Against the backdrop of an arduous year, South Korean boyband BTS (방탄소년단) released their first English-language single, “Dynamite,” in August with the hope that the song’s warm energy would help heal their audience. With positive lyrics and dazzling performance visuals, the disco pop track was a sensational hit that peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in September and eventually even earned the group their first Grammy nomination for Best Duo/Group Performance!
The band, which includes rappers RM, SUGA, and j-hope with vocalists Jin, Jimin, V, Jung Kook, told the Recording Academy that “Dynamite” all “began from this: even in the midst of hardships, we must focus on what we can do. As for us, we found freedom and happiness in singing and dancing. This song goes to the ones who need encouragement.”
The Grammy-nominated single was the prelude to their most recent album, BE, which came out in November. The new record, which promptly follows their previous release, Map of the Soul: 7 (from February), is indicative of the group’s earnest efforts to send a comforting message to their global fan base, ARMY (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth.)
The authentic motifs and sentimental lyrics in BE transform it into a special “pandemic album” that breaks down the ever-present feelings of fatigue and gloom. Contributing to the candor of the album is the fact that all seven members took “roles in overall production, such as concept development, composition and visual design,” according to main dancer and lead vocalist Jimin.
In an MTV Fresh Out Live interview, group leader and main rapper RM also described how “The album’s main concept is shedding a hopeful light during this new global climate and reminding listeners that our life goes on,” hinting at the title of the first track of the album.
BE, which also debuted in the #1 spot on the Billboard 200 album list, features seven songs and a skit. Each track has its own unique sound and deep meaning – they culminate in an engaging album meant to instill resilience and positivity in listeners.
Now, let’s dive into the seven songs!
(Korean lyrics have been translated to English for the purpose of this article.)
- Life Goes On
The opening track, “Life Goes On,” started with a bang, becoming the first Korean song to top the Billboard Hot 100. The hip hop-infused ballad addresses the hardships of pandemic life – including sorrow and uncertainty about the world – but reminds us that we can still maintain our emotional connections and look toward a better future. The chorus of the song is melancholy and contemplative: “Like an echo in the forest / The day will come back around / As if nothing happened / Yeah life goes on.”
The official music video for “Life Goes On” was directed by main vocalist and youngest member Jung Kook and has racked up almost 200 million views. During BTS’s global press conference for BE, where members provided an overview of the album, the 23-year-old spoke on his intentions as a director: “The emotion I wanted to express is the sadness and the longing that was felt because the tour was canceled due to COVID-19 and because we couldn’t see ARMY much.” The resulting short film communicates the same delicate nostalgia and bittersweet melancholy felt throughout this first track.
- Fly To My Room
Next comes “Fly To My Room.” Jimin starts off this energetic, yet deeply emotional track by singing, “This year’s been stolen from me / I’m still in bed / I feel nauseous / It’s killin’ me slowly.” The lively synth sound stabs, and the electric instruments blend with touching lyrics to convey how our houses have felt like a cage this year. Spending so much time alone in our rooms can start to change our perspective on the smallest things and make us feel as if we’re traveling to a new place. Although we may feel confined at times, “Fly to My Room” recharges our perspective and encourages us to embrace the safe space around us.
- Blue & Grey
The third track, “Blue & Grey,” is the most heavyhearted song on BE. Written by lead dancer and vocalist V, the midnight-themed acoustic pop ballad diverts from the optimism expressed in the other songs.
“I wrote ‘Blue & Grey’ when I was at my lowest point, when I was actually asking whether I could keep going with my work or not,” V explained in Weverse magazine’s BE comeback interview. The lingering thoughts of doubt served as seeds of inspiration for the 25-year-old, who hopes the lyrics and soothing guitar soundtrack console those who feel sad or anxious.
After the 3-minute skit – which the group recorded when they achieved their first #1 with “Dynamite” – comes “Telepathy,” a retro pop track that takes a 180-degree turn and introduces an uplifting disco theme for the rest of the album. “Telepathy” was produced by lead rapper SUGA, who has said that BTS’s “greatest influence, and where we draw our strength and our comfort and our joy is the fans.” Jin, vocalist and the oldest member of the band, continued this thread by explaining that the song “talks about how we’re happiest when we’re with our fans…and contains our hope that we’ll always be with them although we’re physically apart for now.”
Carrying on this supportive tone, main dancer and rapper j-hope addresses the significance of mental health in “Dis-ease:” “For me, going through the pandemic, even when I was given time to rest, that break didn’t feel complete. It felt uneasy and uncomfortable,” he said. “BTS is very good at pulling through and overcoming things, right? So I incorporated that positive and hopeful message in the song.”
“Stay” is another exciting, yet emotional song in the future house genre with elements of EDM. Jung Kook, who wrote “Stay,” said “the meaning behind this song is that although we’re quite far apart, we’ll always stay together.”
The seventh track is about making a meaningful and lasting connection with someone, which also embodies the essence of this record. Throughout the song, the members affirm that they’ll always stay by ARMY’s side.
“Dynamite” is the eighth and last track on BE, concluding the album on a cheerful note. It’s catchy and replayable, and every group performance of this song has been stunning – especially the show at the Melon Music Awards 2020, which included a dance break inspired by Michael Jackson.
Overall, this LP is the band’s most personal album yet, featuring unique songs that express the members’ thoughts and feelings. Beyond breaking records and supporting ARMY, BE presents rare vulnerability and captures the holistic experience of pandemic life. BTS’s honest reflections are palpable across every lyric and melody, showcasing how the seven global superstars continue to symbolize the spirit of sincerity while connecting the world through their work.