June 13, 2021, marked the 8th year since the now world-renowned group BTS debuted with their first title track, No More Dream. Their group name, BTS literally means Bulletproof Boy Scouts when translated from the Korean expression and stands for Bangtan Sonyeondan. J-Hope explains “it has a profound meaning […] ‘Bangtan’ means to be resistant to bullets, so it means to block out stereotypes, criticisms, and expectations that aim at adolescents like bullets, to preserve the values and ideal of today’s adolescents.” They updated their name in 2017 to also mean Beyond the Scene in English, in order to reflect their growth and mean that they are now going beyond the realities their face, moving forward, also adopting their new logo which looks like two wings.
Eight years down the line, the septet has taken over the globe, and the members have become household names: RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, Jungkook. The Korean group celebrated with their fans (virtually for the second year in a row) in their BTS Muster 2021, a two-day fan event called Sowoozoo, with several unique performances of a selection from their diverse discography.
“We came together with a common dream to write, dance and produce music that reflects our musical backgrounds as well as our life values of acceptance, vulnerability and being successful,” said BTS’s leader, RM, in a 2017 interview with Time. Although they now enjoy unbridled success and love from all around the world, they did not have such high levels of recognition from the public at the start. The group, debuting under Big Hit Entertainment (now Big Hit Music part of the HYBE corporation) in 2013 began with No More Dream, an ode to the teenage years of not knowing where your life is going, not having a dream, and rebelling against a society that forces you to choose a specific path from a set of options. One powerful line (translated from Korean) is, “Become the subject of your own life that’s always been suppressed” which urges the youth to take control of their own lives and be true to themselves.
From the start, the group has been known to write and produce their own songs, adding layers of authenticity into every lyric, and pouring their souls into what they do. Many of their songs are social commentaries, touching upon a range of themes from mental health struggles, self-love, coming-of-age, loss, loneliness, temptation, longing, staying motivated, and more, and they have stayed true to their promise to tell the story of their generation with their lyrics. There is also a complicated alternative universe storyline woven throughout their work, and their attention to detail apparent in the several literary and psychological conceptual references present in their lyrics. Their album series, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Love Yourself, and Map of the Soul, all form an anthology of evolution and growth, mapping their evolution as artists and as people.
Winning first place at a Korean music show in 2015 with their song I Need U opened up the door for them to be more recognized within their own country, and by 2017, they became the leaders of the Korean Wave in the United States. Now the best-selling artist in South Korea, they sell out stadium and arena tickets worldwide like it’s no big deal and they have also won several awards internationally. But what is the reason for their success? What makes them so revolutionary and beloved? To many fans, it is their sincerity, humility, and the amount of love they give back. Their dedication and genuine nature transcend the boundaries of language (as well as the dedicated translators all over the globe) and K-Pop. For many of the ARMY, BTS provided a lifeline in their darkest times, with their lyrics providing comfort and motivation when they needed it the most.