Album Review: BTS release their album “BE” and the music video for “Life Goes On”

Do we still count “to exist” as a blessing? Consumed by our society and consuming every bit of it like our life depends on that last slice, we have learned to perceive our worth in relation to what resides outside. To secure the illusion of a ‘future’ that might not even exist, this world has time and again, snatched our present, leaving us exhausted or worse completely burned out. 

But when we lose everything and are locked inside within the four walls, do we like our own company, with no one to distract us anymore? 

It only makes sense to then, take time and teach ourselves that we can just wander through or that the bigger purpose of life can sometimes mean to just “Be”. We don’t need reference points, instead, we can build our own signposts and give them our own meaning as we strive to find our own kind of happiness. This year, more than ever has taught us how important it is to give precedence to our well-being.

BTS’ new album holds reverence for this ‘existence’, an acknowledgment of losses we have made especially this year in tangible and intangible form, and provides a space where, even if only for a moment, we can forgive ourselves and just breathe.

In their earlier interviews and in the Press Conference today, BTS reiterated that their goal with their album “BE” is to provide comfort to people as we all have been impacted in different scales and measures by the global pandemic. While Dynamite offered a happy pill in the face of adversity with its vibrant energy, the album is not restricted with this singular interpretation and is composed of different hues and emotions. 

The album according to the members, holds the message of consolation and conveys their personal thoughts on the ongoing situation. Participating in the multiple aspects of the creation process, RM, Jin, J-Hope, Suga, Jimin, V, and Jungkook have worked on the album from start to finish, making BE as much about creation as it is about the creator’s thought process. 

From the day it was revealed by RM that BTS will be releasing their album in 2020, the group has been sharing their creative process with fans via live stream. These clips gave us a hint for unit structuring, concept vision, opted equipment, and album outline, all of which came together to form a possible message behind the album once the tracklist and teasers were revealed. From concept photos to teasers to the music video, BTS are showcasing how they see the world and receive it in return. The ‘rawness’ is a nod to the past and a fresh take on the present where beyond numerical and monetary goals, the artist is trying to pursue art in its essential form.

Takeaways from the Press Conference

To discuss the message and the process behind their album “BE”, BTS conducted a global press conference through their YouTube channel. Attended by the members of the group except for Suga who is recovering from his surgery, the conference was available for public view.

Image Courtesy: Big Hit Entertainment

Post-introduction, the group members took turns in answering questions. Jungkook highlighted the septet’s participation in “BE” from start to finish and J-Hope explained that just like Dynamite, with the complete album too, they want to share their thoughts and feelings for the present situation. Namjoon, the leader of the group, revealed that they already had plans for the album before releasing Dynamite and with the current situation, it only felt natural to involve fans in the process. V revealed that the idea of rooms was triggered by a discussion with RM after the former took the photos from his polaroid when he was trying to capture the natural self of the members.

Image Courtesy: Big Hit Entertainment

Talking about the title track, Namjoon explained that “Life Goes On” has the same roots as “Dynamite” but compared to the latter that was aimed to leave behind the doldrums, LGO focuses on a profound truth. Jungkook, who has directed the music video for the song, explained that with LGO, the visual message that they wanted to focus on was of regret of not being able to meet the fans.

Jimin provided his insight into the meaning behind the album’s title and explained that being a verb, it is open to the interpretation of the listener but the aim of the album is to provide comfort and convey that no matter what happens outside, life continues to go on. Jin talked about how this album also gave them a chance to enjoy the process and look at their ‘self’ by reflecting on the ‘present’. Extending to this message, J-Hope highlighted that they wanted to show the lives of seven individuals in their 20s and not BTS on stage. The group, with their new record, is acknowledging the uncertainty felt by the world during the pandemic and has tried to interpret the emotions in their own unique way. Jimin reiterated his objective and said that if through this album, one is comforted, he will be thankful.

The members concluded the conference by sharing their excitement for the AMA’s nominations, performance, and their nervousness for the upcoming announcement of the Grammy’s nominations. Answering for the press and also on behalf of Suga, Jin said that Grammy is now one of their goals and they hope to get a nomination this time.

Image Courtesy: Big Hit Entertainment

Track-by-Track Review

Track One – Life Goes On

Track Credits: Pdogg, RM, Ruuth, Chris James, Antonina Armato, Suga, J-Hope

Following their Press Conference and Comeback Countdown, the South Korean powerhouse released the music video for the title track “Life Goes On”. Jeon Jungkook, who has shown fans his directorial capability with his solo project Golden Closet Film, took up the role of the Director for the group’s music video. 

Through his lens, we get a chance to see BTS spending time alone as they wait for the storm to settle down. The music video for “Life Goes On” shows the pause this crisis has put on their life like it has for everyone else. 

Laced with acoustic guitar sounds, this alternative hip-hop track voices out the frustration of seven men who find themselves helpless against the ongoing pandemic. The group was supposed to embark on their tour in 2020 but had to cancel the plans. Being told that working hard will be enough, they are now stuck inside the room, unable to fill the distance between the empty stadium and the studio. Baffled by the passing of time that resonates more with a withering flower than the one blooming, the members seek to find comfort in the memories of the past captured within the frame while trying to make a few new ones in the face of this new reality. 

RM, during the ending ment of the concert, said that if there is no map for one to refer to, they can make one on their own, and through this album, BTS are making a new path for their journey, the entry point of which is an acknowledgment that sometimes, things don’t go by the plan. Similar to the days in the past that have gone and have brought in new memories, the track consoles the listeners and asks them to wait for the new day. The normalcy, with new learning, will return “like an echo in the forest” and we will live on resiliently like we always have. This crisis, like the ones in the past, too shall pass.

Track Two – Fly to My Room

Track Credits: Cosmo’s Mindnight, Joe Femi Griffith, RM, Suga, J-Hope

In their speech at the UN Assembly held virtually and the concept teasers released for the album, ‘room’ became a recurring motif. Each member became the curator of their own room, depicting elements within the space that represent them the most. The music video of the title song too, taking a cue from reality, restricted itself spatially in the spaces that were within the immediate reach of the septet. 

The much-awaited unit track “Fly to the Room” expresses the mixed emotions of members as they try to navigate through the “confined” space. Angry at first for the year that’s been “stolen”, the song slowly transitions towards an optimistic viewpoint, mimicking the shift in mentality when one starts seeing their personal space as an extension of their ‘self’. 

Image Courtesy: Big Hit Entertainment

The room that was earlier confinement has now become a friend that accepts them, welcomes them, stores the memories, and helps them gain new perspectives. Emphasizing that sometimes, “broken is beautiful”, the song leaves us with an open-ending – now that we are inside, can we try to search for the happiness within and curate a new world? We’ve done it once, we can try and do it again.

Fly to My Room offers fans yet another chance to witness the collaboration between V and Jimin who had earlier worked on “Friends” for Map of the Soul: 7. While Friends was a revisit to their past, this song is a reflection on their present. Each vocalist stands out in his delivery, making the song as much of an individual rendition of the message as it is a collaborative piece. It also offers listeners an opportunity to delve into Suga and J-Hope’s delivery as they come together as a duo. While Suga’s conversational rumination depicts his thoughts on his relationship with the room, J-Hope’s verse talks about the world he intends to build out of this space. The smooth transition in perspective within the single verse yet again shows the rapline’s caliber.

Track Three – Blue and Grey

Track Credits: Ji Soo Park, Levi, V, Hiss noise, Suga, RM, J-Hope, Metaphor

Often alluded to as a hue of gloom, blue has been a focal point for artists and has been interpreted in multiple ways in the past. The title which can be interpreted as a depiction of a gradient, a downward movement from blue to grey, gives a feeling of partial deterioration. The movement towards white often symbolizes the loss of life, as one is slowly being devoid of their colors. 

Image Courtesy: Big Hit Entertainment

A guitar-filled melancholic pop ballad, “Blue & Grey” offers seven individual interpretations. Beginning from the literal message, the track talks about the loss of happiness, made evident from the series of imageries used in relation to ‘cold’. It questions one’s wish for happiness and if it’s too selfish to seek one. It then takes the approach of self-introspection to search for the cause behind the developed temperament. Is it a result of a mindset that holds regret as the core of their life’s principle or is it born out of loneliness, as one tries to understand their ‘self’ in relation to the world? The movement towards vertigo where nothing makes sense becomes a turning point because while it starts with loss of stability, it also offers a blank slate (“grey”) to fill in any colour one would want to. With no certainty, one can wander through life as it comes to them. The lack of plan might open new doors of experiences but it will take time before one will overcome this blue period of gloom. The song ends on a hopeful note that sometime in the future, one will be able to acknowledge this period as a passing phase.

“Blue & Grey” has a very complex lyrical composition with multiple entry points for interpretation. It was supposed to be used for V’s mixtape but was made a part of the album. It definitely made us look forward to Taehyung’s mixtape more.

Track Four – Skit

Skit Credits: BTS

The last time we got a skit from BTS was in the year 2017 when they won their first award at the Billboard Music Awards. This time, the occasion was even more special. The skit allows the listener to experience the group’s emotions when they heard the news of Dynamite scoring Number 1 on Billboard Hot 100 charts. The chaotic moment, filled with pride, excitement, and positive disbelief shows how significant the moment was for the septet. The skit ends with them planning to practice their debut song “No More Dream” but seven years later, the meaning for the track has changed. During their debut, the song talked about the lack of dreams in the world that only prefers competition but seven years later, it talks about finding a new beginning without succumbing to the chase.

Track Five – Telepathy

Track Credits: Suga, El Capitxn, Hiss noise, RM, Jungkook

Resonating with the ebb and flow of life, this album begins with a somber tone and adopts a more upbeat sound towards the second half. “BE” can be categorized into two sets – the first one comprising of Life Goes On, Fly to My Room, and Blue & Grey, and the second set comprising of Dis-ease, Telepathy, Stay, and Dynamite. 

Image Courtesy: Big Hit Entertainment

Telepathy, as the title, suggests, talks about the mutual mental connection that transcends physical barriers. Owing to the times we are living in, the song is dedicated to the fans who despite the inability to see BTS physically at concerts are connected to the group through music, like this album too. Raising a toast to the times they have spent together in the past seven years, this song celebrates the relationship between BTS and their fandom ARMY. Filled with funky rhythm, the song has a karaoke vibe.

Track Six – Dis-ease

Track Credits: J-Hope, Ivan Jackson Rosenberg, GHSTLOOP, RM, Pdogg, Suga, Jimin, Randy Runyon

Dis-ease follows Blue & Grey in the level of complexity but what will catch the listener’s attention is the bridge of the song. With every new era, it’s always fascinating to see BTS revisit their foundation, and this time, they have adopted Old School Hip Hop, a genre we experienced in J-Hope’s Ego too. Master of wordplay, BTS, through the song title offers a dual approach – one of disease and the other of discomfort and uneasiness.

Image Courtesy: Big Hit Entertainment

The track begins with J-Hope who talks about the discomfort that follows from the subconscious guilt of taking extended breaks. When 24 hours should be enough to get the work done, nothing ends up with done at all. Is this semi-conscious state and the self-depreciation that follows, a disease of overthinking or the result of the discomfort? RM extends the question by breaking down the meaning of the word in both Korean and English. Calling himself ‘ill’ which would translate to work, he says that if it’s the work that is the center of concern then, we too are work in progress. In the present situation, where we did not have a memo to follow, we need to try and give our feelings a break. But overthinking never stops, so, is it just us who are ill or the world is sick too?

Suga tries to find an answer and explains that without even knowing, there are different kinds of mind-related diseases and it’s not possible to not have one. The difference lies in the explanation we get for them – the break we are made to feel guilty for is a result of the disease that has afflicted this world, which only views the worth of an individual on the basis of their utility. The vocal line, the stars of the bridge, comfort and says that there is a difference between growing up physically and growing up mentally and the time that it might take to achieve the latter afflicts everyone so, you ‘ain’t so special’. To cure ourselves of this discomfort, all we can try and do is find our own meaning behind ‘work’.

Track Seven – Stay

Track Credits: Arston, Jungook, RM, Jin

A perfect predecessor to Dynamite, “Stay” sets the tone for the conclusion of the album. It was supposed to be a part of Jungkook’s mixtape but was added to “BE” and we must say that the track was a pleasant surprise. Both Taehyung and Jungkook have given expectations to their fans for their mixtape and we are not even complaining. Talking about the distance that disconnects the group and the fans, the track paints the picture of the future when both BTS and ARMY will be able to meet again.

Image Courtesy: Big Hit Entertainment

Reiterating the ending note of “Life Goes On”, this EDM track shares members’ belief in the power of their fans and asks them to stay for a while before they can be at the same place, under the same sky to experience the music together.

Track Eight – Dynamite

Track Credits: David Stewart, Jessica Agombar

“Dynamite” was an experiment for the group who resonated with the message of the track and wanted to convey the same to their fans in these trying times. Turns out, it was highly successful. The song helped the septet achieve their first Number 1 on Billboard Hot 100 chart, a rare feat for an Asian act in decades and they did not just do it once. The record was repeated in the second week too and the impact of this release is now directly evident in the longevity of the track, which is still doing great on the charts, even after months of its release. In terms of the music video, Dynamite became the most viewed video with 101.1 million views in the first 24 hours.

RM, during the Press Conference, described Dynamite as the concert’s conclusion. The track, with its catchy tune and summertime vibes, is as much of a homage to the 80s and 90s as it is to Bangtan’s discography. Now, as a part of “BE”, it offers a hopeful ending, making us look forward to what may come next. Check out the detailed interpretation and the impact of the track here. Also, check out the series of records this song broke.

Conclusion

Upholding the value of life in its essential form, BTS’ music has continually conveyed that as long as you can just exist, you will get by and your worth need not be hinged with conditions imposed by society. This realization is profound as we are then, left to ask, who are we if not what the world sees us?

“BE” lyrically, has a relatable conclusion and it succeeds in its objective of providing solace to the listener. By acknowledging that our condition is universal, the album in its composition has successfully broken barriers. But now, it is up to the listeners who are seeking some positivity to take a step to overcome the barriers they have created and embrace the message. Sonically, for fans, the album offers pleasant surprises as it revisits some genres while experimenting with others for the first time. “BE” has now opened a new chapter for Bangtan Boys and it will be interesting to see what stories would they like to share in their next projects.

Share your thoughts about the album via tweet @CelebMix.

Written by Ayushi

Hi! I am Ayushi from India. The only thing that is consistent about me is my passion for writing and reading. Weaving words to form a story is the best thing I know and the only thing I want to do.
"Writer by nature is a dreamer, a conscious dreamer."
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