A lot can be said about the world post-Covid. The lives of many have taken a turn — a turn unexpected by many and a turn difficult for most. While we still grapple to accept this change (and question whether a form of acceptance is even possible), BTS’ BE provides a semblance of an answer to a very difficult question.
BE was born out of circumstances and chance. With their stadium tour on halt and the entire world holding their breaths, waiting for what the next day would bring, BTS like many others found themselves wondering — what next, what now?
In the press conference for their album release, BTS chose to describe BE as a “letter of hope”. The “most BTS-esque music yet” album consists of eight tracks from Life Goes On to Fly To My Room, Blue and Grey to dialogue, Skit before the album picks up with Telepathy, Di-Sease, Stay and finally, BTS’ first Grammy nominated single, Dynamite.
In an interview for Rolling Stone India, Jin explains the decision behind naming their album for what it was. “The album title ‘BE’ represents ‘being’ and captures the honest thoughts and emotions [of what] we are feeling at the moment.” BE can be aptly described as an honest narration of what one feels and experiences, navigating through their life and what it means to live in a global pandemic, and what it means to exist and be human.
Life Goes On
The album begins with their single, Life Goes On. A mid-tempo track with acoustic guitar, Life Goes On has a simple but heavy message or a “profound truth” as RM, leader of BTS, had put it.
The song speaks of the continuity of life even when we think what we feel lasts forever — even when you feel your pain is forever. About the gentleness that comes with time, its mercy, how we forget, grieve and remember — everything goes.
A lyric from Life Goes On goes “Running faster than that cloud of rain, thought that would be enough. Guess I’m only human after all.”
In an interview where RM discussed the birth of BE, he spoke of how his lyrics came after some time he spent chasing after clouds with a friend until a realization sunk in.
“You think you can go faster than that dark cloud? No.” He says, “That’s what I realized then. And I just like what Whanki Kim said, that maybe I can’t do anything not Korean, because that’s what I am. I used to work late and then stay up all night when things weren’t working out, sometimes walking from Samseong to Sinsa station, thinking everything through. But now, like the saying, I realize that maybe I can’t do more than what I am.”
Fly To My Room
Fly To My Room plays next. The Korean title aptly titled translates into the words “The Way To Travel My Room”. Over the last two years, for many across the world, their lives had been reduced to their rooms. Entire worlds had shrunken into four walls or more. Borders did not exist, we learned more about ourselves and were connected to each other in a way that was never seen before.
In the press conference for BE, BTS member Jimin, spoke gently of how the word travel had changed over the course of the last two years. For many, our rooms had become our safe space, a place where we could truly be ourselves. The word travel had changed. We could move countries from our bed.
Fly To My Room sings of how our rooms, our houses, our corridors had become the safest place in our lives and how we’d grown too comfortable, our four walls too small to hold our dreams.
Happiness, sadness, whatever emotion it is,
this place just takes it in
Sometimes, even when this room
becomes a trash can of emotions,
it holds me and it welcomes me.
Blue And Grey
Blue and Grey comes next. It begins with gentle guitar strings, almost a melancholic tone to it, somber but comforting. BTS member V plays an incredible role in its creation, speaking greatly of how it came to life. Blue and Grey tackles the blues many faced in the face of a global pandemic, with every sense of normalcy robbed away from them.
In an interview for Weverse Magazine, V reveals writing Blue and Grey was an incredible form of catharsis. “When finally I felt like I wanted to try writing a song, I did. After the song was finished, I felt a sense of accomplishment, and that’s how I was able to let go of “Blue & Grey.” That was one way I wanted to try getting over my problem.”
Blue and Grey speaks about what it means to exist in a time that remains difficult but desires so much of us. About what it means to wander through a desolate world when all you want to do is see colour.
Skit acts as an interlude, fixing the bridge and allowing the album to pick a more upbeat tone. Skit is a dialogue where BTS members come together, after finding out their hit single, Dynamite, made it onto the top of the Billboard Top 100. This feat would be the first of many more number ones.
Suga tells everyone, “I’m going to make music till the day I die.” More laughter. Happiness. Love. At the end, we hear RM turn to J-Hope, “Hope, is this not what happiness is? […] Doesn’t it feel different now?”
Telepathy begins with, “In the days that feel the same, I’m the happiest happiest I meet you.” The Korean title directly translates into “for a moment”. In an interview with Zach Sang, BTS member Suga talks of how the song captured the yearning and longing BTS members and their fans felt to meet one another again. “When I wrote this track,” He said, “I wanted to tell everyone that we’ll be able to meet each other, if we wait just for a moment.”
Suga spoke of how at the beginning he, like many others, believed the outbreak was something temporary. What was supposed to exist as a fleeting moment turned into something much more permanent. Something that affected every one of us.
Telepathy speaks deeply of the love that exists between BTS and ARMY but also reminds them of their most precious moments, lest they forget. It is them telling their fans that this too will be a fleeting moment before a new, happier memory surpasses it.
Among the days that feel the same
I feel happiest when I meet you
Among the different everyday lives,
You are the most special person to me.
In an interview for Weverse, J-Hope speaks of his creative process behind Di-sease. Di-sease speaks of one’s love-hate relationship with work, how to live without work and live while working both seemed like incredibly difficult tasks.
“When I was working, I’d say, “Ugh, I need a break,” but then we took time off and the words, “Ugh, I want to work,” jumped out of my mouth! That’s what made me think more closely: “Why is this bothering me? I have a chance to rest—just take it. Why do I feel like I need to work under these circumstances? Is this an occupational disease?” — J-Hope for Weverse
“When we had a busy schedule to deal with, sometimes I thought maybe it would be fun to have no job, but when that work was no longer there, no matter what I did, even if I poured myself into it, it all became meaningless very quickly.” Seokjin said, in an interview for Weverse. His feelings are not alone.
Di-sease speaks of the restless energy that comes with staying still, with having too much time even if you feel like you have no time left, of wanting to churn out productivity and wondering what it means to truly rest. What does it mean to keep things simply? Is the world truly sick or are we? What is sickness?
BTS brush away their fears, they welcome another day. They comfort themselves and urge themselves to take one step, two. There’s no eternal night, they say. Throw away your fears.
Originally meant to be featured on Jungkook’s solo mixtape, Stay is a celebration of love. How distance is something almost trivial when it comes to two (or more) entities who love each other. “We are far apart physically but we always stay together,” said Jungkook, in the press conference for BE. “That’s the message we wanted to put into this song.”
With an EDM arrangement, Stay is a perfect song to be played in a stadium full of fans. “We imagined we were performing for the fans while we made it, jumping up and down with them.” Jungkook says. Listening to it, you can understand how difficult it is to stay still.
A cold wind blows towards me
손 내밀어 네 숨결을 느껴
I reach out my hand and feel your breath
눈 감은 어느새
With the eyes closed, before we know,
우린 함께인 걸
Dynamite, BTS’ first track to hit number one on the Billboard Top 100, was “like destiny”, RM says. "Who would ever think of this pandemic? No meeting, no karaoke, no concerts? Even no walking in the park. So we never expected this song would come fully in English. During the process of making our album...it just came to us."
Their first Grammy nominated single, Dynamite, symbolises a message of hope in a moment where many struggled to conceive it.
While BTS have always played an incredibly active role in all their music, from its direction, to composition, production, lyricism etc, BE remains something special. From their own concept photos counting days down to BE, Jungkook directing the music video for Life Goes On, V partaking in the visual aspects of the album, each member taking part in their lyricism and music, exchanging ideas and concepts — it is theirs.
It is wholly theirs; every track speaks of something they feel. An album that was born out of circumstances and speaks to so many, BE is a musical catalog of what it means to navigate through a global pandemic and what it means to be human throughout one.
BE speaks for so many of us through a very difficult time. What does it mean to be human and want hope? What does distance do to our love? Does this sadness exist forever? What does it mean to remember? Is it the world who’s sick or me?
BE is also deeply personal. While it still continues to resonate to millions across the world, a year later, it is also hand written by BTS. Each track says a story thats theirs.
“The pandemic unexpectedly put a lot of our original plans to a halt. However it provided us an opportunity to step back and focus on ourselves as well as our music.” said member, Jimin when asked about how the pandemic had impacted their artistic process. “We reflected the emotions that we felt during this unprecedented period into this album.”
“I used to have so many ideas pouring out that it was hard to pluck one out.” RM says, in his interview for Weverse. “So I would stack them up like a Jenga tower and ponder over which one to remove. But now, it’s hard to even add a block to the stack. I’m not sure why but, when I look at these artists whose works span their entire lives, I sense that the rhythm of my creativity is slowing down more and more. That’s the source of my dilemma. I’m only 27 years old.”
And for many and BTS member, Seokjin, it was also a year for an epiphany about themselves, “With the pandemic, I had more time to think about what I want and the things I want to do, and to try some new things,” He says, “But still, I can’t tell what I really like. I don’t think I ever thought much about myself, other than the work part. The best answer I found was doing whatever I’m interested in at the moment; is being the truest to myself.”
In an interview, RM revealed he was envious of painters who had the ability to capture and freeze time through a still painting. This ability would not come to many and would only be found through artists. In a way, BE pushes these impossible boundaries. It remains timeless, holding a piece of moment in every track. It is a story of BTS but also of so many lives in a time difficult for so many.
While many of us mourn for a life that was once ours, BE tells us we are not alone, we mourn together. It tells us this is what happened, this is how we move on and this is why it is important we feel what we do. It is a story of being human in a time difficult for so many but also learning, to be human is to not be different from each other but to exist together and to be all the same.