Pop music has long been a healing force in the world, reflecting the times that we’re living through – be that on a macro or micro scale – and offering comfort, support and a vehicle to process our experiences through. BTS are pros at this, and often hold a mirror up to the struggles facing young people in society and in their relationships with others and themselves in their songs.
Their new single ‘Dynamite’ – their first entirely in English – might not reference our current state of global turmoil in its lyrics (instead focusing on the good times gone by in lines such as “Bring a friend / Join the crowd”), but it was borne out of the same desire to help soothe their fans.
It achieves this in spades, and is a potent tonic from pandemic life that. In another time, the song would serve as a soundtrack to days spent endlessly lingering in the sun and “danc[ing] til the break of dawn”. This is a song that takes you on a ride into an alternate world of freedom and fun.
BTS, like everyone, have felt the impact of the pandemic pressing pause on their plans this year. Instead of using this time to take a few months off, they’ve thrown themselves into making a new album (due for release later this year), taking on all duties from the music to visuals and marketing to choreography. As well as helping others, focusing on music has aided them in this time too.
“At first, we were all lost,” rapper and leader RM said at the band’s online press conference last week (August 21) when NME asked how they’d all been getting on. “It was very hard the more time passed.” But the process of time and a forced break also gave them a renewed perspective: “Things that are suspended in water will settle to the bottom after a while and then you get clean water. This allowed us to settle down and allowed us to see more clearly in the future. Covid-19 put a halt to many of our activities, but it also gave us a chance to not just work on music, but to think really deeply about music.”
The band describe coming across ‘Dynamite’, which was written by songwriters Jessica Agombar and David Stewart, as “destiny”, as well as a chance for them to try their hand at something new. “When things were difficult and frustrating for us, this was a sort of ray of light, a sip of sweet water,” RM said. “We call this our own recharge project and we hope that it will be able to recharge your own batteries, even if it’s only for a moment.”
As ‘Dynamite’ fights for the Number One spot on the Official UK Singles Chart (and will almost certainly score them their highest charting UK debut to date), we caught up with BTS to talk about spreading joy, their upcoming VMAs performance and their next album.
Historically, disco music has served as a form of escapism, giving listeners reprieve from society’s hardships. There are many music genres that can give the positive energy you were after – why was disco the right route to go down in terms of ‘Dynamite’’s sound?
BTS: “We didn’t intend to choose disco for our digital single. We came across the song while working on our new album. When we first heard the demo, the upbeat sound and energy of the track instantly cheered us up. We wanted ‘Dynamite’ to deliver a message of hope to our fans in these difficult times, so this disco pop genre track felt like the perfect fit.”
The dance routines in your videos are usually highly choreographed but ‘Dynamite’ feels a lot looser and more spontaneous in places. How does that reflect what you want people to take from the song?
BTS: “The choreography is cheerful and crisp and goes well with the song. The gestures and moves not only bring out the unique personalities and vibes of each member, but it’s also really catchy and easy to learn. As much as we want people to be uplifted by this tune, we hope a lot of people will be able to pick up the dance moves easily and groove away!”
RM, in the ‘Dynamite’ press conference you said the coronavirus halting your planned activities gave you a chance to think really deeply about music too. Can you share what you meant by that?
RM: “It has been a difficult year for many. We have also had to face many surprises and changes. That naturally made us think profoundly about music. We can honestly say that we love it, and we are passionate about singing and dancing more than anyone. We realised, however, that no matter how passionate we are, we need our fans there to listen to our songs and watch us perform. It made us eager to comfort and give joy to people through our music and performance more than ever. That is how ‘Dynamite’ came to be. We decided to accept new challenges and be more flexible.”
You’re performing at the VMAs on August 31, an awards ceremony that has seen many iconic performances over the years from the likes of Madonna, Nirvana, Beyoncé, and Eminem. What does it mean to you for BTS to be getting the chance to join that list?
BTS: “First and foremost, it’s an honour to perform ‘Dynamite’ for the very first time at the VMAs! Although we will be connecting from Seoul, we’re excited at the opportunity to perform alongside many incredible artists. We’d like to credit our ARMYs for their unbelievable support that allowed us to participate in amazing opportunities like this.”
Break The Silence: The Movie is out next month and follows you on your 2019 ‘Love Yourself: Speak Yourself’ world tour. What are your favourite memories or were the most important moments for each of you from that tour?
BTS: “Performing on stage with our fans is definitely the highlight of the tour. But we did enjoy some moments off stage as well and you can see all of those moments in the new movie too.”
June’s Bang Bang Con earned you the Guinness World Record for most-viewed livestream concert. What was the experience of holding your own virtual concert like for you?
BTS: “We never expected such a remarkable accomplishment. It was quite a memorable and valuable experience for us to perform for our ARMYs even in these hard times. The fact that we won’t stop navigating ways to stay connected with our fans means a lot to us.”
You’re currently working on a new album and have shared out different roles – e.g. Jimin as project manager and V in charge of visuals. How has undertaking these roles changed your perspective on the album-making process?
BTS: “This upcoming album really reaches new heights in terms of active participation from the members. We each take our share of responsibility for the team and act with initiative; increasing our responsibility from general participation to taking charge of more significant portions of the creative process allowed us to consider many more aspects of music.”