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BTS: Behind the Song

Last updated on January 4th, 2020 at 07:13 pm

By Nathan Im

People are conditioned to believe that we must be a certain way or look a certain way to be accepted into society. This societal belief causes many to fall into the darkness of depression, insecurity, and isolation. BTS is a seven-member South Korean boy group formed in Seoul in 2013. Over the past few years, BTS has exploded in popularity not only for their music and personalities but for their role in society. Time Magazine has described BTS as “Next Generation Leaders,” which displays their influence in society. With this influence, BTS wants to promote peace and love. For example, the boys spoke at the United Nations Youth 2030 event to launch Generation Unlimited, an organization that supports youth worldwide, in September 2018. In addition, their album series Love Yourself promotes the self-acceptance of oneself and being the best person you can be. Songs such as “Idol,” “Magic Shop,” and “Epiphany” clearly display this. BTS hopes to remove the belief that we need to be a certain way and instead replace it with the mindset that we need to love ourselves for who we are.

The theme of the first song is the idea of knowing oneself and refusing to change for anyone else. The song, called “Idol,” was released on August 22, 2018, and debuted at number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Idol” also garnered over 56 million views within 24 hours of its release and became the most-watched music video within the first 24 hours in 2017. The theme of this song is meant to strengthen the hearts of individuals and prevent them from falling into the human condition wanting to be a certain way to fit in. Lyrics in the song state;

They point fingers at me
But I don’t care at all/Whatever the reason for your criticism is
I know what I am (I know what I am)
I know what I want (I know what I want)
I never gon’ change (I never gon' change)
I never gon’ trade. (BTS 9-15)

This is promoting the idea that no matter what you should never change yourself and instead be who you are and you who want to be. Chelsea J. Murdock, a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology, even held a class to watch and review Idol and stated that, “the over-the-top nature [of the video] perfectly demonstrates the idea of self-acceptance regardless of the obstacles or environment you face.” Chelsea clearly explains that it is not only the lyrics but also the video that is promoting this idea of self-acceptance. To convey this message, BTS uses the poetic device of repetition. In this first refrain, “I” is seen constantly being repeated. This is done to emphasize the idea that we as individuals are to make our own decisions and be who we want to be and won’t be affected by negativity from others. The beginning of the song starts off explaining how no matter what, BTS is going to be who they want to be and they are proud of themselves stating, “No matter what you call me I don’t care” (BTS 3). Regardless, of what people say, they will not be affected by it because they have established their identity and will not let it be swayed by others. No matter what, no one will stop them from loving themselves for who they are. In the middle of the song, the lines, “There are hundreds of me’s inside of me/I’m facing a new me again today It’s all me anyway” (BTS 43-44) describe the journey that BTS has gone to truly accept who they are. A widespread stereotype for Asians and Kpop groups specifically is that they all “look the same.” This makes it difficult for idols to distinguish themselves from others and creates many self-image issues. Despite this, BTS has concluded that they constitute who they are and not others and that one version of themselves is just as valid as another. At the end of the song, it states, “I’m happy in this moment,” (BTS 70) which is meant to remind listeners that people should not be so focused on what they want to accomplish, but also be happy with and enjoy what they have already accomplished. Love yourself for what you’ve done, don’t hate yourself for all that you haven’t.

The theme of the second song is the idea of overcoming fear, pain, and defeat. The song is called “Magic Shop” and was a song made for fans by the youngest member of BTS, Jungkook. Through this song, BTS wants to help replace the darkness inside people with happiness. In society, many people face depression and pain due to judgment and criticism. But, the message of the song is that despite how hard life can be at times, there is always a door that leads to happiness. Although this song came out in 2018, BTS has always focused on trying to better society as Gloria Wickman of Medium stated, “The name [of the group] was chosen to represent the main goal of the group: to protect and to talk about the problems and worries of people in their teens and twenties.” This displays how since day one, BTS has been a group that creates music with true meaning, not just sound. BTS uses imagery to create this image of a place called the “Magic Shop” that is in the galaxy with the stars. This place is meant to be a safe place from all the pain and suffering of the world and is majestic and beautiful. The beginning of the song is meant to describe how BTS, despite how good their lives may seem, there have been many moments in their lives that have been traumatic and that they are ashamed about. They also state, “I’m not going to say anything blatant like ‘find strength’/I will let you hear my story, let you hear it,” (BTS 3-4) to explain that they understand that saying something like “find strength” is not helpful to face these issues. Instead, they will tell their story and how they overcame their dark past to hopefully give people the strength to do the same. The purpose of this song is to give people hope through BTS’s own story as well as to inspire others to share their own stories as shown in the line, “I want to listen to your melody” (BTS 14). In the middle of the song, it states, “I feel like it’s not true that I wanted to be the best/I wanted to become your comfort and move your heart/I want to take away your sadness, and pain” (BTS 42-44). BTS describes how at first, BTS believed that their only purpose was to become the best group however they realized that their music was very influential and that they could inspire others and deliver important messages to others which became their new goal. To them, their music is more than just their job, it is their way to help change the world. At the end of the song, BTS sings, “Would you believe me if I said that I was scared of everything too?” (BTS 57). This line is supposed to display that BTS is just like everyone else, human beings who struggle. BTS may be the biggest Kpop group in the world and may be doing something that they love, but that does not mean that they did not struggle. Like everyone else in this world, they struggled. The only difference is that they were able to overcome the struggle. And it was through the “Magic Shop” that they were able to do so.

The theme of the third song, called “Epiphany,” is about true self-acceptance, which means accepting yourself for what you love about yourself as well as your imperfections. It is about discovering that you are not quite perfect, but you are your beautiful self. This song is meant to inspire people to not simply push away the aspects that they don’t like about themselves but to accept them and embrace them. Also, it is meant to tell people that they can’t let society control them and prevent them from being their true selves. No one should hide any part of themselves but instead act true to who they are. Lines in the song state,

I may be blunt, I may lack somethings
I may not have that shy glow around me
But this is me
My arms, my legs my heart, my soul.” (BTS 20-23)

These lines clearly display that people, despite their imperfections, should be proud of who they are. Ilchi Lee, the founder of ChangeYourEnergy.com, expands on this stating the song is explaining that “It’s not others who give you strength and freedom. It’s your heart, accepting you just as you are…” and that you can learn self-acceptance from this song. Personification is used to convey the message as seen in the line, “The real myself inside the smiling mask…” (BTS 4). The mask, which is “smiling,” is meant to represent how people hide their true selves behind a mask when they should be proud of themselves. The beginning of the song starts off with Jin, the singer of the song, describing how he hid his true self behind a “smiling” mask but is now revealing his true identity. The middle of the song asks the questions, “What was I so afraid of?/Why did I hide my true self?” (BTS 13-14) to make listeners truly ask themselves these questions and realize that in the end, being your true self is what is going to make you happy. The song ends off with the lines, “I finally realized so I love me/Not so perfect but so beautiful/I’m the one I should love” (BTS 26-28). These lines are explaining that no one is perfect and everyone has imperfections but everyone is still beautiful for who they are and because of this everyone should love themselves. To love oneself, one must have self-acceptance.

From their name to their song lyrics, BTS proves how much they want to help change society for the better. These seven boys want nothing but the best for everyone and are more than just musicians, they are a source of hope and joy. The belief that humans are to be a certain way and look a certain way to be accepted by society is addressed by BTS through their message #LoveYourself. They too faced the struggle of that societal belief but they overcame it and they want to share their story to the world so that they can help the world overcome it with them.

Works Cited

Lee, Ilchi. “Learning Self-Acceptance from BTS's Songs.” Change Your Energy, https://www.changeyourenergy.com/blog/2365/20181211-ilchi-lee-authentic-living-learning-self-acceptance-from-bts-songs.

Murdock, Chelsea. “BTS (방탄소년단) in an English Composition Course.” TECHStyle, 27 Feb. 2019, http://techstyle.lmc.gatech.edu/bts-in-an-english-composition-course/.

Wickman, Gloria. “Love Yourself: The Message Behind BTS's Record Breaking Album Series.” Medium, Bangtan Journal, 19 Oct. 2018, https://medium.com/bangtan-journal/love-yourself-the-message-behind-btss-record-breaking-album-series-229119e81902.