Music and Artists (& ARMY!) For Healing: Surviving a Pandemic Together
Over the past few years, musicians all over the world released songs and albums discussing COVID-19, however, few artists have a pandemic discography as historic and commercially successful as BTS. ARMY also made headlines for providing health resources and support to those struggling through the pandemic and advocating for health equity in the face of racial oppression.
A new study from the Yale School of Public Health entitled “Novel Applications of Music and Digital Media in Global Health Intervention and Education Initiatives During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Case Study of BTS and ARMY” explores some of the many ways in which BTS and ARMY supported both each other and the world through the early years of the pandemic. We at ARMY Magazine have an exclusive first look at this research, set to be published this summer, showing how BTS and ARMY have revolutionized the way music and digital media can improve global health, particularly during periods of person-to-person separation.
While most people conceptualize commercial music primarily as a source of entertainment that can include deeper or more resonant messages, BTS and HYBE have always approached music as a source of comfort and connection to both those who make and listen to it. During the pandemic, BTS released two types of songs: “emotionally honest songs” that reckoned frankly with the impacts of COVID-19 (like many included in BE) and “songs to give the hope and comfort needed to overcome this moment together” (such as Dynamite and Butter).
Like many of BTS’ older songs, all of the group’s releases from 2020-2021 incorporated several clinically proven psychological techniques that help with coping and resilience into their lyrics and speeches. There’s “cognitive reframing” in songs like Fly to My Room, where listeners are encouraged to “change the way you think” and re-imagine one’s home as a space of travel during periods of isolation. Research has demonstrated that “imagining oneself in one’s future…can play an important role in emotional coping with negative events,” which BTS encourages in the lyrics and performances of Life Goes On.
The simple and bright English lyrics of songs such as Dynamite may appear to be substance-light “bubble gum” pop, but this attention to joy and happiness was a choice deliberately made by HYBE and BTS to deliver “hope” and “strength” to those struggling in the pandemic. As many ARMYs have discussed, these songs, along with others that use similar methods to “heal,” truly helped people make it through the pandemic.
One of the reasons BTS and ARMY were such powerful forces in keeping large numbers of people connected throughout the pandemic was that unlike many organizations and entities, BTS and ARMY have used the power and infrastructure of digital and social media for years to connect with each other and help the world. Maintaining fan-artist connections during a time of painful separation was a key component of songs such as Telepathy and Stay.
The group also “gave a lot of thought on how we could keep communicating with ARMYs and share emotions even though we cannot meet in a close distance so that we can give more energy to all of you.” They produced regular live-streamed content during the earliest days of the pandemic (remember DJ SUGA’s Honey FM 06.13?), online concerts with realtime fan participation, and pre-recorded video content such as “In the SOOP”. Additionally, BTS demonstrated pandemic-safe behaviors in their programming, which is regularly watched by millions of viewers.
ARMY has been frequently described as a dedicated fandom, with many media outlets comparing fans of BTS to those of past boy bands such as One Direction or The Beatles. What media coverage often fails to realize is that many ARMYs “want to become a fandom that cares for the people…just like BTS who wish to bring hope for everyone through their music.”
Multiple ARMY organizations provide free public health services on Twitter, including mental health assistance, disability advocacy, and health education. These spaces provide important healthcare support and education that transcends borders, languages, and insurance coverage. The level of reach for platforms such as the ARMY Help Center is essentially unheard of in the world of public health. Of course, ARMY’s long tradition of fundraising and short-term health campaign work was put to good use during the pandemic, with organizations such as One In An ARMY and regional fanbases organizing donation collections, vaccination drives, and more.
Time and time again, it’s been demonstrated that BTS is “more than just a boyband” and ARMY is “more than just a bunch of obsessive fans.” Placing BTS, ARMY, and HYBE into a public and global health context makes it clear that all three entities have collaboratively re-shaped the field across several planes and platforms during a time when keeping each other healthy was more vital and complicated than ever. BTS and ARMY’s commercial success and growth are indicators that this model is changing the world, and every story about a song or post helping even just one person get through another day makes it all worth it.
Written by: Mariko
Edited by: LJ
Designed by: Komu
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