Despite the changing and unpredictable landscape of 2020, musicians across the globe have continued to meet their audiences through home-produced albums, virtual concerts and increased online engagement. Many artists have produced wildly successful albums this year, namely Taylor Swift’s “Folklore,” which was laced with acoustic instrumentals and emotionally vulnerable lyrics. BTS’ recent release of “BE” offers another chart topping addition to 2020: a short, stylistically diverse album made to confront and comfort a changing world.
“BE” comes right on the heels of BTS’s February album “Map of the Soul: 7” and their Billboard Hot 100 no. 1 single, “Dynamite.” With increased involvement from the members of the band in production and song-writing, “BE” is the epitome of what BTS should sound like: fun and upbeat, while maintaining lyrical relatability. Far from an escape from the current world situation, “BE” confronts the emotions and pitfalls of the pandemic, infusing hope along with it.
Lead singles, “Life Goes on” and “Fly to My Room,” are anthems of adaptation laced with melancholy vulnerability. Sung in Korean and English, “Life Goes on” confronts the sudden onset of the pandemic, while offering hope that it will be over one day. “Like an echo in the forest / The day will come back around / As if nothing happened / Yeah, life goes on.” Meanwhile, “Fly to My Room” describes self-isolation and the relatable struggle of feeling confined inside. Jimin and V sing about their ever-shrinking world from quarantine, crooning that “This room is all I have.” The song continues to explore looking at your surroundings in a new way and a changing outlook. An easy beat and toned down vocals mark both songs as bedroom bops or road trip sing-alongs, starting the album off strong.
Fan favorite “Blue & Grey” is the first somber song of the album. It is an emotional ballad, accented by strings and soft vocals. This is the first song to address the emotional pitfalls caused by the pandemic. Defiant rap by RM and J-Hope, “I’m just not scared / I don’t believe in a God called conviction / Words like color make me cringe / A vast grey area is way more comfortable” contrasts with the crestfallen chorus, “I just wanna be happier / To melt the cold me / My hands have reach out countless times / Colorless echo / Oh, this ground feels so heavier / I am singing by myself / I just wanna be happier / Am I being too greedy?” creating an emotional high and low as you listen.
Following a skit where the members of BTS joke and congratulate each other on the success of “Dynamite,” begins my favorite track, “Telepathy.” The song starts with a dreamy synth, reminiscent of summer nights and first loves. The beat is incredible, with a barely-there bass line which makes the song feel a bit retro. “Telepathy” is a love song through and through, talking about how someone can make you feel and the experience of a relationship. The main focus through the song is finding the right pace to take the relationship at, finally resolving with “Let’s go at our own speed / This is a pretty long fun roller coaster”.
“Dis-ease” is an old-school rap song with strong similarities to early 2010 BTS albums, which is precisely why it is my least favorite track on the album. “Dis-ease” explores BTS navigating an unpredictable post-pandemic world and the metaphorical “disease” of their work-oriented lives. J-Hope was the main contributor to this song’s lyrics and decided to use the hyphen between prefix “dis” and suffix “ease,” to portray the idea of being uncomfortable and unsure. He sings about anxiety and the stresses of his fast paced life. Later, he describes his hunger for achievements as “a rotten rope / It’s unsafe, this is a disease”.
Pop single “Stay,” with a subtle club-like EDM backtrack, is BTS’ ode to their fanbase and their disappointment in not being able to perform live for them. The theme which remains constant through the song is that BTS and ARMY are one, and even though they’re apart physically, they’re still connected. RM sings “We connect to 7G,” highlighting the increase in virtual communication and connection during the pandemic. He also reminds ARMY that the time they’re apart won’t be wasted and that BTS will still be producing music for their fans. “Stay” is a hard hitting track dripping with hope for a quick reunion between BTS and their loyal ARMY, and will surely be a jump-along hit during future concerts.
“BE” wraps up with the critically acclaimed pop single, “Dynamite.” Full of American pop culture references and sung totally in English, “Dynamite” topped Billboard’s Hot 100 list in September, and has just been nominated for a Grammy (the first in K-Pop history!). This catchy, colorful song, while straying from the pandemic theme of “BE,” leaves the listener on a hopeful note.
Many K-Pop bands are made of performers, who don’t have much involvement in behind the scenes production of their music, like the sound and lyrics. For the production of “BE,” each member played a heightened role of involvement, gaining production credits on almost every song. Most notably, Jungkook directed the MV for “Life Goes on,” which already has 134 million views on Youtube. This infusement of all the members unique character and style echoes throughout the diverse sounds which make up the album.
“BE” is a masterful album, full of catchy and lyrically retrospective songs. It’s an honest album, “focused on expressing [BTS’] current emotions while working on the songs” as RM said during a global press conference. Created from the idea of expressing their lives in a changing world, “BE” is BTS’ most forceful attempt to make a space for K-Pop in the American music industry. I think it’s worked.