I’ve been a BTS fan since about mid-2014. I’ve seen them go from wearing 2-dollar shirts, to them throwing jackets that cost more than my rent. As they rose to fame and new fans join the fandom, I’ve noticed that BTS has an interesting way of handling their past. And I wish more artists did the same.
“Extra + Ordinary”
I want you all to picture your favorite singer. It doesn’t even have to be Kpop, just your faves. Now, does that artist have that one song, photo, or comeback that their fandom just chose to ignore? Nothing problematic but something makes you heave a deep sigh and drop your head. Every artist has that one thing. What makes BTS interesting is how they revisit those moments.
Over the past few years, BTS has sampled music, motifs, and imagery from their past comebacks. Black Swan has similar elements to Fake Love and J-Hope’s Ego intro samples the intro from “2 Cool 4 Skool”, their first album. RM’s “Persona” does the same with the comeback trailer of “School Love Affair”. Rather than closing the door of their old songs, or their old concepts, they carry it with them.
Instead of ignoring that time RM was Rap Monster with the terrible perm, they’re encouraging new fans to go back and give those songs a listen. That being said, I’d be fine ignoring those looks, though. I love you, Bangtan but that was a trying time for us all.
Forgetting where you started can make you lose sight of how far they’ve come. Destiny’s Child was once a household joke for how often they switched out members. People once saw Spielberg movies as low-brow, popcorn movies. G-Dragon was that kid who occasionally showed up in 1TYM movie videos. It’s hard to truly appreciate someone’s journey with only part of the story.
There’s a fine line between reflecting back on your life and waxing nostalgic. Reflection is just checking in with yourself, to see your journey in its full scope. Nostalgia is longing to return to that time, to go back to the “Good Ole Days”. The problem with that is that the “Good Ole Days” were rarely that good and that you’re possibly ignoring the great things you currently have.
What amazes me about BTS is that whenever they talk about their past, it’s never with a revisionist eye. It is less of the longing of a bygone era, but a remembrance of the people they were. I don’t think it’s an accident either. In one of their skits, Jin gets nostalgic for the “Good Ole Days” and RM says “Great, you’re back to only eating chicken breasts.”
Since the Wings album, BTS has openly looked back on not only their careers but also their lives. And while they might look back and feel nostalgic for the people they were, they still move forward. Suga’s Agust D track, “28” is a great example of that heavy self-reflection. Yes, it’s scary and hard but the only way out is through. And BTS has shown so many people that simple truth.
They’ve taken the road less traveled with appreciating their journey without glorifying their start point. It’s taking the time to remember the tiny dorm you once had or to remember the person you once were and those who helped you. This is them carrying those kids and their dreams along with them.
“You Never Walk Alone”
Now, this might be because I’m old (In ARMY terms) but doing this allows the listener to see their older songs in a new light. I’ve jokingly said “We Are Bulletproof Pt 1” and “No More Dream” makes me cry but it’s not a complete lie. I go back to those early songs and I hear 7 kids who made big claims and somehow, managed to back them up. I hear 7 kids speaking their greatness into existence. And it makes me think of my own journey.
BTS debuted June 13, 2013. Around that time, I was writing the first draft of my first short story. It was new and terrifying but it was something I wanted. As I made my big step toward where I wanted to go, so were they. It’s always felt like we’ve been hustling together. Over the years, they’ve released certain songs when I needed it the most. Songs and videos that reminded me that I wasn’t the only person struggling.
I struggled with this article. Not because I don’t know how to talk about BTS. Goodness knows I have plenty on that subject but because they just mean that much to me. I’ve made friends, I’ve gotten through panic attacks, and I’ve pushed myself because of them.
Maybe that’s why they’re so popular. They make you feel included but they also remind you that the rough times will indeed pass. When they sing, it’s not just for or about them. It’s all of us, together. We are bulletproof.