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Article. Minji Oh
Design. Yurim Jeon
Photo Credit. BANGTANTV Youtube

“Smooth like butter / Like a criminal undercover.”

 

With those two lines from their song “Butter,” BTS jumped right into their performance at the 64th Grammy Awards on April 3, 2022 (Las Vegas time). Each member of BTS infiltrated the stage like undercover agents: Jung Kook coming in on a wire, V taking to the stage after hiding out in the audience where he had been talking with Olivia Rodrigo, and so on. Once there, all the members sang and danced, even moving around the stage “smooth like butter” to avoid a web of lasers.

 

Ha Jung Jae, Lead Professional at the Concert Production Studio, explained the meaning behind the card that V grabs from out behind Rodrigo’s back. “The way they opened the stage was through a security card,” he said. “They stole the card from a formally invited artist and gained entry that way.” According to Ha, the group’s performance of “Butter” at the Grammys was built around the idea of the members of BTS infiltrating the stage like spies reminiscent of James Bond or gentleman thief Arsène Lupin. The motivation behind having the members all enter the stage through different means was born out of that idea. “For a concept like the gentleman thief Lupin, it would be more likely they enter from somewhere other than the stage, like from the audience or from out of thin air, rather than making a grand entrance from on stage,” Ha explained. He added that the fact that the lasers were activated in the middle of their performance suggests the security system was automatically triggered because they were in a “well-established, classy museum that demands high security” and that the lasers “represent the adversity they were pushing through.”

A challenging performance where you only make it to the stage by dropping in on a wire and dodging lasers: Considering everything BTS went through to be there at the Grammys, this describes more than simply the setup for their performance. In a V LIVE immediately after the awards ceremony, j-hope himself said, “we actually practiced really, really hard for the performance, and the whole process was a little rough,” showing how, before BTS could make it to the stage at the Grammys, all sorts of fairly dramatic things happened. Jin was unable to join the group in some of the choreography due to still recovering from a finger injury, while j-hope and Jung Kook caught COVID-19 and had to quarantine in Korea and the US, respectively. Things weren’t any easier for the remaining members: With j-hope out, the others felt the effect of his absence while practicing together. So significant is j-hope’s role that, on a V LIVE, SUGA said, “Without j-hope, the practice didn’t feel right.” Jimin, too, noted how “there’s no order in the practice studio” without him. It wasn’t until the day before the Grammys that j-hope and Jung Kook could finally practice with all the other members after practicing separately in isolation in the meanwhile. On top of all that, things at the Grammys were inevitably stricter than in the past due to health regulations around COVID-19 prevention. Dancers had to change their masks every hour and staff had to both wear masks and show another negative PCR test before every practice. The Grammys’ COVID-19 prevention guidelines “required all staff to take PCR tests regularly throughout the week the Grammys took place and wear a mask at all times when entering the practice area and ceremony hall,” Rachel Um, leader of the Global Communications Team, explained how they “made absolutely sure at the company level to follow disease prevention guidelines right up to the day of the awards ceremony so that the artists and the staff could safely prepare for the performance and attend the show.”

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Senior Creative Director Son Sung Deuk said he “could really tell when they were practicing that it has to be all seven of them—that these guys really shine when they come together as a team.” He went on to explain how BTS was able to overcome all the problems within the course of a single day through their amazing ability to harness their motivation. “It wasn’t quite working out that way at first, but then Jung Kook and j-hope came and things progressively improved as they all worked together. It’s actually not their individual abilities that’s important but the harmony between all the members, so I was really amazed by the synergy they exhibited as I watched them once they were all back together.” When j-hope was able to rejoin the group for rehearsal at the Grammys venue, he made sure that the others kept their focus while practicing. For example, before the group practiced all together, RM was sliding across the floor and studying how to get past the lasers without being caught; Jimin said “there’s no way not to get caught” by the lasers after continually hitting them, and V, pretending to be hit by a laser, said they “have to act if you’re caught”; SUGA was laughing and saying, “I guess trying too hard kind of backfired on me,” after someone told him that his jacket choreography would look better if he didn’t try so hard; Jin was dancing with them in spirit during the dance break, as SUGA said; and Jung Kook was constantly working on his steps and cartwheels. Then, with a quick “let’s try it just one more time” from j-hope, they all gathered together and resumed practicing as a group.

 

j-hope sang, danced and reviewed several rehearsals of the performance, called for another run-through and counted them in; all other members went through the practice again and again. “The other members respect and admire j-hope for the way he sets the mood during dance rehearsal or any kind of practice, so when he says they should try one more time, they realize that they really need the practice or something’s not quite right,” Son said. “That’s why the members say the atmosphere of the practice studio is entirely different depending on whether j-hope is there or not, too. So he’s an important presence when it comes to practicing choreography.” Another reason the group was able to get in ample practice despite the uncertainty was because they all know everyone’s roles and have faith in one another. “It’s because the other members have faith in the two who were practicing alone,” Son added. “The others had no doubt about the two members’ capabilities, despite the lack of practice time.” Jung Kook’s descent on the wire was also made possible thanks to each member knowing what one another are capable of. Ha, with the Concert Production Studio, explained that, because Jung Kook “already had experience on a wire while on tour” during their stadium concerts and “doesn’t find it scary, and actually thinks it’s fun,” he was earmarked for the role.

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It is no overstatement to say that the confidence in the BTS members’ abilities and teamwork was one of the most important messages conveyed through the group’s performance at the Grammys. The most impressive part of the performance to the dancers in rehearsal, the Grammy officials during an online meeting and the audience watching the performance was when the BTS members all removed their jackets and tied them together by the sleeves; practicing for that part was, in short, a process of non-stop consultation between the members and the staff. The BTS members discussed with staff at BIGHIT MUSIC’s VC team, the ones in charge of wardrobe, about how big the jackets would have to be, since they would have to be larger than usual in order to facilitate the jacket choreography but they still wanted them to look attractive. The members also debated between themselves over whether they should toss their jackets away immediately after dancing with them or carry them awhile before throwing them to the side, as well as how far apart they should stand. During this process, SUGA said he “was in between the taller members, so even standing just a little far away from them feels like it’s really far,” and continuously adjusted his position. When the lining of RM’s jacket ripped, he appropriately noted, “my clothes are in shreds,” and sent it off for repairs. Son said the card toss before the jacket part was added in after the members suggested “it would look a little cooler if they used the card as a tool,” while the laser portion of the choreography they checked how high or low they had to jump or duck for each laser, doing their best to watch one another and change their movements around the lasers accordingly. 

 

According to team leader Um, the Grammys “asked for a performance with the kind of artistry and creativity that only BTS can pull off.” BTS’s response to this was to demonstrate their confidence in themselves. Son said they “were confident we know what we do best, so even though there were some compromises, we firmly said, ‘This will be really cool, and it’s what we’ve done all along.’” Ha, with the Concert Production Studio, explained the confidence in BTS’s performance ability that the members themselves but also staff had, saying, “We made the animatic like a movie storyboard, explaining through illustrations drawn to line up with the music, and we made a video showing the choreography movements and filming direction and sent them [to the Grammy personnel]. And we stayed behind the camera while filming during rehearsal at the Grammys to adjust the camerawork and angles so that we got the positions just right.” As a result, the part where V threw the card and Jung Kook caught it was so flawless as to seem nearly magic, thanks to the camerawork. Even many ARMY couldn’t figure out whether or not Jung Kook was joking on the V LIVE they held right after the Grammys when he said, “It wasn’t planned out. I really did catch V’s card.” Until Jimin couldn’t hold his laughter any longer, that is. It was all made possible because the staff had every confidence in what the BTS members could do together. This new performance of “Butter” showcased BTS’s one-of-a-kind talent for performing, the kind of surprising event people have come to expect from major awards ceremonies, and the narrative of the people working behind the scenes. Both Billboard and Rolling Stone called BTS’s performance one of the best at this year’s Grammy Awards.

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As BTS successfully infiltrated the stage at the Grammys, it became decorated with portraits of, Korean lyrics by and colors symbolic of the group. “We thought it would be good if the video had a firm identity—one no other artist could use behind them,” Ha said. “Because no one else but BTS would have been able to use that kind of background on that stage.” BTS made a place they were never given permission to dance in into their own through their performance. What made this Mission: Impossible-like mission possible was the group’s sense of teamwork; the result was a series of emotional moments on and off the stage. According to Son, Jin’s role was crafted especially for him later. For Jin, “the choreography could have interfered with his well-being and they still had the concert to do,” Son said, “so I thought up the technician role as a way they could all do the performance together without him feeling like the odd man out or overexerting himself.” In character, Jin hacked the system from on the Grammy stage to assist the other members in infiltrating it and continued to assist them from a place where he could still see the others. He cracked the security system for them, kept an eye on them as they struggled through and finally reunited with the group as BTS’ colors flooded the stage. Many unexpected things come up when putting on a performance; someone could even trip and fall. But some groups combine their strengths and overcome everything that comes their way through teamwork and consideration for others. And the artist who can master that eventually seizes the day for their own, which is exactly what BTS has always done—from their debut showcase in 2013 to this latest performance at the 2022 Grammy Awards. That’s the only thing that has not changed. And nothing that anyone says can ever change that.

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