Nine Years of BTS, A Lifetime’s Supply of Epiphanies and Comfort
It’s been a journey of self-love, growth and reflection. Here’s how nine years of BTS impacted the life of a 20-something-year-old
There’s a difference between growing up and growing old, and oftentimes, the distinction between the two gets blurred. Growing old is a numbers game. On the other hand, growing up cannot be quantified and that seems to be the case with BTS ARMY members such as myself vis-à-vis our relationship with the septet. BTS’ impact on their fans, however small or big it may be, is incredibly difficult to quantify. Think about it: How do you put a number to the umpteen times their music provided you with a breather from the chaos in your life? How do you quantify the behavioral changes one experiences by following the group’s philosophy or the newfound introspective lens you view yourself through? These things can only be experienced, which makes explaining your journey with BTS even more difficult. How do I describe an emotion that only I have experienced to a stranger, who is most likely to perceive my story through their prejudices?
BTS have been active since 2013, and while many share the bragging rights of sticking with the septet since day one and seeing them grow in front of their eyes, millions have a different story to tell. There’s a popular saying in the BTS fandom: “You don’t find BTS, BTS finds you. They enter your life when you need them the most and make everything right.” Whether BTS found you in your teens, twenties, thirties, or even sixties, the group has time and again proven that music knows no age, gender, or color.
Since their debut, the group has spotlighted various themes. While BTS are celebrated for their stellar showmanship, powerful performances, and genuine outlook towards life and music, their real power lies in their lyricism. Over the last nine years, the group has dabbled with different emotions, spotlighting real stories. What started out as a channel to express troubles with the system and make their voices heard, later branched out to examining 3 AM thoughts that keep us up at night. Be it unrequited love, lost friendship, loneliness, or the meaning of life, the first half of BTS’ chapter was all about ruminating over the emotional turbulence that constitutes our youth. If you joined the fandom in your twenties (like me), chances are your experience was more cathartic than validating.
Growing up, the boybands of my time catered more to the impressionable love-struck girl in me as opposed to one crumbling under societal pressure and injustice. Sure, I had a swell time being swooned by the love ballads and pure pop hits telling me I’m perfect just the way I am, but no one was really representing the real me – the person entangled in struggles. Where was the music that voiced my story outside of love and romance? This was a thought I found myself mulling over in my early twenties. Luckily, BTS maneuvered its way into my life and just like that, the teen in me starved of answers to her problems and bubbling with repressed frustration finally found closure.
With tracks like “N.O” from BTS’ EP O!RUL8,2?, I realized the moments I spent standing up for myself and going against the crowd were not an act of disobedience but rather done in self-preservation to protect my dreams and ideology. The septet’s debut track, “No More Dream,” reinstated my belief that success and fulfilling big dreams is not a game of hard work alone. Luck will always play a part in the equation, and sometimes hard work alone cannot generate the results you chase after. Then came “Whailen 52,” which comforted the young adult in me who eventually lost touch with her high-school friends. In the grand scheme of life, we’ll never really be alone. Given the nature of our lives, we are bound to have people around us, but the ties we forge with them will never replace those that made us feel loved and a little less lonely in this vast universe. With “Whailen 52,” BTS discusses this sentiment at length – raw, unfiltered and sincere, the track successfully overcomes the language barrier, leaving you with a glimmer of hope that someone out there will hear your call: “An endless signal will reach someday/ Everywhere, even to the other side of the Earth.”
By the time The Most Beautiful Moment In Life trilogy concluded, the teen in me was no longer cooped up and lonely. It was now time to address the far more complex questions that adulthood brought with it.
BTS’ Love Yourself trilogy is one for the books. Through this chapter, the septet builds up your confidence and self-love that may have been chipped away as a result of enduring bitter experiences. Tracks such as “134340” relay perplexities over finding yourself drifting away from someone’s life. Here, BTS does an incredible job of employing Pluto as a metaphorical device to convey the complex stir of emotions. If your teen years are all about forging relationships, your twenties is an endless cycle of losing track of those relationships whilst creating space for new ones. In order to try and find the balance between the two, an epiphany slips in, helping you realize that sometimes it’s best to let go of ties – a sentiment expressed beautifully in “Trivia: Seesaw.” Under the pretense of being perceived as a cold-hearted individuals, we tend to settle for less, enduring all sorts of emotional pain. Through “Trivia: Seesaw,” the group’s rapper-producer Suga provides some much-needed courage to step off the seesaw and end the unnecessary anxiety and turbulence: “All right, a repeated seesaw game/ It’s about time we put an end to it/ All right, a boring seesaw game/ Someone has to get off of this seesaw.”
Tracks such as “Go Go” and “Paradise” introduce us to the other facets of adulthood that our wide-eyed teen perception, unfortunately, turned a blind eye towards. A critique of societal structures, “Go Go” examines the relationship between spending habits and the flawed economic structures we function within. Overconsumption and the notion that ‘you only live once’ has caused more damage than good; money is either making the youth run aimlessly in pursuit of it or run completely out of it. Through “Go Go,” BTS attempt to shine the light on our inner conflicts driving us to indulge in materialism to bring short-lived relief from our daily struggles.
If “Go Go” was the wake-up call you needed to get your finances in order, “Paradise” is the track you need to acknowledge the true meaning of happiness. As made clear through their rookie releases, youngsters are constantly pushed to chase goals and compete with one another. Ultimately, this wild rat race leaves you feeling hollow, tired and disoriented. With “Paradise,” BTS give you a much-needed breather and perspective to help you realize that true happiness lies in enjoying the present. While the world and hustle culture may groom you to believe that life is meaningless without a quantifiable goal, you must remember that aimlessly running for the sake of it is not the answer you’re searching for. Sometimes it’s okay to cite happiness as your goal: “It’s all right to stop/ There’s no need to run without even knowing the reason/ It’s all right to not have a dream/ If you have moments where you feel happiness for a while.”
One cannot bring up the Love Yourself series without discussing “Epiphany” and “Answer: Love Myself.” Sung by Jin, “Epiphany” is one of those rare tracks that weave a compelling storyline with you (the listeners) as the protagonist, navigating through the rocky roads of self-love. It helps you come to terms with the sickening truth of losing yourself right before the epiphany strikes. The lyrical approach helps drive the overarching point home – self-love begins when you embrace the flaws in you: “I may be a bit blunt, I may lack some things/ I may not have that shy glow around me/ But this is me/ My arms, my legs, my heart, my soul.” Many continue to be baffled by how a song could impact a person to a point where it changes their perspective on life. This is not a strange occurrence, nor is it a phenomenon. For decades, music has continued to comfort and inspire many, and “Epiphany” is no different.
“Answer: Love Myself” shares a similar perspective on growth and self-acceptance. There’s a particular line in this track that summarizes a key factor we tend to overlook in our journey of self-love; “Even all the scars from your mistakes make up your constellation.” This one line by Jimin tells you everything you need to know about self-acceptance. The notion of accepting all aspects of your life is highlighted in the song time and again, creating a general sense of comfort in knowing that life has space for your mistakes, and a swirl of your victories and losses or good and bad days contributes to your beautiful existence on this planet.
Tracks such as “Black Swan” help you come to terms with the idea that hobbies or activities that once brought you joy may not do the same for the rest of your life. It’s a soothing hymn that helps you come to terms with the fact that amidst the chaos, change is the only constant and there will be times when you may have to change your outlook on life or tweak your creative goals to experience fulfillment again.
Now, with Proof, BTS have opened a discussion around their new chapter and there’s something extremely comforting about seeing seven artists in their late twenties look at their future as just their beginning, when society continues to drill in the idea that the twenties are your only prime years.
Growing up with BTS is not centered on their discography alone. Seeing seven boys unconditionally love and respect one another in their own goofy and dorky ways negates the Western pop-culture notion that soulmates are found in romantic partners alone. Together with their music, BTS teaches you to be a better person for yourself. They help you navigate through the terrains of uncertainty and pull you from the depths of despair when everyone around you lets you down. But, most importantly, BTS is the loudest voice you’ll hear, always cheering for you as you march towards your goals.