The BTS Army was out in full force for the K-pop phenomenon’s Q&A at the Grammy Museum on Tuesday (Sept. 11). The intimate group of 200 fans arrived (at least) an hour early to get as close as possible to their Idols, mixing and mingling with one another and sharing stories of the shows they’ve seen, encounters they’ve had and what got them into the group in the first place. One fan kept several fingers crossed while waiting in line, presumably hoping for a photo, autograph, or some miraculous one-on-one time with the band’s members.
Inside, everyone filed to their seats and the museum’s executive director, Scott Goldman, welcomed the crowd and introduced BTS’ record-breaking music video, “Idol.” The room lit up and ultimately melted into one giant sing-and-dance-along, language barrier be damned. When the video ended, Goldman was joined on stage by Jin, RM, J-Hope, Jimin, V, Suga, and Jungkook. No introductions were necessary, as each member’s entrance triggered screams from one end of the room to the other.
Fresh off a four-night run at LA’s Staples Center, the seven-piece Korean boy band answered Goldman’s questions about their creative process, the evolution of their career, and of course, their loyal fanbase.
BTS is Taking Control
From their songwriting to their music videos to their live performances, the seven members of BTS have become significantly more involved in the general creative process, giving them more confidence on stage and in the studio. Though they have always had a hand in all of their work, their increased creativity behind the scenes allows them to feel more free and have more fun when performing, according to J-Hope.
The group is in a constant state of creation, a “year-round song camp,” according to Suga. They will submit melodic ideas, then lyrics, to Big Hit Entertainment CEO Mr. Bang and work alongside him and their production team to build stray lyrics and melody into chart-topping hits. Jimin added that the evolution of each song accelerates in the studio, as lyrics get tweaked and musical flourishes are added while each track is being recorded.
When asked about the group’s songwriting process, Suga pointed out that their creative contributions go beyond melody and lyrics, and extend to choreography, art direction, and wardrobe styling. All of these visual and musical elements combine to create the overall BTS aesthetic.
Their Messages of Positivity are Clean and Consistent
Mr. Bang has been working with BTS since the beginning of their career and has always encouraged them to speak from the heart. Suga spoke of their joint philosophy of Music & Artist for Healing, the mantra that precedes all of BTS’ music videos. Their songs are personal, written from both pain and optimism, pushing their fans to practice the same self-love and care that has helped them push past the rough patches in their own lives. Suga recalls the music he listened to growing up that helped him escape and wants to create similarly healthy musical experiences for their fans.
It Was a Risk to Commit to a Four-Part Series… But It’s Paying Off
From the School triology earlier in their career to the Love Yourself era that is currently playing out, BTS trades in grand concepts, crafting story archs through multiple albums. Storylines twist and turn throughout their projects and individual songs’ meanings may only fully take shape when listening in the context of a complete album. Jin noted that the lead single and music video for each project will generally reflect the album’s color, flavor, and overarching messages.
RM added that it has been an artistic risk to embark on such high-scale projects because if the concept doesn’t connect with their fans, they could be stuck fleshing out an unsuccessful and ultimately unsatisfying series. The music industry can be fickle and spending two and a half years on an idea to which their fans can not relate could seriously halt their momentum.
But it seems to be working so far. Love Yourself: Answer followed Love Yourself: Tear to become the group’s second No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart in the span of just four months. Their international touring footprint is growing simultaneously, as they’ll be the first K-pop group in history to play a U.S. stadium with their Oct. 6 show at New York’s Citi Field. Goldman’s remark that we could see BTS on the Grammy stage sooner than later sparked wild applause from the audience.
BTS’ K-pop is a Reflection of the Diverse World in which They Live
Suga took a moment to organize his thoughts after a delicate question from Goldman. When asked to speak on K-pop as its own genre, he noted that he hesitates to categorize K-pop in that way, but that he is inspired by the integration of many different musical styles and aesthetics into Korean music. BTS themselves combine elements of pop, rap, electronic, and R&B and proudly blend all of their work into an audio-visual package that appeals to fans across genres and cultures.
Jungkook adds that, like his band-members, he listens to a wide variety of music from his native South Korea to many forms of American popular music. The different approaches to lyrics and production from all different styles inspire BTS to create the genre-bending music that has launched them to superstardom.
The Guys Owe Everything to Their Army
Near the close of the interview, V thanked those in attendance and noted that their fans give them the wings to rise to the meteoric heights to which they have climbed so far. When asked about their American fans, RM said that he is particularly impressed that they are singing along at each concert to the mostly-Korean lyrics that fill up BTS’ catalog. He got the fans in the audience laughing with his comment, “they know how to play.”
With their ever-growing fanbase and overall success, Jungkook capped the Q&A by promising that the band is increasingly aware of their responsibility to make the best music they can and to deliver for their Army.
Bonus Insight: On their tour of the Grammy Museum earlier that day, Jungkook gleefully uttered, “It was lit.”