumemite from the Japanese anime Kakegurui. Yumemi is a high school idol, she’s very nice to her fans in public but in private she hates them and washes her hands after any physical contact. Ok, that’s a bit extreme, but you get my point. However, I don’t get any “fake love” vibes from BTS. They seem to care deeply about their fans. There’s so much love in their discography, so many songs dedicated to them such as 2! 3! (2016), Magic Shop (2018), and Telepathy (2020). In Pied Piper (2017), fans are even reprimanded by the band for putting them first and neglecting their studies! They act just like a brother, father or friend would.
Sometimes when an artist goes mainstream and is used to getting his name on the Billboard charts, he tends to neglect his fandom. But despite all the income and glory, the band still has ARMY in mind. I think you’re one of the luckiest fandoms out there. But don’t try to convert me, I’m a free spirit 😉!