In the single “Dynamite,” BTS sings, “just move like we off the wall.” “Off the wall” is an expression used to describe something eccentric or extraordinary, but literally, it also means to “transcend a barrier.” What a perfect expression to describe BTS who has been continuing their performances while overcoming the constraints of the pandemic in their own way and transcending national boundaries, racial barriers, and more. At a time when international travel is close to impossible, the diverse performances BTS has staged since the release of “Dynamite” were set in front of various backdrops and broke down the psychological barriers that stand in our way. In this Feature Story, we look back on BTS’ “Dynamite” performances with the staff members who participated in their production. Look out for an infographic that captures BTS’ journey for the past three months, from when the members announced the release of “Dynamite” to the 2020 “Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs).”
2020 MTV “Video Music Awards,” The Opening of the Festival

The very first “Dynamite” performance was staged at the 2020 MTV “Video Music Awards (VMA).” BTS was the only artist that performed remotely outside the US. “It is rare for a new song to debut at an awards ceremony, but the performance was able to take place because the organizers were enthusiastic about BTS and “Dynamite”. We had close communication with the organizers for about two months and planned a stage that connects the Hudson River in New York and the Han River in Seoul,” Team Leader Irene Choi of the Big Hit Global Communication Team explained. The VMA was scheduled to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, the awards ceremony had to minimize the number of staff on site and was set in a virtual space created with VFX (Visual Effects). The virtualization of the VMAs was easily juxtaposed with the scenes of Seoul recreated by BTS. In the real world, we cannot meet each other in person, but in a virtual world, we can interact freely without the constraints of time and space. The Seoul International Fireworks Festival held annually in Yeouido, Seoul, was canceled. But in the virtual world, BTS’ “Dynamite” illuminated the night sky above the Han River with fireworks.

“The organizers were extremely satisfied and told us, ‘It was an incredible journey. Thank you so much. It was amazing,’ ‘We want to tell you that this was the best performance so far,’” Choi remarked as she described how the VMA team reacted to BTS’ performance. It was the members’ ideas to synch powerful dance moves with the moment fireworks exploded as well as when they flourished with an adjustment of their outfits. “The members were completely immersed into their characters on stage and expressed the aim and direction of the performance,” added Team Leader Choi, recounting the atmosphere at the VMA performance. “There were many challenges posed by the pandemic, and the preparation was completely different compared to previous awards ceremonies. But we were glad that the message we wanted to convey was delivered successfully on the stage that connected Seoul and New York.” As Team Leader Choi said, virtual performances presented a unique opportunity to send a message of comfort and hope to everyone. But the VMA performance was only the beginning of the “Dynamite” sensation that was to follow.
NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” When Dreams and Visions Become Reality

While the performance at the VMA was set in a virtual space created with VFX, NBC’s “America’s Got Talent (AGT)” takes the audience to where BTS is waiting. The members move about freely, hopping on a car or appearing from the top of a building, and the camera follows them seamlessly as if the entire performance was shot in one take. The rhythmical performance brings together the separate shots taken inside and outside, above and below, resolving the sense of disconnection that stems from the loss of contact. The diverse movements and close-ups vividly depict the places that we cannot visit at the moment, and the retro atmosphere amplifies the relaxed and happy feelings. The performance was filmed at an imaginary city called “Rocksville” set in Everland, Korea’s largest theme park. The Rock ‘n’ Roll-themed city takes visitors back to the 1950s and 60s of the US. The AGT team wanted “a performance that looks as if it was filmed on the AGT set, even though it was a virtual performance.” Eventually, during the 45 days of preparation, the Korean production team came up with the idea to film the performance at night in a theme park. It was where they would be able to utilize the lighting and visual effects often used in broadcasting. “BTS had already left a great impression on the AGT team, to the point where they remembered all the details of BTS’ performance in 2018. That’s why they gave us free reign to try different things for the performance,” Team Leader Choi explained. She went on to say that while the installations at the theme park, such as the rides and light decorations, were used, the production team also added a screen that would open and close at the beginning and end of the performance and placed an X-shaped structure in the background to create the unique atmosphere of AGT.

After the AGT performance aired, fans from Korea and around the world gave rave reviews and cited Everland as “a must-visit destination after the pandemic is over.” Everland put up a sign that read “filmed in Everland,” informing the visitors that BTS’ “Dynamite” performance was shot there. The performance was able to come to life thanks to the close cooperation between the production team and Everland. “The day before filming, we held multiple rehearsals from 10 pm to 3 in the morning after the theme park closed. We put a lot of effort into making a perfect stage, operating the rides and turning on the lights,” remarked Choi. In the meantime, the members of BTS watched simulation videos to memorize the sequence of movements in advance. They prepared different motions and performances and enjoyed the filming process. The production team also had fun watching the members put on different gestures and facial expressions at each take. “Everyone was happy because the performance turned out to be what we had imagined in the beginning. It looked like a live performance or musical,” Choi commented as she reminisced about the day’s joyful atmosphere. “BTS loved the outdoor shooting because they had so many indoor shootings recently. The filming was speedy because the members prepared even the smallest gestures. But they told us, ‘It’s too bad we are already finished.’” The filming process was as enjoyable as the performance itself, and the cheerful atmosphere the members created burst through the screen at AGT. The extraordinary outdoor performance that began at an amusement park continued at Geunjeongjeon Hall (National Treasure No. 223), Gyeonghoeru Pavilion (National Treasure No. 224), and Incheon International Airport.
NPR Music’s “Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts,” Because We Know that Spring will Come

“We've been trying to make a BTS Tiny Desk Concert happen for years now.” As producer Stephen Thompson wrote in a newsletter, the performance at NPR Music’s “Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts (Tiny Desk)” happened after a lengthy communication between the two parties. The show is usually filmed at host Bob Boilen’s desk in Washington, D.C. But when COVID-19 began spreading last March, there was a change of plans, and artists were allowed to film their performances at a place of their choosing. That’s how it became possible for BTS to take part in the program. The performance took about a month of preparation. It was unveiled at a record shop called Vinyl & Plastic in Hannam-dong, Seoul. Before the pandemic, it was a place where visitors could pull out the records and listen to them on a turntable. Densely packed with numerous LP records, the place had once been occupied by people who love music. This time, BTS filled the space with their dance and music and poured their heart out to the audience they weren’t able to meet in person.

The setlist ranging from “Dynamite,” “Save Me,” to “Spring Day” was suggested by the members as the goal was to stage a performance that resembles “an actual concert.” Once the performance began, the members who could not suppress the urge to dance stood up and started dancing, and even pulled out the “Dynamite” record, though it wasn’t part of the plan. According to Team Leader Choi, they had to minimize the number of staff present in order to follow quarantine guidelines. But that did not stop everyone from applauding the members for putting on a wonderful performance. She said, “‘Tiny Desk’ performances usually have a live audience. So we did not remove the sound of applause on purpose, and the members liked it because it felt like they were at a live concert.” The audience that remotely joined the concert also responded with big enthusiasm. “Their songs embodied the message they wanted to convey. So the staff, as well as everyone that watched the concert, gave positive feedback,” Choi commented. “It's been the roughest summer ever, but we know that spring will come.” As RM said, and as BTS longed for that “Spring Day” at the finale, we are all waiting for that warm spring day to come.
NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” A Week with BTS

At NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (The Tonight Show),” BTS literally had a week-long “takeover.” In February, BTS performed “ON” at New York’s Grand Central Terminal under the theme “BTS NYC Take Over.” This time, they captivated the global audience for an entire week with “BTS WEEK.” “We had video calls with “The Tonight Show” almost every day for two months to create an amazing week,” said Choi. It was “The Tonight Show” that suggested making the “Dynamite” video featuring Jimmy Fallon and the house band The Roots. The local production team arranged the song and worked on every little detail, including the sound of Jimmy Fallon bouncing a ping-pong ball on the paddle, the beatbox, and the band’s performance. “‘The Tonight Show’ also suggested adding the members’ names in both Korean and English to emphasize their originality as an artist. We also thought it was a great idea,” Choi explained.

“BTS WEEK” kicked off with the performance of “IDOL.” Dressed in the reinterpretation of the traditional Korean attire “hanbok” in front of the Geunjeongjeon Hall of Gyeongbokgung Palace, BTS put on a performance that drew enthusiastic responses from 21.16 million viewers (as of Oct. 16, 2020) on YouTube. The Cultural Heritage Administration that provided the venue commemorated the “collaboration between Korea’s most iconic cultural heritage, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and the world’s beloved artist, BTS” on social media. “The Tonight Show” also praised the performance of “IDOL” and all the others that followed. Meanwhile, a surprise performance of “Dynamite” took place at Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was a gift for the fans who will soon be celebrating Chuseok. The video was scheduled to be released on YouTube on Chuseok. “The members were very excited to film a video for the fans. That excitement, I think, is what brought out their witty side, doing things like making a deep bow during the performance,” Choi remarked. .

The grand finale of “BTS WEEK” was “Dynamite” performed at a roller skating rink. According to Team Leader Choi, the roller skating rink was chosen because “it was an extension of the disco that appeared in the music video, and a perfect place to deliver the excitement the members felt as they roller-skated.” The production team spent about a week to create a set that resembles the roller rinks of the 70s and 80s. The members playing the part of roller rink staff clean the facility and manage the equipment as usual, but once “Dynamite” starts playing, they dance, sing, and freely move about the stage. As BTS did in the video, finding joy and happiness in life through musical performance reflects our desires in reality. “Our everyday lives tend to become mundane, but we wanted to brighten up the mood and bring joy to everyone,” Team Leader Choi explained. She also mentioned that the members had a lot of fun roller skating at the rink. “Some members were good at it, some weren’t, but they had so much fun, pulling and helping each other out,” said Choi, describing what it was like on set. From “IDOL” to “Dynamite,” the songs performed during their week-long “The Tonight Show” residency reflect the difficult times BTS had just like everyone else. BTS, who used to enjoy the spotlight on stage as an “IDOL,” had to spend a lot of time at “HOME” because of the pandemic. At times, they faced the “Black Swan,” the dark side of their inner space, but found the twinkling starlight in the “Mikrokosmos.” Finally, they sing of the hope that soon, the dawn will break, and the night will be set alight like “Dynamite.”
2020 “Billboard Music Awards,” A Heart That Goes Out to Everyone

Incheon International Airport, where BTS staged this year’s “BBMA” performance, was once a place “people from around the world crossed each other's' paths.” It was a gateway to the world beyond borders, but today, the sky remains empty. For this reason, the airport became a place that represents the consolation and hope embodied in the lyrics of “Dynamite” and the return to normal. It was also the type of venue requested by the “BBMA” team, a venue where “the audience can feel as if they are watching a live performance rather than a refined music video.” “The dome-shaped ceiling reminded us of concert tour venues, and we thought it would go well with the Dolby Theater in LA where the awards ceremony is held,” explained Lee Sang-hwa, Business Manager of Big Hit Three Sixty. She went on to say that although “it is uncommon for musical performances to be filmed at Terminal 2,” the filming went smoothly thanks to the cooperation of many people who supported BTS.

The airport was not a familiar venue for the members of BTS, either. According to Lee, the members commented, “We had no idea the airport was this beautiful,” “It seems like we are going on all sorts of stages we have never been on before.” Things were quite different for the Korean production team, as well. In the previous years, the Korean production team was able to receive the help of “BBMA” while preparing for BTS’ performance on site. But this year, they were in charge of the entire month-long process from planning to post-production. To capture the essence of a live performance, the team decided to collaborate with a big band and scouted local professionals to record and film the band’s performance. Although BTS and the band could not perform together in person, to show that they are connected through music, they prepared a new song arrangement and a video that made it look as if the big band was surrounding BTS on stage. The live concert feel that was created as a result was one of the things that the “BBMA” team was especially happy with.

“Obviously, we feel more pressure because virtual performances come with their own set of constraints. The more BTS performs, the challenge is to put on a new, quality performance that is even better than the last. The expectations are constantly growing.” Team Leader Ha Jeong-jae of the Big Hit Three Sixty Concert Production Team explained that they wanted to "address the “frustration” coming from being unable to leave the studio,“ as the members had said previously. That’s why they used a pre-recorded video to bring BTS and the big band together on one stage and displayed a plane that carried the artists’ messages into the world. They wanted to deliver “a real, substantial hope.“ The plane that flew high up in the air in the “Dynamite” music video flew over the stage at the “iHeartRadio Music Festival” and showed up above the Incheon International Airport. The flight schedule that appeared on screen at the end of the performance showed the names of cities where BTS’ concert tours had been canceled. At the airport, which would have been the point of departure for their world tour and the final destination of the journey, BTS expressed their sadness and longing through their performance. “The fact that BTS can stage different performances in these trying times, even though they are virtual performances, shows just how much they have achieved as an artist. It is thanks to all the support and love for BTS,” said Lee. Ha added, “BTS is an artist that wants to send a message of comfort and hope to the world. They want to be a force for good. So everyone that creates the performances shares that sense of duty. Whether it is an awards ceremony or a performance, they are equally important to us. We have to do our best every time.” Fast forward to today, the team is busy once again, preparing for the “next stage” of BTS.
Article. Hyunkyung Lim, Minji Oh
Visual Director. Yurim Jeon
Design. Hayun Seo(Design Studio 'Paperwork')
Photo Credit. BIGHIT MUSIC