So it’s the pandemic and you’re stuck inside feeling all sorts of ways. What’s that on your Spotify? BTS’ new album? You’re not really a fan, but you give it a try anyway.
It’s half an hour later and you’ve gone through the whole thing. You feel understood, or at the slightest bit, hugged, content. How could this be? You barely know a single word out of anything besides Dynamite.
Welcome to BE. The hand holding out to you — yes, you! — in this mishap of a world situation. Whether you’re an ARMY or not, BE is there to provide you a warm space to be not-so-okay, before unapologetically grabbing you from the crowd to light it up.
Every track from start to finish is thoughtfully listed to take you on a ride to a future so near and a past so distant. It’s a friend that takes little effort to understand, and needs even less effort to understand you. BE gives more than it takes.
If you’re looking for a review, this isn’t the one to give it ratings. Today, we’re going on a journey to experience the album once more in chapters, together.
Life Goes On: The Exhale
Let’s talk about how they whispered off the whole album with “I Remember”, phrased with reassurance and repetition. Carried by a processed version of both or either of V and Jimin’s vocals (in fact, a whole octave higher compared to the ones that appear towards the end of the track), the phrase gives us an echo of the distant yesterday. Behind that, we can hear an intimately strummed acoustic guitar, sporting major triad chord progressions¹ that build tension, eventually resolving ‘home’ as it rounds back to the first chord. That nostalgic twinge to the memories you didn’t know you missed. These are the times you want to be reminded of, and Life Goes On puts it in full focus.
BTS is notorious for bringing in themes of ‘a better tomorrow’, previously indicated in You Never Walk Alone’s title track, Spring Day (봄날) in 2017. Life Goes On doesn’t stray far from that, making the song feel like Spring Day’s younger sister. This time, instead of waiting //until the spring day comes again//, we are letting everything happen. A situation so out of everyone’s control that we are simply asked to nod respectfully for it to pass by, while trying our best. And when your best isn’t enough, you let life go on.
In the first three verses, Jungkook, Jimin, and RM all exhibited lyrics of attempts to overcome tribulations in vain and how unapologetic the universe seems to work. As long as this goes on, we are helpless. We exhale collectively in tried efforts, because at the end of the day, all that you can do is wait. This is the time when we have to let winter stay, while we try to warm each other up. As RM mentioned, //When winter comes//let’s exhale an even warmer breath//.
The rest of the rapline brings in a whole other side of the coin into perspective. Warmth is brought in from SUGA, realizing that while way too many things in the world are changing at such a rapid speed, //thankfully, between you and I, it’s still the same//. This line is one written for ARMYs, and it would be foolish not to acknowledge that. However best of all, whether it’s your first time getting into BTS or not, the line cozies up at you reminding you of the good that is left.
J-Hope’s verse is altogether realistic as it is bright. Here, we get to see a glimpse of their overarching Spring Day-akin theme, wherein he utters, Although everything is paused, don’t hide in the dark because the light will shine again. This brings us to the intimate escapism that Jin introduces. With //Close your eyes for a moment//Hold my hand here//Let’s run away to the future//, Jin offers a hand to take and escape with. We’re going somewhere unventured, anywhere but here.
Fly To My Room: The Coping
How about flying to your room? It’s familiar and confined yet there are always parts that you have yet to discover. However well you claim to know yourself, there will always be sections and maps that you need to explore.
The second track in the album puts an explanation on the how part of coping with all this. We find ourselves not being able to travel, our usual occasion getaways now obstructed. So where do we go? Where can we go?
Eventually, we find comfort in restraint, and that is the highest that we can aim for nowadays. And where else is better if not in our own rooms? Here, we get to see the internal reflections that the members conveyed from being inside so much. Jimin displays this clearly in his quandaries that end up in some realizations //Sometimes we get to know// Broken is beautiful//. There are sides of ourselves that we don’t have time to see, but now we get a chance to. Those “sometimes” are now. And if we have the space, we get to see that there is beauty in the broken. In our broken.
Here, we are allowed to desire the escape. To imagine and live it, embracing the current stakes whilst we are able to. J-Hope’s verse //The toys in my room that feel like people//The TV sound makes it feel busy and crowded as if I’m out in the downtown//Your mind can be changed by your mind//Here, this is a travel that only I can enjoy//Delivery food is ☆☆☆// highlights this embrace, where we are encouraged to control our state of mind. Delivery food can feel like a 3-star hotel meal, the substitute of crowds being the TV buzz and your toy collection. That way, the mind can enchant anything.
Sonically, the song leaps off a lazy, pop-jazz beat, emphasized on predictable rhythm counts. Almost sounding like the way your footsteps sound, dragging them out of your room, early in the morning of yet another day of staying inside. It’s put together with bright chords that resemble childlike hope, insisting to glimmer with light.
Coping with the fact that we are restrained, ‘flying to your room’ becomes one of the very few recharge mechanisms that we are able to do at a time like this.
Blue & Grey: The Inevitable
Here comes the night that you’ve been avoiding. So many things that you do to keep yourself busy during the day to keep the darkness away, yet the inevitable jumps at you eventually. This is a song for when it finally hits you and when it feels particularly hard to look anywhere other than in.
As we are thinking extensively within and throughout ourselves, we uncover things we thought we’ve buried and solved some time ago. Yet here it is right now, staring at us in the face, unfazed.
In the husky, airy vocals of Jimin and V, you can hear them suffocate in their emotions. They don’t want to be at this point right now, and neither do you. //I just wanna be happier// is reiterated multiple times throughout the track. SUGA and J-Hope’s verses sound like sighs let out after a long day, which is what the whole pandemic has been feeling like for many: one long, exhausting day.
This is all alright. All the feelings you push in, all the ones you’re letting out. All the things you know and all the things you don’t yet. Every dark lyric is juxtaposed with warm instrumentals. Out of many deliberations, the main producer NIVE added heartbeats in place of standard kick drums to thaw the blues, paired up with reverberated snares that echo through your sleep. All this provides the inevitable feeling of the sound your floodgates make while bursting forcibly open. Here we also meet again, the intimate strums of numerous string instruments, all layered up in purpose of providing that safe space for you to cry. So go on ahead.
You suddenly start to see the light at the end of the tunnel between the tears. You see it, yet you need to stay here just a little longer. And for now, that’s perfectly okay. Sleep it away, and as Taehyung reiterates in the ending verse: //now I fall asleep, at dawn, good night//.
Skit: The Picture of a Milestone
You wake up to the sound of people conversing. The essence of human interaction. The gist of a conversation is that it is shared between people, with all its back and forths. Listening to Skit makes you feel like you’re a part of the conversation, an active listener at the very least.
BTS haven’t done one of these in a while. A lot of their more recent albums didn’t include a skit, even though in their earlier works, they did this plenty. I personally have not seen so many of these raw, recorded-when-no-one’s-noticing sort of tracks in any album I usually listen to.
This one in particular is a picture, taken in audio form, of a milestone for BTS. It was the moment they regrouped after the announcement of charting №1 on Billboard for the first time. In the track, it’s also a full circle moment as they mentioned that they were to practice the number of No More Dream for an upcoming performance, which was the first song they debuted with.
It’s no more than a memory kept in documentation, but that in itself is enough. BE has been officially claimed by the members as the most BT-eSque album, and Skit encapsulates a lot of the reason why. Here, we can listen to them yelling excited, even cursing and getting bleeped, while being reminded that they are very much also people and friends. People who are friends.
Telepathy: The Friend
Those friends are now talking to you. Telepathy asks you how you’re doing, if you’re doing alright, and if you’re healthy with SUGA’s line: //Everything’s alright, right?//You’re all healthy, right?// Telepathy is that text from a friend checking in on you during this trying time. The friend you haven’t met for a long time is sending you a life update.
Telepathy makes sure you know that it’s here for you, closing the gap between distances now that we are being talked to directly and personally. Even through all these circumstances, this friend hasn’t forgotten about you, and is making sure you’re alright enough to finally dance a little.
Laced with percussive instrumentals — the cowbells! The song has cowbells! — in a perfect relationship with the hard-hitting bassline, the track is a quick pickup after your late hours in Blue & Grey. Every buildup and hook drop² is what makes this track the dance break transition of the album.
There is a sense of reliability; safety with a dash of boogie weaved deeply into the track. //Oh can I be your Bibilly Hills// Like you did the same to me//, RM asks. “Bibilly Hills” is a wordplay of ‘Beverly Hills’, but in Korean it translates to ‘a hill to rub against’, meaning someone to lean on.
Having someone to lean on is especially crucial these days, and the pandemic does starking things in pointing out who really means much to you. Your friend in the pandemic texts you in the middle of the night, rekindling the friendship, and eventually talking through what kept them awake at that hour. You could very well be on good terms but maybe you haven’t spoken to each other in a while, so you decide to reconnect all night on your current obsessions and mental health situation. Maybe you go down memory lane together if you’re up for that.
In Telepathy, we are also reminiscing what those good, not-so-old-days felt like, taking each other through escapism still, but through rose-tinted lenses now. This is brought up in J-Hope’s verse //Hey, let’s leave for the blue ocean//the blue ocean where we used to romp around together//. Telepathy also lets you miss the recent past, validating your longing.
Ultimately, your friend Telepathy only wants to do what keeps you happy, or at least afloat. You and Telepathy get down to the dancefloor and boogie your worries away. Your friend is excited to see you again.
Dis-ease: The Sisyphus
Well wasn’t that a fun, quick little vacation? Once you’re back, you realize that there are still things to tackle. Dis-ease does not take time to remind you of what is going on as it is. It doesn’t hide those feelings of unease — ahem, dis-ease, that you inevitably see eye-to-eye on a daily basis for as long as we’re cooped up.
You know you’re truly wonked up in the head when the world has made it near impossible for you to be obligated to do anything productive, yet the only thing in your head is to keep being productive. This phenomenon, sadly does not only live inside the song, the album, or even in this pandemic.
The verses throughout the song talks about mental health related to productivity, and highlights that there are way too many people being affected by this. SUGA’s verse, //There are more than 400 different diseases of the mind out there//There shouldn’t be that many who don’t fit into any of those// evidently points that out. There shouldn’t be that many of us enduring this, yet the reality is so many of us have this disease of the mind, that it’s become a skeptical point of view.
RM’s commanding //I’m ill,그래 내가 일 그 자체// is also a wordplay of the Korean word ‘il’ (일) meaning ‘one’, but also ‘work’ which gives the phrase both meanings of “I’m sick/ill, I’m the work itself” as well as “Im sick/ill, i’m the no. 1”. This phrase puts the subject of productivity-related mental illness into the focal point. Work oftentime makes us feel that it’s the only aspect of us that is worth anything. Now, it’s become something that we aren’t able to separate our identities from.
Aside from that, the pandemic makes you reassess everything that you are. The ways you have become, and the ways you have yet to unveil. Under those terms, the lines //I’m actually so young, only my body has grown// are interestingly sung by both the oldest member (Jin) and the youngest member (Jungkook). This indicates a unison in expressing the confusing maneuvers of adult life, regardless of age and aside from mental maturity.
So, adulting is hard and capitalism ruins resting. What about it? Well, in what we are currently going through, we are all the more exposed to how the entire decapitated system has oppressed us all, pandemic or not.
From that, you are paved through ways and encouraged to come back to yourself, the you you once knew. Back to what you were before work, before all this. The you at the core.
Stay: The Long-Distance Relationship
In classic EDM fashion, we party carefree. The title reference comes at the drop. Glam up the rain, the sad disco era is finally back, reminiscent of works like Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend. This is where you go when you’re looking for you, or attempting to find the you you once knew so well.
After all those trials and tribulations, this is the time for hands up in the air, nonstop electro-celebration. Stay lets you profess your love and longing for whoever or whatever you miss from not meeting them. That special someone, that special something you’re pining for, the one you trust will always be there even when you’re apart. Shout it out from the rooftops and let the world know. This is your love letter to the distance.
The track starts out sounding like you’re waking up from an enticing dream of reunion, and is affirmed by the lyrics: //Was it a dream//I feel like I saw you//When I open my eye, again//it’s an empty room// romantically introduced by Jungkook’s vocals, with a pang in the heart as you realize it was only a dream. As the line //The heart that beats louder than ever// sets in motion, we hear the bass start kicking in, planting the pace resembling a loud beating heart.
Stay lets you assure yourself that they, the “you” in “I know you always stay” will always be there despite the currents //Like a crazy person, I keep sayin’//Wherever you are//I know you always stay//. You have trust in them, but you can’t help reaffirm this with yourself time and time again, especially right now, feeling so far away from them.
They’ll always stay, in places you know they belong. The lines //In the place where that cloud passed by//Stay//With my dry lips, I say to you//Stay, stay, stay, stay…// (Always)// RM indicates the special place, the haven he comes back to in trust.
The drop comes anticipated, after the buildup in the verses preceding it. This is where you declare what you yearn for on megaphones. //Oh every night and day//Yeah I know you always stay//. You do this for the retreat and the relief, wearing your heart close to the sky and beyond.
In the continuing lines //Wherever you are,//why would that matter at all//We connect to 7G// RM restates that wherever in the world they may be, whatever the distance, it wouldn’t matter as they connect “to 7G”. The “they” here leaning towards referring to ARMYs, as the number 7 have a significant meaning to both the group (with 7 members) and ARMYs alike, the made-up wifi term being a nod in reference to this. The disconnection, wifi or not, certainly infuriates everyone, regardless of what you’re doing. Having it reinstated here to blast-sing to provide yet again, some space to dwell upon this as well.
Before you know it, the track simmers down and ends with Jungkook’s vocals again, wishing you well off. //With the eyes closed, before we know//we’re together//.
If you miss parties, Stay is the song to call at the top of your lungs to. Set up some mood lighting in your room, close the door, and blow the speakers up.
Dynamite: The Inhale
There is no pause between Stay and Dynamite, only a sharp inhale. Before you know it, you are unforgivingly grabbed by the hand and demanded to boogie. You don’t object.
You join the crowd and what you hear are synths, coming in light and bright once again, for one last epic dance at the summit. It was no longer your bedroom or your rooftop, you’re suddenly on top of the world. You are greeted by Jungkook’s voice again, different from the last time you heard him. //’Cause I, I, I’m in the stars tonight// this time, he sounds like the guitar that’s about to join him a little later.
You notice the lyrics are mundane, the chords, easy. It sounds like a song you’ve heard all your life yet there were only a few times you can recall where you feel a similar type of delight //Shoes on, get up in the morn’//Cup of milk, let’s rock and roll//King Kong, kick the drum//Rolling on like a Rolling Stone//. Go about your usual routine, don’t let moss gather up, it said. Dynamite is telling you to take it easy.
Every instrument put into the track is making you dance like no one’s looking since the get-go. From the bass kick, to the synths rhythmically played. Never was there a quiet, beatless moment if not to build up to a key modulation³. That however, is for later. For now you’re content with RM and J-Hope’s rap verses establishing more steps, followed by the funk-picked electric guitar accents. Not to mention the entire percussion ensemble is finally coming together.
As early as 40 seconds into the song, we are festive for the first chorus. You are later joined by the brass section, triumphantly announcing your gravity-defying glee //Shinin’ through the city with a little funk and soul//So I’ma light it up like dynamite, woah-oh-oh//. All you have to worry about now is if you’ve shined brightly enough.
V welcomes you on the second verse, inviting you to dance ’til the break of dawn. SUGA’s verse, mirroring RM’s before, gets you that familiar jam you already know but with a difference in texture. You finally hear Jimin and Jin in the post-chorus to remind you to shine through the city, in case you forgot. At this point, you realize that no two verses so far have the exact same arrangement. You wonder how a song so simple and so digestible can only get you all the more excited for what to come next. It’s the fact that everything that is put there from start to finish is aimed to hype you up for the peak.
That is precisely why as Jungkook sings that key-modulating note, the last chorus came in celebrating fireworks with you, as you joyously frolic and jump about. Everything that has been building up to this moment burst in confetti as they rain on you, and frankly, you couldn’t care less!
This is the song to start your day, your week, your year, your life. The pure serotonin boost, the perfect amount of escapism and jubilation everyone needs in this pandemic. No matter how simple the message is, it gets you ready, inhaling for whatever’s to come — whether you like it or not.
Dynamite is the cherry on top and a bookend to BE. Leaving you at the height of merciless euphoria. We started slow, but we’re here now, and we can be here again.
The song ends with a bang and leaves you with the echoes and fallen party streamers by your feet. You hear the crowd as you cheer on with them. The roaring laughter sparkling through the air, and you think “this is better than a new year’s countdown”.
Afterwards, you walk home giggling, recalling the satisfying payoff of that final chorus. This is the type of joy you’ll be able to come back to almost instantaneously. You’ll know where to find this again, it’s going to be there when you need it. You reach home and you look out your window at the stars tonight. Now you know, how to just be.
There never was a time like this for people in our generation. Not ours, not our siblings’, not our parents’. A pandemic is not something people of today are prepared for. We’re all disoriented, confused, afraid. All we can do is to hold on to what we have and make the best out of it if you are able to.
BE helped a lot of us discover what it is we needed to explore within ourselves, which maps we need to redraw and recreate, and how we can cope with a situation that isn’t entirely in our control.
We are faced with more than just a lesson. Among all the new ways we unlearn and relearn in quarantine, we find that sometimes, we need to just be. Nothing more to it. We can dwell in melancholy with some emotions and experiences, as well as marvel at it from a distance with full admiration. We can choose to process them and dance on top of them once we get over it, or decide if we need more time with it.
From now on, we are moving forward with a better grasp at things. It’s you, me, and everyone in between, treading along life like never before.
- Major triads are chords that consist of the 1–3–5 (root, third, and fifth) of the scale the song is played in.
- Buildup in songs are made to ‘build-up’ the sound, often to anticipate the chorus, hook, or a climax of some sort. These hooks, choruses or climaxes are often called ‘the drop’.
- A key modulation occurs when the song experiences a key change. Often used for a final chorus in the song, among other reasons of musical expression.
Translations and lyrics are taken from Doolset (https://doolsetbangtan.wordpress.com/be/)