If you’re British- like yours truly-, you have probably at least heard of the BBC Radio One Live Lounge. BBC Radio One is- as the name suggests- one of the most popular radio stations in the United Kingdom. There are various segments and shows on Radio One and one of these is the Live Lounge. The Live Lounge started back in 2009 and it involves popular artists holding a performance which includes one of their own songs and a cover song from another artist. This cover song will be of a genre that the artist performing is either not well known for or a genre they have never utilised. The latest artists to take to the Live Lounge are BTS, this being their Live Lounge debut. The Korean boy band performed two of their English language songs during the Live Lounge but it was their cover song that was the biggest talking point.
The band performed “Dynamite”– their first English language single which topped charts and broke records following its release last August- and “Permission to Dance”– their most recent hit and their third English language song. Their Live Lounge performances involved a live band, which is always a great way to elevate a performance. The live music emphasises the group’s excellent vocals, which seem to be getting better and better every time they perform. Their English pronunciations are also improving, clearly showing that their constant practice is paying off. Not that it really matters anyway as the group are Korean and so shouldn’t feel pressured to even put out English music, let alone pronounce every single word perfectly. It’s impressive enough that they can sing in a language that isn’t their own anyway. They do it whilst dancing too so enunciation really shouldn’t be on their list of priorities. The vocals, dancing and general performances of both songs were great. Credit has to go to the musicians in the live band as well as the backup dancers who showed up for the last segment of “Permission to Dance”.
It was the cover song that the group performed that was the show stopping number of their Live Lounge performance. The boys covered an iconic song from the 90’s: “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy (before he was P Diddy) featuring Faith Evans and Sting (the song samples “Every Breath You Take”, the 1983 song from Sting and his band The Police). I’m a 90’s baby and this song brings back so many memories as I remember it being on the radio constantly following its 1997 release. It is a big song to take on, especially for a non-English speaking band. The whole point of the Live Lounge is for artists to cover songs that are out of their comfort zone and this definitely isn’t a song that you would immediately pin down for BTS. “I’ll Be Missing You” was originally a tribute for Christopher Wallace- otherwise known by his stage name “The Notorious B.I.G”- who was Evans’s ex-husband and a close friend of Puff Daddy. As the song was a memorial to a loved one from his best friend and ex-wife, it is a tough song to perform for any artist. It just doesn’t work if the song isn’t sung with feeling but BTS not only managed to belt this song out with fantastic vocals and wonderfully fitting rap segments, they also put their own spin on the lyrics in multiple ways. The band often talks about how much they miss their fans due to the global pandemic leading to the cancellation of their world tour. Their choice of song may have stemmed from how much they miss their fans. I can safely say- as an ARMY fan – that the feeling is certainly mutual (even though I have never had the chance to actually see them at a concert. Yes, I am missing something I have never had and I have no intention of stopping anytime soon). Of course, the song has much stronger themes than simply missing your fans. It was created following the loss of a loved one and despite the different circumstances, BTS certainly bring the emotion and depth needed for a song like this.
The group also integrate some of their native Korean into the rap verses of the song, with RM taking the first segment and singing in English and SUGA and jhope taking the second and third rap segments in Korean. It is brilliant to hear them rapping in Korean again (the last songs they released with rap in their own language was on the BE album back in November, though jhope did release a full version of a short outro song from his Hope World mixtape-“Blue Side”- in March 2021) but the most impressive element of this choice is how well the Korean seamlessly blends into the English. SUGA in particular seems so much more comfortable in his native language and his comfort makes for an amazing- but way too short- rap section. All seven members join in on the vocals at the end of the song – vocal line and rap line alike- and their voices work together beautifully. All that being said, there was a certain highlight in this performance and that was the high notes from Jimin and Jin. V also took on some high notes and he did fantastically well with them- considering how deep his voice is in comparison to the other members- but Jin and Jimin hit incredibly high notes as they provide the background vocals and harmonies throughout. These notes would be hard for anyone to hit- even for a female singer- so their natural and almost effortless harmonizing is jaw dropping. Don’t forget, these are live performances too. It is difficult enough to get those notes in a recording session but to hit them so perfectly live is so extraordinary. The control that the two of them must have over their vocals is insane. This is a great example of how BTS are far more than just the cutesy boy band that they are sometimes painted as in the media. They are genuinely talented and they clearly practice day in and day out to hone and fine tune their craft. This is all the more noticeable for Jimin and Jin, neither of whom were recruited into BTS because of their vocals. Jimin was a dancer and Jin was the “visual”- a role prominent in K-pop that is basically just a good looking person to fill out the band. In the eight years since they debuted, all of the members have grown in their abilities but this seems all the more prominent for Jin and Jimin, whose vocals are now able to reach these heights. Both of them have clearly worked incredibly hard to get to where they are now in terms of vocal ability (and just in general) and it is great to see them not only be given the most difficult part of the song but also make it their own and show off their powerhouse vocals whilst doing so. Jungkook and V are often heralded for their vocals- and for good reason- but Jimin and Jin don’t get talked about in mainstream media nearly as much for their singing skills so I am so happy that they stole the show with this performance.
BTS’s Live Lounge performance was exceptionally impressive and I am genuinely not saying that because I am personally a fan of their work (and their faces). They managed to bring a huge amount of energy to “Permission to Dance” and “Dynamite” despite having performed “Dynamite” over thirty times at this point. They are likely preparing to do the same for “Permission to Dance” due to its success. It was their cover of “I’ll Be Missing You” that really made their Live Lounge performance unique. Much like when they performed “Fix You” by Coldplay during their MTV Unplugged Sessions set, their cover song here showcased their talents and their ability to effortlessly take on any music genre. However, I would argue that this performance is even stronger than that of their “Fix You” cover due to the clever integration of their native language, which not only allows them return to their roots but also gives the rap line a much needed chance to step into the spotlight. It was Jin and Jimin who elevated the performance though with their flawless tenor voices harmonising gorgeously with the other members. BTS yet again prove that they are one of the strongest musical artists out there at the moment with their BBC Radio One Live Lounge debut.