BTS - THE REVIEW (영문판) : A Comprehensive Look at the Music of BTS
2013년 9월 9일 이후 누적수치입니다.
"The Biggest Boy Band in the World ”-ABC
An In-depth Review of BTS Music by a KMA Voting Member
No. 1 on Billboard 200, winner of “Favorite Social Artist” at American Music Awards, 2-year consecutive winner of “Top Social Artist” at Billboard Music Awards, and “Best Recording Package” nomination at the Grammy Awards: BTS is breaking a record after another as they fearlessly march on. In 2018, they successfully sold out their “Love Yourself” world tour that spanned forty-two shows in over twenty cities worldwide, including the United States, Japan, and the U.K. In October 2018, over 50,000 audience members sang along their Korean songs en masse at Citi Field in New York. This year, they already sold out their show at Wembley Stadium, the second largest venue in Europe with a 90,000 capacity, in just ninety minutes. What is behind this extraordinary popularity of BTS, often dubbed “BTS phenomenon”?
This book is the first attempt at discovering BTS’ distinguishing factor through their music. Youngdae Kim is a music critic based in Seattle. For over a decade, he has observed and researched the trends in American pop music and K-pop. In this book, he reviews every track in their sixteen albums and analyzes the essence of BTS syndrome in the United States. Kim also delves into various aspects of “BTS-pop” through interviews with hip-hop journalist Bong-hyeon Kim, literary critic Hyeong-cheol Shin, the Chair of Korean Music Awards’ Selection Committee Chang-nam Kim, Billboard columnist Jeff Benjamin, popera tenor and voting member of the Grammy Awards Hyung-joo Lim.
“BTS, a Korean Band Loved by the World”
Professional Critique on the Essence of Worldwide BTS Syndrome and Their Music
When was BTS’ name first known to the general audience in Korea? Was it 2017, when they first won the “Top Social Artist” award at the Billboard Music Awards? Or was it when LOVE YOURSELF 轉 ‘Tear’ ranked atop the Billboard 200?
It was only after BTS’ accomplishment was beyond just “Korea’s first” and “Asia’s first” that the major Korean press began to discuss their name. However, their debut was back in 2014. It was the heyday of K-pop, dominated by artists from the “Big 3” entertainment labels, such as 2NE1, Taeyang, EXO, and Girls’ Generation. BTS seemed to have nowhere to stand. Following their debut as a hip-hop idol, their credibility as an artist faced the fierce siege of hip-hop fans. At the same time, an unexpected twist was waiting for them. The episodes of a reality show that didn’t necessarily target overseas fans were translated and shared by international fans, creating the impetus for the formation of American BTS fans called “ARMY.”
Youngdae Kim, the author of BTS: the Review, is a selection committee member of Korean Music Awards, the only music award in Korea that prioritizes the quality of music in their evaluation. In contrast to other BTS-related publications, it solely focuses on their music. To Kim, the unusual process of BTS’ rise in the U.S. and the following development are quite exhilarating to observe. It is especially striking as someone who knows how the paradigm of pop music is maneuvered through systematic promotions. Without a single song recorded in English, cooperation with international composers and producers at the initial stage of their career, or Korean American or international members who function as mediators on overseas media, BTS has captivated the conservative audience in the U.S. and Europe, and united the ARMYs all over the world. According to the American ARMYs that the author has encountered over the past few years, BTS’ music is “different” to them. What was it that differentiated them?
“I'm the One I Should Love”
The Voice of Sympathy and Empowerment for the Millennial Youth
BTS is arguably the only K-pop group that has embraced the narrative of youth and growth, previously avoided in idol music, as their central concept and identity and integrated them into profound messages and trendy music. Following the School Trilogy, their narrative started to develop solidly through the Most Beautiful Moment in Life series. It differed from the conceptual and fictional world view of existing K-pop idols. They were also distinguished from the American mainstream hip-hop, indulged excessively in self-verification and the narrative of macho swagger. The scorching energy of “Dope” and “FIRE,” the dauntless young musicianship demonstrated in the Cypher series and “Mic Drop,” sharp social critique in “Go Go,” and the despair, sorrow, and hope of the wounded youth in “Epilogue: Young Forever” and “Spring Day” have propelled them over the greatest weakness of K-pop—the limitations of authenticity in message and attitude.
In the end, it’s the music that speaks the most about musicians. People seem to disregard that BTS members are first and foremost musicians. Most of the focus seems to be on their records, sales, and other numerical achievements. The largest portion of BTS: the Review is dedicated to the examination of sixteen albums that BTS has released. Kim analyzed all the tracks in all of their singles, albums, solo albums, and activities in their entirety from scratch. He aimed to elaborate on the meaning and the appeal of their songs in musical terms and to formulate a guide for those who listen to their music for the first time. As a result, this book became a compilation of critiques, reviews, and liner notes. From the QR codes included next to the sixteen album covers, readers can listen to entire albums in sequence as they follow along with the reviews of each track. They can discover a whole new way of appreciating BTS’ music through this multi-sensory experience.
Perspectives on BTS from Experts in Various Fields
The First Complete Analysis of BTS Music
The book also includes Youngdae Kim’s interviews with experts in diverse fields. Bong-hyeon Kim, one of the most well-known hip-hop Korean journalists, discusses BTS as underrated rappers and explains the historical crossroad of hip-hop and idol culture. He provides the musical perspective and context for understanding BTS’ early career. Brother Su, the composer of one of the most signature BTS tracks “I NEED U,” talks about the unique process of making music at BigHit Entertainment as well as the musical talent of BTS members who are involved in the production of their albums. Hyeong-cheol Shin, a literary critic, was impressed with BTS for evoking the universal emotions of the contemporary youth who identify with them, positioning their narrative as the screen for the youth to project their circumstances. BTS’ narrative of growth that overcame numerous hardships and haters’ criticism allowed the fans in their peers to discover themselves in the music, which provided consolation and comfort. The author further explores the heart of BTS phenomenon through conversations with Chang-nam Kim, the Chair of Korean Music Awards Selection Committee, Billboard columnist Jeff Benjamin, popera tenor Lim Hyung-joo who is also a voting member of the Grammys, and Myungji Chae, a fan translator for BTS.
It was only a year ago that they were invited to the American Music Awards as rookie artists and dubbed “the global sensation,” and now the titles have become “the Beatles for the twenty-first century” and “the greatest boy band on the planet.” It is significant that these are genuinely generated by the mainstream western media and not out of national pride of the Korean press. Another vital component to their exceptional accomplishment is the passionate, grass-roots support of their worldwide fans, ARMY.
If you have been wondering why BTS has been achieving such phenomenal success, find out by reading this book and listening to their music. They are shifting the undercurrents of American pop music, which has ruled the global music trend to this day.
PROLOGUE Unraveling the Secret of BTS Phenomenon
Part 1 BTS the Hip-hop Idol
COLUMN 01 The Onset of BTS Phenomenon at KCON 2014
REVIEW 01 2 COOL 4 SKOOL (2013, Single)
Album Review | Track Review Intro: 2 Cool 4 Skool(Feat. DJ Friz) | We Are Bulletproof, Pt. 2 | Skit: Circle Room Talk | No More Dream | Interlude | Like | Outro: Circle Room Cypher | Skit: On the Start Line | Path
REVIEW 02 O!RUL8,2? (2013, EP)
Album Review | Track Review Intro: O!RUL8,2? | N.O | We On | Skit: RU Happy Now? | If I Ruled the World | Coffee | BTS Cypher Pt.1 | Rise of Bangtan | Paldogangsan | Outro: LUV IN SKOOL
REVIEW 03 SKOOL LUV AFFAIR (2014, EP)
Album Review | Track Review Intro: Skool Luv Affair | Boy in Luv | Skit: Soulmate | Where Did You Come From | Just One Day | Tomorrow | BTS Cypher Pt. 2: Triptych | Spine Breaker | JUMP | Outro: Propose
SKOOL LUV AFFAIR SPECIAL ADDITION (2014, Repackage)
Miss Right | Like(Slow Jam Remix)
COLUMN 02 The Evolution of K-pop Idols
REVIEW 04 DARK&WILD (2014, Album)
Album Review | Track Review Intro: What Am I to You | Danger | War of Hormone | Hip-hop Lover | Let Me Know | Rain | BTS Cypher Pt. 3: KILLER(Feat. Supreme Boi) | Interlude: What Are You Doing Now | Can You Turn Off Your Phone | Embarrassed | 24/7=heaven | Look Here | Second Grade | Outro: Does That Make Sense?
REVIEW 05 RM BY Rap Monster (2015, Mixtape)
Album Review | Track Review Voice | Do You | Awakening | Monster | Throw Away | Joke | God Rap | Rush(Feat. Krizz Kaliko) | Life | Adrift | I Believe
INTERVIEW 01 BTS, the Underrated Rappers _Bong-hyeon Kim, Hip-hop Journalist
Part 2 BTS the New Model of K-pop
COLUMN 03 Narrative and Authenticity over Localization
REVIEW 06 The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 1 (2015, EP)
Album Review | Track Review Intro: The Most Beautiful Moment in Life | I NEED U | Hold Me Tight | Skit: Expectation! | Dope | Boyz with Fun | Converse High | Moving On | Outro: Love Is Not Over
REVIEW 07 The Most Beautiful Moment in Life, Pt. 2 (2015, EP)
Album Review | Track Review Intro: Never Mind | Run | Butterfly | Whalien 52 | Ma City | Silver Spoon | Skit: One Night in a Strange City | Autumn Leaves | Outro: House of Cards
REVIEW 08 The Most Beautiful Moment in Life: Young Forever (2016, Repackage)
Album Review | Track Review Fire | Save ME | Epilogue: Young Forever
INTERVIEW 02 Becoming Musicians Beyond Idols _Brother Su, Composer
REVIEW 09 AGUST D BY AGUST D (2016, Mixtape)
Album Review | Track Review Intro Dt sugA(Feat. DJ Friz) | Agust D | Give it to me | Skit | 724148 | 140503 at dawn | The Last | Tony Montana(Feat. Yankie) | Interlude: Dream, Reality | So far away(Feat SURAN)
REVIEW 10 WINGS (2016, Album)
Album Review | Track Review Intro: Boy Meets Evil | Blood Sweat & Tears | Begin | Lie | Stigma | First Love | Reflection | MAMA | Awake | Lost | BTS Cypher Pt. 4 | Am I Wrong | 21st Century Girl | 2! 3! | Interlude: Wings
YOU NEVER WALK ALONE (2017, Repackage)
Spring Day | Not Today | Outro: Wings | A Supplementary Story: You Never Walk Alone
INTERVIEW 03 Fan Translators: Leaders of Content Distribution in the Age of New Media
_Myungji Chae, Operator of BTS Fan Translation Account
INTERVIEW 04 Consolation for the Distressed Youth
_Hyeong-cheol Shin, Literary Critic
Part 3 BTS the World’'s Most Popular Pop Group
REVIEW 11 LOVE YOURSELF 承 ‘Her’ (2017, EP)
Album Review | Track Review Intro: Serendipity | DNA | Best of Me | Dimple | Pied Piper | Skit: Billboard Music Awards Speech | MIC Drop | Go Go | Outro: Her | Skit: Hesitation and Fear | Sea
COLUMN 04 ARMY’s New K-Pop Discourse
INTERVIEW 05 The Perspective of Korean Popular Music Critics on the BTS Phenomenon
_Chang-nam Kim, Chair of Korean Music Awards(KMA) Selection Committee
REVIEW 12 HOPE WORLD BY J-HOPE (2018, Mixtape)
Album Review | Track Review Hope World | P.O.P(Piece of Peace) pt. 1 | Daydream | Base Line | HANGSANG(Feat. Supreme Boi) | Airplane | Blue side(Outro)
REVIEW 13 LOVE YOURSELF 轉 ‘Tear’ (2018, Album)
Album Review | Track Review Intro: Singularity | Fake Love | The Truth Untold(Feat. Steve Aoki) | 134340 | Paradise | Love Maze | Magic Shop | Airplane, Pt. 2 | Anpanman | So What | Outro: Tear
COLUMN 05 Is BTS Really Popular in the United States?
INTERVIEW 06 The New Mechanism of K-pop Industry_Jeff Benjamin, Billboard’s K-pop columnist
REVIEW 14 LOVE YOURSELF 結 ‘Answer’ (2018, Repackage)
Album Review | Track Review Euphoria | Trivia: Just Dance | Trivia : Love | Trivia: Seesaw | Epiphany | I’m Fine | IDOL | Answer: Love Myself
COLUMN 06 Eolssu: a Presentation of “Korean Authenticity” in K-pop
REVIEW 15 mono. BY RM (2018, Mixtape)
Album Review | Track Review tokyo | seoul(produced by Honne) | moonchild | badbye(with eAeon) | uhgood | everythingoes(with Nell) | forever rain
COLUMN 07 Massive Sing-along in Korean in the Heart of New York
COLUMN 08 The Implication of Grammy Awards Nomination
INTERVIEW 07 A Conversation with a Korean Voting Member of the Grammy Awards
_Hyung-joo Lim, Popera Tenor
COLUMN 09 Beyond “the Greatest Boy Band on the Planet”
EPILOGUE The Missing Link in Media Coverage of the BTS Phenomenon
The Korean press often describes BTS as if they rose to stardom overnight, but their potential as a global star was already visible during the early period of their career. The origin of such a trend was a North American K-pop festival called KCON USA, held in the summer of 2014 in Los Angeles, California. There, something completely unexpected happened. The American fans’ response to BTS, a rookie group whose name was barely becoming known, was unusually passionate... the success of BTS is discrete from the traditional style of Hallyu in that it is a musical phenomenon, backed by the massive support of ARMY, their now-famous fandom with an exclusive character.
/ The Onset of BTS Phenomenon at KCON 2014_ 17~18pp.
Self-vindication: this term concisely expresses BTS’ leader and main rapper RM’s first mixtape in a word. The album is faithful to the process of proving who he is. We must pay attention to the context behind this mixtape. The origin of BTS was in their identification as a hip-hop idol. There was an inevitable price to pay for messing with hip-hop, a genre that commands a large brigade of prickly fans who are eager to verify artists’ authenticity. Their format as an idol, regardless of their actual talent, bound them in a certain style of music and performance. This gave the critics an excuse to slam them. Some of the hip-hop community members aimed at the main rappers RM and SUGA, but the game was unfair from the start. This mixtape was born out of such a context. Despite the concerns surrounding “an idol rapper’s solo work,” the rap skills in RM are impeccable, even without the label as an idol. The beats were deliberately chosen to reveal his preference and various grains of his techniques.
/ Review_RM BY RAP MONSTER : Album Review_ 73p.
According to the ARMYs I have encountered in the U.S. over the past few years, BTS’ music is “different” to them. They feel something special that was missing in American pop music, including hip-hop, and previous cases of K-pop music. While there are multiple reasons, the key to such “difference” may be the universality and the wholesome nature of their messages. BTS is the one and only K-pop group that has embraced the narrative of youth and growth, previously avoided in idol music, as their central concept and identity and integrated them into profound messages and trendy music. Following the School Trilogy, their narrative started to develop solidly through the Most Beautiful Moment in Life series. It differed from the conceptual and fictional world view of existing K-pop idols. They were also distinguished from the American mainstream hip-hop, indulged excessively in self-verification and the narrative of macho swagger. The scorching energy of “Dope” and “FIRE,” the dauntless young musicianship demonstrated in the Cypher series and “Mic Drop,” sharp social critique in “Go Go,” and the despair, sorrow, and hope of the wounded youth in “Epilogue: Young Forever” and “Spring Day” have propelled them over the greatest weakness of K-pop — the limitations of authenticity in message and attitude. These diverse, sincere, and universal words cannot be created by training and localization strategies.
/ Column_ Narrative and Authenticity over Localization_ 102~103pp.
Blood Sweat & Tears - “Other than you, I cannot serve anyone else; knowingly, I still had to drink from the poisoned chalice”
One of the most distinct musical transformations since debut, this track represents the crossover from the formula of hip-hop idol to become a pop group. It was highly influenced by multiple genres popularized in the mid-2010s, such as dancehall (a genre of Jamaican pop music) and its subgenres reggaeton and moombahton. Unlike the party atmosphere of the original genres, this song joined symbolic lyrics with Baroque-style mysticism to create something entirely different from the genre’s customs. Without any intro, Jimin’s voice starts the intense beginning. Each movement maximizes their sensuality on stage. In every way, this is one of the most archetypal songs of BTS’ career.
/ Review_WINGS : Track Review_ 151~152pp.
I am aware that the discography of BTS forms its own universe, which cannot be grasped in its entirety with a few songs. As a literary scholar, this is definitely the enticing factor for me. I have never seen a team that consistently writes a collective narrative by characterizing each member. It is incredible that the phenomenon is not just a processed product of stars’ lives, distant from the fans and unilaterally supplied for their consumption. Rather, they are evoking the universal emotions of the contemporary youth who identify with them, positioning their narrative as the screen for the youth to project their circumstances. In this narrative, the creator and the recipient appear to be one and the same.
/ Interview_ Consolation for the Distressed Youth : Hyeong-cheol Shin, Literary critic _ 177p.
At this point, I agree and think BTS having its roots in hip-hop feels like a better fit than pop for sure. Hip-hop comes from a place of necessity and struggle, and it always felt like that’s where BTS operated. The group didn’t necessarily need to release music that spoke to their mental, cultural and generational struggles, but they did it because—Well, I’m not entirely sure—because they had to? Overlook the fact that the members that made up BTS were strategically put together by BigHit Entertainment but how they operated after being put together is where I think their pop roots wither away. The group created music and art together out of necessity and it seemed like it was never because they were told they were releasing a certain song or portraying a certain concept. They did what was inside of them and that’s what connected. This is also seen in their social media strategy. It was always personal messages and photos from them, not filtered through a manager or agency.
/ Interview_ The New Mechanism of K-pop Industry Jeff Benjamin, Billboard Columnist _ 247~248pp.
As a vocal professor and a popera vocalist, I will evaluate them in general. I noticed from Jimin’s vocals his clear diction, high-pitch skills that extend straightforwardly, and excellent falsetto techniques in R&B sensibilities. This is very effective for emotionally appealing to the listeners. Jung Kook’s voice shows incredible restraint. I highly appreciate his vocal techniques, especially when he connects the elegantly beautiful voice with a smooth head voice in legato 29). As for V, the timbre of his baritone voice is very attractive and sounds more masculine than other members. He is also talented at expressing sweet and soft tones, very good at imbuing the music with his deep emotions. Being able to seamlessly express emotions through singing is a terrific strength for musicians in any genre. I’d like to describe Jin’s voice as “silvery.” Almost like a murmur, his voice may not be the fanciest or the grandest, with a lower volume to begin with. But he has stable breathing, along with the ability to interchange freely between moist falsetto, modal and head voice with natural vibrations, which is quite a useful advantage. He also progresses more than expectations in each album, a reflection of how much effort and consideration he is always investing in vocal training. I am highly anticipating how much he will continue to grow. Other members, who may not be vocal positions, also basically know how to handle chords elaborately, in addition to their outstanding rhythmic skills. Whether it is dancing, rapping, or singing, their genuine attitude toward music is a role model for musicians in any genre.
/ Interview_ A Conversation with a Korean Voting Member of the Grammy Awards: Popera Tenor Hyung-joo Lim _ 305~306pp.
Youngdae Kim is a music critic and an author, who serves as a member of Selection Committee for Korean Music Awards. Kim studied business administration at Yonsei University in Korea and completed Ph.D program in ethnomusicology at the University of Washington. Born and raised in South Korea, he moved to Seattle in 2007 where he has been closely observing American pop music trends and the development of K-pop for over a decade. Kim first started critiquing music in the mid-1990s under the online alias toojazzy, publishing wi dely through online magazines. Kim served as a Selection Committee member for “op 100 Albums in Korean Popular Music”projects organized by Kyunghyang (2007) and the Hankyoreh (2018), two of the most influential daily newspapers in Korea. Kim contributes his critical columns in various mainstream media outlets, including Vulture by New York Magazine and MTV, and operates a YouTube channel that analyzes K-pop in depth. He is an author of multiple publications in Korea, including Top 90 Albums of the 1990s and Korean Hip-hop: The Footprints of its Passion , and translated American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3 into Korean.펼쳐보기
H. J. Chung studied Korean history and political economy at UC Berkeley, Seoul National
University, and University of Washington. She has been a K-pop music junkie for as long as she can remember. When she was a kid, her parents had to pull her away from the TV whenever Lee Ji-yeon—he prototypal solo female idol in the 1980s—performed “ind, Please Stop Blowing.”After immigrating to the United States, she started frequenting “oompi Town,”the initial version of today’ Soompi.com, to spazz about H.O.T. with fellow Ko rean American fans. Currently, she is a translator of texts and multimedia in Korean and English on a wide variety of subjects, including K-pop and K-drama.
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