The band members of BTS — RM, Jin, SUGA, j-hope, Jimin, V and Jung Kook — have conquered hearts around the world as consummate performers. They also frequently co-write their own material, with some penning their own solo works — all while collectively running their own prolific social media accounts, which they share as a group. Their next album, “BE,” has already sparked a firestorm of fan interest ahead of its Nov. 20 release.
In their interview with Variety, the members of BTS discussed what they see as their top artistic contributions to the world and what’s inspiring them now.
As artists, what do you see as your greatest contribution so far to music? How have you pushed the genre of K-pop forward?
SUGA: Talking about our impact on K-pop seems kinda grandiose. It’s serendipitous that what we did went the right way and was meaningful, and that these things happened.
We were able to use and reap the benefits of a variety of online platforms. What we wanted to do was show as much as we possibly could through this wide variety of online platforms, and leverage that [reach].
So it’s not like our goal was to go to the U.S. All we wanted to do was show our performances to people who loved our music. Our goal at the start was never to get a Grammy. We’re just seven regular Korean guys who started to do what we really wanted to do, what we found fun, which was to make music. That led to where we are and who we are now.
What would you say you’re most proud of having accomplished so far as artists, particularly from a musical perspective?
RM: We are Koreans, and the fact that people are singing our songs in Korean, that we were able to expand the reach of the Korean language around the world — that’s something that of course we are very proud of. Also, if due in some small part to us, young people around the world are able to do positive things they want to do, that’s always going to be something we’re proud of too.
The music industry is composed of a variety of platforms nowadays — it’s not just about the songs or listening to the songs. For example, for BTS, performance is a very integral aspect of who we are and of our music. The acronym for our group is BTS: People are really curious about our ‘BTS,’ our ‘behind-the-scenes’ look. They want to see who we are both on and off stage. This is what makes BTS.
Music industry observers are probably impressed by the fact that these are Korean songs being heard outside Korea. But I think what is also notable to them is that it’s not just about listening to the music anymore.
For us, music videos are a very important part of our creative process and music. Our ‘behind-the-scenes’ peeks that we show through Youtube or social media — just us being ourselves and being cute, off-stage — these are all things that people want to see and are all integral parts of who we are and what our music is.
I wouldn’t say this change in how music is seen is something we started, but it’s something that we’ve contributed to in some small part.
You guys have broken so many YouTube viewership records, with “Dynamite” being just the latest example. Do you feel comfortable redefining how musical acts are reaching out to fans through online platforms like YouTube and WeVerse, or do you still feel pressured to make inroads into traditional platforms like radio? Why?
Jin: Our goal is to try to show and expose ourselves to ARMY as much as possible. There are a lot of platforms now. So, there are a lot of different things that we show through different platforms, especially now when we can’t meet our fans in person, since some things are more suited to one platform than another.
Jung Kook: What’s really the most important is for ARMY to hear our music, and love, relate and connect to our music. That’s really the most important thing for us.
What hobbies or creative endeavors have helped you get through this tough period of the pandemic?
Jung Kook: Because of the coronavirus, we had to cancel, postpone and reorganize a lot of our plans. Earlier, things were kinda aimless. I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to be doing.
Around the time of our FESTA fan festival in June [note: an annual release of content to celebrate the anniversary of their group’s debut] we wrote a song called “Still With You” that sort of contains what I was feeling at that point in time — that I really missed our fans. Around then, we also started thinking about how we could use this time to really prepare ourselves for the day when we can meet our fans again. All of us have been working very hard. We’ve adjusted a lot to this new situation.
Could you share with us a song that you love so much you wish you’d written it?
Jimin: I really love our songs and the style of BTS songs. I’ve been trying to work on my personal music, but haven’t really put something out yet. What I’m trying to do now is learn from the other members and try new things that are in the style of BTS, which I really love. I’d like to release and create my own music.
V: When I was much younger, I listened to a lot of top hits and songs that the other members recommended to me. I often felt that it would’ve been great if I’d written those songs myself. I’m trying very hard so that I can one day write one of those great songs and feel that sense of pride.