BTS are back with their new album Map Of The Soul: 7, titled to reflect both the number of years since their debut and the synergy between the seven members that has driven their success. Title track “ON” is being showcased through two videos, the first billed as a kinetic manifesto. It marks BTS’ first choreography-led MV since 2017’s “Mic Drop” remix with Steve Aoki. It’s a bold, brilliantly simple showcase of their power as performers.
“’ON’ Kinetic Manifesto Film : Come Prima” is the latest addition to BTS’ legacy of epic dance-orientated music videos. The lovely use of light and shadow in 2014’s “Just One Day” remains a rare, stunning showcase of the group’s softer side, while the unexpected humour and bright pops of colour in “War of Hormone” presented the boys at their cocky, crazy best. Among their kaleidoscopic videography, “Save Me” is unique in its bare-bones production: shot in an empty field, the one-take film allowed the song’s beautifully emotive choreography to take centre stage. BTS have set the bar high among the stars, but “ON : Come Prima” proves they’re always ready to bring something even better.
“ON : Come Prima” follows in the footsteps of anthemic B-side “Not Today”, with a 30-strong team of perfectly synchronised back-up dancers lending the video a military vibe. Led by “Dionysus” choreographer Sienna Lalau, members of marching band the Blue Devils and dance team The Lab open the video. While “Not Today” orientated its back-up dancers in opposition to BTS, “ON : Come Prima” takes the choreo to the next level by having the band weave between the dancers’ ever-shifting formations. Dressed all in black and each wielding a pair of drumsticks with formidable flair, they make for a fearsome chorus.
Jimin leads the performance, and the choreography really complements his dance style. There’s a freestyle feel to the way BTS flow between verses, before coming together for each explosive chorus. The dance rides the song’s hypnotic beat by combining tight spins, sharp kicks, and rapid-fire level changes to create a striking routine that exudes confidence. The double-speed effect that kicks in during the post-bridge dance break adds an extra thrum of energy to J-Hope and Jimin’s already lightning-swift movements, while the camera often swings up and around to give the viewer a 360-degree view of the performance. This bird’s eye perspective offers the added trick of watching the boys’ shadows dance alongside them. This imagery reflects a key theme in the song, as RM raps:
Look at my feet, look down
The shadow resembles me
Is it the shadow that’s shaking
Or is it my feet that are trembling
Of course I’m not unafraid
Of course it’s not all okay
But I know
Awkwardly I flow
I fly together with that black wind
“ON : Come Prima” is a deceptively simple video. The band’s monochrome styling makes for a sharp look, but also reflects light and dark, intermingling the “Ego” and “Shadow” sides of the members’ collective identity. The song’s lyrics explore the theme of growing through pain, and the solo tracks on 7 give each member a moment to reflect on how the past has shaped their present before BTS step into the next phase of their career. During a recent comeback interview with MTV, Jungkook revealed the video’s concept. “Because this was a reboot, we wanted to take our old song ‘N.O’ and turn it into ‘ON’,” he said. “So I just threw that out there and we really liked it.”
Beyond the video’s refreshing blue sky, “ON : Come Prima” presents itself as a reboot of both the group’s identity and of “N.O” in particular. The boys don chunky chains reminiscent of their early hip-hop styling, and Jimin executes a gravity-defying leap to announce the dance break for a further throwback. While “N.O” explored the concept of BTS defying the pressure on students to excel academically and adhere to society’s prototype of success, “ON” inverts this theme as BTS reckon with and push through the pressure they put on themselves.
Everything about “ON : Come Prima” appears cool and precise, from the synchronised steps of the dancers flowing past the band members, through the rap line’s crisp delivery to Jimin’s ice-blue hair. Riding the wave of their success, this is BTS’ victory lap. “ON” lacks the bite of “Mic Drop” or the defiance of “Not Today” because the boys know they have nothing to prove. Instead, they take the opportunity to turn their attention inwards, as Jungkook sings in the bridge:
Where my pain lies
Let me take a breath
My blood and tears
Got no fears
I’m singin’ ohhhhh
Oh I’m takin’ over
The song echoes this declaration of confidence. It’s a sonic force to be reckoned with, propelled by a military style marching beat. The members’ voices are layered and filtered through autotune, giving the song a glittering, grating edge. Combined with the percussive-heavy production, the overall effect threatens to pitch over into discordancy, but the song’s tight structure smoothes out the sharpness. “ON” doesn’t match the creative flair of previous title tracks such as “Blood Sweat & Tears” or “I Need U” but the song is imbued with an effervescent energy that will make it a stadium standout, and it serves as the perfect soundtrack to signal BTS’ return to the world stage.
BTS have created a catalogue of music videos establishing their own mythology, imbued with complex symbolism and intellectual references citing everything from Herman Hesse to Jungian philosophy. “ON” takes a moment to peel all of that away, leaving us with nothing but the seven members and their skill as performers. They face down their demons with lyrical fire and expert teamwork, showcasing the synergy that has driven their success. We see it in the boys backing up Suga’s rap on the drums, in Jimin turning away from the camera to reveal V ready to take over, in the dazzling dance break that sees all seven moving as one. In the wake of their stratospheric rise to global renown, “ON : Come Prima” sees BTS daringly strip their showmanship back to the essentials, proving that even now they’ve taken on the world, they’re always going to bring their best.