DYNAMITE
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(KST), 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.
2,018,020,000 won
(KRW)

“The scary desert became the ocean with our blood, sweat, and tears.” 24 ARMYs from 15 countries in their 20s to 40s organized OIAA. They explained the meaning of the organization “One In An Army” as, “Although the impact of an individual might be small, if we work together ‘the harshest desert would turn into an ocean’ just like the lyrics from BTS ‘Sea’.” The world after the outbreak turned into a “scary desert” to the disadvantaged. But if we gather our strengths, we can create a huge wave of hope. OIAA campaigns are based on small donations such as a dollar, and guides ARMY to directly donate to beneficiaries rather than the organization itself. It also introduces games based on ad-supported websites to make it easier for people to donate. These websites include Ecosia, a search engine/social business that plants trees with ad revenue and Freerice, a website made by World Food Programme that donates rice when you solve a quiz. Through these games, you can easily donate without money. OIAA commented, “When we first heard BTS’ ‘Anpanman’ (a weak superhero who gives out part of his head which is made of bread to the poor), we thought the song perfectly represents what we are trying to achieve. Some of us barely have anything to give, but even that small amount could make a huge difference in someone else’s life.”
With no guarantee that we can go back to the pre-pandemic time, it might be too optimistic to hope that a better future will unfold. It would be easier if we just build a wall between others, blame each other, or simply mind our own safety. Yet, ARMY, a huge fandom with different identities connected by BTS, is trying to make the world a better place. The act of sharing daily lives formed a united community. Louis (29 years-old) joined OIAA since 2018 and said, “Originally, since we’re an online-based community, so the outbreak did not affect us. In fact, the pandemic made us focus on the positive things we could do and gave us a reason to have hope.”
We dance to the break of dawn. For the first time, BTS has hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in a row for their song “Dynamite.” The lyrics depict the life that BTS and ARMY are creating together. About the life before COVID-19, j-hope said, “I was burned out because of the many performances. But still, I miss the past. I saw a compilation of work we had done last year and realized that we worked a lot. We went overseas and performed in stadiums, but now we are spending this year just like this.” Still, j-hope showed his dance practices to ARMY on Log (On). We don’t know when we can return to the good old days that j-hope misses. But until then, we can rely on each other, keep our daily lives going, and dance with hope in this dreadful and desperate reality. Wouldn’t this be a way for BTS and ARMY to escape from isolation?
Releasing the song “Dynamite” was possible because of the daily-life-connection between BTS and ARMY. BTS shared their album production process on Log (ON) to show their daily lives as well as to work as an artist. They released “Dynamite” to lift the spirits of their fans who were undergoing a difficult time. BTS delivered the news of their new single on V LIVE KKUL FM.
It was a small joy that BTS and ARMY could share in this devastating time. To those who are not BTS or ARMY, “Dynamite” would just be a song that hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in a row. But for ARMY, it is evidence of how we endured the dark night, a night that no one knows when the dawn will break.
“I thought, ‘If I will never be able to perform on stage again, then what would my life be?’ I had to do something, and that is why I started KKUL FM. At first, I planned on doing it once or twice, but I personally enjoyed doing radio and our fans liked it, so it turned out to be a weekly episode. The last episode was especially meaningful that I got emotional.” SUGA spoke about how he felt about his radio program, which was broadcasted on V LIVE from April to June. As he said, the post-pandemic life will not be the same as usual and we all fear that we might not be able to go back. But no matter what, BTS and ARMY are finding their own way to spend time together. A new album will be released in the second half of this year. The album will mark another part of the progression of history. V, who will be in charge of the visuals for their next album, said, “In this album, we tried to keep everything natural, like the real Park Jimin or the real Kim Namjoon. I thought it would be difficult because it’s my first time being a visual manager for our album, but our staffs helped me a lot, my opinions on scheduling and conceptualization were all accepted, and I’m happy because our members all liked it.”
Jimin also explained their new album production process as, “While recording, I was able to solely focus on the song I was singing and the emotions I felt. Because I knew how the song was made from the beginning, I focused on that part and recorded it with my emotions. I felt comfortable. Team Leader Kim Hyun-jung of Big Hit Entertainment’s A&R Team explained how they came up with the concept of the “self-produced album” saying, “It’s like moving to the next level for the artist after seven years of their debut and somewhat it’s a natural step to take.” She continued to talk about the upcoming album, “I was impressed to see all members, not just the usual members, participating in songwriting with passion. By sharing their life and work with ARMY, BTS is injecting their real life into their music and passing it on to their fans. Regardless of the reality, BTS is doing their work and moving to the next level. Jimin described how he felt after the outbreak as, “Work is what makes us happier than anything else and it is when we can truly be ourselves.”
Of course, sharing daily lives will not solve all the problems that ARMY is facing across the world. In August, an explosion shook Beirut. The problem of racial discrimination in America remains unrelenting and many countries are facing negative growth this year. But with the faith that we are connected, ARMY is raising their voice in many fields to change the world. It is “small things” that are connected but they are creating a “Mikrokosmos.” Sometimes they are devoted fans supporting BTS songs to make a new record on the Billboard charts and sometimes they are activists fighting for a better world by helping others or supporting BLM. If we move forward, step by step, then maybe someday dawn will break. In the “Dynamite” music video, BTS was dancing in a room and then came outside, cheerfully dancing under the blue sky. The morning when we can dance together is yet to come. BTS and ARMY are in their own room, dancing, living their life, and doing their work. Until the moment when dawn breaks again.
Credit
Editor / Rieun Kim, Hyunkyung Lim, Minji Oh, Yejin Lee
Designer / Yurim Jeon, Hyein Jeong, Hayun Seo(Design Studio 'Paperwork')
Director / Myungseok Kang
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