BTS Proof: What Album Says About Future and Legacy of Band
Youf you were to distill BTS’s nine-year career into a single sentence, it might read something like the first lyric of their anthology album You can see the proof. “I’m a born singer… I swear,” sings Jungkook on “Born Singer,” a track released a month after the group’s 2013 debut. “There’s a mirage right here, always far from me.”
BTS have been striving for success for nearly a decade. They are edging closer to a goal that seems impossible. BTS’ music and visuals always feature the running motif, particularly in an area that is barren of any success. Even in recent years, as the group has ascended to a nearly peerless echelon, they’ve expressed feeling haunted by their own insatiable ambition: the mirage right here, always far away from me.
The band has released today a 48-song collection of singles and demo tracks. There are also a few new songs that were appropriately titled. Proof.This album was released in celebration of the group’s 9th anniversary. It is meant as a retrospective on their careers, a testament to their lasting legacy. Although the band tries hard to embrace their history with warmth, BTS is still preoccupied with a vision for what they could become if they just keep going.
Photo by BIGHIT MUSICAL
Subscribe to More Stories, TIME’s weekly entertainment newsletter, to get the context you need for the pop culture you love.
A transformation from raw material to polished, global presentations
Photo courtesy of BIGHIT MUSICAL
You can see the proof maps the outline of BTS’s career across three collections: the first includes past title tracks and a new single, “Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment),” the second is made up of pre-released sub unit and solo tracks hand-picked by the members as well as solid new offering “Run BTS,” and the third contains demos of both released and unreleased songs as well as the new ode to fans “For Youth.”
The album opens on the group in 2013, when the newly debuted “Bangtan Boys” are teens and 20-year-olds crackling with inchoate talent and a thirst to prove themselves. Their music clearly reflects American hip-hop and rap, and their determination to question traditional notions of success. “What were you dreaming to become?… Go your own way… Do something, put your weakness away” they urge listeners on debut single “No More Dream.” Other early releases like “N.O.,” “Boy in Luv” and “Danger,” in contrast, are more marked by a growling macho angst that’s directed, in turn, at the education system, at girls, at interior doubts and fears of inferiority.
By 2015, BTS focus that energy into a powerful narrative laid out in “Run”: “I bloom for you, but you make me thirsty. Even if I‘m drying out, I try harder to reach you.” By 2016, they hit their stride with “Burning Up (FIRE)” and breakthrough smash “Blood Sweat & Tears.” You can see the proof documents their subsequent rise to dominance with 2017’s “Spring Day” and “DNA” and 2019’s “Boy with Luv,” featuring pop star Halsey.
This release’s compelling ineptitude, combined with You can see the proof’s vivid selection of personality-driven solos and sub unit tracks and unfinished demo gemstones, throw the pastel disco pastiche of 2020’s ”Dynamite” and harmless effervescence of 2021’s “Butter” into sharp relief. It’s a contrast that some fans may find unflattering to the group’s more recent releases: the latter feel glossier and calculated, lacking in the raw authenticity the group once exhibited in abundance.
The band that runs towards an uncertain future
Photo by BIGHIT MUSIK
BTS was a global phenomenon, having charmed South Koreans and other markets worldwide by their infectious group dynamics and indefinable musicality. Their final frontier was America. BTS made concerted efforts to reach America with English-language pop. Every subsequent album sanded away the raw musical elements that made BTS so exciting. These tracks had a buoyant and bland sound, were playful but serious. The beguiling barren expanses of their past were replaced by dewy fields in “Dynamite,” shiny studio lights in “Butter,” and transformed into a dance floor in “Permission to Dance,” a banal Ed-Sheeran penned single that is notably absent from You can see the proof.
They combined this strategy with their charisma and effortless charm to achieve an unimaginable feat. In 2021, BTS became the most-sold act worldwide.
But their newest single, “Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment),” makes it clear that the mirage still eludes them. In the track’s music video, we see the desert of their past littered with imagery from iconic songs and music videos: a blue train car from “Run,” an upright piano in reference to “First Love” and “Fake Love,” a carousel and pair of white sneakers from “Spring Day,” and a bright yellow school bus from the music video that started it all: “No More Dream.” The imagery is nostalgic and the lyrics are a return to form. BTS continues to run towards the future.
“…I just wanna see the next,” they say, “The past was honestly the best. But my best is what comes next… We’re just running forward, Promise that we’ll keep on coming back for more… In the hush of night, we won’t stop moving.”
An opportunity to reflect on all they’ve built
BTS These wereIf they took a moment to look at their history, here is what they might see: a large, passionate fan base, dominance on the Billboard Hot 100 and HYBE Entertainment. A publicly traded conglomerate valued at over $6 billion with assets in music management technology gaming publishing and publishing. Artists and shareholders include Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande. HYBE was the building of BTS, and it continues to be a major economic player in the world, generating $5 billion a calendar year or.5% the South Korean GDP.
This is the right time to allow the group to forget about the unattainable ideals and just bask in their own light. They may have to face the reality of Korean military service. This requirement has been delayed for BTS until the age of 30, meaning that Jin, the oldest member of the group, will be 30 by December.
Back in 2013, on “Born Singer,” J-Hope foreshadowed the sentiments expressed in “Yet to Come (The Most Beautiful Moment).” “Remember the days we’ve been through,” he urges himself. “I swear not to forget the very first intention: Always myself, live up to myself. So we go up.” But the song ends on an assurance that is notably absent from the group’s newest title track: “Anyway, I’m so happy,” they sing together, “I’m good.”
You can see the proofIt is the perfect summary of a life that has changed history, broken records, touched hearts and moved many. It will be loved by all fans. One can only hope that, in listening to it, BTS themselves can find joy in how far they’ve come.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME