The Message of the Song: The Case of BTS

The Message of the Song: The Case of BTS

Music is a global commonality. Every society or community universally has a musical component in their culture. Today, the same situation persists. The difference is that technological advancements have allowed the easier access and spread of music from different regions of the world. For this reason, many groups and musicians, each with different genres or music, messages and musical components have come up and garnered public attention. A good example of such musicians, is the currently popular boy group from Korea, Behind The Scene (BTS), that has continued to garner global acclaim and success despite singing their songs primarily in their native Korean language. Essentially, success such as this is indicative of the impact that the message adopted by a musician, and the genre they pursue is influential in attracting listeners.

BTS, which originally stood for “Bangtan Sonyeondan” is a Korean septet that was formed in 2013. This group, over the years, has gained global support and acclamations, for breaking barriers that held back K-Pop music (Korean Popular Music), from attracting a more Western audience. In their career, the group has produced 3 single albums, 6 studio albums, 5 Eps, and 5 compilation albums. Within these, the group covers many topics that appeal and attract to different members of the society.

The earlier album packages produced by the group, took on a Hip Hop genre, and explored topics that ranged from political systems, social systems, and the crippling education system in Korea that puts immense pressure on young students to succeed in education. This over-education in the country, has been a cause of many suicide attempts by students in the country, who fear that failure in education is failure in life. A good example of such a song, is “N.O” a song released in 2013 which uses lyrics such as (Lyrics are translated from Korean to English) “Who made us study machines” “Who will take responsibility [for us] living the lives of puppets?” and another titled “Dope” released in 2016 that has lyrics such as “Why are you killing us before we can try?” “The media and adults say we have no willpower and look at us as if we’re investments.” They have addressed political and social systems through their songs “Am I Wrong” with lyrics such as “if what you see in the news is nothing to you… you are not normal” and spine breaker which addresses the consumerism culture and class system in the world today with lyrics such as “the class system of the 21st century is divided into two/those who have and those who haven’t.”

The group also explores themes of mental illness, and depression that befalls young members of the society arising from the pressures to succeed. In a song titled “The Last” by one of the Members called Suga alias Agust-D, the singer writes “on the other side of the famous idol rapper stands my weak self, it’s a bit dangerous, depression, OCD, they keep coming back again from time to time” addressing a period in his life when he had depression, and how he has overcome that time with lyrics encouraging happiness such as those from a song titled  “Lost” that state “I still believe, even though it’s unbelievable, to lose your path is the way to find your path”

In recent works, the group explored the topic of Loving oneself, emphasizing through their music that true love begins with loving oneself and it is only by accepting individual weaknesses, strengths and differences that one can gain happiness, and progress in life. Different lyrics reflect these sentiments, but the most powerful is the blatant declaration in two of their songs, “Epiphany” which states that “I’m shaking and afraid but I keep going forward, I’m the one I should love, in this world” and “Cypher pt 4” which resonates the lyrics “I love myself” over and over. Other topics explored by the group include the process of growing from boyhood into adult hood, and the difficulties and uncertainties that young people face as they attempt to venture into adulthood. Examples of these lyrics include “What am I doing with my life? This moment won’t ever come again, I’m asking myself am I happy right now?” from a song called “Intro: The Most Beautiful Moment in Life,” “What is it that you dreamed of?” from a song called “No More Dream” and “I believe in myself. My back hurts in order to let my wings sprout” in a song titled “Wings”

Topics such as these, are inherently important to explore as an individual with a significant amount of influence. These topics, also present a largely diverse audience for the group. The audience ranges from Teenagers and school going individuals, young adults, and even people from the older generations. Primarily however, the main audience for the group is teenagers and young adults. This is because, the diverse topics addressed resonate with individuals from different generations. Often people of all ages struggle with depression and lack of happiness or love for oneself, class systems affect people from all ages. Additionally, young adults and teenagers often struggle with education systems, and issues regarding growth and venturing into adulthood. Because of this, the group, with its different genres of music has amassed an audience in the world.

Another way that the group attracts its audience, is through its musical components. The group has adopted different genres into their music from pop music, hip hop music, electronic dance, rock, and sometimes, they compose ballads. This diversity, for instance through popular music ensures that the music is often replayed in media platforms from television, to radio and often on the internet through streaming platforms such as YouTube, Amazon Music, Google Play, and Spotify among others. Diversity also ensures that a wider range of audience, each with different tastes and preferences is catered to, a situation that widens the scope of reach for the group.

All in all, the group is an ideal manifestation of the statement that music is a universal language. With its roots in Korea, where it was created as a K-Pop group, the group produces its music primarily in the Korean language. Despite this, it has managed to appeal to a very wide and diverse audience because of its socially comprehensive messages and topics, its adoption of different genres and components of music, and exploitation of current technological advancements. Essentially, while several artists who fall into the K-Pop category have not succeeded in amassing an audience in the West, this group through its socially conscious messages and diverse discography has managed to not only succeed, but set itself up as a current and influential music group.