Three years ago, randomly scrolling through YouTube and jumping from one song after another, I came across a fancy-looking video. It had Korean in the title and Blood Sweat & Tears written in English. This was my first exposure to BTS. What stood out to me were the popping vivid colors in the video and the colorful outfits BTS members wore. The dance was incredible, but I didn’t particularly enjoy the song.
I sort of had an aversion to any boy band (One Direction, Jonas Brothers), never giving their songs a shot. None of my friends listened to any boy bands, and I have seen boys getting mocked in school for liking such groups. If you are a guy, you have to hate musicians like Justin Bieber and One Direction; otherwise, you’re not “normal.” I secretly liked Baby by Justin Bieber but actively hated him and his songs during my middle school years. Call it my guilty pleasure? Anyways, I didn’t like Blood Sweat & Tears, so I decided to not even try their other songs. Partly because I actually didn’t like the song and partly due to my subconscious dislike of boy bands.
A big issue I have with K-Pop is that I don’t like the K-Pop industry. To me, it seems more like a factory than an artist or a group of artists producing music from their heart and soul. I have read stories about the horrible lifestyle and conditions K-Pop stars have to go through. No social life, idolized body standards, and forced hunger. Sacrifice is essential, but this seems inhuman. I didn’t want to support an industry that does something like that. Adding to this is that all popular K-Pop songs seem to have one thing in common: sensual dance moves. To me, this is a big turn-off in not just K-Pop but any music. This is one of the reason I can’t stand most rap music either. If your music is good, you shouldn’t be relying on visual stimulations. Great music should paint a picture in your mind when you hear it.
Now let’s come to the present: three years after I first found out about BTS. I still dabbled into their songs now and then and even tried out some other K-Pop groups. However, I still maintained a wide berth. Then, two weeks ago, I started hearing about a song that is breaking records and is insanely popular. I think it beat the record of most YouTube views in 24 hours. So naturally, this piqued my interest, and I decided to listen to this supposed masterpiece — Butter by BTS
I honestly didn’t enjoy the start of the song. It just felt weird and I wasn’t a fan of the visuals. It’s hard to explain but lyrics in the verses have hard pauses after each word. The lyrics just didn’t flow. I was about to stop listening but decided to stick around till the end. What a pleasant surprise the rest of the song was.
The pre-chorus hooked me, and the chorus blew me away. I loved it! The music was refreshing, the lyrics were meaningful, and the dance was immaculate: Smooth like Butter! And if this couldn’t get any better, the rap by Suga and RM comes Rollin’ up to the Party after that electrifying bridge. I listened to Butter for an entire week on loop! I just couldn’t get enough of it. Although, after listening to it more than a hundred times, I still dislike the start and the verses. They just seem awkward to me and break the vibe of the song. I even tried the dance moves. I failed horribly, though.
After listening to Butter so much, I decided to give other songs by BTS a shot. Disclaimer: I still don’t like Blood Sweat & Tears. But before that, I ended up going down the rabbit hole of watching every BTS interview on YouTube and theories about the message and inspiration in BTS songs. My assumption about the K-Pop industry took a turn. I don’t know about other K-Pop groups, but it seemed like BTS music videos and songs actually have a good story and message in them. They are not just sensual dances targeting at specific members of society. I was taken aback when I saw the music video of Spring Day. It references Omelas — a utopian dystopia from the book, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin. There is also a tribute to the victims of the Sewol Ferry Disaster in the video that was outstanding. Not only is the music video impressive and has a profound message but the song is really good. One of my favorite BTS songs!
Surprisingly none of the most popular BTS songs appealed to me. Whenever I asked for a BTS song recommendation, I am always pointed to one of these songs: Fake Love, DNA, IDOL, and Dynamite. These four songs seem to be the most viewed songs on YouTube also. But, I didn’t like any of them! This isn’t surprising; I like music that makes me calm and whisks me away from reality. You know the type of music that warms your insides and makes you feel like you are in a cool spring breeze. I don’t want to feel like dancing when I just want to relax. One of the reasons I never liked BTS before was because I was listening to the wrong songs and generalizing them based on those. The reality is that BTS is too dynamic. Don’t judge a musician by their biggest hits!
This ranking may change as I listen to more of their music. I was surprised finding out that they have released such a large number of songs in a really short time.
Would I call myself a member of the BTS Army? Probably not. I think that is a status reserved for more hardcore fans. It would be a disservice to them by calling myself one when I only started listening to BTS two weeks ago. But I am a new fan of their music and look forward to their new songs and transitions in their music style. If you have any recommendations for me to listen to, please do let me know. I would love to try it out.