BTS dropped their new album, BE, the day I had finished all my in-person classes at college and was getting ready to go home after a very taxing semester. I remember walking out of my last final, going to my dorm to drag all of my very heavy stuff down by myself (outsiders weren’t allowed in the dorms due to COVID), and then arguing with my mom about something as we loaded the car. So when we finally were on the road home, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing I finally had time to relax. And I finally had time to listen to the new BTS album. So on the way home I plugged in my earbuds and let it play. Turns out, BE is perfect driving music. I was truly at peace listening to it as I looked out the car window and watched the fields whiz by and the dusk sky turn pink. It was almost as if it was saying “it’s been a rough few months, you deserve some space to calm down”. It honestly couldn’t have come out at a better time for me.
So, here I am writing this article as a result of this experience, but that isn’t the only reason I wanted to dedicate an article to this album. Later on I looked through some English translations, as I usually try to do with new K-pop songs, and it seems as though BTS hadn’t changed at all since their last comeback, Map of the Soul 7. BTS do a lot of self-composing, so they continue to express their own feelings through their music and at the same time give their fans some hope for the future. In the case of BE, a lot of the emotions flowing from it have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic. After all, the music industry is gravely affected by all of this considering in-person concerts and fanmeets are not possible at the moment. It’s only natural that BTS would vent about this a bit, considering they especially form a lot of bonds with their fans and love seeing them. The songs that talk about the pandemic, though, apply to all of us during this unprecedented time, not just music artists, and it’s rather comforting to see BTS saying “hey, we feel the same way. This sucks, but we’ll get through this, don’t lose hope!”
Oh, and also two songs on this album reached #1 on the Billboard charts, Life Goes On and Dynamite, which is pretty significant considering Dynamite was the first K-pop song to do so and Life Goes On was the first song in a foreign language to do so. These are historical milestones for K-pop’s influence on the Western world. That being said, I do not think it was 100% warranted. ARMYs are willing to stream BTS’ music and videos for hours and hours in order to get them to the top of the charts, and they finally succeeded, it would seem. I personally don’t agree with doing this, since it sort of takes away the meaning of BTS’ success and leaves little room for other K-pop groups to get popular, but that’s a topic for another day. Despite this, BE is, in my eyes, a very good little album that definitely deserves a lot of love. It is, how the cool kids say it these days, “good vibes”. So without further ado, I will express my thoughts and interpretations on each track individually and then wrap it all up at the end.
Life Goes On
어느 날 세상이 멈췄어 One day the world stopped
아무런 예고도 하나 없이 Without warning
봄은 기다림을 몰라서 Spring didn’t know to wait
눈치 없이 와버렸어 Showed up not even a minute late
발자국이 지워진 거리 Streets erased of footprints
여기 넘어져있는 나 I lie here, fallen to the ground
혼자 가네 시간이 Time goes by on it’s own
미안해 말도 없이 Without a single apology
In Life Goes On, BTS delivers the melancholy that we all currently share in its most pure form. The world as we know it had screeched to a halt, but time doesn’t wait for such things. The days continue to fly by “like an arrow in the blue sky”, and they keep coming around all the same “like an echo in the forest”. The track mourns all of the time that has passed us and all of the opportunities that had to be missed because of our unfortunate situation.
I did, in fact, hear this song before I listened to the album in full, because it’s a title track and the music video dropped before I went to sleep the previous night. It’s a really simple music video, showing the group doing everyday things together like playing video games, watching TV in PJs, sleeping, driving, etc., and at the end we see them sitting on chairs in an empty auditorium singing the chorus for the last time. It really fits the tone of the song, which honestly, is also very simple musically. It’s definitely one of those songs where you look out your car window while listening to it and you feel like you’re in a movie (exactly what happened to me coincidentally). Something I really appreciate is how lowkey and soothing Life Goes On is compared to other BTS title tracks, even though it delivers its message with a heavy heart. It’s a nice change of pace from ON and Black Swan from Map of the Soul 7, even though I really liked those as well.
Fly To My Room
답답해 미치겠어 It’s so frustrating, it’s driving me crazy
Feel like it’s still day one Feel like it’s still day one
누가 저 시계를 좀 돌려줘 Somebody give me back the clock
올해 다 뺏겼어 The entire year got stolen
아직 난 침대 속 I’m still in bed
거북해 속이 A bloated stomach
It’s killin’ me slowly, nah It’s killin’ me slowly, nah
떠나고파 any way I want to leave any way
뭐 방법이 없어 There’s no way
이 방이 내 전부 This room is all I have
그럼 뭐 여길 Then, what can I do here?
내 세상으로 Into my world
바꿔보지 뭐 yeah Let’s change it, yeah
This track moves into another difficult emotion that comes with living in this pandemic, and that is the feeling of being trapped in a room, unable to go outside and just live life. There is a lot of frustration here, as you would expect. But Fly To My Room goes even deeper than that, describing a sort of optimism despite the circumstances. The room may be all there is for now, but at least it’s safe, and the most can be made of the time spent in it if the right mindset is applied. There are even implications of the formation of a “relationship” with the room. In his rap verse, Suga talks of the room “hugging” him, and that the toys and the TV noises in the room greet him every day. This perspective helps ease the pain of staying there just a little bit more. The tone of the song matches these lyrics, giving off a regretful yet somewhat hopeful vibe. The tempo is slow, but there is a noticeable beat, and it is ever so slightly soulful. V’s vocals specifically elevate this for me, his deep yet soft voice felt just right for this song.
I will say that Fly To My Room is low on my list as far as the album tracks go, but mostly because I don’t feel a lot of value in listening to it over again like I do a lot of the others. I’m not sure why that is, I think I just personally don’t vibe as much as I do with some of the other songs. I definitely am still fond of it, however.
Blue and Grey
난 확신이란 신 따위 안 믿어 I don’t believe in a god called conviction
색채 같은 말은 간지러워 Words like color make me cringe
넓은 회색지대가 편해 A vast grey area is way more comfortable
여기 수억 가지 표정의 grey Hundreds of millions of grey facial expressions here
비가 오면 내 세상 When it rains, it’s my world
이 도시 위로 춤춘다 I dance over this city
맑은 날엔 안개를 On a clear day, bring some fog
젖은 날엔 함께 늘 On rainy days, we’re always together
여기 모든 먼지들 A toast to all the dust here
A somber tune, Blue and Grey was the most moving song on the album for me. It starts off with a gentle guitar melody and gradually builds throughout the song, adding piano, bass, and strings. But most of this happens during the rap verses, and it all lays off a bit whenever the chorus comes around. While the rap verses seem to describe someone feeling comfortable where they are in their grey, dismal world (see lyrics above), the vocalists sing about someone who desires for their loneliness to be quenched. I’ve seen several people say that Jin, V, and Jungkook’s lines where they sing “I just wanna be happier” hits especially hard considering BTS just had an era in 2018 titled “Love Yourself”. This era provided many positive songs focusing on how to learn to love oneself and to be happier. It just goes to show how life has its ups and downs, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to claim that BTS (and most of the world) is having a down right now, despite all their recent success. V, the one who wrote this song, said that he did in fact write it “at his lowest point”, when he was suffering from burnout in his career.
As far as what the rap line talks about, my personal interpretation (though probably not the interpretation BTS intended) is that although the person in the song is unhappy, they have moments of accepting their loneliness and rejecting any “color” that may try to enter into their life, and their world remains blue and grey even though they still wonder why they’ve always felt this way. I’m dealing with terrible loneliness myself lately and have experienced this exact phenomenon. Thus, this song hits close to home for me, and the gentle crescendo of instrumentals as well as the little retractions during the chorus resonates with me enough that I feel an odd sense of nostalgia for the song. For these reasons, Blue and Grey is definitely my favorite of the songs from the more depressing side of the album.
This is just an interlude of BTS casually celebrating and talking about their recent success on the Billboard charts. It was recorded on main vocalist Jungkook’s birthday, September 1st, so they considered this day a double celebration, and Jungkook himself says that it’s the greatest birthday gift he could have ever received.
The translation for this track is pretty rough and there isn’t any music in it, so I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about it. But one thing I can notice about Skit as an English speaker is that BTS has done interludes like this before, also titled “Skit” but with various subtitles. The last time one of these tracks had shown up was on their 4th mini album, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Part 2, released in 2015. So it’s been a while since we’ve had one of these little conversations show up as a track in a BTS album, a throwback to be sure.
자 떠나자 푸른 바다로 Now let’s go to the blue sea
우리가 함께 뛰어놀던 저 푸른 바다로 That blue sea we used to play with
괜한 걱정들은 잠시 (잠시) Worries are useless for a while
내려놓은 채로 잠시 (잠시) Let it go for a while
우리끼리 즐겨보자 함께 추억하는 Let’s have fun together, remembering together
푸른 바다 한가운데 작은 섬 A small island in the middle of the blue sea
With this track, the album begins to take a more upbeat and hopeful turn. Written by Suga, Telepathy’s main message is simply “we’re together even though we’re apart” which most people think of as some cheesy trope from a romance movie. In the wake of the pandemic, however, this cliché takes on a meaning relevant to everyone in the world. Outside of connecting with our loved ones through technological means, we also keep them within our hearts, awaiting the day that we can freely live life together once more, hence the name of the song being “Telepathy”. BTS have expressed how much they miss performing for ARMY in live concerts multiple times over, so they are no exception to these feelings. This track appears to be a straightforward, uncomplicated expression of the hopes that the boys, their fans, and the entire world currently hold.
What isn’t uncomplicated though, is the musical elements of Telepathy. The main appeal of this song for me is the consistent, prevalent beat that overtakes the song. It’s incredibly catchy. An iconic, groovy bass line manifests itself throughout the entire song, and I personally couldn’t get enough of it when I first listened. It’s still a relatively mellow bop, though, so it’s a nice song to put on for the purpose of feeding my soul a little bit.
다들 병들이 많아 내가 헷갈리는 건 Everybody’s got a lot of diseases, I’m confused by that
인간이란 본디 추악함을 가진다는 것 That humankind is inherently disgusting
마음의 병의 가짓수들만 400개가 더 400 more cases of heart disease
되는데 해당 안 되는 자 거 별로 없단 것 There aren’t many people who don’t work
Yo 병든 게 세상인지 나인지 Yo, is it the world or me that’s sick?
단순히 바라보는 해석들의 차인지 Is it just a difference in interpretation?
그게 다인지 I don’t know if that’s all
I don’t know 누군가를 바꿔보는 것 I don’t know how to change someone
그것보다 빠른 것은 내가 변화하는 것 Something faster than me is changing
I love this song. Out of every track on BE, Dis-ease is my favorite and, in my opinion, definitely the most musically interesting. It’s just pure funky hip-hop with satisfying instrumentals and a tune that leaves you hooked. Though BTS always kills it when it comes to the hip-hop genre, I really have to give it to J-Hope here, who wrote most of the track. In fact, I’m starting to notice I like the things he produces a lot considering he also wrote a lot of Dionysus from their mini album Map of the Soul: Persona, and that was by far one of my favorite songs from that album and from the other album that included it, Map of the Soul 7. Not only that, but I love what Hobi (as he is lovingly called) incorporated into just the title of this song. Dis-ease talks about the “disease” of getting wrapped up in one’s work without taking time to relax (something a music artist can easily fall into), but also about the worrying of falling into this trap. Hence “dis-ease” refers to both disease and “being without ease”.
Hobi did so well on his opening lines, by the way. I love the way he raps, his little intonations and ability to change his voice have always had a lot of charm. Not to mention his little catchy “byeo-byeo-b-byeo-b-byeo-byeong” at the end of every chorus. The whole rap line really shines in this song though; we hear the usual but always captivating RM and Suga provide their own dazzling verses. But I don’t want to forget about the vocal line here, because their delivery of the chorus is absolutely superb. Jimin in particular stands out to me. I don’t know what it is, but he’s such a blessing in Dis-ease, he just accentuates his parts in such a satisfying way. Oh, and don’t get me started on the last chorus when the added bass and trumpet come in. The song is just…it’s good. If you’re a fan of hip-hop, listen to it.
가만히 난 주문을 걸어 Hold still, it’s an order
그 어느 때보다 밝게 보이는 star The stars are brighter than ever
이 순간 우린 언제라도 어디 있대도 No matter where we are right now
Wherever you are Wherever you are
I know you always stay I know you always stay
Admittedly, Stay is my least favorite track on BE. It’s definitely good and I can tell a lot of work was put into it by its primary author, Jungkook, but it doesn’t quite hit it for me. I suppose I don’t think it’s all that unique? The buildup and the musical elements mostly sound like generic EDM, in my opinion. I hate saying that because I still enjoy it, and the boys perform it very well, it’s just that, in comparison to all the other songs on the album, I find it a little lacking in personality.
However, I do appreciate the sentiment of Stay. The song is a message from BTS to their fans, ARMY, telling them to stay where they are, because things will be better and they’ll be able to perform concerts for them again soon. It’s songs like these that make me sad when people say BTS don’t care about their fans just because music artists loving their fans to a large degree is often seen as a facade for marketing purposes. I of course cannot claim anything for certain, but this isn’t the only song that BTS has made specifically for their fans. I’m not even a serious ARMY anymore, but I still see that BTS are really loving people and do care about their fans to a reasonable degree. They’re very sociable with them, something that is demonstrated through Stay.
This is getting heavy
Can you hear the bass boom? I’m ready (woo hoo)
Life is sweet as honey
Yeah, this beat cha-ching like money, huh
Disco overload, I’m into that, I’m good to go
I’m diamond, you know I glow up
Hey, so let’s go
Dynamite has already been out for a few months, being released as a single in August 2020. You may have heard it on the radio at this point. It is BTS’ first song entirely in English, but also the first song that BTS did not contribute to producing, being entirely written by English songwriters David Stewart and Jessica Agombar. With funky, engaging disco elements and an energetic, colorful music video, this song was intended to bring positivity to a world stuck in a pandemic. Dynamite really did just that for me, I remember smiling for the whole duration of the video the first time I watched it. It’s extremely feel-good and serotonin-boosting. The lyrics are on the cheesier side as opposed to most other BTS songs, but I sort of like that, it makes the song feel all the more like it’s just seven guys goofing off and having a good time. The song comes on my playlist and I think “man, I really am ‘shining through the city with a little funk and soul’”. It’s just a party in your headphones that serves to brighten your day a little.
I really enjoy the disco theme that BTS embraced with Dynamite, as well. The group seems to like trying out different genres while not straying too far from their usual aesthetic, which is something I really like in music artists. They’ve explored genres such as latin and R&B in the past, for instance. Disco is a bit unexpected because it’s not really a genre explored much in this day and age, which I think adds to the impact of this song. It feels nostalgic.
My Track Ranking for BE
2. Blue and Grey
3. Life Goes On
6. Fly to My Room
I noticed just while doing a little research and writing this article that BE has a lot of variety as far as who the songwriters were for each song. RM, the leader, has done the most songwriting of the group and a lot of BTS’ albums contain many songs that were at least in part produced by him. But a lot of members pitched in to create the album this time, which I think is really interesting and a nice change of pace. They probably had more time to work on things due to the pandemic, but regardless, I’m glad the other members were able to pitch in a lot this time around, it helps me get a sense of each of their unique musical styles.
Speaking of the pandemic, even though I know the album refers to it a lot because BTS was affected by it just like everyone else and they were just expressing their feelings, BE suffers a bit because of it for me. What really has helped me keep sane during this pandemic is thinking about it as little as possible, so I wish BE didn’t revolve around it as much as it does. It’s why I really appreciated Dynamite, which was solely meant to get the listener’s mind off of it. Of course I don’t understand Korean and therefore don’t hear the lyrics, but I still know in the back of my mind it’s about the pandemic, and it kind of puts a damper on it for me. This isn’t to fault BTS for venting their feelings through their music, and like I said in the introduction it’s good to know they feel as strongly about this as the rest of us, it’s just a personal sense that I get. I would have liked it if there were just a song or two more not about the pandemic.
All in all though, BE is great. It isn’t my favorite album from BTS (Wings still holds that spot for me), but as I said in the introduction, it gave me a weird sense of peace the first time I listened to it. Of course, that in part had to do with the timing with my personal life. However, BE is short compared to past BTS albums, which I feel added to my experience in a strange way. I tend to stress out over consuming media so I can have an opinion on it, so the shortness of the album served to take some of that stress off as I listened to it on the way home from college. Most of the songs are just pleasant to listen to as well, there’s nothing heavy musically on it. The way the album starts out mellow and sad and then gradually gets happier until we’re full on busting out disco moves is really neat too. I would give BE a try even if you aren’t a K-pop fan, it doesn’t have a lot of the usual tones that K-pop has, and it’s a perfect album to just put on and zone out.