During j-hope’s birthday month, fans across the globe celebrated the BTS member whose life’s mission is to embody the “hope” found in his name. As such, we’re taking a chronological deep dive into the many ways BTS’ discography and lyrics bring hope to millions of people around the world.
“희망이 있는 곳엔 반드시 시련이 있네 / Wherever There’s Hope, There’s a Trial” –SEA
At first glance, BTS’ earliest works might seem antithetical to the concept of “hope.” Tracks like No More Dream and N.O angrily lament the absence of any “big dreams'' due to the rigidity of late capitalist educational systems and workforces. However, BTS’ nuanced critiques of society (see also Dope, Bapsae, UGH!, and Spine Breaker) call upon a long history of Black protest music to inspire hope through illuminating the often obfuscated or ignored challenges facing marginalized groups.
Hip hop and rap stem from a long history of music as resistance and empowerment against oppression. As BTS learned in "American Hustle Life", both musical genres find their roots in Black American spirituals developed during enslavement. These songs were forms of resistance, catharsis, and resilience, some providing coded lyrics about escape times and routes and others comforting and healing amidst endless violence. This tradition has continued throughout the subsequent development of jazz, R&B, rap and hip hop. These genres have played major roles in the fight for racial equity from the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter.
BTS actively call upon these traditions in expressing the struggle of youth today, most explicitly in RM’s 2017 collaboration Change with rapper Wale, which connected policing in Korean schools with racist incarceration in America. Illuminating these struggles give us hope for a better future by showing us we are not alone; our experiences are valid, and larger societal structures influence many of our problems. Once we realize this, we can revolt, dream more, or learn that it is okay to simply pause ("멈춰서도 괜찮아"). These are all roads filled with hope.
“피어나 주기를 / Hoping You Would Bloom” –Winter Flower
Perhaps driven by the wisdom of time and age, many of the group’s more recent songs have also used the concept of impermanence to offer hope for a better future. This concept of hoping “for better days” emerged in BTS’ discography as early as 2! 3! and truly came to light in RM’s everythingoes and People by Agust D (SUGA). With lyrics such as “People change… there’s nothing that lasts forever… It’s all good” and “it shall pass,” these songs remind listeners that our pain doesn’t last forever because “we gon’ change,” as V sings in Inner Child.
This concept is also often depicted metaphorically through the changing of seasons from winter to spring, most prominently in Spring Day. This became all the more salient with the advent of COVID-19. The pinnacle of impermanence as hope came with the release of Life Goes On, a song whose fundamental message is about the belief that we will continue, no matter what. The idea that “your trials end in full bloom” (So Far Away) encourages listeners to brave the harsh present and thrive for a better future.
“I’m Your Hope, You’re My Hope.” –j-hope
As a result of these themes, thousands of ARMYs have come forward, describing how BTS’ music has changed and saved their lives by giving them hope. ARMY’s love for BTS, in turn, showed the members “reasons I should love myself,” and the members frequently express gratitude for ARMY as well. Songs dedicated to ARMY such as Outro: Wings, HOME, Moon, Boy With Luv, and My Universe remind ARMY that “You found me / You recognized me” (Magic Shop) and that BTS will continue to support them through their music.
When COVID-19 separated BTS and ARMY, the reiteration of this bond became crucial to keep both parties hopeful in the face of the pandemic. Both Telepathy and Stay are BTS’ reminders to ARMY that “our hearts are the same / even when you’re not next to me,” encouraging ARMY and BTS to draw strength from their continued bond in times of struggle.
Hope (for the) World
BTS’ use of societal critique, impermanence and change, and shared love for oneself and community all provide sources of hope for a better future. As the lyrics say in We are Bulletproof: the Eternal:
“We have you have you,
또 겨울이 와도 (Even if another winter comes),
누가 날 막아도 걸어가 (even if someone stops me, I walk forward),
We are, we are forever bulletproof.”
As ARMY, we have so much to hope for: new concerts, a new comeback, and maybe even a world tour. Whatever the future holds, we know BTS will continue to provide hope to us all through their lyrics.
Written by: Mariko
Edited by: Dae
Designed by: Lily
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