Korean group BTS derived much of their unparalleled global popularity thanks to their deep and unforgettable lyrics, from the time they compared the unrealistic expectations older generations put on the young generations to a crow-tit ("뱁새"), to the fact that they refer to their fans as "mikrokosmos" — stars in their galaxy who contain entire worlds inside them. The songs off of BTS' newest album BE continue the tradition, but manage to hit ARMY even more in the feels; their fifth full-length was created during the pandemic, so needless to say, the lyrics really go there.
BE covers the spectrum of emotion that many BTS and its fans have felt during this turbulent and fraught time: burnt out ("Dis-ease"), depressed ("Blue & Grey"), connected ("Telepathy"), determined ("Life Goes On"), and even joyful ("Dynamite"). But if you listen or read the lyrics carefully, there are very particular moments that are simply — *sighs* — peak devastation.
Life Goes On
The album’s lead single details the pain of living through this terrible global catastrophe — something that not even the mighty BTS have been immune to. “It hurts so / this cold I’ve gotten from that damn one called ‘the world,’” raps leader RM. “The dusty rewind I’ve pressed because of it / dancing to an uneven rhythm while fallen on the ground / Let’s breathe out once winter’s here / a warmer breath.” In the music video, RM looks out at Seoul from his balcony, wiping dust off of the bike he usually rides along the city’s Han River.
However, the group maintains that this is a storm we’ll all weather as time soldiers on. “Like an echo in the forest / The day will surely return / as if nothing had happened / Yeah life goes on / Like an arrow in the blue sky / Another day will fly past.”
Fly To My Room
“Fly To My Room,” the first of the album’s two sub-unit tracks, is about feeling transported even when your physical body is confined.“Sometimes we get to know / Broken is beautiful / My body’s light / I fly, far away / This thing so surreal,” Jimin sings as he runs away with his imagination. Suga, ever brooding, somehow takes comfort in the reality of his dismal surroundings. “It seems joy, sadness, and all other emotions / are simply accepted here / Even if this room sometimes becomes a trash can of emotions / it takes me into its arms.” A trash can of emotions!
Blue & Grey
This acoustic ballad is where BTS dive headfirst into singing about their anxiety and depression, and even name their demons. “In my mind from a young age was a blue question mark,” raps Suga. “Perhaps that’s why I lived as competitively as I did / But in looking back, in standing blankly, / that threatening blue shadow which swallows me whole / As ever, is this blue question mark / unease or gloom / Perhaps it’s an animal of regret / or a me, born of loneliness.” Where Suga feels “blue” following him closely, RM leans into his own “grey.” “I don’t trust in a god called certainty / Words like ‘colors’ makes me squirm / An expanse of grey is what’s comforting,” he raps.
“I just wanna be happier,” each of the members sing in turn.
This track points out how much we’re overworked — not simply by our jobs, but by ourselves. BTS pinpoint that feeling of never quite being able to turn off your brain. “Errday do ma thang, damn if I fail,” J-Hope raps. “I keep growling, I tap the rotten rope / I feel unsettled, this is a disease / Physical things are a stun given to me by my career.” RM, king of bilingual wordplay, hits us with a particularly good one here: The word for “work” in Korean, 일, sounds like the English word “ill.” “My heart needs a holiday too,” he raps. “Gosh, just think of work as work / I’m ill, yeah, I’m work itself / That friend called ‘rest’, oh I never liked him. / How much do you have to earn to be happy?”
Even when BTS make an electro-house stadium banger, they always manage to sneak in a few heartfelt moments. In this song about their unwavering connection with fans despite the difficult circumstances, Jungkook closes the airy anthem with his last request: “In the sea that wind passed over / Stay / with frozen lips, I say to you / Stay, stay, stay, stay… / (Always)”