By: Sandra Mae Laureano
“Only for Bangtan, we will become wings”, BTS’ Suga read the words in the slogans raised unilaterally by 20,000 people across the Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, South Korea. It was February 18, the first day of BTS’ sold-out Episode III: Wings Tour in their home country. With the show nearing its end, each member had to give their parting words to the crowd, and the rapper’s voice just happened to be as chilling as winter itself.
“You will become our wings? We should be your wings,” his calm voice echoed across the dome, the crowd seemingly hanging on to his every word. “While preparing for the tour, just like you, we were worried about how to make it great and enjoyable for everyone. Would we be able to perform well? Without you, we couldn’t do this at all. Thank you for being Bangtan’s other half.”
While Suga’s normal voice could be as cold as steel, his words brought warmth and comfort to the thousands of eager fans who all patiently waited for their concert in the blistering cold; some having travelled across provinces, some even across countries.
Without having prior knowledge about K-pop and much more so, about BTS, you’d immediately think that these words are just that of an idol sweet-talking his fans, but if you read a bit further into it, you’ll see just how much of the story is worth a considerate read.
BTS: How they spread their wings
BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys, are currently putting K-pop onto a higher pedestal as they continue to break stereotypes, invading global charts and strengthening their reign in the span of months. Composed of Rap Monster, Suga, Jin, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook, the band is gracefully drawing people’s attention with their own brand of hip-hop complemented by seamlessly synchronized choreography.
“Bangtan” is a Korean word which means “bulletproof”, the band owning up to their name by creating songs that echo the sensitivities of the youth. Their music primarily tells different stories through hip-hop mixed with dance, R&B, rock, EDM, and a lot more, all the while wrapped in the dizzying gloss and glamor of K-pop.
Since their debut in 2013, they have released 4 EPs (O!RUL82?, Skool Luv Affair, The Most Beautiful Moment in Life pt. 1 and 2), a compilation album (Young Forever), 2 studio albums (Dark & Wild and WINGS) and a repackaged album (You Never Walk Alone). Released on October last year, WINGS marks BTS’ second full length studio album, featuring individually composed/produced solo tracks from each member.
WINGS, which has sold more than a million copies worldwide, earned them multiple recognitions, including being the highest selling album in the Gaon Chart, winning Record of the Year in the Seoul Music Awards in 2017, entering UK’s Official Charts at 62, and charting at 26 at the Billboard 200.
Contrary to the usual, BTS were not initially gifted with a silver spoon in the K-pop industry. They are managed by Big Hit Entertainment, a non-major record label in South Korea, but they worked hand in hand to get to where they are now. Their endurance and perseverance, greatly matched with their flair in creating music and performing, became their catalysts to success. The members’ growing involvement in their album production and their effort to refine their skills continuously have allowed them to reach out to a wider audience, not just in South Korea, but across the world. Currently, they have risen to being one of the most sought after and most critically acclaimed Korean acts worldwide.
From giving out flyers, asking random strangers to come to their first ever concert in the U.S. on 2014 (as seen in their reality TV show American Hustle Life), to selling out arenas with 20,000 seats in a matter of minutes for The WINGS Tour, BTS’ proves that their influence is a force to be reckoned with. The steadily growing number of BTS fans from across the world, known collectively as “ARMY”, are devoted to see the band succeed. The numerous achievements received by BTS are in part earned through ARMYs’ efforts, propelling them higher by tirelessly streaming their music videos and albums on various platforms, and causing servers to crash during online voting campaigns and ticket purchases.
Wings to fly, fly, fly!
The WINGS Tour is the final installment of BTS’ live trilogy. It started with Episode II: The Red Bullet (2014), which reached different parts of Asia and continued with Episode I: BTS Begins (2015), exclusively held in Seoul.
To date, BTS’ The WINGS Tour has flown into nine cities across the globe including Santiago, Chicago, Anaheim, Bangkok, and just recently, Manila. Even in the Philippines, they have cemented their fame as they held a two-day sold-out concert at the MOA Arena on May 6 and 7. An estimated count of 30,000 ARMYs came to their show this weekend, creating a buzz palpable enough to cause mass hysteria in the scorching summer heat devouring Manila.
The concert was, to put it bluntly, massive even in the K-pop norm. The extravagant stage designs and sophisticated performances were matched by the top-notch blaze of pyrotechnics and the play of lights. In Seoul, the official lightsticks, called “ARMY bombs”, had a Bluetooth-controlled feature, which synchronized the colors and flashing sequence of the lights. There were floating strobe lights onstage and wired hot air balloons that drifted to the higher floors of Gocheok Sky Dome.
The WINGS Tour blasted off with Bangtan’s dose of empowering synth-fused hip-hop tracks which included “Not Today”, “Silver Spoon”, and “Dope”. ARMY’s reaction was instantaneous, the hype reaching all the way to the back as they jammed from one song to another.
Without a doubt, the highlight of WINGS went to the solo stages. Having their own inputs in composing their solo songs, each member’s performance reflected his distinctive energy.
Jungkook, the youngest member and main vocalist of the group, literally took the stage to “Begin” the set of solo performances. His song, which is a homage to his band mates whom he considers as his brothers, started as a soft ballad and developed to a fast-paced EDM-infused beat and melody.
Donning a loose silk top and a black velvet jacket ornamented by silver flower sequins, Jimin had everyone mesmerized by his number. His dance moves were fluid and sensual, his voice flowing graciously. As the lyrics of his solo track goes, he’s “smooth like a snake”. Known as the high note-hitter and the contemporary dancer of the group, Jimin’s performance was as visually satisfying as much as it was an aural treat.
Suga’s “First Love” was the most atmospheric in terms of its somberness. The track, which he wrote and co-produced, started solemnly and steadily progressed to a turbulent yet controlled fire-spitting rap that left him almost breathless in the end. Much like the flow, the song is a narration of how music pulled him in from childhood and kept drawing him out again and again.