Anyone who frequents the blog here will know that I am rather fond of writing about BTS- the Korean boy band taking over the world right now. The group is continuing to dominate the charts with their first English song “Dynamite” despite it being almost a year old now. They are also building the hype for their upcoming second fully English single “Butter”– which is coming at the end of May- with various teaser photos of the boys with their new era looks (which I will post below for you to enjoy). There is literally a whole schedule for what is being released and when over on the band’s official website which I will link here for your viewing pleasure! BTS will be debuting “Butter” at the Billboard Music Awards with a live performance on the day of the release of the single, May 21st. The group is also nominated at the BBMA’s for Top Selling Song for “Dynamite” as well as Top Song Sales Artist, Top Duo/ Group, and Top Social Artist (which BTS has won the last four years in a row and is fan-voted so make sure to vote for the boys on the link here!). There was also an announcement today that they will be guest appearing in the long-awaited Friends Reunion Special alongside other celebrities such as James Corden and Lady Gaga. This one feels particularly potent seeing as the band’s leader RM learned English by watching the sitcom with his mother. It’s all coming full circle! With all of these achievements and exciting developments piling up, Rolling Stone released their interview with the band for the June issue of their magazine. We’re going to be delving into this interview in the blog today, so let’s get started. I will link the full interview here so you can check it out for yourself too.
There was a lot to unpack from the group with their Rolling Stone interview, published earlier today on the Rolling Stone website. From their musical processes- including their collaborative nature with artists all over the world- to their humble beginnings back in 2013 where they would act as a voice for Korean youths who were under tremendous pressures from their elders, BTS speak candidly with the infamous music magazine and each member gets a chance to reveal some of their inner thoughts.
Kim Namjoon- RM
RM is known as the leader of the band and he certainly shows that he acts as the voice for all seven men, discussing their position as “outliers” in the western music industry as well as the xenophobia affecting them due to the recent wave of anti- Asian violence. In the interview, RM states,
“The way we think is that everything that we do, and our existence itself, is contributing to the hope for leaving this xenophobia, these negative things, behind. It’s our hope, too, that people in the minority will draw some energy and strength from our existence. Yes, there’s xenophobia, but there are also a lot of people who are very accepting. . . . The fact that we have faced success in the United States is very meaningful in and of itself.”
I feel like RM’s words are a testament to the positivity and honesty that BTS stands for. He doesn’t shy away from addressing the issue- the group posted a statement on the racism that they too had faced a few months ago- but he maintains an optimistic attitude, taking into consideration how their achievements in the US so far means that they have got dedicated fans who will fight with them against the injustice of systemic racism against the Asian community. He also discusses the way in which the group are breaking the constructs surrounding stereotypical masculinity,
“The labels of what being masculine is, is an outdated concept. It is not our intention to break it down. But if we are making a positive impact, we are very thankful. We live in an age where we shouldn’t have those labels or have those restrictions.”
He maintains a humble attitude about the topic but there is no doubt that BTS are normalizing certain aspects- such as being comfortable with makeup and hair dye- that traditional values surrounding masculinity may not have once accepted. Though he says that their intention is not to “break it down”- likely because they cannot see how they could possibly have that effect due to their humble attitudes- it cannot be denied that that is exactly what they are doing. RM was the first to be recruited by producer of Big Hit Entertainment Bang Si-hyuk- which now comes under the HYBE Corporation that Bang established this year- and he was clearly a staple in BTS’s inception and staying power. His talent as a rapper, producer, bilingual leader and general genius too (his IQ is 148) all at just age 26. Impressive doesn’t seem to quite cover RM’s skills but what is clear is that his influence, leadership, and talent have contributed greatly to BTS’s success. That isn’t to downplay the roles of the other six members- or Bang Si-hyuks role – by any means but is hard to see how BTS could have come to be what they are today without RM.
Min Yoongi- Suga
With Suga, we get a glimpse into his struggles with depression and other mental health issues such as social anxiety and OCD as well as his strained relationship with his parents due to their dislike of hip hop and rap. Suga’s skills as a rapper and performer feel all the more impressive knowing these difficulties. He is also an advocate for mental health being openly discussed without judgement in our society, “these emotions are not things that need to be hidden. They need to be discussed and expressed.” Suga is able to convey his feeling through his music- especially his song “The Last” which Rolling Stone mentions, a highly powerful hip hop song from his 2016 Agust D mixtape. I’d definitely recommend giving it a listen and getting a lyric translation. Unless you are fluent in Korean of course. Otherwise, a translation allows the lyrics to hit home even harder. Suga’s struggle with his mental health is but one element of his strength during his time with BTS. He also had to deal with a bad shoulder injury that he had been dealing with since his trainee days having been hit by a car whilst working as a delivery boy. He only had surgery on his shoulder last year, so he had been performing concerts and intricate dance moves all whilst coping with his injury for around seven years. He mentions in the interview how this affected him, “There were times when I couldn’t lift my arms in a full range of motion during a concert.” You have to have some respect for someone who is able to just carry on like that, even with an injury that clearly needed surgical attention from the start. Suga is clearly a physically and mentally strong person who has been through many hardships but his talent, determination to succeed and hardworking nature (he signed on to be a rapper and producer and had no singing or dance experience so he had to work to gain those skills) make him an invaluable member of the team.
Kim Taehyung- V
V is a strikingly handsome young man whose role in BTS occurred due to a happy accident. He had no intention of becoming a trainee. Instead, he attended an audition for Big Hit Entertainment with a friend and ended up not only auditioning but making it through to the trainee stages and then ultimately being picked for the group. In the interview, they discuss V’s role as a “hidden member” before the group debuted. This meant he was revealed to be a part of the group until their debut, so he didn’t make an appearance in any of the promotional material for the band. The group was known for their online presence- making a name for themselves via social media- and so this was a big part of their image and yet, V was excluded from it. Whilst producer Bang does try to explain why this was, it seems to me- based on V’s reaction to the interviewer’s questions about it- that it is something that still bothers him “I actually can’t understand it whatsoever. Why did they do that? Why was that the concept? I really had no idea!” The article states that he laughs while he says this but it must have been difficult for him as a young artist about to debut. Being excluded from everything couldn’t have been easy, especially for one so young. V also comes off as the somewhat eccentric member of the group, with his interests including “jazz, classical music, and Elvis Presley”. He wanted to be a saxophone player before he joined the band as well. Anyone who has watched their vlogs from travelling will also know that he is fond of Renaissance art and will often try and convince people that his name is Vincent Van Gogh or Renoir. V’s unique nature is certainly alluded to in this interview but what is certain is that he seems to have always had a strong connection to music and the arts. There is no doubt that the group would not have been the same without him and his husky baritone vocals.
Jeon Jeongguk- Jungkook
Jungkook may be the baby of the group- being only 23 years old- but he has always had incredibly impressive vocal talents, managing to attract plenty of attention after auditioning for a talent show in South Korea. Despite not getting through to the show he auditioned for, he had his pick of agencies to sign with that were all super impressed by his vocals. He chose Big Hit Entertainment purely due to his admiration of RM’s rapping skills and thinking he was “cool”. Let’s be honest, that seems pretty accurate for a teenager given a life-changing decision. Just go for what you think is cool! It definitely worked out for the best. Jungkook has pretty much grown up in the spotlight, having debuted with BTS at the tender age of 15. His talent speaks for itself however as he is known for being brilliant at everything he tries. He is incredibly athletic- with a black belt in taekwondo- and his singing and dancing are both top-notch. Even his acting isn’t to be scoffed at (check out the BTS World mobile game to see what I mean). He is just one of those people who seems to be good at everything and as infuriating as those people can be, Jungkook certainly seems to have been grounded by his fellow, older members who have helped him maintain a level head on their journey to stardom.
Jung Hoseok- J-Hope
J-Hope’s segment relates to his role as the “sunny personality” of the group as well as how much his fellow six members adore him and want him to be president of the world one day. That is a president that I for one would happily get behind. However, there is also a bit of insight into his insecurities in his trainee days. Despite being an incredible dancer and rapper, he only learned his rapping skills whilst he was a trainee and so he often found it “not easy to adapt at first”. Seeing as how insane his rapping skills are now, it is hard to imagine him without his confidence. Just listen to “Outro: Tear” or any of the bands “Cypher” series to hear how amazing his rapping skills are. When it comes to his dancing, literally watch any BTS music video that involves choreography and you will see just what talent he has. We ARMY refer to J-Hope as Hobi and our “sunshine” and his cheerful disposition is always enough to keep us going even in the hardest of times. It is nice to know that he clearly has the same effect on his fellow band members too!
Kim Seokjin- Jin
My beautiful bias Jin goes straight for the handsome jokes with his Rolling Stone interview since he was scouted for his looks by Big Hit Entertainment. However, it is incredibly impressive how he has managed to grow his vocal and dance skills over the years as he originally had no experience in either, instead, coming from an acting background. His insecurities about his worth compared to the other members always seems to come through in the interviews I have read with him and the same goes for this sit down with Rolling Stone as he states “I lack in many areas” and discusses how difficult it can be when his bandmates catch on to dance moves so quickly when he can’t, “they’ll be able to dance right away to the music, but I can’t. So I try to work harder so I don’t hold the other members back or be a burden.” Jin is a talented and hardworking man and it hurts to know that he clearly still has self-confidence issues as well as feeling the need to compare himself to the other members. Go and watch the dance routine for “Dionysus” or listen to his vocals in “Awake” or “Epiphany” to see just what Jin has to offer in the way of talent. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot. The magazine also mentions the mandatory military service that all of the members will have to undertake one day, with Jin being the first due as he is the eldest. Whilst 28 is the eldest you can be to enlist, South Korea passed a law that will allow Jin another two years with BTS, extending the age limit to 30. Whilst this is something that all of the members are going to have to deal with sooner or later- Suga, RM, and J-Hope are in their late twenties now too- Jin’s age means that the band might go on without him for at least a little while. His response to this possibility made me a little emotional, not going to lie
“I have no doubt that the other members will make a good decision because, you know, this is not something that I can tell them what to do. I’ll be sad, but I’ll be watching them on the internet and cheering them on.”
I’m not crying. You are.
Park Jimin- Jimin
Jimin is also a talented dancer like J-Hope but whereas J-Hopes expertise was in street dance (he was part of an underground street dance group called Neuron), Jimin was classically trained in contemporary dance at the Busan High School of Arts, becoming the top student as well as being valedictorian and class president. He has a black belt in taekwondo- like Jungkook- , trained for eight years in kendo (a Japanese, sword-based martial art form) and- despite not having a background in singing- is able to hit the group’s highest vocal notes alongside Jungkook and Jin. Jimin was and still is certainly an overachiever but he also seems to have very sweet, familial connection to his fellow members as noted in the Rolling Stone Interview when he states, “No matter where I go, there is someplace that I can come back to. I’ve come to feel that way about our group.” Jimin also closes the interview with a lovely sentiment as to what the group will do when the group gets older,
“I would like to think that at the end, when I’m too old to dance, I would just like to sit onstage with the other members and sing and engage with the fans. I think that would be great, too. So I’d like to keep this going as long as I possibly can.”
Okay, now I really am crying.
Well, I’ve ranted about BTS’s Rolling Stone interview far longer than I intended to so make sure to read the article in its entirety over on their website- I will link it again here– to get the whole story. BTS are truly conquering the globe and bringing an empowering message of positivity and self-belief as they do so. They struggled for years to get recognition as artists in South Korea- having their performances cut from broadcasts and being rejected at every turn- but now they are one of the biggest artists in the world and they have worked hard for every opportunity they have been given. There is no doubt that none of it would have been possible without their teamwork and each individual member giving it everything they have. Here’s hoping that they continue to have a bright future. Even when the time comes for them to perform their mandatory military service, we ARMY will still be here cheering them on!