BE (2020) is BTS’s first self-directed album. The self-proclaimed pandemic project focuses on the struggles the band felt throughout COVID-19. Without shying away from their personal struggles and our globe’s collective strife, the album asserts we can find togetherness and love within the distance. "Telepathy" and "Stay" are both timely and timeless songs about long distance relationships. Both songs are about loving others in times of distance, while at the same time emphasizing finding self-care in those relationships. In this way, the album as a whole situates itself as a proclamation of self-love and an encouragement to its listeners to embrace self-love and self-care.
"Life Goes On," "Fly to My Room," "Blue & Grey," and "Dis-ease" all focus on finding love and acceptance without hiding from the darkness. These songs demonstrate that self-love comes from self-acceptance by showing the vulnerability of the members facing their doubts and insecurities and finding love and acceptance through this process. “Life Goes On” captures the dual nature of that phrase. Life going on after a disaster is a positive thing, but it also can be difficult. When pain comes, sometimes you want the world to stop just for a moment so you can catch your breath. The song captures the dual effect of this by acknowledging the difficulty of keeping up with life during times of difficulty while also reassuring their listeners that it’s okay to slow down, take a breath, and remember life does indeed go on whether you run through it or slow down and walk at times. To drive this point home, the second song on the track right after “Life Goes On,” “Fly to My Room,” features Jimin and V’s cool vocals accompanied by an uplifting synthesizer that reminds the listener of the importance of taking alone time in their self-care regimen. The next song on the album takes a more vulnerable approach. It begins with a light acoustic guitar followed by V’s strong vocals crying out, “Where’s my angel?” (BTS 0:15). This song deals with the isolation that often accompanies melancholy. This song demonstrates, however, that while these feelings are valid and you should nurture yourself when you feel isolated, you are never alone. The song is a reminder that there are others who feel similar and who care about you. “Dis-ease” is, unlike the previous songs, deceptively upbeat. The groovy, hip-hop song innately engenders dancing while discussing the complexities of “uncomfortable happiness” (BTS 0:16). Here they acknowledge that sometimes the very thing that makes you happy can be exhausting and taxing. The song also asserts that while we may seem like we are happy to other people, sometimes we are hiding behind our outward performance of happiness. It also examines the complexities of feeling down even when society deems that we should be content. Overall, the song proves that our emotions are always valid. Without invalidating any emotions, the song also, due to the intoxicating beat, proves that there are happier days ahead.
While BTS’s “Dynamite” did attract much commercial and critical success for the band, initially it does not seem to fit into the album BE. In an album that promotes self-love and acceptance, their first song all in English feels oddly out of place. The album feels as if it should naturally come to a conclusion after the seventh song on the album, “Stay.” However, “Dynamite” ends the album with a complete shift in tone from the previous seven songs. It is also the only song on the album in which the members did not participate in the writing process. You don’t have to read the names listed after the lyrics to feel the change in tone and mood. In an album that praises self-love and acceptance, “Dynamite” feels like a performance. However, watching the music video that accompanies the song makes you realize that, while BTS did not actually write the music, it did not stop them from bringing their own personal and unique talents to the song’s final conception. “Dynamite,” becomes a fun reminder that there are many different forms of self-love. While acknowledging your hardships, vulnerabilities, and self-doubts are an important part of learning how to love you for who you are, dancing around to a catchy summer beat that makes you feel good and forget your worries is another valid form of self-love and self-care. BTS, therefore, demonstrates through “Dynamite” that it’s okay to relax and generate your own joy in whatever form that may take.
The most poignant demonstration of self-love in this album, however, is in the skit. The skit acts as the emotional fulcrum for the album. It ties together the mood change from the first three songs to the last four songs. The skit ends with RM asking in Korean, “Is this not what happiness is?” (BTS 2:55). While the skit itself is a recording of all seven members discussing the news that they are the number one artist in the Billboard Top 100, the listener does not get the feeling that the “happiness” RM is referring to here is their award. Rather, the album and the skit assert the opposite. While it’s incredibly thrilling to be awarded for your hard work, the album recognizes that work, even the work you love enough to, as Suga says in the skit, devote the rest of your life to, often can produce negative emotions regarding your self-worth. The album rather asserts that true happiness comes not with commercial success, but doing what you love with the people you love.
- Laura Creekmore
Louisiana State University