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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

BTS in 2021: How the K-Pop septet won Billboard Hot 100 with songs of love, togetherness and butter-like charm

In 2021 itself, BTS has managed to break their own records and create history, with Butter, Permission To Dance and My Universe.

By: Entertainment Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 6, 2021 6:32:46 pm
BTSBTS sets new record for themselves. (Photo: BTS/ Instagram)

When BTS members Kim Nam-joon, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, V, Jimin and Jungkook were discovered in 2010, no one could have predicted their meteoric rise to stardom. It was a gruelling journey and most of them almost wanted to quit the band and go solo, as they have said in earlier interviews.  Yet, perhaps the brotherhood and the passion to succeed didn’t allow them to leave. In the summer of 2013, the group debuted, with fair success, their song was tenth on the monthly Korean chart. Today, the band is a global sensation, with dozens of accolades to their credit, a Grammy nomination and songs that have raged through Billboard Hot 100.

In 2021 itself, BTS has managed to break their own records and create history.

Smooth like Butter

Their summer song Butter topped the Billboard Hot 100 for more than eight weeks straight. It wasn’t profound with social messaging like most of their songs. Instead, it was peppy, light, and upbeat, perhaps the kind of calming song one needed in the middle of a crippling pandemic. It was their second song in English, and showed the individual charms of the members. BTS leader RM, who participated in writing the rap portion of the song, revealed the behind-the-scenes stories that went on during the creative process of writing the song.

“All our members are passionate about producing our own music, but this time, we did not take part in composing ‘Butter’ because it was already a decent piece from the beginning,” he said. “But I felt that some parts of the rap did not match very well with our style, so I modified them. At first, my modification seemed incompatible with the song, but I could soon put them together thanks to my familiarity with American hip-hop and pop music.”

The group’s other rappers, Suga and J-Hope, revealed that they also wrote the rap verses, but could not include them in Butter after they “dropped out of a competition.”

“We always face competition (when deciding whose works to include in our releases,)” Suga said. “Since we had to make raps in English this time, I studied English hard, but still could not win the battle.” J-Hope agreed that the ‘competition was merciless’.

Yet, overcoming their difficulties, BTS bagged awards at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, which was held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. They were announced as winners of Group Of The Year (Best Group), which was announced at the pre-show party, as well as Best K-Pop and Song Of The Summer for Butter.

This also marked the group’s third consecutive year winning both Group of the Year and Best K-Pop, and it’s their first time taking home the title of Song of the Summer.

They didn’t need permission to dance

However, BTS wasn’t done with the summer singles. The band came up with Permission To Dance, which was co-written with Ed Sheeran. With this song, they re-imagined the end of the pandemic — a world where everyone was free to roam around without masks, and to reunite with their loved ones. The music video also included their crew members and staff, bodyguards, stylists and managers. Jimin had said, “Out of all of our music videos, this MV is the first that made me this happy. Our MVs were always fun to watch but I think it didn’t make people joyful.” RM added, “I think we broke the prejudice that others aside from us don’t appear in our music videos. I think we broke that prejudice.” The song was healing for the boys, as it ‘featured ordinary people in it’.

The song was a rage too, and they became the first to replace themselves on the charts for the second time. “#PermissiontoDance at no. 1 last week, now #BTS_Butter at no. One! HOT 100 brimming with #BTS music for 9 straight weeks,” read a tweet on BTS’ official Twitter handle. BTS created history, as Butter returned to top the charts again. They performed the song at the UN General Assembly, in September.

My Universe 

BTS collaborated with popular British band Coldplay for the song My Universe, which was an attempt to show that love transcends all boundaries, regardless of geographical restrictions. As the pandemic had isolated people from their loved ones, the English-Korean song found place in fans’s hearts, as it resonated with listeners. RM had said that he wrote the lyrics, picturing the day he can reunite with ARMY. “Chris said that this song is very personal for him as a part of him is frustrated by the fact that Coldplay can’t play live in a concert. I thought how to make this relevant to BTS. Since the lyrics go, ‘You are my universe’, this song should definitely be dedicated to ARMY. I wrote the lyrics while picturing the day we will reunite with ARMY.”

Chris Martin, frontman of Coldplay had emphasised that the song celebrates love, and togetherness. “It’s very special to me that the most popular artistes in the world speak Korean and is like a group of brothers, not from the West. It feels very hopeful to me, in terms of thinking of the world as one family. Then of course, when you see who they are and their songs, it’s really a message of togetherness, and being yourself,” he said.

The song has made it to the top spot on Billboard Hot 100, and recorded 11.5 million streams in the US, with 5.5 million radio airplay impressions.

It remains to be seen how BTS can soar higher, and the new fresh methods to put forth the messages of love, togetherness and unity in severely troubling times. It’s no surprise that ARMY sees them as a beacon of hope, something that the septet is determined to maintain.

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