BTS Goes Pink

2019.05.10
FOUR COVER CONCEPTS were revealed as part of the Bangtan Boys’ “MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA,” each of them appearing pinker than the next. Pink is also worn by all the members in the music video of the title track Boy With Luv, each tailored to their own style. Pink is absorbed by every other colour in their wardrobe; the red, blue, purple, and white outfits in their official photos adopt a different feeling depending on the level of pink against the rosy backdrop. In a way, all of the comprising features of the Bangtan Boys in their “MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA” transform within the spectrum of pink.

Back when they were still new, the Bangtan Boys would wear a dark and fierce look most common to hip-hop, clad in Versace street fashion style in all sorts of eye-catching patterns and a lot of black. Up until they completed their School Trilogy, the boys kept their strong image reinforced by vivid colours like black, white, and dark green, triggering key words like “rebellion,” “hostility,” and “ego.” This was before they moved on to a dim and foggy atmosphere with the series “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life” where they sang about the pains and the dreams of teenagers. Indeed BTS established their identity with a color easily associated with hip-hop, after which they began to express the confused psychology of youngsters using light pastel hues like pink and blue. In “WINGS” they discarded their flashy appearance and rebellious image to give way to a balance between black and white typography. Their “LOVE YOURSELF” series was like a lead up to “MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA.” The newfound richness of their identity is expressed in the shifting typography against white and silver. It embraces the difference in atmosphere between BTS and the Bangtan Boys, or between DNA and MIC Drop.

Symbolically enough, “MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA” begins with Intro: Persona, which is reminiscent of old school hip-hop, and Dionysus, which comes complete with an alcohol pouring performance on stage in an “I don’t care” attitude. BTS has seen a lot of change; they began with hip-hop as their key identity and moved on to talk about themselves in a concept not often adopted in Korean hip-hop at all. As a team that followed a single genre and intentionally broke out of it, they’ve demonstrated a more meaningful change than just the message “I can still be me, whatever color I choose.”

The transformation is also evident in their music. Boy with Luv is the subtitle for the original title, A Poem for Small Things, representing a connection to the subtitle Boy in Luv for the song Manly Man (“Sangnamja”). Just from looking at the original titles it is not easy to detect any relevance, but BTS provides context between the past and the present by means of the “MAP OF THE SOUL: PERSONA” comeback trailer. RM stands in a similar classroom set as the one in the Boy in Luv MV, and in this one his movements are bigger and bolder. The boy who once tried to win a girl’s heart now faces his own self, and he explores the boundaries between “RM” and “Kim Nam-Joon” within the classroom, the stage, and other personal spaces. “The person I want to be” and “the person people want me to be” become merged into someone who “already is, and continues to breathe each minute and even now,” and this where the process of the Bangtan Boys transforming into the internationally celebrated “BTS” ceases to be a pretentious description of national success or hopes and dreams, but just another an ordinary event with a note of growth pains experienced by teenagers becoming real men.
In HOME, RM uses the same flow as in “When you and I used to fight all the time” in Moving On of Part 1 of “The Most Beautiful Moment in Life”: “Yeah, I remember when I thought I could do everything.” Suga even refers to the lyrics in the debut song, No More Dream. The song shows how they celebrate saying goodbye to their third storey place in Nonhyeon-dong where they shared their long-term traineeship and other difficulties for a more upgraded lifestyle in “Mi Casa” with their rise in fame. BTS goes further and reaches out to the fans who came to the BTS shop in their fan song “Magic Shop” of their previous album, inviting them closer into “My Casa.” Presenting their most cherished family photos to their fans recently in a music show and reassuring an overseas reporter “Please don’t say your Korean is bad,” at a press conference are examples of such a gesture.

In the end, the meaning behind the title “PERSONA” encompasses the transformation in their music and their color, within the journey of how the Bangtan Boys came to be known as BTS, and how BTS goes back to being Kim Nam-joon, Kim Tae-hyung, or Kim Seok-jin. Even with the pinkness of their album jacket and onstage attire, they do not step out of the world they’ve already created, and fans can continue to relate to them. Perhaps this is because they started out with the topic of “youth,” which is relatable to people worldwide. The point of the matter is that the Bangtan Boys have transcended the level of emotional engagement between hip-hop and its fandom. The boy who fell in love has grown into a boy who harbors it.




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