Syraat Al Mustaqeem, BA English
BTS: an acronym oft-heard meaning “Behind The Scenes”. On 13th June 2013, an alternative was offered – bangtan sonyeondan (방탄소년단). The South-Korean boy band whose namesake offers many alternatives (see: bulletproof boy scouts, Beyond The Scene) has since erupted as a global sensation. “Do you know BTS?” is easily the most heard phrase of the past year. As their popularity continues to grow, many are left wondering what the big deal is and their answer lies in “Burn The Stage: The Movie”.
“Burn The Stage: The Movie” was recently released as a follow up to their YouTube Red documentary series of the same name. So far it has broken the US record for the highest grossing event cinema musical production, previously set by One Direction in 2014, with a total of over $14million being made in the first week of release. With little to no advertisement BTS’ popularity speaks for itself. Despite the cautionary tales of overzealous fans in cinemas, the 85 minutes easily immerse the viewer. From their barbeque pool party to the concert rehearsals where members performed each other’s solo songs for fun, the bond between these boys is apparent and allows the audience to connect with them on an intimate level.
“Do you know BTS?” is easily the most heard phrase of the past year.
From the hip-hop debut as a rookie idol group in 2013, BTS’ style, genre, and even some of their stage names have changed, but one thing that is consistent is their genuineness. The Korean term “beagle personality”, used to describe youthful excitement, perfectly encompasses the wholesome spirit they exude – a contagious state. While it’s almost impossible to watch this film without cracking a smile, the narrative arc also follows their burdened rise to fame. With the metaphor of the desert – taken from their hidden track “Sea” from the “Love Yourself: Answer” album – the leader RM relates the physical and mental exertion their hard work has taken on them. To a newcomer, this film might seem no different from the number of pop documentaries already out there, however the one-on-one interviews and vlog-style footage personifies the foreign celebrities.
Among the scenes that resonate with audiences are the funny and the philosophical. For example, although each member can boast a net worth of around $8million, the youngest (Jungkook) was seen flaunting his free BTS merchandise with excitement. As the narration states, “their fame was far outpacing their growth as a boy-group”. Despite this pressure, rapper Suga mentioned how they persevere because there will come a time when they won’t be able to perform even if they want to. To fans, this humble nature of this introspective is a breath of fresh air in a world where hubris reigns.
As artists, their technical ability is widely appreciated, with the older members being well-versed in producing, and writing their own music (and mixtapes). This creative autonomy only further detaches BTS from the calculated process of South-Korean groups. With lyrics discussing subjects like mental health, education, and poverty from very early on, BTS offer a voice to these often ignored topics. Having also recently spoken at the UN to promote their end violence campaign in collaboration with UNICEF, they consistently prove that they have immense substance.
As easy as it might be to conclude with the typical “they are just like us”, one should perhaps consider something different – they are better. As this film depicts, there are numerous barriers to break: the language, prejudices, and hard work, and BTS continue to rise above them.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons