BTS & ARMY, We Walk Together
BTS & ARMY’s Story During The Pandemic
May 25, 2020 (KST). BTS member Jin played the piano in a small room. This was live-streamed on BANGTANTV, their official YouTube channel. As of Sep 15(KST), this video has more than 5.43 million views. In fact, this was why Jin was worried about playing the piano and called himself an “utter beginner.” He said, “I was worried because I’m not a good piano player. I had to be careful because people could say ‘you’re a singer and can’t even play the piano.’ But I was surprised that people actually enjoyed it.” The day when Jin played the piano was supposed to be the day BTS had its MAP OF THE SOUL tour at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, USA. But the entire tour has been canceled. Since COVID-19, BTS and ARMY never had the opportunity to meet face-to-face. Instead, members are communicating with their fans by live streaming on YouTube, showing themselves playing the piano (albeit not perfect), or discussing their new album production. “I still wanted to do something. For my fans,” Jin added.
COVID-19 is reshaping people’s lifestyles across the world. The virus can find its way to quickly infect people and patients can still continue to suffer after recovery or even succumb to the virus. Interacting with people has become a dangerous act or something that should be avoided. Our daily routine in 2020 changed in many ways compared to last year. BTS is no exception. Although they can still sing, perform, and meet their fans through YouTube or TV, they can’t meet their fans, ARMY, face-to-face. On Feb. 24 (EST), BTS released their performance “ON,” the title track of their new album MAP OF THE SOUL : 7, on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” The scale of the performance was so huge that they had to close off Grand Central Terminal. But that was the last time “ON” was performed on stage.
Big Hit Entertainment performance director Son Sung-deuk said, “The dance harmony is important when performing ‘ON,’ but it is difficult to gather dancers across the world because of this pandemic situation. Since members have put great effort into this performance, we want to do the performance perfectly.” He continued, “Members are frustrated that they can’t perform ‘ON’ on stage. We also have to decide what we are going to do for the music award shows at the end of the year.” This is a source of great stress for the members of BTS. On March 10 (KST), RM said on V LIVE, “Throughout the promotion, I felt powerless. Even when I sweated, it didn’t feel like sweat” and continued, “sometimes when I was home after finishing shows earlier than usual, I felt like I was about to burst with rage like a crazy person,” describing how frustrated he was. Director Son said, “What worries me most in this COVID situation is the members’ morale. BTS always said that communicating with the audience is an important experience for them when performing on stage.” Meeting their fans from a small room via YouTube instead of a stadium is not just a change but loss. RM described his sense of loss as, “There’s a saying ‘if you take away a brush from a painter, it’s like taking his soul.’ I don’t think of myself as such a noble artist, but COVID-19 made me realize that there is little for me to do except work.”
Until there is a cure, or a vaccine is developed, the best measure we can take against the virus is maintaining social distancing. We have to avoid physical contact with others, wear masks when we go outside, and wash our hands often. Our daily lives are filled with tension but it has become impossible to relieve this stress by interacting or socializing with others. Most people are struggling to maintain their everyday life. Social issues including economic collapse, racial discrimination, the “corona blues”, and child abuse are emerging. In this new corona-world, maintaining our daily lives is a huge task for everyone. This is also true for BTS. They are trying to keep things as usual as before with ARMY. BTS is sharing how they are doing, releasing mixtapes, filming their own variety show RUN! BTS and In the SOOP which is currently airing on JTBC. BTS FESTA, an event to celebrate their debut anniversary on June 13, was held as usual and a performance was finally held the next day as Bang Bang Con: The Live.
But something is different from last year. Bang Bang Con: The Live was streamed online. On April 17 (KST), BTS started a live streaming content Log (ON) on YouTube. As RM mentioned during his first live stream, they started Log (ON) to share their daily lives. SUGA painted a picture, j-hope danced sweating in his studio, and V spent some time talking about his favorite songs with fans. In the meantime, RM and Jimin made Dalgona coffee, a trend that swept social media, on V LIVE and SUGA occasionally reached out to their fans through KKUL FM. Kim Su-lin, LP of Big Hit Three Sixty’s Artist Content Studio said, “The interruption caused by the outbreak can easily make both fans and artists feel powerless. That is why BTS followed trends like making Dalgona coffee on V LIVE to show that their daily lives are not that different from their fans.” She then described the style of BTS’ content as, “When members stand in front of the camera, they act as they normally do. So when we make this kind of content, you can see their real selves.” In 2020, BTS is sharing their daily lives with ARMY while making new lifestyles under COVID-19. Just as Jin said, they are still doing something.
“What gives me the strength to perform is the cheers. Cheers. That cheer gives me the strength to go even harder and sing even when I get a cramp on stage.” That is what the fans mean to Jung Kook on stage. Then how is BTS holding up when they can’t meet their fans? Probably the answer is in the song “Still with you” which Jung Kook unveiled at the 7th anniversary BTS FESTA held on June 5 (KST). “It means that if the rain is coronavirus, I will go to our fans even if the rain pours down.” Jung Kook explained the lyrics “even if I dance alone the rain still pours. When this fog is lifted, I’ll run with my feet wet.” The present is unlike the past and the future doesn’t seem like we are going back anytime soon. While the virus is changing our world, there are still ways to spend our daily lives as it is. The live streaming concert Bang Bang Con: The Live, held on June 14 (KST), is a new thing that BTS and ARMY created together. Unlike the past, they could not meet in at a concert venue, but members kept interacting with their fans who were watching online and communicated with them by reading their comments. About 2,000 ARMY Bombs were sparkling behind BTS. Team Leader Ha Jung-jae of the Big Hit Three Sixty Concert Production Team said, “We wondered how we could fill in the empty seats and had an idea, remembering BTS being surrounded by ARMY Bombs. So we set up ARMY Bombs behind the stage. We hoped ARMY would be satisfied when they saw the stage.” As said before, there is a way to share some moments of life as it is. Even if it is not face-to-face.
Every ARMY can continue to visit BANGTANTV, see their contents, and leave comments just like they did last year. Even after the pandemic, with BTS in the center, the fans can share stories on a common topic since they are living in a common new world. Although they might live in different countries and face different circumstances, they have built an online “connection” to communicate and share their lives while meeting in person has become more difficult. Sometimes this loose connection leads to strong solidarity. On May 25 (EST), George Floyd, an unarmed African American, was killed by a police officer who used excessive force in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This incident triggered the “Black Lives Matter” or BLM movement across the world, fueling protests against anti-black racism. On June 4(KST), BTS made a clear statement against racial discrimination and voiced their support for the BLM movement. When BTS donated $1 million to the non-profit Black Lives Matter Foundation, OIAA (One In An Army), a fan-based charity fundraising group, began to raise funds using the hashtag #MatchAMillion on June 6 (EST). The next day, over $1 million was donated which matches the amount provided by BTS’. OIAA said, “Our team usually takes about a month to set up a regular campaign, but considering the urgency of the situation, we decided to launch a “crisis carrd” containing a list of of vetted organizations ARMY could support. Compared to our monthly campaigns, the “carrd” had already received a massive response from ARMY before BTS’s tweet and donation. After the tweet, the #MatchAMillion campaign was organized, and the rate of response increased astronomically. ARMY were the leaders of the whole campaign!”
COVID-19 is adding fuel to the fire of division that had been smoldering in our society. In countries with long-lasting lockdowns, many small businesses are crumbling, further widening economic inequality. We can also see discrimination against Asian people, accusing them of being the cause of the “corona infection,” based on the suspicion of the outbreak’s origin. On Feb. 24(EST), Howard Stern, the host of “The Howard Stern Show” of the SiriusXM staple, was talking about the coronavirus. Then he claimed that when BTS visited SiriusXM on Feb. 21
(EST), their writer Sal Governale said, “There’s no way those guys don’t have the coronavirus.” Howard Stern accused him of being racist and producer Gary Dell’Abate weighed in by saying, “Every celebrity who walks through the SiriusXM door is traveling all over the world — not just Asians.” In the world we are living, even BTS can be the victim of racism. But still, there are people out there who are trying to make a positive impact on those who are watching RUN! BTS somewhere in this world or on those with different identities. Donations to help with COVID-19 as well as natural disasters, diseases, education, economic disparity, human rights, animal welfare, and social infrastructure. This is the list of areas where ARMY donated after the virus swept the world.