Just days after dropping a three-disc career retrospective compilation Proof, K-pop icons BTS shocked the ARMY nation on Tuesday (June 14) with the surprise announcement that they are going on an indefinite “hiatus” to allow each man time to focus on solo ventures.
The revelation from the seven-man boy band came around 20 minutes into an hourlong FESTA dinner, during which members RM, Jin, SUGA, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook casually sat around a dinner table joking around while deciding what to drink, reminiscing about their rocket ride to fame and playfully teasing each other.
“We’re going on a hiatus now,” Suga casually stated at one point apropos of nothing else they were talking about in a segment that suddenly made the tone more sober. “Should we talk about why we’re not doing the FESTA or making content?” he added.
“Should we get into that?” RM wondered.
“Yeah, we have to talk about the direction we’re taking,” Suga confirmed. And since Suga brought it up, RM felt free to expound on the apparent upcoming break following the group’s relentless pace since forming in 2013.
“Gathering like this today and shooting content, I’m glad we’re BTS … what would I do if we weren’t BTS?” RM asked. “It made me think I’m happy just being together. I started music and became BTS because I had a message for the world.” He added that he didn’t know what he would do after the group released “On,” the second single from their 2020 Map of the Soul: 7 album.
But then the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down and the band focused on recording new singles, including their No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits “Dynamite,” “Butter,” “Permission to Dance” and “Life Goes On” and, he realized, “the group has definitely changed.”
“We have to accept that we’ve changed,” RM said as his bandmates looked on with decidedly more serious faces than during the earlier part of the celebratory dinner. “For me, it was like the group BTS was within my grasp until ‘On’ and ‘Dynamite,’ but after ‘Butter’ and ‘Permission to Dance,’ I didn’t know what kind of group we were anymore.” He said that whenever he writes lyrics and songs, the story and message he wants to spread is very important, “but it was like that was gone now. I don’t know what kind of story I should tell now.”
RM, 27, said he always thought of BTS as being different from other groups, but that the “problem” with K-pop and the idol system is that “they don’t give you time to mature. You have to keep producing music and keep doing something.” He described getting up in the morning and having his makeup done and feeling like he doesn’t have any time for growth.
“And it’s not just about music and work,” he added, noting that he’s also changed “as a human” over the past decade. “So I need to think and have some alone time and then those thoughts can mature into something uniquely mine… I can’t physically mature anymore.” He said he feels like he should be contributing something more to the world right now, but he doesn’t really know what that is, so he just needs some time to have a think and figure out who he is and what he wants BTS to be.
“Somehow,” he said furrowing his brow, “it’s become my job to be a rapping machine and remake music and speak in English for the group.” While he praised the top-notch performance capabilities of his bandmates, RM said he felt “trapped inside myself.” He kept wanting to strip off that mantle and show his true self, postponing his efforts to do some reflection, but the BTS machine kept rolling out more product as the members became “more exhausted.”
He promised that he will still look forward to dancing and rehearsing with the rest of BTS, and that when they reunite, they will put on great performances. “But right now we’ve lost our direction and I just want to take some time to think,” he said.
ARMY, of course, was top of mind for each man, with Jimin, 26, saying, “We can’t help but think of our fans no matter what — we want to be the kind of artists that are remembered by our fans. I think now we’re starting to think about what kind of artists we each want to be remembered by our fans. I think that’s why we’re going through a rough patch right now, we’re trying to find our identity and that’s an exhausting and long process. Our fans know us and we know us.”
Suga, 29, noted that the “hardest thing” lately has been writing lyrics and that “we need something to say … you can’t force it. I have to talk about something that I really feel, but right now I’m just squeezing it out because we have to satisfy people’s wants and the listeners … it’s so painful.”
His fondest hope, he said, was to finally try genres other than hip-hop, “lots of genres” in fact. Because, he added, if he had a solo show that was two hours of him rapping, “that would be boring … so boring.” If he’s being honest, he wants to learn how to dance better and “dance freely and be hip like Bruno Mars.”
J-Hope, 28, gave ARMY hope that this definitely does not spell the end for the group, even as he revealed that he’s already begun work on his solo material. “I think that change is what we need right now,” he said. “It’s important for BTS to start our second chapter.”
That’s when RM announced that their individual mixtapes will now be treated more like proper albums, with J-Hope slated to be the first member to officially step out on his own as the group start “showing our individual colors.”
The disclaimer at the beginning of the video states: “NOT scripted! NOT staged! It’s all BTS sincerity of ARMY, by ARMY, for ARMY.”
A spokesperson for the group clarified BTS’ description of the break in a statement to Billboard: “To be clear, they are not on hiatus, but will take time to explore some solo projects at this time and remain active in various different formats.”
Back in 2019, the group took a monthlong break from the spotlight that a representative said at the time was an “opportunity for the members of BTS, who have relentlessly driven themselves towards their goal since their debut, to recharge and prepare to present themselves anew as musicians and creators.”
They also took an “extended period of rest” at the end of 2021 that their management company said in a statement was intended to allow them to get “re-inspired and recharge with creative energy.” All seven members have released solo projects over the course of the group’s career, and during the dinner, they did say they’re all in the process of recording solo projects. J-Hope will seemingly be the first out of the solo gate when he performs without his bandmates at Lollapalooza next month.
Watch the dinner video and hiatus announcement below.