The pandemic has led artists to find different ways to bring their music to audiences, and for their debut appearance on the long-running “MTV Unplugged” series, the K-pop septet of BTS — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook —transformed their stadium-filling showmanship into something more intimate.
Opening the show inside a game room set filled with vintage arcade games and retro MTV logos, BTS began with “Telepathy,” a standout from their latest album “Be,” marking the first live performance of the track. While the pandemic has forced many bandmembers to perform from separate locations or in makeshift sets and stages, all seven of the BTS members’ vocals were on full display for the performance.
Also in line with “Unplugged” tradition, the group shared commentary and stories in between songs speaking in both English and Korean. “It’s really an honor to be part of the MTV Unplugged legacy where so many legends have performed,” BTS leader RM told viewers. “We’re deeply thankful.”
After recognizing Suga was back performing with the band after recovering from a 2020 shoulder surgery (“It’s been a while since I’ve been onstage, and I missed it a lot,” the rapper said), V introduced another “Be” track, “Blue & Grey,” that transported the guys into an aesthetic greenhouse setting to perform the acoustic-pop cut, as the Seoul sun set behind them.
And of course, the group made sure to call out their fans — the “ARMY” — often. “I tried to express my inner sadness and uncertainly, so I translated the feeling of burning out as ‘blue’ and the sadness of not being able to see ARMY as ‘grey,'” V explained of the song, which he co-produced and co-wrote. “The melody of the song is simple, so I paid closer attention to delivering emotions through the lyrics.”
Jungkook added that “All the songs on our album are special to us. We don’t get many chances to perform our b-side tracks besides at our concert so we’re thrilled to perform them on MTV Unplugged.”
The group jumped into a surprise cover of Coldplay’s 2005 single “Fix You,” known to be one of the group’s favorite songs, which Jimin said has given them comfort throughout the pandemic. With the members seated on stools, BTS displayed their strong harmonies as the group’s trio of rappers (RM, Suga and J-Hope) offered rich, bassy notes to back the impassioned performance from the vocal line (Jin, Jimin, V and Jungkook). A highlight of the performance saw RM, Jin, and Jimin pull off a three-part harmony note with ease.
Before closing out the show with a pair of their No. 1 singles, BTS shared some heartfelt goodbyes and reflections with viewers.
“We were supposed to show you these stages at a live concert, so we’re sorry we had to do it remotely, but hope many of you still enjoyed it,” Suga said before J-Hope added, “We wait for the day when we can sing for you in person. We will do our best until then. We love you.”
Jimin offered some personal reflections about his experiences as an artist and person through coronavirus concerns. “I think many of us are spending time thinking, ‘What am I doing?'” the vocalist-dancer shared. “This situation where we can’t see each other is very difficult for us and makes us question what we’re doing. However, we have one another so I hope we can keep moving, without giving up. We always appreciate and love you, ARMY.”
The septet was joined by a live band consisting of a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, and drummer to close out the set with the 2020 hits “Life Goes On” and “Dynamite.” The former again highlighted the group’s grip on harmonies while the latter was slightly reworked, as the signature pop hit featured additional ad-libs from the group.
The 30-minute, five-song show was a compact showcase of BTS as performers and storytellers in another key display of why the Korean act has been able to cross language and cultural boundaries.
You can watch select performances below.
“Blue & Grey”
“Fix You” (Coldplay cover)
“Life Goes On”