BTS’ ‘Permission To Dance’ cements their status as kings of the feel-good summer smash

Encouraging and euphoric, the group’s second Ed Sheeran collab is an uplifting gift for ARMY and an inevitable addition to their collection of chart-toppers

In our world where the best art is still often equated to that which has come from darkness or pain, it’s easy to dismiss feel-good, summery pop songs as lightweight or throwaway. But they’re an important contribution to our musical spectrum – without the light, bright, happy moments, we’d be in a relentless slog of mining our trauma and nobody needs that.

BTS have already long proven themselves as more than adept at both dark and light. Especially over the last 11 months, though, they’ve made euphoric, hopeful releases seem effortless, with the likes of 2020’s ‘Dynamite’, ‘BE’’s retro-funk jam ‘Telepathy’ and this summer’s ‘Butter’. Now the latest, ‘Permission To Dance’, cements their spot on the throne as the kings of the feel-good summer smash.

‘Permission To Dance’ is classic, uplifting pop. It is “dedicated to anyone who is having a bad day or is discouraged in the face of reality”, according to a press release, and it’s hard to imagine it not providing at least a little pick-me-up in those circumstances. “Let’s break our plans / And live just like we’re golden,” V, Jin and Jimin offer at various points throughout the song, a reminder that we can change our situation, even if only temporarily, and find some moments of joy together.

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The song itself packages up plenty of its own moments of joy, from the rap line’s singing to the ‘Dynamite’-reminiscent “da-na-na-na” chants. “Just keep the right vibe, yeah / ’Cos there’s no looking back,” Suga commands, giving a nod to his verse in ‘Butter’, while J-hope acknowledges the obstacles we face and gives sunnily-delivered advice on getting through: “If you don’t let it faze you / You’ll know just how to break.”

There are warm piano notes and string motifs that twirl and spin as if they’re suggesting the dance moves you should pull. Towards the end, there’s a moment where the reverb gets turned all the way up, the instrumentation all but fades away and all that remains are BTS’ voices and rousing handclaps.

Yes, it is a little formulaic and predictable in places but nothing has to – or can – reinvent the wheel to be deemed good, and ‘Permission To Dance’’s particular equation results in an undeniable surge of infectious energy (and, inevitably, a likely new chart-topper for the current Billboard kings to add to their collection).

At its core, BTS’ third English-language song – and second collaboration with Ed Sheeran, who co-wrote this track and 2019’s ‘Make It Right’ – is also an ode to the liberating, healing power of music. “I wanna dance / The music’s got me going / Ain’t nothing that can stop how we move,” sing Jungkook and V, caught up in the same spell the track casts. RM, meanwhile, singles out another legendary artist following ‘Butter’’s Michael Jackson and Usher references: “When it all seems like it’s wrong / Just sing along to Elton John.”

Following BTS’ eighth anniversary in June, today (July 9) marks eight years since the official founding of their fanbase ARMY. As birthday gifts go, ‘Permission To Dance’ is a great one to receive – fun, encouraging and likely to send everyone to the dancefloor at the accompanying party.

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