Music has always been an essential part of my life – there’s a background score for even the smallest of activities. Blasting Backstreet Boys and Enrique on the surround sound system with my sister during our teenage years the moment our parents stepped out is a much cherished memory.
Today, music accompanies me while reading, studying, travelling, working and even while crying. And, for the last four years, most of my music addiction has centred around the world famous South Korean septet BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan).
People are naturally drawn to music which intensifies the emotions they’re feeling at that moment in time. It could be a cathartic head banging song to relieve stress, a depressing love song to mend a broken heart or an upbeat pop song to dance to in happiness. In 2020, the world is still grappling with a pandemic that has gone on much too long. People everywhere are grappling with a range of emotions. BTS also underwent the same upheavals, resulting in their latest album ‘BE’ which released on November 20. The album draws their emotions into the music, thus bringing comfort to fans like me – it is a reminder to everyone that they are not alone in feeling the way they do.
The lead single ‘Life Goes On’, an alternative hip-hop track, talks about how the pandemic brought a stop to the band’s eventful year of concerts and fan interactions with the lyrics, “One day the world stopped, without any warning.”
Just like all of us are working from home in pyjamas and spending time playing games, reading, listening to music, or just gazing out of the window, the music video shows the seven band members – RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook – doing the same. And like people optimistic for a future when normality resurfaces, BTS sings the chorus, “Like an echo in the forest/The day will come back around/As if nothing happened/Yeah, life goes on.”
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The retro pop track ‘Fly To My Room’, has upbeat music accompanied by melancholic lyrics. The lyrics go: “The entire year got stolen/I’m still in bed, while Suga raps that their room is too small for their dreams.”
The unending lockdown has resulted in many of us going through a phase of depression and anxiety from not being able to live out our regular lives and meet friends and family, while dealing with the fatigue of attending daily lectures online, losing a job or looking for one. The third track, ‘Blue & Grey’, crooned by V in his husky voice, is an acoustic pop ballad – a lullaby one needs. Dealing with depression and loneliness, the songs speaks about wanting to be happier.
The album is divvied up in such a way that the first half makes the listener drown their sorrows and live through their depressing thoughts, and the second half makes you want to dance around while singing your lungs out. ‘Telepathy’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Dynamite’ are the disco pop and breezy EDM songs that are ideal for road trips, but in the lockdown are worthy to blast on your speakers at home. Cleverly worded ‘Dis-ease’ is a funky hip-hop retro track that confronts the coronavirus by putting a pun on the word disease and talking about being uneasy and anxious. Like the restlessness we feel about going out and meeting people, BTS’ leader RM raps, “A friend named ‘rest’/Oh, I never liked him.”
‘The Skit’ is a recording of the members happily teasing each other about earning the top position on the Billboard Hot 100 with their single ‘Dynamite’, which has also been nominated for a Grammy.
Many other artists have also released songs and albums during the lockdown, like Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. BTS has also made sure to be included in the list and their eight-track album, created for every mood, is like a soothing balm for the soul, detailing the range of moods we have been going through these last few months – so much so, that I have been listening to this album on loop.
Most other K-pop artists leave the song creation to their company’s musicians while BTS actively participates in the process. RM, Suga and J-Hope have most of their discography’s songwriting and producing credits. But with ‘BE’, all seven members have taken on managerial roles to create the album from start to finish. This includes jacket photos, visuals, music video direction, songwriting, production etc.
The record-breaking band is known to address uncomfortable subjects through their music since their debut in 2013. Be it societal and parental pressures, hardships of youth, heartbreak, mental health and dealing with stardom, the songs with a mix of Korean and English lyrics, resonate with a span of generations and genders.
Self-love has been a constant subject that each member has emphasised through their songs. It is also something I am still learning.
The only problem I have with this album is that it is too short. But with BTS churning out great music in mere months, it is guaranteed that this problem will only be short-lived.
Poorvi Bose is an Electronics engineer and a Post-graduate in Public Policy from National Law School of India University in Bangalore and specialises in technology policy.
Featured image credit: YouTube screengrab