Album Review: BE by BTS
by Angelie Rodriguez
For many people around the world, 2020 was a year that no one would ever choose to repeat. With chaos in the political world and feelings of grief and stress with the Covid-19
pandemic, finding a silver lining proved to be difficult. However, even though it may have been an unpleasant year for health and the government, it was an exceptional year for music. The music industry may have been restricted to a high extent considering the halt of touring, concerts, and award shows, but that didn’t stop artists from continuously putting out songs and albums for people to enjoy amid these rough times. One group of artists that successfully broke records and created appreciably satisfying music was K-pop sensation, BTS.
You may not have heard of BTS in the years before 2020, but by the amount of attention they’ve been getting, you definitely know them now. They have performed at the VMA’s, BBMA’s, the ABC Disney Holiday Singalong, and The Late Late Show With James Corden. And now with them taking home awards left and right, it’s safe to say that the boy band is now considered top tier among the artist circle. This is especially noted by their Grammy nomination for their hit song, “Dynamite”, being the first K-pop group to accomplish such feat. It receiving 100 million views on YouTube in 24 hours, becoming the best ever debut of a music video, hitting number one on the billboard hot 100, and setting similar records with Spotify and iTunes, it can be argued that “Dynamite” is that song.
But, “Dynamite” isn’t the only song that BTS broke records for in 2020. After releasing the all English single on August 21st, BTS released an album titled ‘BE’ on November 20th, an eight-track culmination of diverse and intimate songs. The album gave listeners a look into their experiences during the pandemic from the emptiness of not being able to perform and see their fans, to the seemingly never-ending cycle of work and quarantine. Although all the tracks were equally as touching and strong, there were a few tracks that stood out the most.
One of those is the first song in the album, “Life Goes On”. This first track starts the album with a soft but also emotional feel, setting the mood of the song as if you would be looking out the window of a moving train. The boys’ vocals as well as the calm singsong rap, aren’t too overpowering, allowing the bouncy and slightly distorted beat to sift through and create a nice harmonic balance between voice and melody. Their voices take on a tone of longing, which reflects their yearn for performing and having that face-to-face interaction with their fans. Lyrically, the words are simply poetic and send the message that even if times are rough now, one day in the future, we’ll be able to meet again because life goes on, hence the chorus, “Like an echo in the forest/The day will come back/As if nothing happened/Yeah life goes on.”
Track Two, “Fly To My Room,” stands as another remarkable song, being a unit song comprised of two of the four vocalists in the group, V and Jimin, and two of the three rappers, J-Hope and Suga. Together, they create a laid-back and funky composition emphasized by a keyboard line and drum beats that really get you swaying from side to side, especially during the chorus. The lyrics seem to describe the experience of everyone’s quarantine life, portraying the frustrations of staying home and seeing the same things all day, wishing you could go outside. However, it also brings the struggle into a new, positive light, by touching on the fact that those same things that you see everyday become your closest companions, as stated by the lyrics “The old desk and the changed sunlight/You look special, I’m a little less lonely.” The theme that is being conveyed is the idea that your home, or this case your room, can become your safe space, a space where all the emotions that you don’t get to show out in public can be set free. The song states “Landing over the bed, this is the safest/Somehow, joy, sadness, any emotion, this is just accepting/Sometimes this room becomes a trash can for emotions, but it hugs me.”And of course, we can’t forget about the chorus which ultimately gets stuck in your head and is mostly highlighted toward the end of the song. Jimin succeeds in serenading us with a high note vocal, “Come on now, let me fly to my room/Get me outta my blues/And now I’m feelin’ brand new”.
Lastly, Track 3, “Blue & Grey,” is known as the cry song of the bunch, written by group member V. Showcasing bare emotion and vulnerability, the song was written around the time that the 27 year old V was feeling burnt out and a bit depressed, not knowing how to move on with his career. Using guitar and artful fingerpicking, the acoustic pop ballad intentionally includes raw vocals and a dejected, yet honest tone of rap, to transcend this internal monologue that tugs at your heartstrings. The falsetto the singers take on in the chorus is breathtaking and expresses intensity and passion to contrast the low ranging voices of the rappers which convey feelings of sadness and melancholy. The lyrics show how V seems to be questioning himself, not sure where these dark feelings of his are coming from, which he describes as “a blue question mark”. As he’s living through a regular day, he observes that everyone seems to be happy while he instead is feeling drained and glum, as indicated by the lyrics, “Where is my angel/The end of the day/Someone come and save me, please/Just a sigh of a tiring day/People are all happy/Can you look at me? ‘Cause I am blue and gray.” The song then takes an even more devastating turn when he wishes to be happier, now wanting to struggle with the heavy burdens on his shoulders: “Oh this ground feels so heavier/I am singing by myself/I just wanna be happier/Is this also a big greed?”
To say the least, BTS’s ‘BE’ was exactly the type of music that we needed to reassure us that everything will be alright. Even though not all tracks are included here, some notable mentions are “Dis-ease,” a unique and intellectually profound track with outstanding production, “Telepathy,” a fun and quirky retro-pop disco song, and of course “Dynamite,” the happy pill of group with catchy lyrics and a groovy feel.
Collaborated by the members from visuals, to songwriting, to producing, and directing, the album serves as a comforting reminder that those who are having a hard time coping with the pandemic, are not alone, for there are seven celebrities on the other side of the planet who understand the emptiness and despair that we all must be feeling. All seven songs in the album are diverse instrumentally and lyrically and they come together to convey the theme that despite how utterly hopeless things may look right now, they won't last forever. There is definitely hope for the future.