It’s hard not to fall in love with a group for superficial reasons, but if Darwin could give a nickname for natural selection in the K-pop industry, it would be “survival of the prettiest.” There is an overpopulation of idol groups, and in order to stand out one of the most effective methods groups have found has been focusing on a cool, attention-grabbing concept. Exo‘s “Wolf” for example, is an extravagant, powerful, and artsy concept, but like most other idol groups, their focus on a specific concept was so extreme that they ignored all the other elements that gave songs a meaningful purpose- “I’ll take you in one mouthful like cheese.” Once we have stripped the song of it’s pretty outer shell and other dramatic effects, what we’ve been left with are cheesy lyrics and a song with no real significant message.
Can we deny that our love for idol groups doesn’t extend much further than the cool concepts and images that they present to us? Do we even care about about the lack of authentic content in idols’ music, so long as their visuals and sounds are appealing? As the focus and extremity of concepts grow, it’s the actual content of the song that begins to diminish. As K-pop fans, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking a visually appealing, charismatic and talented idol group, but when a group comes along that is also trying to send significant messages through their music, they need to be recognized.
Bangtan Boys, a.k.a. BTS, are not just an idol group, but define what it means to be “idol artists.” In terms of their creative input and authentic expression in their music, BTS are real artists, which lacks greatly in the K-pop world among idol groups. They have only debuted 9 months ago, but from-the-gecko have created songs that not only have meaningful lyrics, share relatable messages, and successfully express themselves as individuals, while being entertaining visually and performance-wise. Although the stereotype for idols exists that they are not artists, BTS have been proving that stereotype wrong and are doing it again with their latest comeback.
As the title name suggests, “Boy In Luv” is about the different feelings and thoughts that go through a boy’s mind when they see a girl that they are attracted to and want to be with. Members Rap Monster and Suga have helped in the production of this song, which gives the emotions and meanings in this song that much more authenticity. Not only should a lot of young males be able to relate to this, but from a girl’s perspective, we can get an insight as to what goes on inside the mysterious minds of boys. In this song, BTS reveals that boys are not only insecure and frustrated when it comes to love, but they can also be sensitive and vulnerable. They have a lot of new charms in this song and you’ll find it hard not to fall in luv with them.
BTS’s songs are known for addressing issues that a lot of listeners their age can relate to. In their past title tracks,“No More Dream” and “N.O,” the boys conveyed their frustration towards schools and their parents. On the outside, they may seem like your average idol group, but when we delve deeper into their music and lyrics, we find that they have a deeper purpose. It’s no secret that in South Korean society, there is an overwhelming amount of pressure put on teens to succeed and become “the best” in school, and it’s been such a widely shared concern among South Korean kids for such a long time that I’m surprised BTS is one of the first idol groups to tackle it. The messages haven’t led–and probably won’t lead–to any large rebellions in the classroom anytime soon, but bringing the issues to light and doing so in a genuine fashion (having written their own lyrics) is what makes BTS stand out positively in a sea of idol groups.
In “No More Dream” and “N.O,” BTS were cliché hip hop boys wearing flashy chains, bandanas, and baggy clothes for a rebellious look. With “Boy In Luv,” BTS are staying consistent with their rebel image, but have ditched the hip hop concept for a chic, school boy look. Through it’s added simplicity and refinement, BTS are able to showcase more different charms than we’re used to, as well as a greater sense of maturity.
The most ironic part of this MV is the fact that even though the boys have such a cool image, cool dance, and overall cool song, when we listen to the lyrics we hear all their insecurities, and find that nothing about them is cool at all. The lyrics and MV of this song go through a sort of progression, where the boys start off as mischievous boys who don’t know how to handle their feelings of love, but by the end of the MV we see them gain confidence and maturity as they learn how to confess their feelings to the girl they love.
What’s surprising and refreshing about this song is the way that they have chosen to represent their progression from boys to men. Whereas most idols show their maturity and “manliness” by gaining more muscle, revealing more skin, or having a tough-guy, insensitive attitude, BTS has shown their ultimate growth into manhood by becoming vulnerable, losing their pride, and telling the girl face-to-face their true thoughts and emotions. The whole concept is extremely genuine, and I hope more groups can follow this route since the concepts of male idol groups have been becoming more unrealistic and sometimes poisonous in its messages.
“Boy In Luv” has elements like any other MV that make it entertaining, such as impressive dancing, good-looking boys, and a cool outfit change at 4:15, but where the strengths of this MV really lie are in it’s abilities to show each of the member’s individual personalities.
Not only are the boys back tackling a new issue and showing off new charms, but they have decided to take a risk with a totally new sound. BTS has been a hip hop idol group with a very hip hop style and sound so far, so when we hear the beginning of “Boy In Luv” we immediately think we are going to get the same thing. But a little past the one-minute mark, the mood of the song completely changes and we hear the addition of electric guitars and drums for a rock-and-roll feel. The change is unexpected and surprising in the best way possible, but I also have to mention that Block B infused rock and hip hop with their song “Very Good” last year. While the infusion of genres is the same concept of sound for both two groups, they are still completely different. I think BTS was very successful at infusing both rock and hip hop into a balanced sound and having it come across as aggressive without overly harsh on the ears, and Block B was very successful at creating a fun song that had spontaneous moments of both rock and electronic sounds.
Overall, I really can’t find any huge flaws with the song or MV. These boys aren’t trying to be anyone else but themselves, the lyrics and image fits them appropriately, and you know what, they’re having fun and making fun music. From where I stand, the boys were coming back with high expectations after winning many accolades for “Best Rookie Group of the Year,” they took a risk with a different style and sound than we’re used to hearing from them, they’ve kept their rebellious, swag-filled image while showing growth in maturity since their last promotions, and they still rap about relevant, significant issues.
They only debuted 9 months ago, and being from a smaller, lesser-known label, I think they have done been doing an amazing job. They are still young and have a lot of learning to do in this industry, but the fact that they have creative involvement in their music already makes them more successful and more unique than half the idol groups out there. I can’t wait to see how they will evolve as idol artists in the future.
(Images via Big Hit Entertainment)