During hard times, relief comes in many forms. Even just in the last year alone, BTS have proved themselves as masters of all, whether they were sharing relatable stories of struggle to make you feel less alone on ‘Life Goes On’ or blasting away the blues with a positive outlook and the addictive energy to match with the Grammy-nominated ‘Dynamite’. As the pandemic continues to put aspects of our lives we previously took for granted on hold, the group are taking a different approach on their newest single.
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‘Butter’, the Korean superstars’ second fully English single, doesn’t come backed with lofty aims of changing moods or mindsets. Instead, it focuses on one simple, humble aim: to make this summer fun. Whereas ‘Dynamite’ was a technicolour explosion of unbridled euphoria, here the band take a more lowkey – but just as effective – path to pop gold.
Gone is the mirrorball sheen of that 2020 disco banger, replaced by something a little more subtle, but just as warm and inviting. The bassline purrs and revs like a sports car warming up for a road trip to paradise, and slathers of smooth synths that feel ready-made for balmy, sunkissed nights. It’s a clean and crisp piece of dance pop that’s undeniably cool without sacrificing immediacy or memorable hooks.
‘Butter’ might not be the most profound song in BTS’ arsenal, but there are more layers to it than there might first seem. Just as ‘Dynamite’ wielded pop culture references to LeBron James and The Rolling Stones, the band’s latest release also packs in nods to hit singles that have come before it. There’s V’s wink to 2000 R&B smash ‘U Got It Bad’ in the line “Don’t need no Usher / To remind me you got it bad” or Jungkook’s opening salute to Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’: “Smooth like butter, like a criminal undercover.” The more you listen, the more potential allusions to the pop universe’s past continue to make themselves known.
BTS’ intentions with the track might be based around pure fun, but ‘Butter’ also has another side to it. The song’s lyrics are full of self-assurance, like Jin and Jimin’s velvety pre-choruses of “Oh when I look in the mirror / I’ll melt your heart into two / I got that superstar glow”, while J-Hope accurately predicts the world’s response to anything BTS does (“Hot like (summer) / Ain’t no (bummer) / You be like, ‘Oh my god’”). Each moment of self-admiration is delivered with unwavering belief that, combined with the strutting instrumental beneath the seven members’ vocals, forms a potent shot of confidence that makes you feel ready to take on the world – and have a great time doing so.
The group’s rap line further bolster that feeling in their verses, making you feel like a part of their undefeatable band. Suga gives a swaggering call-and-response, his gleeful “Hate us?” answered by his bandmates chanting “Love us!”, while RM swiftly follows him up with a hat tip to their extended squad all around the world. “Got ARMY right behind us when we say so,” he raps before the song begins its final bid to get lodged in your brain for a whole season.
The life we once knew still might not return to us this summer, but at least with ‘Butter’ it assures us that the “new normal” doesn’t have to be bleak and boring. It’s still too early in the year to call a definitive Song Of The Summer, but BTS have already set the bar incredibly high.